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Homeschooling in Siouxland

In background, wooden colored pencils sit on natural colored paper. in foreground, "homeschooling in Siouxland" and "SiouxlandFamilies.com Facebook.com/SiouxlandFamilies"

By all indications I've seen, 2020-2021 is going to be a record-setting year for homeschooling, including here in Sioux City, and  I know a lot of families have a lot of questions. But to start, I have good and bad news about homeschooling:

The bad news: I can't tell you if homeschooling is right for your family. There are so many factors that go into it, and this is such a weird year. I encourage you to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both homeschooling and the other options this year, whatever those end up being. I went to public school for k-12 and my husband went to a private school, and I think we both got great educations! One of children has been homeschooling already, and we feel like it's a great fit for him too. So if you're looking for a post to tell you that 2 of those types of schooling are bad and to just definitely pick the only good one, I'm sorry, but this isn't that post! There truly are advantages and disadvantages to every type of schooling, and you as the parents are the best people to decide which is best for your family!

The good news: Homeschooling is probably a lot easier and more flexible than you think it is, and you can totally do it. There are families all over the country and world who successfully homeschool from all different walks of life. There are successful homeschooling families who have kids with special needs, who have no parents who stay home during the day, who have single parents, who are not wealthy, and who are not particularly well educated or remarkably intelligent. We are so lucky to live in a time of many resources! My biggest tip is probably to be realistic about your own limitations and actively search for resources that will help balance them. For example, I am not great at time management, so buying a planner might be super helpful to me, while someone else who is naturally very organized and on time with everything might find that a waste of money, but they might shudder at the thought of teaching math, and find that an online math course is a great fit for their family so they don't have to teach math or grade math assignments!

So with that being said, here's my guide to homeschooling in Siouxland:


Public School Distance Learning

A lot of people have questions right now about distance learning or virtual learning through the public school system. Distance learning is actually not considered homeschooling, even though it's at home. If you are doing distance learning through your school, that school will continue to set the curriculum, assign work, track progress, etc. and you don't need to worry about any of the rest of this post, and you should reach out to your principal for more information or to ask questions.  You might, however, find local groups and additional resources fun for enrichment purposes, but it isn't necessary, just bonus!

If your children attend the Sioux City Public Schools, you can read the district's Return-to-Learn plan online. 


How to get started with homeschool

If you want to homeschool, the first step is to look up the state requirements for the state in which you are homeschooling. I'm not a legal or educational professional, so please seek those experts out as appropriate, but I hope this info will be helpful in getting started!

  • Homeschooling in Iowa
    • There are a range of options in Iowa, with varying levels of support and accountability from the public school system
    • Teaching math, science, social studies, reading and language arts are required for all of the options.
    • The packet at this link is the most comprehensive source for discussing the differences between the different options and the filing and reporting requirements.
    • Homeschool Iowa is a state-level organization available for more support
  • Homeschooling in Nebraska
    • Nebraska has a pretty streamlined homeschool program, and you normally have to file a letter of intent by July 15th, but because of COVID-19, an exemption is being made this year. Basically, families should file as soon as you decide to homeschool. 
    • The official information from the state of Nebraska is here.
    • The Nebraska Homeschool Association and Nebraska Christian Home Educators Association are also great resources.
  • Homeschooling in South Dakota
    • South Dakota has filing and testing requirements for homeschooling families.
    • Teaching math and language arts are required for all homeschooling families.
    • South Dakota forms and official info on homeschooling are found here.

Choosing a curriculum or learning plan

There are a huge variety of curriculums that would work well for any of the states in Siouxland. Some of the main options include:

  • Choose a full curriculum
    • There are many companies that sell full homeschool curriculums, often running $500-1000+ per child per year. This tends to be the most expensive option, but also the easiest, as it has everything laid out for you, leaving very little planning to be done by the parent! These can be paper/book based or online based! Many are faith based, so be sure to research the religious affiliations and doctrines of a curriculum carefully if that is something important to your family to intentionally include or avoid!
    • Timberdoodle, Abeka, the Good and the Beautiful, and Classical Conversations are some of the most popular homeschool curriculums offering a full comprehensive program.
  • Combine several programs
    • This is a common option as well, and a great thing about it is that it allows you to teach each subject at the level and method your child learns best. For example, you might want a hands-on science curriculum from one company and a story based history program from another company and a reading program from a third company at an entirely different grade level! A disadvantage is that this requires the parents to be more conscientious in making sure all essential topics are covered and that they do the time management to get it all done in the course of a year. 
    • Many textbook companies will sell to homeschooling families, so if you are planning to homeschool just for this semester or this school year or two until COVID-19 is over, it might even be worth looking for the same textbooks your child's school uses! 
  • Create your own
    • Homeschooling is really flexible, and it doesn't actually have to include textbooks or curriculums at all. As long as you are teaching all of the required subjects, you can be as creative as you want. You can use online programs like Khan Academy for math and take art classes at the art center for art and use a workbook you liked on Amazon for grammar etc.
    • This is the most difficult method for planning, but can also be the most rewarding as you can tailor it exactly to your family's needs! Just make sure you are covering all required subjects! It can also be the least expensive, as you use free community resources like museums and nature centers and library books as extensively as you would like!
  • Unschooling
    • Unschooling is even less formal and more controversial; however some kids excel with this type of homeschooling, especially kids who are very self motivated and old enough to make effective use of online and library materials. If you choose unschooling, you still have to teach all the required subjects and meet state law requirements, so it might be difficult to reconcile those. 
One book that comes highly recommended is Cathy Duffy's 101 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, and there is a copy available from the Sioux City Public Library at time of writing this post!


Set up your classroom

This is the most fun part! Make sure your kids have a comfortable, well-lit area to do school work in. But beyond that, the sky's the limit! One thing my kids love is clipboards, so they can take their work to a comfy couch or a picnic blanket under a tree or wherever else they want to be. For older kids who will keep them tidy, a lap desk is also a fun option. 

For younger kids, I recommend getting a big bulletin board so you can do a calendar and weather time at the beginning of the day. An easel is also great as it makes a clear designated place to do messy art (I keep mine outside!) and painting on a vertical surface develops slightly different skills than working on a horizontal surface like a table or clipboard, and that's great for kids brains!

The school/office/craft supplies you need will vary a lot depending on your curriculum and enrichment activities, so your list will vary, but I like to always keep on hand:

  • Construction paper
  • Watercolor paper
  • Copy paper
  • Pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Glitter glue
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Pom-poms
  • Foam shapes, sequins, and other pretty things to sort or glue to other things


Local groups

*Note: I do not run any of these organizations. If you have questions about them, you will get the best answers by going straight to them to ask!

With the exception of social distancing during pandemics, homeschooling usually includes lots of socialization! Here are some local groups to turn to for virtual and in-person support, discussion, and fun when homeschooling in Siouxland:


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