Sign on the bottom line: Writing a homeschool contract
Have you ever heard of a home school contract? It is a contract between the administration/instructors (parents) and the students (children) in a given home school/academy. The purpose is to layout in very simple, but positive language, both the benefits and requirements of homeschooling within that family. This way, all parties understand the general expectations, their common, and their individual roles and responsibilities. In other words, why we home schooI and what each person in the family will do to make it a productive, positive academic experience.
I first heard about this concept from a friend of mine a few years ago and it sounded like an excellent idea, but one that never came to fruition chez moi. So this year I asked (begged) my lovely friend to e-mail me a copy of her contract to use as a model. She (had pity on me) graciously sent me a copy which I then tailored for each of my children according to their age and needs. Has having a contract removed all whining, squirming, squealing and protestations? Did I make them sign in blood? No, but the contract serves as an impartial witness and reminder of what we are striving to do together as a team. I don’t have to yell (OK, I still do sometimes) at someone for insisting on sitting in her sister’s spot when she knows it irks her sister beyond measure. I can remind her gently, “Caddie, didn’t you promise that you would sit in your assigned seat without being disruptive to others?” “Scarlett, are you supposed to scream at your sister? If I remember correctly, you agreed not to allow your emotions to take over, didn’t you.” Grumbling does still occur, but I am not accused of arbitrarily creating unfair rules. They have been laid out and agreed to. The contract also reminds me that I need to provide certain opportunities/freedoms that I might otherwise forget when I am overwhelmed or cranky. “I did promise to go on weekly nature hikes, didn’t I. I guess the dishes can wait.” Contracts can be a good thing. Why don’t you try writing one?
Now, since I did not create the base contract I don’t feel comfortable posting it in its entirety here, besides, to be effective you really need to make it your own. To that end I will break down the major sections and provide prompts to help you think it through as well as a few entries as examples.
- Part I –
This is a list of basic understandings on homeschooling and what it means in your family. Why do you home school? What does it allow you to do that you may not be able to do otherwise? Thinking of your own activities such as sports, the arts, parish life, travel, spending time with a loved one, pursuing a special interest or talent, etc. Fill in the blanks. Be creative!
“We understand that to be able to home school is a privilege. (I love this starting line!)
This means our faith, our family and our learning work together.
This means we have
This means more chances to
This means more field trips to add to our learning
This means we
This means we sacrifice our
This means the joy of being
It also means hard work, obedience, respect and cooperation.
- Part II – The Student’s responsibilities. This is the section that lists what habits and virtues the child will work on this year. Think about what areas your student needs to concentrate on. What do they struggle with the most? Getting up and ready on time without prompting? Completing their chores? Finishing their schoolwork? Sitting still? Managing their temper/frustration/emotions? Thinking they know best? Listening to their teachers and following instructions without interrupting? Giving up when the work is difficult? What attitudes do you want to foster? Pick 8-10 areas they need to address and use a positive tone, avoiding ‘Nots. ‘I will do such and such rather than I will not do thus and such. Using ‘not’ creates a list of all that is wrong, not a list of things they can do well, but need to do more frequently.
I, ___________________________________________, want to be home schooled.
To do my part, I will endeavor with GRACE to:
- Do my chores as given to help our family.
- Get started with my schoolwork and stick with it till I am done (promptness/diligence).
- Sit properly at my designated work station without being disruptive to others.
- Listen to my teachers without interruption and complete the work as assigned NOT as I wish.
- Leave all preconceived notions on how things are done in my bedroom and come to class with an open mind ready to learn.
- Part 3 – Parents’ Responsibilities. Okay, Mom and Dad. You are agreeing to home school. What gifts, virtues, abilities, efforts, and opportunities will you provide? What do your students need to succeed? What will your home school style be? Project/unit study/unschooling/Charlotte Mason? Time for exercise, sports, music, languages, extracurriculars? Free time for creative play, opportunities to learn outside the home? Think about it.
We, _________________________________________, are willing to home school.
To do our part, we will endeavor with LOVE to:
- Teach you what you need to know about faith, values, family and academics.
- Give of our time to plan arrange, create, and present ways for you to learn with real curiosity.
Discipline you to control yourself and to grow in love of God and respect for all that you are blessed with in your life.
The final step is to print it out, review it with your children and sign it together as a joyful start of the best school year ever. Make it a special activity. A special meal is always appropriate (we so love to eat here!). Do you have any special pens or paper? Quill or fountain? Parchment or stationary? Give each party a copy and keep it close at hand. Our contracts are in page protectors in our daily notebooks and we review them at least once a week always remembering that homeschooling is a privilege and a joy, even on the messy days.