May312012

38 Comments

Sometimes, Homeschooling Ain’t All it’s Cracked Up To Be

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My kids and I finished our 8th year of homeschooling two weeks ago.  It was the very best year we’ve ever had, in spite of being interrupted by endless sessions of editing my book and then launching the book in March, complete with lots of interviews and excitement.

As I think about our 8 years as a homeschooling family, I have to be honest.  It hasn’t all been happy faces and gold stars.  There are some downsides that not many of us like to talk about.

  1. At times, your children will be outsiders.  They won’t be hip to all the latest fashion trends, video games, music, and fads.  Many of these are fun and harmless, but it will be your kids who may seem like the odd man out because they won’t fit in.
  2. Sometimes you will be the outsider as other moms talk about the teachers at their kids’ school and which sports their kids are into this year.
  3. There will be times when school will be no fun at all.  For anyone.
  4. You’ll have to listen to public school parents brag about their kids being accepted into gifted programs and how great their kid’s school is. You might detect a bit of defensiveness but it wouldn’t be polite to point that out.
  5. Sometimes virtual strangers will confront your decision to homeschool.  “You can’t shelter them forever, you know.”  Yes, I was told that when I informed someone I would be homeschooling our 5 year-old.
  6. You’ll spend a lot of time second guessing yourself:
    • Should we have chosen that other curriculum?
    • Am I doing enough?
    • Am I doing too little?
    • Are my kids well-adjusted?
    • I thought homeschooled kids weren’t shy but my daughter is.  What did I do WRONG???
  7. It will be hard to gauge how “normal” your kids are because you will seldom see them in a large group of kids, all the same age.  I’m pretty sure my son is really big for his age, but it’s hard to tell because he hangs out with kids of all ages.
  8. When it’s time for your “female annual exam,” you may have to bring the kids with you.  My doctor is used to it.  They sit in the hall and she gives them each a lollipop.
  9. Ditto for bra fittings, but no lollipops.
  10. There have been lots of time when I wanted privacy just to have a good cry.  Maybe I was discouraged, disappointed, sad, whatever, but it’s hard to cry when you have little people examining your face for any sign of tears.
  11. Did I mention that a mom’s privacy is pretty much a thing of the past?
  12. Friends and relatives look forward to sitting you down with the news that your child doesn’t know their math facts, or your son has terrible handwriting, or your kids don’t know how to play dodgeball, and you suspect they gossip about this behind your back.
  13. When your kids are confronted with bullies, they will be completely unprepared for it.  Life with bullies is a way of life for public school kids. Not so much for the homeschooled.

So why are millions of us sticking with our commitment to homeschooling?  Our kids are worth it.  Our family is worth it.  At the end of my life I’ll never be able to say, “I missed out on some of their most important moments.”  Nope, I was there for every single one of them.  Our family bonds are tighter than ever, in spite of, or maybe because of, the squabbles and rubbing each other the wrong way because we are together so much.

Homeschooling may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for our family.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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(38) Readers Comments

  1. Great post, Lisa! Lots of people who begin homeschooling (esp. after having their kids in school) do not realize the amount of privacy/Mom time they will lose by homeschooling. Of course, like you, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times when I fantasized about how much time I would have to clean house, exercise, shop, visit with friends, etc. if my kids got on the big yellow bus every day.

  2. Amen, love this! It’s like you live in my house! My 14 yr. old daughter has never been to formal school of any kind. I also work at home, 11.5 hrs. per day so her social world is small. But she still has friends on the street and from church and her weekends are full of movies and sleep overs. I’ll admit as she became a teenager it was harder to get her to understand why we’re doing this, but she does love it and is growing into an amazing young lady. Keep it up folks, our kids may wind up by being the only “normal’ones. As for my friends whose kids go to public school, yeah…good luck w/ all that. They’re demanding and disrespectful, they have an air of entitlement about them that makes me sick.

    • How about a different “solution”? Eliminate “public schools” and their socialist example. Parents would choose the school best suited for their situation and pay tuition rather than lifetime payments through property taxes.

      If bullying was a problem – enroll in another school. BUT, since the school might loose students, bullying would be unlikely to be a problem.

      Competition, rather than force, always is the better route. Government “education” is more like being in prison, with “lockdowns” and other “rules”.

  3. Lisa, I homeschooled my three children for 7 years. Then I had to go to work full time and searched for another option after struggling to keep it up for a year while working. A wonderful charter school was formed and I enrolled my two youngest (my oldest had already graduated from homeschool)… After years of wondering if I had done enough, because frankly some days “real life” got in the way of math and reading, I was told by my son’s Language Arts teacher within a few weeks of his starting seventh grade at the classical academy (he had been homeschooled since first grade) that he had the most amazing grasp of language arts and grammar that she had ever seen… made it worth it all to me, and validated all that I had been struggling to do all those years. It was a wonderful experience, we were involved in 4-H and a great homeschool group and my children were able to benefit from group projects and activities. I wouldn’t trade one second of that experience with them. Keep on keeping on! Pam

  4. “Homeschooling may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for our family.” YES, so very true!

  5. Bravo! Well said! Experienced pretty much all that too! No regrets! ♥

  6. I was very touched by this article. When I read one like this it reminds me I am not alone. Thank you.

  7. We homeschooled our kids through middle school and high school and it was the BEST experience we ever had! Now they are both college grads and my daughter is married with baby number two on the way! They are planning to homeschool their own kids now, second generation!, and attended the Florida homeschool convention last weekend. So exciting!

  8. We just finished our first full year. We have been homeschooling for 1 1/2 years. Its always busy and there isn’t much of a break, but it is really worth it. I was second guessing myself and found out my kids are working way above grade level. That was a great feeling. I like that we can spend as much time as the kids want on interesting items.

  9. We just finished our fourth year and I agree with your sentiments exactly! Thanks for recognizing the good and the bad and reminding us that we’re not alone.

  10. This was a great post and everything you said is so true! My family has been homeschooing for seven years and they have never been to public school. (I have three) I am always getting complimented on how well behaved my kids are and I believe it is because they are home with me and I am able to raise them correctly instead of the schools raising them. I am like you and at times I wonder if I am doing what is best for my children but then I see the fruit they are bearing and I know I am! Once again Great post and may God Bless You!!

  11. Our daughter, the 3rd child, asked to be home schooled in the 11th grade. Uh oh… She had a few required courses remaining and 2 full years of filler to get her degree. We joined a home school group. I really needed the guidance. She just completed her first year of college. This gives me a lot of perspective on both systems. Home schooling is a rock solid plus, but we are all human. Know yourself. Yes, chickenbandit, public-schoolers do have certain traits in common. The stand out for me was the training to squash initiative… it has been very effective! Especially with boys!

  12. Sometimes, Homeschooling Ain’t All it’s Cracked Up To Be……………………………..Just wait until
    they are grown……early 20’s, and they come home and thank you for homeschooling them……
    stick with it !!!!!

  13. I just wanted to say I love this. I’ve been debating whether homeschool is feasible for us from a financial perspective. This motivates me to work to make it feasible. Thank you.

  14. I want to commend everyone for sticking to the dedication to home school. I believe if you have a good system and lots of outside of school social activities for your kids to attend (church, neighborhood, city league sports, etc) that home schooled children can be very well rounded and maybe even more prepared for life later. So many people use the social aspect as a reason not to home school but school’s primary purpose is not socializing, it is learning. Kids can spend their non school time socializing and in ways that their parents approve of.

    I went to public school for all 13 years but I was lucky because I was in a school that was very small and my parents knew all my teachers (and their kids) and I knew all my teachers outside of school, either neighbors or at church so there was more accountability for me to be respectful and them to be concerned with our entire lives, not just the subject(s) they taught. I look at these huge schools that so many kids attend today and I feel bad for them not being able to learn in the small manner that I did at my rural school and that home schooled kids experience. These big schools with overwhelmed teachers and administrators and the lack of parental involvement in any part of their kids lives (including at home) has led to the huge disrespect that we all experience with today’s kids. I definitely can tell by how a child or teen acts if they are in public school or home schooled or how much parental involvement they have. I am always so happy when I run into a child or teen that knows how to use sir and ma’am and thank you! I believe that public schooled children can be great kids (the ones in my family are) but it takes parents being involved and holding teachers accountable for their child’s education and holding themselves responsible for their child’s education also (as well as teaching their children how to behave in the world). I am not looking forward to what our future holds with so many kids growing up without any support from really anywhere. So good luck in your homeschooling, your children will appreciate it later when they are ready for life. (I don’t have kids but if we did, homeschooling would be the way it would be, especially since private schools are so expensive!)

  15. Great post Lisa. I don’t home school. I wanted to, but I just was not cut out for it. Maybe when they’re a bit older and calmer, I might be able to handle it, but right now, those few hours a day that my kids are at school are all that I have to hold on to the last shreds of the rest of the sanity that I seemed to have shed since having them. And while I don’t think it’s possible for me to lose any more privacy, the prospect of that is just yet another reason for me to send them off to school until they are more mature and able to understand what a closed bedroom door means.

    I think all parents second guess themselves about everything, and I know from personal experience, that whether your kids are home schooled, public schooled, private schooled, tutored, etc…. your friends and family will always be eager to point out any one area where your child isn’t perfect. People, even other parents, are extremely judgmental of parents. It’s almost like, when you have kids, you’ve put a giant sign over your head that says, “I am babbling idiot, and I need everyone else to tell me exactly what they think about everything under the sun that has to do with raising my children.” So don’t sweat that stuff Momma… it’s born of ignorance and a lack of self worth in them. You’re doing the best you can with what you have and believe, for you and yours, and that’s the right thing to do.

  16. Sorry, but there is absolutely no reason to homeschool your children. Somewhere along the way, the Evangelical Christian community had this message beaten into its head — public schools are anti-Christian, un-godly. But I’m pretty sure the people promoting this message just happened to have a handy homeschool curriculum for sale.

    In my opinion, children lose out by being homeschooled. They mis out on social interaction, which is going to have to happen at some point in their lives. College? Work?

    • Public school supporters like to push “socialization” as being necessary to a child’s development and decry homeschoolers for their (misperceived) lack of “socialization”.
      If public school “socialization” (drug use, cliques and bullying, underage sex and the “normalization” of homosexuality and other deviant sexual “practices”) is so “good for the child”, I want nothing to do with it.
      In addition, homeschoolers are more comfortable with people of ALL ages and are not “walled off” by age as they would be in public (indoctrination) schools.
      I I had my way, public schools would be abolished . . .

    • Trouble is that the public school system, in many areas, is not doing an effective job anymore. If you do the research you’ll see that many families are deciding to homeschool based on factors other than religious beliefs.

  17. Hi Lisa. I’m a Libertarian and totally sympathetic to the concept of home schooling. And it seems Libs are huge advocates of home-schooling, but there is one issue that no one has ever answered to my satisfaction. It seems to me that the kids cannot get a better education than the parents who are teaching them. A very personal example comes to mind: My brother-in-law and his wife are both high school dropouts and — if I may assert– totally ignorant about practically any intellectual issue you can name. They have home schooled their 3 children — of differing ages — who were following in their ignorant footsteps until the brother-in-law was incarcerated for 20 years for a serious crime and his wife left him. The children were “given” to my other sister-in-law to raise and she discovered that they were all several grades (or more) behind public school kids, which is a disaster considering how bad public schools are. They have now been tutored for several years and retaken several years of classes and hopefully eventually, they will soon be caught up. But I guess the bottom line question is — How can kids be home schooled and become educated by parents who themselves are not educated?

    • Hi Pat,

      I too am a Libertarian, and you do raise a valid concern. However, you are confusing the issue of bad parenting with issues of home schooling.

      By in large, children of ‘home school’ families do not have a parent who gets incarcerated for 20 years (or even 2 high-school dropouts as parents). It sounds as though the parents had issues – and then used ‘homeschooling’ as an excuse to not get up early to put their kids on the bus.

      If I was to look at the demographic of single-parent households, or those with incarcerated parents – public school is probably a better option… just because of the finances of the situation. Those situations are not the ‘norm’ for home school families – most of which have 2 parents, one of which works, the other staying at home.

      As to your bottom line question… parents can teach subjects they don’t understand through use of good curriculum, through online tutoring (khanacademy is an excellent resource), or by hiring tutors. Having uneducated parents isn’t a problem so long as they are engaged in the home school process and make their kids education a priority.

    • Pat, I was a district school trainer for a few years, and I think you would be appalled at the level of ignorance and incompetence of many public school teachers. Add to that, a laziness that comes with 100% job security and no emotional attachment to their students, and it’s not a pretty picture. This is not true of all teachers, by any means, but it’s interesting how homeschooling parents are held to a high standard, their methods and motives are questioned, but we assume that public school teachers are the best, brightest, and completely devoted to each child. Not true at all.

      • Boy does that bring back memories. We were setting in an IEP meeting and the teacher was asked to give some input and her response was “I think best in the shower”. She gave no input and neither the counselor or the principal held her accountable. Sadly, this school district is considered a very good district.

        We are so glad we are now homeschooling! Sadly, I also know of kids in public schools who’s parents are not engaged in their education and they aren’t doing so well in school either. I believe the key factor in either system is that parents have to be 100% engaged.

    • There are a lot of ways of successfully homeschooling beyond your own educational years. It does take a LOT of time, patience, research, and sometimes money. If I am not very knowledgeable about something in our curriculum I either have to learn it, find step by step resources for teaching it or trade/pay for someone else to do it. Sometimes all of the above. If you are not willing to put the work into educating your children at home then homeschooling may not be for you. Even the “Un-schoolers” have ways of knowing when their children are engaged and learning and are willing to delve into those interests. There are online resources for figuring it out-but the parent has to want that for their child and be willing to do the work. Homeschooling has come a long way in just the past decade. Also, geography seems to have a lot to do with it. I am in WA state where there is a lot of HS, many kinds of communities and co-ops and more acceptance of the choice than in many other parts of the country.

  18. I enjoyed reading your post. The female exam part is so true. I’ve been there many times with all of my pregnancies. Thankfully my oldest is now old enough to watch the younger ones, so it does get easier :)

  19. Pat, If I may…

    You raise a valid question, especially from the libertarian viewpoint: If libertarians are all about personal freedom, can we ever force parents to allow others to educate their children? Should the children be at a disadvantage in life through no fault of their own, just out of libertarian purity? It’s a tough question to answer.

    I think part of the reason many homeschool is because the government indoctrination centers are unacceptable. The academics are really just propaganda, and the social/authoritarian environment fosters groupthink and homogenizes students into the lowest common denominator. As long as the only two choices are between this and less-than-ideal homeschooling, I think I’d prefer the latter.

    However, I see a third way which attempts to take the best of both worlds, and I wrote about it here. Granted it mandates minimal educational standards, but even as a libertarian I think there are legitimate rights that supersede the parents’ rights, as I think we’d all agree at least for domestic/child abuse.

    I homeschooled my older son from K-2nd grade, then enrolled him in a new charter school. He “hit the ground running” and has been a straight-A student, even now in a STEM school with honors courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). But I did the opposite with his younger brother; he started at the charter school but I pulled him out starting in 3rd grade and have homeschooled him ever since. But he will attend the STEM school starting 7th grade. They are two different people, requiring two different approaches. My goal was to do what was best for them, not for me. Yet I made sure that they were founded and grounded in values I hold dear and in thinking critically. I can send them to any schools without fear because they are anchored.

    We all need to find the way that seems best to us, but as you pointed out, that might not be the same for everyone, and we need to decide as a society where the line is drawn between parents’ rights and handicapping their children.

  20. I’ve met many homeschooled kids who benefitted from the learn-at-your-own-pace experience. With regard to confronting bullies, I’ve known homeschooled kids who attended judo and karate classes at local clubs . . . they were quite able to handle a bully situation . . . . and without having to deal with a zero-tolerance school principal who’d inevitably suspend the wrong kid. I’ve also come across homeschooling parents who formed into networks . . . the kids got to socialize with other kids like themselves, visit museums, art galleries, go on “school trips” to visit farms, participate in community sports clubs.

    In my view, the homeschooling parent who sustains the joy of learning for their kids, is a hero

  21. Thanks for your post! We have been living in Mexico, and our kids have been attending a bilingual school (preschool and 1st graders). This Fall we are embarking on a round-the-world trip, and we fear how homeschooling will go…will we have the patience? Will they have the patience? Will we be good enough? Will it be good enough? It’s nice to know that even those who have done it for a long time feel these same fears…it makes me feel a little more “normal.” Not that we want to be normal ;-)

  22. Thanks for this article! We’re going to be homeschooling for the first time this coming fall with our 10yr old son (who has autism), and will eventually with our younger son as well. Your #13 point really resonated with me.

  23. For any homeschooler who is having doubts, please watch my son’s video on youtube entitled Homeschool:Propaganda vs. Reality (shattering the myths). It was meant to prop up and give encouragement to homeschoolers who are having a bad day;) Bless you and thanks for the great article.

  24. So much of this is so true. The bullying thing I have a different take on:

    Kids are conditioned to accept bullying in the group environment, However, outside of the group, bullying behavior looks very odd, and my kids don’t react like a child in school would to bullying behavior. They just look at the potential bully like the weird-o they are. I’ve seen new public school transfers into my homeschool adjust to being told their talking bad about other kids is “not cool” by the older boys.

    • I agree completely! My daughter spent some time at a friend’s house (public school) and a few of her classmates were there. After an hour or so, I got a text message, “Mom, come pick me up.” When we were alone in the car together she told me about the non-stop name calling and how much she hated being around it. To her, the bullies were definitely non-desirables and that behavior was foreign to her. There aren’t very many other arenas in which bullying is such a problem and the victims with so little recourse. In a work situation, legal complaints can be filed against a bully. In social settings, we can just choose to avoid someone who acts in such a manner. In public schools, kids are pretty much defenseless. When I was a teacher, it was very difficult to deal with bullying situations because sometimes the victims didn’t want to say anything, or they put up with far more than they should or they were embarrassed. And if the bully’s parents got involved, as often as not, they weren’t going to let their kid be punished or held responsible without making threats of their own. Not everything about public schools is bad, but for some odd reason, bullying is a part of the culture.

  25. Homeschooling is not for the thin skinned. Don’t care what others think. My son will look any adult square in the eye and introduce himself and can carry on conversation with them as well. As for sports he is training in MMA and has raced BMX. We were told he could not play football at the high school even though we pay school tax.

  26. I went through all the very things you are, for 11 years. Our two daughters are now awesome, independent young women, who still live unconventional lives and although neither has kids of her own yet, both would never dream of institutional education for their kids. Huzzah to you and your crew!
    M.E.

  27. Lovely, honest post! Last year I retired from homeschooling after 25 years and four kids. It wasn’t easy. My kids (now 19, 21, 27, & 29) did not turn out perfectly, but we are proud of all of them. Homeschooling was so worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. So hang in there; sounds like you are doing a fine job already :)

  28. Thank you all so much for your posts!!! I was determined to home school. Have been working with my 5 year old on many aspects since she born. (Remember, we are always teaching our kids something). Looking at her personality, I am evaluating our schooling options……but still working with her on math and reading as we go through the summer. Have been feeling badly about not having a regular schedule with her yet but then thinking, she is only 5…..she is not ready for 3 hours of scheduled class…. I only have one question…..every home school parent says how busy they are so what am I doing wrong that we have time to hang out? Is it just because the girls are small that we have the blessing of just being together? We live in a rural area outside of town.

  29. Hello,

    I plan to start homeschooling my children, this Fall. The concerns that you so honestly addressed in this post are ones that I’ve wondered about, myself. Thanks for your honesty and insight.

    I know this is off topic, but I’m at a loss as to what cirriculum to use. (Actually I’ve given considerable thought to using a free, at home/online cirriculum offered by K12 for at least one year; just as they transition from pubic school to homeschool. Just not sure what to do after that.)

    My children have done extremely well in public school. This past school term, they exceeded in every area of a state/standardized test. They also did very well on their report cards. I just want to be able to help them maintain, build on and even exceed this level of “performance”. I want to be sure that I’m not holding them back and that they are academically prepared when it’s time for them to attend college.

    Do you have any suggestions on which cirricula to look into?

    Thanks.

    • @K – Hello!
      We started out K12, we never even finished before we branched into other learning materials. However we needed something fast & they seemed the answer at the time. Now we take bits from here & there & put together our curriculum choices each year. We use many freebies (online printouts and free lesson plans) that are online. We use a co-op & have extra activities so our children have more friends then a child needs. One thought would be to look into used curriculum and attend a curriculum swap near you. To see first hand what each version is about. Reading things online & getting all those magazines sent to my door was never the same as going to a local Homeschooling Swap. Seeing with my own eyes helped me realize fast that spending hundreds right off the back to teach elementary grades isn’t needed unless I want to. Instead we opted to save now so in the middle school grades we can offer the children more activities & learning options. (Here they can take class’s at the community college not all just some) I do know that if your aiming college there are great curriculum’s for just that. Not knowing if your religious or secular I wouldn’t want to risk offending you with my personal suggestions. (I am religious) There is stuff out there that includes testing & to prepare your child for SAT’s and such. Best of wish’s!!!!

      To the original Author of this post: Amazing job! You so said it like it is! Not everyday is perfect, however I would never change a thing. Thanks for sharing!

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