Drowning in Curriculum, Vaccinations, and More | The Unplanned Homeschooler

Homeschooling conundrums have you in a quandary? Unexpected questions have you scratching your head and wondering what to do next? Don’t worry. The Unplanned Homeschooler is ready to help you tackle your homeschooling issues with confidence.

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

I have four kids; two-year-old twins, a five-year-old and my oldest, age 8. We have only been homeschooling for two years, but I am already feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books. I can’t just toss things out, because I will have to use everything again with the little ones. I don’t even want to imagine what it is going to be like by the time my older kids are in high school. What do I do about all these books?

Drowning in curriculum

Dear Drowning,

I completely understand your dilemma, having twins of my own who are several years older than their little sister. I’ve only recently been able to purge a good portion of our older books and supplies, as my youngest has moved to upper elementary, but it will be years before we’re finished with the middle and high school books.

There has been a lot of backlash lately against even the idea that homeschoolers should limit the number of books they own, but honestly, I think most of us could be a whole lot more selective about the books we bring home. I know I was guilty of dragging home boxes full of books I found at curriculum swaps and thrift shops, only to have a lot of them sit on the shelf, untouched, until I loaded them back up and returned them to Goodwill years later.

The first thing I suggest is determine what space you have for books. Some people have whole libraries in their homes, and others struggle to find room for even a bookcase or two. You need to figure out what space you have to organize your books, in a way that your family will find it easy to use them all, and then be very selective about the books you buy.

Stick mainly to textbooks you know you will need for specific upcoming classes, classics you want to read and keep, and books your kids pick thoughtfully for themselves. Everything else, try to get from the local library, or wait to purchase until you really need the curriculum and can cycle out the books your younger kids have outgrown.

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

My sister wants me to homeschool her son next year. He is 13 years old and going into eighth grade. She thinks that because I am homeschooling my own kids, I should be able to add my nephew with no problem. She’s offering to pay me $125 a week, which is the going rate in our area for daycare, and insists that rate is generous because he’s a teenager and can take care of himself. I feel like she is trying to take advantage of me, and that homeschooling middle school will be hard work.

More than just a babysitter

Dear More,

I can tell you unequivocally that I would not even consider homeschooling someone’s child for $25 a day. Nope.

First of all, you would be fully responsible for your nephew’s education, which means that you would need to teach him everything he is expected to learn, in every subject, at his grade level. This would require a huge commitment of time and effort on your part, even if he is a bright kid and uses online lessons to learn some things independently.

Tutors, who generally teach just one subject, can earn more than $20 an hour. Babysitters hired for an evening can make that much or more. Assuming your sister wants you to keep her son from 8:00 to 5:00, she’d be paying you less than $3 an hour to be both a sitter and a full-time teacher. I wonder if she would ever consider working for such a paltry wage?

Now, if you want to educate your nephew and watch him every day out of the kindness of your heart, that’s one thing. But homeschooling any child, especially one in a different grade level than your own, would be hard work, and you should not feel obligated to take on this responsibility, especially at such an unfair wage, simply because he is family. If anything, it is likely to result in resentment and hard feelings as the school year goes on.

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

My husband’s job is transferring him to an area where, according to the news, vaccination rates are low. I’ve read that vaccination rates are even lower among homeschoolers than those whose kids are in public school.

I know vaccines are a controversial subject, but the thing is, I am pregnant with our third child, and I am concerned about joining a homeschool co-op in an area where so many kids are unvaccinated. What should I do?

Concerned about my baby

Dear Concerned,

I imagine this is a concern many families have, especially those with babies who are too young or children who are otherwise unable to receive their vaccinations. Here’s what I think, having been the mother of three preemies. You have to do what you personally feel is best and safest for your children.

When I brought my twins home, in the middle of flu and RSV season no less, I was diligent about keeping them away from germs. I did not want them to end up back in the hospital, and so we stayed home, avoiding stores, church, family gatherings, and especially other children. I repeated this period of seclusion, on the advice of my baby’s cardiologist, when we brought our youngest home from the NICU.

If I had a baby today, I would most likely do the same, if not to avoid unvaccinated kids in our community, definitely to avoid the myriad of bacteria and viruses that can take such a toll on a newborn.

Your older kids can cope with a semester or two away from co-op and other activities. There are plenty of ways to have fun as a family, away from classrooms and crowds, until your baby is a little older. Just do what you need to do for now. All the social activities will still be there a few months down the road.

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