Happy Homeschooling: A Q&A with Laura Kronen
Laura Kronen, an Atlanta homeschooling mom and owner of Be You Only Better, has recently released Homeschool Happily: Yes, You Can!. Atlanta Parent talked to Kronen about how to homeschool your family.
When and why did you start homeschooling?
I started homeschooling four years ago when my oldest son was entering high school and my youngest was entering middle school. My only regret is that I didn’t start homeschooling them sooner. What led me to home educate my children was a combination of many things, but mainly I felt that I could give my boys the individualized attention and resources needed to nurture the areas that they were most passionate about.
How have you seen homeschooling change?
Over the past few decades, homeschooling has changed from a fringe quirky movement to a very recognized and mainstream education alternative that celebrates freedom of choice.
In the last year, almost every parent across the globe was introduced to the idea of having their children home all of the time, and many of them kind of liked it. Sure, millions of parents counted off the days until their offspring would be returning to their regularly scheduled programming, but other families relished this time together and got a taste of what it might be like for the long term. They got to spend more time with their children in a learning environment, which is something that homeschooling families cherish. Many parents saw a frequently stressed-out child now thriving and realized that homeschooling might be a permanent solution for them. Or they saw the short length of time it took to complete schoolwork and wondered what their child was learning or accomplishing the rest of the day in school. Still, others experienced a child who was suddenly doing a great job at home but had never been a good student in the past. Or maybe they took a look at the work their student was doing and said to themselves, “Why can’t I teach my child this? After all, I learned all of this in school.” When it comes down to it, who knows your child better than you?
What do you like best about homeschooling?
Spending time with my children is the biggest benefit to me. Family time is really hard to come by these days with maxed out school schedules and extracurricular activities, and many times family values suffer because of it. The other major benefit is that I get to create and fine-tune courses specifically tailored to my children’s interests and passions. For example, my youngest son has a love of music (he sings and plays guitar). We spent a semester of his 7th-grade year on a Magical Musical Tour identifying figurative language in song lyrics as well as analyzing the authorial meaning and intent and learning how different musical elements express ideas. Then we tied in art, geography and even math as he planned his “world tour” where he had to not only name his band and develop his logo, but he also had to detail out his performances in fifteen different countries of his choosing. He needed to find and report back on the most efficient routes to take, the major landmarks and physical features of each destination and the culture. The math component involved budgeting for the tour—expenses, ticket and collateral sales and net profit.
What have you learned during your homeschooling experience about being a better teacher and a better mom?
Homeschooling has given me incredible amounts of patience that I never had before. This is ironic because the first thing that people say to me when they find out I homeschool is, “How do you have the patience for that?” I do not know where it came from, but I think I am just more laid back about the things I have no control over and with the “organized chaos” of our day.
I also have a better sense of balance. Getting to spend so much more quality time with my children lets me have less guilt when I am away from them for work or just to go play tennis or have lunch with a friend. It also gives me peace of mind knowing that I have been a constant figure in their lives and no one cares more about their future and wellbeing than me.
What inspired you to write Homeschool Happily: Yes, You Can!?
When I feel driven and passionate about something, it comes out on paper. I am having such a wonderful experience homeschooling my children and wanted to inspire others who might be considering going down the same path, especially in these challenging times. Among other things, I am also a Type 1 diabetic and did the same thing with authoring a book about living a positive and happy life with Type 1. It’s called Too Sweet: The Not-So-Serious Side to Diabetes.
Due to COVID-19 and experiences with virtual learning, more parents are considering homeschooling this year. What would be your advice to new homeschoolers?
It will take you a while to find your groove, so be patient. Have high expectations, but make them realistic. And do not forget to spend time just playing or talking with your kids. Not every moment has to be about the curriculum. If your children are engaged with and contemplating the world, you can be sure they are learning about it.
What advice would you offer parents who are not homeschooling, but are trying to help their children with virtual learning at home during COVID?
It’s very easy for children to get lost in the shuffle of online learning. Check in on your child, and pay attention to what they are learning and inquire if they might need some additional resources to help them get a more in-depth perspective of the subjects they are studying. Otherwise, you might not know if they are struggling until it’s too late. There are so many incredible resources to help every type of student regardless of where they are receiving their education.
How can parents better balance the responsibilities of being a parent and being a teacher?
There is a blurred line between parenting and teaching when you are home-educating your child. Sticking to a schedule can help, that way you have set times for school and set times for parent/child bonding, family time and just doing things that are not “school-related.”
But at the end of the day, the best way to create balance is to not forget about YOU! Self-care is essential when you are everything to everyone. Make sure to take care of yourself, doing things that you enjoy, without the kids—and no, food shopping does not count. When you have a little “me” time, life is much easier to manage.
What is your best piece of advice?
Every moment of every day can be a learning moment. That is what I love most about homeschooling. There are endless things to be inspired by and so many paths to explore. Everything that you want to learn about is only a click away and applying that research to your real-life experiences is unparalleled. That is the core of homeschooling. As long as your child is learning about the world we live in, they are growing. Lastly, if you are choosing to homeschool, remember that life will never introduce something to you that you will not be able to figure out. You can do this!
What resources would you suggest for parents?
There are dozens of resources that I recommend in my book (which is a great resource itself), but some of my personal favorites are Khan Academy for all things STEM-related; Study.com for almost everything you can think of; IXL for skills work and then, of course, YouTube is all-encompassing and offers some extraordinary channels to help your child expand their knowledge in any area you can think of; Crash Course, Geography Now, TED-Ed and AsapSCIENCE are some of my most loved.