Should I homeschool my child?
Of course, you know I’m going to tell you that you should. (You’re reading a homeschool blog.)
Having said that, you want to explore the pros and the cons, the benefits and the disadvantages.
So I’m going to give you straight talk to the question: should I homeschool my child?
There are so many reasons that someone might be drawn to homeschooling:
- your child is dealing with bullying issues at school
- the school isn’t addressing your child’s needs
- the school won’t accommodate your family travel plans
- the school won’t accommodate your family values
- grades and traditional educational approaches don’t make sense to you
- you don’t like pandemic restrictions
- you want more pandemic restrictions
- you want to spend more time with kids, especially when they’re younger
- the school environment is not amenable to your specific child
- you feel like you kid give your child a stronger academic education
- you love the idea of your child creating their own self-directed education
- you don’t like how your child is being influenced at school
- and the other reason I haven’t mentioned here…
1. One of the most compelling questions I’ve heard in considering whether you should homeschool your child is this: do you like spending time with your kids?
One would think that the answer would be yes, but that really isn’t always the case.
(And the only person who can answer that question honestly is you!)
Wanting to be with your kids will be highly necessary as you spend a good chunk of time with them.
Just so you know, you don’t spend all your time with your kids though.
Turns out, you don’t spend nearly as much time doing academic things, even if you approach your homeschool very traditionally.
And turns out, you have other things to do, like household stuff and errands and groceries, and volunteer stuff, or a job if you have one.
(You’re not actually spending all your time with your kiddos).
And then you start driving them to hither and yon and nurturing their interests and then they’re definitely not always with you, because they’re at a playdate, or youth group, or part-time job, or lessons, or practice, or any of the bajillion things homeschool kids do.
But when you are with them, and you’re obviously signing up to be with them, do you WANT to be with them???
2. Even if you answer yes to that question, another compelling question: how do you interact with the frustrations you have as a parent?
Because girlfriend, if you don’t know now, you’re gonna find out.
And if you do know, and you don’t like the answer, you’re gonna feel that answer a whole lot more deeply than you do now.
All that time you have with your kids means you’ll be seeing yourself a whole lot more clearly, and sometimes you’re not looking so pretty.
Now, two thoughts:
- From one homeschool mama to another, I’m not trying to shame you. I want you to feel free, confident, and satisfied in your homeschool (just like I wanted for myself all these years). And shame doesn’t accomplish anything. But it is a universal truth: all homeschool parents have to come to terms with their ugly sides.
- And from one homeschool mama to another, you can do something about that ugly side. (You see, though it is very uncomfortable at times, addressing “your stuff”, it’s also a lovely opportunity to grow, learn, and become who you were meant to be).
So expect to deal with your stuff head on.
3. But I’m not a teacher and other ideas we need to shed…
But of course, you’re not a teacher.
Unless you are, because it seems to me I’ve met an awful lot of teachers through my podcast forays. Here are a few:
- Confidently Homeschooling Differently-Wired Kiddos (& Taking Care of Us too) with Colleen Kessler
- Bust Homeschool Myths, So We Can Be Confident & Happy with Alison Morrow
- How to Address Your Big Emotions with Christine Dixon
- Create a Love of Learning, No Matter your Children’s Learning Challenges
- Why Homeschool High School is Better than We Thought with Mary Hanna Wilson
So do you have to go to teacher college?
No! You don’t need to try to be a schoolteacher.
You’re not teaching a schoolroom of anonymous children. You’re engaging your children and facilitating an education for each of your kids.
That is all.
This is also why I don’t like the word “school” in homeschool. Your home is not a school.
Think of yourself as a facilitator or a learning consultant, not a teacher.
A few tips when engaging your kids in a regular homeschool day:
- Siblings can help siblings.
- Think outside the workbook, grades, and testing box: you don’t actually need them.
- Think outside school subjects.
- Encourage independent study.
- Strew. (A borrowed concept from the unschooling world, randomly place interesting resources around the house that your child may find.)
- Recognize learning opportunities and pursue them.
Teach your own, really?
I taught a homeschool co-op class of twenty 8 to 14 year olds. We discussed Africa.
So, I asked my teacher-turned-homeschool-mom friend to teach me everything she knows about classroom management in five minutes, ha. (She was a schoolteacher before her homeschool days).
Turns out, classroom management skills weren’t required because the kids were astute and engaged.
The only chattering I heard was from my own daughters, and with one fell swoop of their names spoken in the presence of their peers, they were magically quietened.
The second most common question I’ve been asked, next to the ‘S’ question, is “Are you a certified teacher”?
Nope, I am not.
Originally, I was told that teachers know everything they need to know to teach kids. And I don’t know everything there is to know about everything.
(PS I’ve heard firsthand from teachers that they don’t know everything.)
In fact, I’ll tell you that I learned basic arithmetic right alongside my oldest daughter, because some of it I didn’t grasp in school.
Now that we’ve been homeschooling for a few years, I’ve learned there are many things I didn’t learn in school.
(I just didn’t realize I didn’t learn them, and turns out I survived just fine without them.)
My goal in my homeschool co-op class was to keep the kids’ attention and discuss a topic in which they may or may not have had interest.
One of the reasons for attending this class may have been: mom decreed it.
Or I have been interested in my own topic: all things Africa as we travelled to rural Kenya in the last few months.
There may have been no interest.
I might have been boring the class silly, but they didn’t tell me.
I didn’t have enough time in the group to get to know these kids to see if they cared.
Teaching my own is not so difficult.
Even with my own kids, teaching my own takes some figuring and intentional observing.
Naturally, I’m motivated.
- I care that they learn.
- I care that their interests grow.
- I care that their understanding expands.
- I care that their ability to communicate blossoms.
So I’m as intent as a mama with a preschooler helping him sound out letters of words or learning to potty train.
Also known as teaching.
If I don’t know something, I find a book, Google, or YouTube it.
Knowledge is found at the tap of a finger.
In my Friday morning homeschool co-op class, I kept sharing my experiences and learning about Africa, I engaged them with questions, I incorporated a few stories, with photos and videos, and lightened the topic with a few games.
But at the end of that class, it’ll be their mamas that know their kids, will discover more of their curiosities, and will again, most assuredly and capably, teach their own.
4. What if I miss something?
Straight up, you will.
You’ll realize you invested a whole lotta time on your firstborn’s education, they’ll begin conjugating Latin verbs, learning violin at five, and you’ll learn that your youngest child hasn’t had his letter sounds explained to him before he’s six.
Will you let me discuss gaps with you?
These infamous things called gaps: what even are they?
- The word suggests there’s something missing.
- Someone forgot something.
- Someone didn’t catch all the details the first time, the second time, the quadrillionth time.
- Someone’s missing something.
(Or if you’re thinking about the latest fashion trends with reasonable prices, from a place called The Gap, that’s not what we’re talking about here).
Straight up, I don’t believe there is an education out there that doesn’t have gaps.
It’s not a thing.
There are no children anywhere who make it through…
- public school,
- private school,
- Sudbury school,
- Waldorf school,
- Montessori school,
- law school or medical school,
- or any school whatsoever that doesn’t have a gap.
We all have gaps.
- That is why none of us is capable of writing for every topic on Wikipedia.
- That is why none of us is consulted for everything.
- That is why none of us declare ourselves to be as knowledgeable as God.
That is why ALL of us consult the Google bar.
Or DuckDuckGo. Whichever you prefer.
We ALL, and I mean ALL, have gaps.
I share a story about how I came to understand preventing educational gaps isn’t my responsibility as a homeschool mama here: What about Gaps in my Child’s Home Education?
5. Will I be able to find the perfect curriculum?
Nope, you won’t.
Oh you’ll admire many of them. (If you can afford all of them).
But you’ll discover as we veteran homeschool mamas discover…
- You might like it, but your kiddo doesn’t.
- You spent a lotta money and you don’t like it.
- You liked it for a time but discovered you didn’t want to finish it.
Here are 3 guidelines to choosing homeschool curriculum…
Tips on where to find curriculum:
- The same place everyone gets stuff, book stores, online, the library, or friends.
- Ask about favourite homeschool curriculum on a Facebook page will garner oodles of opinions. Word of mouth is a powerful sales agent.
- What you like might not be what your friends like or what your kids like…or what just one of your kids like. Lots of experimenting is involved.
- Even the most exciting curriculum gets boring by the middle of November, or the beginning of February.
- And if you buy lots of curriculum you’ll feel like you have to use it, so if you can not buy it, that is good.
Be ye encouraged: the perfect curriculum will not be found, because it doesn’t exist.
If there is no magical curriculum, how do you choose it?
If you’re not locked into a prescribed program of learning, I suggest three principles for choosing it.
1. Follow their interests.
- Easiest way to get someone engaged in writing or math or any subject is to pursue their interests.
- You have a kiddo Minecrafting? There are writing prompts for that. There are math games for that. There are history books used in conjunction as building prompts. There’s even an online school for that!
- Your kiddo likes mixing stuff together? (Watch out kitchen!) Chemistry experiment books and experiment sets and slime sets abound for such a purpose. We have purchased this one twice and used it three times.
- If I had to sell anything, it would be Usborne products, because they would sell themselves. Their format, vocabulary, illustrations are excellent entry resources for any subject area from chemistry to Shakespeare, Roman history to US presidents.
- An interest in history? Have you seen the Kingfisher Encyclopedias? The Usborne On-Line Encyclopedias? The Horrible History DVD series?
If your kiddo has an interest, there’s always a resource for that.
2. Follow your interests.
- Who says homeschool needs to focus only on the interests of the child? Homeschool is a family affair.
- If you’re passionate about gardening and writing, like I am, incorporate your interests. For years, I’ve included my kids in spring planting. They’ve grown to not love it. Yes, I said not love it. When they were little, planting and harvesting oodles of carrots, and digging in the dirt was a delight. This is less so as they grew older. But they get to be with me in my element. They learned by osmosis all the things I read or practice. (But now I have a quiet space).
- Football and baseball, all things Canadian and American politics, Broadway theatre and presidential history are my husband’s passions. At bedtime and breakfast, in transit or at campfire, our kids have had all manners of discussions or games about these topics with him. In his own words, “You need your own savvy, and then share your savvy (with your kids), and let your kids do things with you.”
- No matter the interest, you can spend a few minutes a day engaging your topics of interest.
When they watch you passionately engaging in your interests, they will see that learning continues throughout a lifetime.
3. Trust that the way they like to learn is the right way to learn.
- Which will greatly influence your choice of curriculum. And frankly, make your life easier because if they’re engaged, learning is a whole lot easier.
- I was primarily taught in a lecture, record, study, regurgitate approach. Most of us were.
- These modes of learning have their place. Being told something, writing something on paper, reviewing it, and being quizzed on it have their place in learning.
We have all been taught we have preferences in learning styles, but Tesia Marshik believes the notion of learning styles is a myth.
Barbara Oakley gives insight in how we learn to learn…
- Learning about learning helps me learn how my kids might be learning.
- Learning about learning might be more important than time spent perusing curriculum choices.
How does all this influence our curriculum choices? You will know. Watch your kids. Ask your kids. Trust your instincts. Continue to learn from them what is useful and what is not.Teresa Wiedrick, author of Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer
Follow your children’s interests, follow your interests, and learn how they learn.
6. Is it even legal?
But the legal nomenclature (wording, expectations, requirements) around homeschooling in each state, province, or country is different.
If you’re in Canada…
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Newfoundland & Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- New Brunswick
If you’re in United States…
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
If you’re in another part of the world and want to learn if it’s legal where you reside, please contact me.
7. But what about socialization?
Teaching kindness to our kids IS socialization.
Be it Muslim or Christian, Shambhala Buddhist or Hindu, most of us, minus an occasional psychopath, aspire to teach our kids to be kind to one another (arguably, the most important lesson in socialization).
Teaching kindness is learning to treat each other as we would have others treat us.
- Be patient in cafe line-ups.
- To not cut lines.
- We teach our kids to understand their siblings’ perspectives, even if they’re frustrating them.
- We teach them how to speak.
- We teach them how to argue respectfully.
- We teach them to listen and not to interrupt.
We teach them they should be listened to & that they have something to say.
Social opportunities aren’t the same as socialization.
- Attend youth groups and religious observances,
- Attend sports activities, art and music lessons,
- Attend birthday parties and Christmas socials, summer camps and family BBQs,
- Have visits at the lake with friends, and vacations and trips around the world,
…these are social opportunities.
And our homeschooled kids get plenty of ’em. In fact, they get more because they usually have more time in the day to attend them.
That schooled six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, class of twenty-five?
There’s no magic sauce in teaching kids socialization there.
Learning to be productive citizens of their society, charitable and community-focused, we help to tailor an education that enables our children to be who they were meant to become and contribute meaningfully.Teresa Wiedrick, author of Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer
But know this, by far, the most difficult aspect of socialization is teaching our children, not by the words we use, the consequences we respond with when we’re trying to teach them to do things differently, or deciding how to help them learn kindness, but rather recognizing that they’re not taught by our words, but lessons and attitudes caught by our lives.
This is socialization.
8. I have a part-time job: can it be done even then?
From experience, working from home while homeschooling, I’ve learned these things:
- You need to be realistic with your expectations around your work.
- You need to be realistic with your expectations around how you’re homeschooling.
- You need to ask yourself regularly: is it working for you?
I don’t think you should assume…
- My child is old enough to independently do their homeschooling efforts independently.
- Or I’ll try to get my child independently doing their homeschool stuff so I can work on my own.
- I’m able to do my work after my kids’ needs are satisfied. (They’re kids, they’ll always want you and need you).
- I’ll find a way to do a traditional homeschool approach then move into my work after that’s done. (That might just be unrealistic in your energy expenditure.
If you’re looking for guidance from a homeschool life coach and mentor, you are welcome to join me in a discussion on your unique scenario here:
So I gave you the straight talk about why you will find homeschooling challenging.
Now to the stuff that will bolster your choice to just do it:
So what are the benefits to homeschool?
We have a whole lot of freedoms as homeschool families.
We have the freedom…
- To choose your schedule.
- To choose your community.
- To teach your kids your values.
- To understand your kids.
- To connect with your kids.
- To choose an individualized education.
- To have a whole lotta fun with our kids.
- To develop our interests.
- To develop our kids’ interests and encourage their passions.
- To maintain close connections with each of our kids.
- To get clearer on what we want in our families and in our lives.
Freedom comes at a cost though.
(You know I don’t have to tell you this if you’re already a homeschooler.)
Sandwiched on both sides.
Permeated with the osmolality of a water molecule dropped with gentian violet.
You get the point: homeschooling is saturated with freedom.
2. Encouraging an individualized education.
There need be no standard education, when there is no standard child to teach.
If our world was filled with individuals who fulfilled their internal and unique purpose, our world wouldn’t be such a high-wired, boastingly busy, unhappily exhausted, materialistically focused, letter-after-your-name striving, and treadmill-oriented.
We’d all know each other more authentically. We would not have to strive after meaning because we would intrinsically know we were born into it and meant to follow the thing inside of us that needed to be manifested in our practical world.
And of course, we’d all be happier.
My goal is to provide my particular child, with his varying penchants and aptitudes, to have a personalized education.
3. Homeschooling is fun.
This might have been my biggest learning curve in homeschool: learning to incorporate fun.
It took me years to learn how to have fun.
I’ve probably been motivated by these reasons:
- Kids get bored of routine.
- I get bored of routine.
- All those fun Pinterest board activities are lonely.
- Oh, and because I’ve discovered that changing up the routine actually increases the kids’ interest, comprehension, and retention.
I’ve learned to make fun part of our weekly routine as we dedicate Friday to Funday.
4. It gives you an education.
It’s not just your kiddos that are gaining an education. You will learn a whole lot of things. (That you may have missed in your conventional education or because you had no interest in them until now).
Things I’ve learned:
- the relevance of the Pythagorean theorem as I helped build the goat barn with my son,
- how to do double digit subtraction,
- and adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions,
- the grammatical parts of a sentence (despite writing for years, I had no idea!)
- what an article is, “a” and “an” (a piece of info I still don’t need to know IMO),
- phonetic rules and why learning them as a homeschool mama makes it easier to engage my child in learning to read without teaching the phonetic rules,
- why Minecraft is educational,
- why allowing my child to build a lapbook on the Titanic is educational too,
- why encouraging violin lessons is self-torture for the homeschool mama,
- every child is different, they don’t learn the same, they don’t listen the same, they don’t always want to listen, they don’t have similar interests, sometimes working together as a family works for history or science and sometimes it doesn’t,
- sometimes seasons of unschooling work and sometimes seasons of classical homeschool works too,
- that my kids will learn things that I’ll never learn, they’ll be the experts in our family, and
- that reading a wide variety of genres makes a widely thinking person.
Mama has the freedom to learn with her kids.
Math wasn’t intuitive, and the school didn’t help clarify enough of it for me. I may have been the meme originator of “Math, solve your own problems”. I have a higher tolerance for math problems these days. My brain is more math-plastic.
As many subjects as my children have been exposed to, I have been as well. Plate tectonics, ancient history, periodic table of elements, geology, forensic science, physics, and Canadian history. This paragraph could be endless.
Obviously, I didn’t begin homeschooling to increase my IQ or prevent dementia. One of the anticipated goals of homeschooling is that our kids would reap the benefit of a rounded, individualized, brain-expanding education.
Turns out, we homeschool mamas get that too.
5. It gives your kids an individualized education, setting them up for living a life on purpose.
How does your child learn?
- What do I want them to learn?
- To be independent thinkers?
- To coexist in the world harmoniously, kindly, and responsibly?
- To find the things they enjoy doing that bring them purpose and bring their communities value?
- To find a way to make an income doing the things they enjoy?
Not one box out there will fit my homeschool family or even fit one of my kids.
And that’s why I know that there is no box out there that will fit yours either.
But what is our homeschool goal?
Not to find a comfy box, but rather, to create an education and an atmosphere conducive toward growth and expansion for our specific children.
How to do that?
There is no easy formula. There is no one-size-fits-all.
Which makes this whole homeschool thing highly individualized.
What gets in our way?
- Often our pre-conceived notions about what we think we need in order to create that home education.
- Often our pre-conceived notions about what an education is anyway.
- And also others’ preconceived notions about education too.
So let’s unpack that all, get clear on what we really think, and determine how we want our homeschools to reflect our real homeschool kids.
Let’s deschool our homeschools & create learning opportunities in our homes so they can live their lives on purpose.
6. It gives you a lifetime of family memories.
Let’s help our homeschool kids spend their time wisely, so they have meaningful childhood memories and they learn to live their lives on purpose.
Parenting is short-lived. That’s a statement that doesn’t always feel true.
It gives you more time, not less, to do things your family actually wants to do (& you too).
Time moves quickly after having a few children. Not so in the first year after my first child’s birth.
She was gorgeous. I was never more excited to wake up each morning except in those days. Except that I was too tired to wake up each of those mornings. She was adorable for a reason: because if she weren’t, the effort would have been too much.
My first daughter didn’t want to sleep but was desperate for it. She didn’t want to be put down but wasn’t soothed by being carried all day. It was a bracing introduction to parenting. A. Lot. Of. Work.
But she was a beautiful baby. Despite not having a digital camera to capture all the moments (there were no digital options when she was born), I took an incredible number of photos (that I also developed at the Walmart camera department). Kodakifying each moment seemed realistic. I even scrapbooked every last photo for my first. Everything about that first year was magical.
But it also felt like one long night. Time can slow to a snail’s pace when you’re not sleeping.
Then magically, she’s all grown up, backpack slung on her back and zooming out the door to drive to the airport where she’s spending five months traveling around Mexico.
In a blink of an eye.
How do we help our kids live their lives on purpose?
So, invest your kids’ time, don’t just spend it.
What do we want them to remember? What do we want them to learn?
Their childhood doesn’t have to be reflected in our culture’s attachment to reading semi-useful info tidbits, then regurgitating those tidbits for standardized tests.
We can teach our children to live life on purpose, explore their interests, and find meaningful work now.
It gives you so much time to create a family dynamic that you want.
(Having said that, I don’t mean that you can control the outcome to that family dynamic. It won’t take long to discover you’re not the overseer of a strategic chess game. Oh, you can seriously influence the atmosphere. You can show up on purpose for yourself and those you love. But your kids are independent operators, arriving in this world and your family with personalities that you don’t determine and can’t make to be something other than they are.)
Having said THAT, you get to deeply influence the energy of your family.
What you value, what you actually value, not what you say you value, will be deeply imparted to your kids. (More is caught than taught).
- If you value hard work, they will too.
- If you value hard play, creative, spontaneous, present play, they’ll know how to do that too.
- If you value non-judgmental energy toward the neighbours who don’t think as you do, or family that don’t think like you do, your kids will learn that too.
- If you want to create a community of authentic, supportive connection, they’ll feel surrounded by authenticity and support and engage the same way with their communities.
- If you value harmony and making others feel understood, seen and heard, you’ll see them value those things, and engage in them too.
We get to create a family dynamic that deeply infuses our children’s world.
It allows you to hone your values and share them with your family.
I don’t know about you, but the values I thought I had at the beginning of family life and what they are now, after twenty five years, aren’t the same.
I’ve grown. My husband has grown.
Obviously, my children have grown.
What homeschooling allows is a whole lotta space and time to experiment with a variety of values and ways of being.
It encourages you to build boundaries with relationships.
The space and time to experiment with a variety of values that feel like they genuinely reflect who I am encourages me to be aligned with authentic relationships that genuinely reflect who I am too.
Are the relationships that are surrounding me and my family consistent or aligned with who we are?
Do they function in a way that reflects who I am?
I don’t have to have a phone quickly accessible to anyone who wants to call me at any time of the day. I can be available when I choose to be available. (And not always be available to anyone).
I also come to understand that having my screen next to me while I am in my homeschool day is a large distraction to me being present with my kids.
I come to understand that certain friendships aren’t really serving me or my family and I need to create an honest connection there, not trying to appease anyone who wants to be in contact with me just because they want to be with me.
Do they serve me? Can I serve them from the truest parts of me?
Do the activities I include in my homeschool routine reflect who me and my kids are? Or are we doing them because other people think we should?
Am I homeschooling in a way that reflects us or the wider community that we live? And does that wider community want us to be like them so they don’t feel threatened by different OR can I be who I actually am and encourage my kids to be who they actually are?
Do I have a true, non-defensive response to family’s questions about my choice to homeschool? Or a random stranger’s questions too?
Homeschooling helps to build our independent muscles and eke out our boundaries.
It allows you to focus in on who you are and what you’re all about.
Building those boundaries and clarifying our values helps us become stronger in learning who we are and what we’re all about.
Yay! An unexpected benefit to this homeschool lifestyle.
And guess what?
You naturally encourage your kids to do the same!
Which allows you to get clear on what you want in life and what you don’t.
Thereby encouraging you to show up on purpose in your homeschool and life.
And living your life on purpose!
Are you kidding? So homeschooling isn’t just about creating a school in the four walls in your home?
There are so many benefits to this homeschool lifestyle, so much freedom, so much opportunity to become more you, to live your life on purpose and encourage your kids to do that too that how could you NOT homeschool your kids?
So should you homeschool your kids?
I’m gonna say YES!
And welcome to homeschooling!
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