Over the years, I’ve heard a variety of responses when people find out about my homeschooling, but they are surprisingly similar: “Oh- I so admire you for that – I don’t know how you do it,” or “Good for you! I could never homeschool though, I’m just not patient enough,” or “How can you stand it? My kids would drive me crazy!”
I think that many of them are just being polite though, and they really have no interest in homeschooling. That’s OK. I’m not one who believes that every child should be homeschooled. Public and private schools can be a wonderful resource (although I would always support smaller class sizes and more individualized curriculum).
My concern is for the parents who I sense really do want to homeschool, or are at least curious, but think they cannot. So, it made me think, “Under what circumstances is homeschooling not a good idea?” I came up with reasons in five categories: Interest level, Ability, Patience, Motivation and Circumstances.
If the parent who would be doing most of the homeschooling is not interested in homeschooling, that’s really not going to work. Likewise, if one parent is interested in homeschooling but the other is firmly opposed, that won’t work either. Kids shouldn’t be placed in a tug-of-war between parents; perhaps a trial period or other compromise can be found.
If the child is not interested in being homeschooled, you may suggest a trial period, but don’t push it. I firmly believe that children ought to be given the freedom to direct their own education, even if that means attending traditional school. An obvious exception to this would be if you are concerned for your child’s safety or well-being.
I don’t believe a college degree or even a high school diploma is a necessary to help your own children learn. But without those things, I do believe that the homeschooling parent should be literate and self-educated to some extent. Parents should know enough to know what they don’t know, so that they can find the appropriate resources for help. For instance, if a homeschooling mom knows that her math skills are weak, she can pick a program that gives step-by-step solutions or one-on-one tutoring if necessary. Parents do not have to teach everything!!!If a parent is particularly worried about their own academic weaknesses, they might feel more comfortable using an all-in-one curriculum that gives step-by-step instructions and phone support.
Parents envision the headaches they will have getting their kids to sit down and finish their work, and they are right. That’s one good reason not to do it that way. Homeschooling is not the same thing as school at home. Many parents do choose to have a fairly formal schedule and curriculum, but that is NOT necessary. Children who are given free rein over their own education will learn amazing things, and there is no need to force it. Please see my book or this post for more information.
You will still need patience however, because you will still be a parent, and there will still be sibling squabbles, temper tantrums, chore avoidance, dawdling, and disobedience. But you may find that spending more time with your children, during the better part of the day, will bring you all closer together. By doing fun things together, talking, listening, and working side-by-side, your rhythms will start to mesh. The tensions of rushing around before and after school or work will be gone. The kids will get more sleep, be more comfortable, and have more time to play. You may find that you get along better with your children than you ever thought possible – as long as you don’t try to be the mean ol’ schoolmaster.
Some critics point out that parents should not be allowed to homeschool because they only wish to indoctrinate/brainwash their kids. I imagine there are indeed parents like that, although I hope not many. My answer to that is we all unintentionally brainwash our kids anyway. We can’t help it. Even when we are trying to present other viewpoints, it is very difficult to hide our own. Even schools wish to indoctrinate children in the values and beliefs considered important to society. All kids, schooled or not, are going to absorb the belief systems of their families and teachers, though they may later choose to reject those beliefs. Also, it’s pretty hard to shelter kids these days from every opposing viewpoint. So, while I hope that parents have nobler motivations to homeschool their children, I don’t think the threat of brainwashing is bad enough to say they shouldn’t homeschool.
If there is no way for one parent or adult family member to stay home with young kids, then homeschooling really isn’t an option. Although I have known parents who worked at alternative private schools like Montessori or Waldorf and were able to enroll their kids for free or reduced tuition. Also consider alternative working arrangements like both parents working different part-time shifts, working from home and hiring a helper, or down-sizing to live off of one income.
For responsible teenagers, I think it is possible for them to be home alone during the day as long as someone is available later to help answer questions, find resources, etc. I know of a single mom who pulled her teenaged son out of high school because he was being bullied. While she went to work everyday, he worked on his online curriculum, practiced his cello, took cooking lessons (within walking distance) and worked as an apprentice at a local guitar repair shop. He later joined a Celtic Bluegrass band and now makes his living as a professional musician traveling all around the country.
If there is a stay-at-home parent, but he or she is overwhelmed with smaller children or other responsibilities, it may be too difficult to give the older children the attention they need. But it IS possible – especially if that parent is organized and has a great sense of humor. There are a number of great homeschooling books that address this very subject, so I would recommend reading up on what other families have done before deciding one way or the other.
Another part of circumstances is financial resources. It’s nice to have the money to buy all the cool homeschool curriculum available these days, but it is not necessary. You can get all sorts of great resources for free or very cheaply. The homeschooler’s greatest friend is the public library. I also bought some of my favorite learning materials at garage sales and used curriculum swaps. So, the main concern for financial resources is the ability to live off of one income, and homeschoolers have become masters of household frugality (this gives me an idea for a future post).
If you are interested in homeschooling, but still not sure, I would recommend searching for homeschool groups in your local area. Find out when they are meeting and ask to come see what it is all about. Homeschoolers love to talk about homeschooling, and they will be able to answer a lot of your questions. You can also read up online or in your local library, but there is no substitute for meeting real homeschooling families.