the road less traveled: why homeschool is better

I was asked why I needed to explain my reasons for this homeschooling life.

This person declared, “Just live your life. I’m not going around explaining why I put my kids in school.”

I could see her point. Except that I was asked almost every day about my homeschool decision, so I’m likely to have a ready answer and am prepared to engage in an in-depth discussion.

Let me tell you the reasons I think why homeschool is better.

why homeschool is better: the road less traveled

The number ONE reason I think homeschool is better is the very reason most people question homeschool.

It’s all about the S question.

Homeschool Socialization!

If you want your child to be…

  • kind,
  • considerate,
  • share,
  • speak to strangers with confidence,
  • speak to adults with confidence, and
  • or speak to littler kids with kindness.
Nowhere in a child’s life is a child validated, seen, and secure than when she/he is deeply connected to her parent.
Even if a parent-child has its regular frustrations, misunderstandings, or moments of cacophony, the child always knows…
  • his parent is always available to talk with him,
  • always has a parent to bounce ideas off of,
  • his parent is available to discuss his big emotions,
  • and conflicts (even if it is about his siblings),
  • has a parent who wants to spend her/his days hanging out with him, and
  • has more regular hugs and cuddles on the sofa reading together.

This is intentional, parental socialization (not peer socialization).

If you want to read more about parental attachment being better than peer attachment, read my post (and past Book Club offering) from Gordon Neufeld’s book, Hold On To Your Kids.

parent and kid with laptop in bedroom

A rounded, personalized education, (not a one-size-fits-all school experience), is a guaranteed benefit for the homeschool kiddo.

Your kids’ interests can always be accommodated in your homeschool.

Our oldest daughter had a long-time interest in British history.

It may have been Usborne books that introduced her to that subject area or a historical fiction novel

When Kate and Will were married, we happened to be attending a homeschool conference. She was so interested in that wedding we decided to forgo sleep that night in the hotel to watch the couple wed (just like I did when Charles and Di married).

Her interest remained and she did a whole lot of British history research as part of her homeschool years.

Our second daughter was interested in all things zoology before she was even homeschooled.

She was interested in underwater animals, creatures flying through the air, or barking in the backyard.

The week before she left for college, I took a series of photos with her and each of the animals on our homestead, our twenty chickens in Cluckingham Palace, Violet, our four-year-old Great Pyr, our cats, Neptune & Meredith, and our three goats, Clover, Thistle, and Poppy.

Her interest was apparent in animals was apparent when she was two. She studied them throughout her homeschool years, but now, it has mostly evaporated.

(Except for her interest in the baby chick that hatched yesterday, the first baby born to King Henry the Rooster, but I digress).

Either of these topics or any topic at all could turn into a full-fledged curriculum.

If you think in traditional subject areas like writing, spelling, math, reading, science, and history, you can learn to incorporate their interests in all of them.

(Which you likely do, I share a few ways to approach child-led learning in these areas.)

Writing…You can take a page from any book, maybe Usborne Encyclopedias for Kids, and get them to write a section. They could create their own dictionaries with definitions, animal encyclopedias, or hand-drawn illustrations.

You can find a whole lot more ideas on how to teach a child to write through child-led learning on my website

Spelling…The kids could choose a topic and look up definitions to a related vocabulary list and create a specialty dictionary. These vocabulary lists could also become spelling list flashcards.

Also, you can play Bananagrams, scrabble, create words with magnetic letter tiles on the fridge, play hangman on a whiteboard with erasable markers, or play my childhood favourite, Boggle (we just did that this morning).

Oh, and remember Wordl online. So many online games.

You can find a post on my website titled Get rid of the spelling program and teach the kids to spell anyway to find more outside-the-box ideas to teach kids to spell.

ps One of my kids also asked me for a spelling program, so consider them too.

Reading…There are endless books on any topic. If I were to sell anything at all, I would sell you on Usborne books. They are straightforward, engaging, and books for every topic.

First and foremost, I would tell you to make a weekly date with the library. Your librarians are your new best friends. They know a little about everything and they know where to find resources for everything too. And all for free.

(Well, until you forget to bring the books back, which you will).

How do you teach kids to read? I share my tale of teaching my four homeschool kids to read.
But I’ve compiled a Homeschool Mama Reading List for you to read too!

(These books are ones that have taught me everything that has helped me structure my homeschool).

Math…When once I thought you could politely request to let math solve its own problems, I’ve discovered you cannot get away from math. (And I have tried).

You can’t not teach math. When I attempted unschooling for a time, I discovered the unbelievable…there is no way to get away from arithmetic

You need to understand math…add, subtract, multiply and divide, estimate, and understand decimals and percentages. 

Consumerism requires it. Because you buy stuff.

Why you can’t not teach math?

  • Do you need to decide how much produce you can afford? Then you need to understand weights and measurements.
  • Do you want to build something in the backyard or paint a room? You need to know geometry, area, and perimeter.
  • (Otherwise, you waste a lot of money, could get ripped off, and take forever putting something together).

No matter how intense my math aversion was in my early years of traditional schooling, I discovered that math must be understood.

My simple grasp of rudimentary math skills proved that one can function in our culture when one is math illiterate.

(You can even get a university degree and use math concepts in your paid work, but still not understand them; while I don’t recommend that, it is possible. I am proof.)

But better to learn the basics early.

Arithmetic is everywhere.

  • There is always counting, when the kids are little: count ten cars or add green dinosaurs to brown dinosaurs.
  • For the bigger kids: tell me what percentage of British kings were married to more than one wife.
  • Or what is the speed of a walrus, a dolphin, or a porpoise?
  • What is the actual distance from one planet to the next?
  • What is the area of the Roman empire?
  • How many 1/4 cups in 1 cup (fractions and measurements are easily learned in cooking).
  • Build anything and you’ll discover the Pythagorean theorem.
  • Eat at a restaurant and learn percentages while tipping.

You can get more ideas on how to think outside-the-math box here.

Science topics seem to be curiosities of many young children…geology, botany, and astronomy, so easily accessible…but is history as easily accessible?

How to engage the history of science?

My children listened repeatedly to a CD by Jim Weiss recounting the story of Galileo. These stories, written in narrative first-person, or for easy-reading audiences, in historical fiction, will glue those stories to their brain, like Blackberry jam to my laminate countertop.

By far, the most interesting way to study science is actually to be a scientist.

  • So, get out in nature,
  • draw the veins of a leaf,
  • learn to name birds and recognize their birdsong,
  • head to a geology museum to learn about your local rocks,
  • use science kits (anything from chemistry to astronomy, there’s something for every aspect of science),
  • raise painted butterflies and baby chicks,
  • dissect owl pellets and crayfish,
  • enroll informal science programs when the kids are older.
It’s easy to find history textbooks, but not every kid wants to study in that way.

Many books are written from a historical perspective and provide a rich, easy-to-understand narrative about a time period.

These books abound on homeschool readaloud websites and are an enjoyable approach to readaloud time too.

Add a few activities to your history study.

Is there science in history too?

  • How did the Spanish Armada get to England so fast?
  • Who discovered the lightbulb?
  • When did women begin to vote?
You can incorporate your child’s interest in your homeschool.

personalized learning

No matter the imperfect family environment, a homeschool is a confidence-building environment (not a fear-based comparison environment with a follow-the-leader group-think environment.)

Watch how you expect them to do their work.

If they are given the freedom to work on their own at times, they begin to take ownership of their activities.

Specifically, if they think they can do a math concept by…

  • listening to the DVD,
  • then trying out a page by themselves,
  • checking their work (compared to the teacher’s manual),
  • and asking for help if something doesn’t make sense,
  • they come to understand they can do a few things themselves.
This helps them gain a sense of “I got this, I can do this”.

And you see that they got this, they can do this, too.

This process begins to cultivate an ability to be independent. The child assumes they can figure things out. (And many times they can. Unless they can’t. Then you’re there to notice and check in with them, help them, or find someone to help them.)

As soon as they can handle one thing, they move on to the next thing, and the next and the next, and then not much long later, someone randomly remarks “Wow, you’re kids are so independent.”

But what you enabled was trust in your child.

A trust that your child can learn, that they can figure things out, that they can be expected to process something that might not be easy, something that might require effort, something that others might not expect him to grasp.

I expect that if they can do something, they should try something.

Though I am always available for whatever they’re doing, it doesn’t mean I’ll check their every step, page, or minute.

It certainly doesn’t mean I’ll be able to help them figure out the coding program given to them at Christmas or be able to decipher the instructions for their new drone. Nope, definitely not. That is beyond my pay grade.

And though I could summarize their hundred pages of textbook reading in their first-year English Lit class, they won’t need me to. Because they’ll figure that out independently when they’re at that stage. (Though I have edited many first-year college English essays for my girls).

Yet, not one of my four kids presently needs help brushing their teeth, because I…
  1. taught them,
  2. expected them to brush their teeth independently, and
  3. trusted that they could do it.

This entire independence thing can begin with a daily chore list where the child recognizes the first letter of her name on the fridge with a picture of a garbage can (if she is pre-reading, of course).

If they’re given tasks they can handle, they become confident that they can do those things independently.

Gradually, based on the child’s abilities, their independence, and their confidence, grows over time.

cute black girl in casual outfit in studio

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves, no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

why homeschool is better

I don’t claim that homeschooling is a perfect life.

We’re still homeschooling humans. And the humans homeschooling those humans are human too.

I don’t claim to have captured perfection in any form.

(Ha, I can only laugh when I even write it as though it were a possibility when most of yesterday was spent in aggravating tete-a-tete with my daughter over multiplying and dividing fractions).

But it certainly is a charmed life, this homeschool life.

The benefits…

There are so many charms to this homeschool life. I will continue to follow this road not-so-often taken, because it has made all the difference.

Teresa wiedrick, author of Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.