Image is two small children walking on a wide path in the woods.
I never thought I would be a homeschooling parent in a million billion years. First of all, I obviously have a shaky grasp on mathematics. Just kidding. No, it was more that I came from a world where everyone went to public school and that was that. If ever I stopped to actually consider what it would be like to homeschool, I had the same arguments as pretty much everyone else does when they say they would never. When I talk to other homeschooling moms now, I find there are two kinds: the ones who always knew they would choose this path, and those who, like me, thought they absolutely would not! So I thought it would be fun to bust some of those myths that I used to believe in.
Image is a red toy lathe spinning a wooden dowel, with an adult’s hand guiding a child’s hand in carving the dowel.
1. I am not patient enough. I think almost everyone thinks this at first. We parents are hard on ourselves and wish we were more like the archetypical kind Kindergarten teacher of our imaginations. A lot of this myth comes from your expectations of how much work homeschooling is going to be, which is based on how much work traditional school is. It’s helpful to know that you DON’T have to do six straight hours of schoolwork a day. This article breaks down a normal school day into 40 minutes of new instruction time; the rest is fluff like classroom management, changing classes, reviews, recess, and so on. Even if you want to do very traditional “school at home” homeschooling, I’m sure even the most impatient parent can handle 40 minutes a day. If you want something more relaxed than workbooks – even better.
Image is a chalkboard with assorted chalks and erasers on a tray, and a child’s drawing on the board.
2. I am not smart/educated enough. You aren’t preparing your child for a PhD, you’re preparing them for a high school diploma. Or, hell, let’s take it a step at a time. This year you’re probably preparing them for first or fifth or ninth grade. You have a ninth grade education, right? You don’t? Okay, surely you have a first grade education. If not, maybe you should homeschool yourself, friend. Again, don’t get trapped in the notion that you have to be doing everything that “they” are doing in public schools. You don’t have to teach The New New New Really Newest Math to educate your child. If you don’t remember how to do the advanced calculus you learned in high school, maaayyyyybe most people don’t really need advanced calculus in life. Just saying.
3. I can’t be home with my kids all day every day. I hear ya! Listen, you don’t have to do this alone, and you shouldn’t. According to Boston College psychologist Peter Gray, unschoolers who fare best in life are the ones whose parents make an effort to connect them to the world outside their nuclear family. Different communities have different levels of support available locally, to be sure – Omaha happens to have a large and vibrant homeschooling community, so much so that I could easily schedule my children into enough groups that I wouldn’t see them all week! But that’s not our style. Facebook makes it easy for you to connect with other homeschoolers in your area. If you have no support in your city or town – create it! Trust me, it’s rewarding.
Image is three children, seen from above, playing with a plastic train set on the floor.
4. What About Socialization??? Maybe I should have put this one first, because the it’s first thing eeeeeveryone thinks of when they think of homeschooling, right? Unschooled blogger Idzie Desmarais wrote up a great comprehensive post on the socialization question that you should read. If you don’t, I’ll say in a more concise fashion that traditional school doesn’t provide all that many great opportunities to socialize: kids are stuck in classes with a bunch of kids exactly their same age and are usually not allowed to talk to each other much, aside from a 20 minute lunch and 20 minute recess each day. That’s not great preparation for “the real world,” is it? By contrast, a conscientious homeschooler can bring their kids around people of all ages, including adults, where they may freely converse and interact. In my personal experience I’ve found homeschooled/unschooled kids to be, on the whole, very social, able to get along with lot of different kinds of people, and noticeably self-assured. One thing most adults will quickly notice about homeschooled kids is that they are not afraid to talk to adults. That doesn’t mean they’re rude, it means they talk to you like just another person because they aren’t trained to only answer your questions when prompted. I’ve also found they’re more likely to help out a younger child without being asked to do it. It’s pretty cool.
5. What About Outcomes? The next biggest concern for people who are thinking about homeschooling, after socialization, is what the future opportunities are for homeschooled kids, also known as What About College? The Peter Gray study on unschooling outcomes linked above in #3 lays it out pretty clearly: 83% of the unschooled adults he surveyed had gone on to some form of higher education, and almost half of those completed or were on track to complete a bachelor’s degree. The rest of the stats are similarly encouraging, with high rates of financial independence, many ending up in STEM careers or the arts, and a very high percentage of them pursuing careers in which they could continue to be self-directed in their work. The number one complaint about adjusting to college life was that other students did not seem to take the work very seriously.
Image is a close-up of multicolored pencils in a can.
6. Public education is too important to abandon. This was probably the last qualm to go for me. I am a die hard political lefty with a strong passion for social equality, so I fully understand the argument for keeping public schools alive so that children from all walks of life have access to education and opportunity. The problem, I’ve come to find out, is that is not what public schools provide. What they really offer is a one size fits all approach to education that actually fits only a very few. From poorly practiced inclusion to the preschool-to-prison pipeline, the public system is rife with problems that disadvantage the many and offer privilege to only a few – typically, the few that happen to be white, middle class, and good at doing school.
Image is a toddler sitting at a table, painting with red paint on orange paper.
I don’t know what the future will bring for us. I used to always say that if the kids decided they want to go to public school in the future, I’d agree to it and let them make that choice for themselves. I probably still would, but I’d have more reservations. I feel good about our choice to homeschool and I do hope that our new co-op is successful, but even if it’s not I feel happy with what we already have available to us. I’m always happy to sit down and answer questions with anyone who is curious about homeschooling and wants to know more, so if you do please leave a comment or drop me an email sometime!