Updated: Jan 11
When someone chooses an unconventional path, curiosity, questions, and even skepticism always follow. Even though homeschooling has become more common place than ever, it’s still a pretty small club. Only 3-6% of school-age children are homeschooled. There’s nothing that will bring curious looks, awkward comments, or make you second-guess your own decisions like choosing to homeschool. Education, socialization, and preparation for the future are all concerns others and we ourselves may have when we choose to homeschool. But here’s the truth. Those are pretty big hurdles to clear, even when sending your kids to a public school. I‘m going to talk about all three, and hopefully, set your mind at ease about how choosing to homeschool gives you the opportunity to help your child excel in each area.
A big concern for parents choosing to homeschool is giving their child an excellent education. Aside from your own doubts and fears, outsiders raise questions about the quality of education you can provide your child without a degree. Before I became a homeschool parent, I was probably homeschooling‘s biggest skeptic. The 6 months I spent homeschooling as a kid, along with the few homeschoolers I had met in my life, were enough for me to be vehemently opposed to the idea. Now, as an adult, homeschooling wasn’t something I really ever thought about at all, except on the rare occasion I met a family who homeschooled and thought, “I’d never do that.” I, like many others, balked at the idea of doing anything outside of the norm. Even as I have a college degree myself and my husband has a JD, I thought that surely with an entire system put into place for the sole purpose of educating, they knew what they were doing and would be best at it.
But public schools don’t have the market cornered on providing a good education. You can click here for a quick look at some stats that show, according to each state’s own standards, how well students are doing in math and reading. In my own home state, for example, only ~35% of students tested are proficient in either subject. I don’t believe testing is everything, but I do believe the numbers aren’t promising. So many factors affect how well a child will do in public school, factors that are often outside of a teacher or parent’s control. Some obstacles are unique to public schools- class sizes, adherence to certain curriculum, meeting time-sensitive standards, teaching to children from various backgrounds and abilities, & standardized tests.
Others are shared across every educational choice a parent may choose- learning disabilities/ differences, teaching methods, concern that you, as an educator, are “succeeding”, and socialization (which we will discuss below).
Whatever the challenges you face, if you have decided to homeschool, there are resources and materials available to help you overcome those obstacles. There are even resources to help you choose the best resources. ;)
Homeschooling allows you to give your child an individualized education uniquely suited to their pace, learning style, and interests. It allows you to find creative and effective ways to overcome any of the challenges listed above. Homeschooling puts you in control of making the decisions that best suit your child, without the constraints of rules meant to work for the betterment of the average student in a group rather than the individual. When I hear someone venting frustration about homeschool “not working” or “not living up to their expectations”, more often than not the problem is that they have tried to recreate school at home. Homeschooling is not beneficial simply because it removes your children from a large classroom setting. It’s beneficial because it can, and should, be an individualized learning environment. No two homeschools will look alike because no two children are the same- even the children under your own roof. As your child’s educator, your goal is not just to teach but to inspire. We want our children to be excited to learn, always curious about their world and how it works. In addition to individualized instruction, another benefit of homeschooling is the continuity of the education you can provide. Without the short-term objectives and benchmarks placed on teachers and students to move from one grade to the next, you are free to take as much, or as little, time on a subject as your child needs. You can also focus on your child’s emotional and mental growth and well-being without the pressure that constant grading and assessments place on them. Young children should be allowed to fall in love with learning without measuring their abilities to someone else’s and unnecessarily tying it to their self-worth. There is a time and a place for grades and assessments, but there are many ways to track our child’s learning without the pressure and competition it puts on them. Whenever we have lived in places that required an element of testing, I never taught with those tests in mind, yet my kids always excelled at them. If there ever was a specific subject area that needed attention, I was well aware of it before any test told me so. Homeschooling gives you the ability to see daily where your child is succeeding and where you may need to focus more time and attention. You will never be so keenly aware of what your child is learning, what their interests, strengths, weaknesses, and needs are as when you are homeschooling. Homeschooling allows you and your child to see education as a long, beautiful journey of growth led by individual interests rather than the nine month blocks of learning where lesson choices are dictated by assessments and deadlines.
The issue of socialization is probably the most prickly point of discussion on when it comes to the topic of homeschool. It’s an easy issue for anyone to apply some small bit of anecdotal evidence to and say, “See there. Homeschooling makes kids strange.” Again, I was that person for quite some time. But before I discuss socialization from a homeschool point of view, I want to look at socialization from a public school viewpoint. Issues like teasing, bullying, pressures to drink or use drugs, and sexting, are all realities that kids face at school. If they are not personally affected by one of these issues, they know others who are. As a result, they deal with anxiety, depression, and self-harm. In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that 1 in 3 teens would deal with anxiety disorder. I am not making a claim that public school is the sole cause of anxiety or any of these social issues for teens. I do believe that it is obviously an environment that greatly contributes to it, as it makes up the majority of a teen’s daily life. What I am saying most of all, is that the teenage years, and even the pre-teen years, are a vulnerable time for any child. I can think of no better place to be than in an environment where one can be their self- explore who they are, what they like and dislike, free from daily scrutiny and peer-pressure that can lead to self-doubt and anxiety. Those feelings are going to creep up regardless. As a homeschooler, you will be there to encourage them and help them work through it. Knowing your child, you will be able to help them make decisions on what types of social opportunities will help them thrive and grow into their best selves. Just like being able to tailor your child’s education to their individual needs and interests, you can also tailor their social activities to their individuality as well. Homeschoolers today have as many socialization opportunities as they could possibly want. There are field trips, co-ops, sports, arts, and volunteer opportunities everywhere. All of these give your kids the chance to be part of constructive socialization, opportunities to build relationships that are healthy and positive with kids who share their interests, rather than just their grade.
Far too many students are woefully unprepared for life after graduation. As a homeschooling family, you have the unique opportunity to spend time teaching your child necessary life skills as part of their daily education. From time management to budgeting to good study habits to understanding politics and the economy- whatever it is that you believe will set them up to be responsible, well-informed decision makers, you get to teach that. They also have the benefit of learning through experience. Being home with you and seeing how a home functions day to day, how the budget is planned and executed, how meals are prepped and prepared, how chores are delegated and get done- all of it is a front row seat to practical aspects of daily living that they would very likely otherwise not Have time to participate in with you,
There are so many wonderful benefits to homeschooling, and in the year 2021 and beyond, there is no shortage of resources and aids to help you. There are challenges in every educational choice, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. There is no other setting where your children will receive such an individualized education, catering specifically to their needs and desires.