I didn’t come from a homeschool background. I’m a product of the public school system, and I didn’t have a ton to show for my education. Not to sound ungrateful, I know the government did its best. I had normal teachers, a few exceptional ones, and a few profoundly bad ones. Other than a bit of an uptick in bullying, perhaps, I’m sure I’m unremarkably average in every way.
So I know I want to homeschool. And I know that I have solid reasons for why I want to homeschool, but it’s still a daunting lifestyle to jump into. Luckily, I live in a homeschool-heavy community, and I got to ask a lot of questions to a lot of people. Here are my biggest fears concerning homeschooling and what decades of experience had to say about them.
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Objection 1: I’m not qualified.
One of my biggest concerns was that I am not qualified to be an elementary teacher. I have never taken Elementary education classes, I don’t know how to teach those things, I’m not crafty, and I don’t particularly like kids or kid activities. So how on Earth am I supposed to teach my kids?
Response 1: The Resources are at Your Fingertips (frequently FOR FREE!)
I didn’t realize the plethora of resources that are available today. I’m on a very strict budget. If you’re not, then you’re in even better shape than me. There are all sorts of curriculum that have everything mapped out for you, what you’re supposed to do every single day, and all of the resources that you’ll need to do it.
For example, I don’t know how to teach my child to read, but there is a book that was recommended to me called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It works really well for a lot of my friends, and I was able to get it free through the library. My child ended up hating it because they found it to be boring, so then I did some research and found out that the Hooked on Phonics program is also available for free through my library. And the Hooked on Phonics program has everything laid out from pre-reading and on (we do have to occasionally take breaks from the reading program because it’s been put on hold at the library by someone else, but I think my kids kind of like the ebb and flow of subjects; however, if it’s within your budget to purchase, it may make life a little easier).
There were also several Leapfrog: Letter Factory videos that my kids really enjoyed watching, available for free through the library. It’s really amazing what’s available in the library. So I may not know what to teach, but I can get it through the library.
Response 2: Real Teachers Learn With Their Students:
I may not know how to teach anything to my kids, but I do know that teachers say that the most education that they ever receive about their target subject is their first year of teaching. They learn more that year than any other year of their education. And so they end up learning right along with their students.
I used to teach high school English (I believe this puts me at a disadvantage with homeschooling for a few reasons), so I know that there were some books I was assigned to teach that I had never read before. I was doing the reading right along with the students, sometimes a chapter ahead and sometimes not at all ahead. Sometimes my students knew, but I preferred it if they didn’t.
But I’m qualified. And there is no reason that, as my kids are learning, I can’t be learning, too. I can learn how to teach them better. I can learn their interests and tailor their education to that. I can learn what they’re learning and how to make it more fun. I am all right. And I believe that anybody who really wants to homeschool can do it. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it is for everyone who honestly wants to.
Objection 2: The Socialization Issue
Response: There’s more than one way to socialize your kids!
I was petrified that my kids would become unsocialized weirdos (that’s a clinical term). I have realized how social my kids lives can still be despite not being in school. My kids were socialized before school started. Even though I was staying at home, and they were with me, they were socialized. We did play dates with other moms, I have a membership to the YMCA, and my kids get to stay in their Child Watch while I work out, we go to church on Sunday mornings where my kids are in Sunday school with other kids, and we’ll go to parks and playgrounds where there are usually other kids playing.
Even before my kids were 5, they already were socialized. They are around a plethora of people from small children at the library and Chick Fil-A to the other adults in our family. I’m not sure why I was so scared of my kid becoming an unsocialized weirdo at 8 when they aren’t one at 4… Still, though, it was a pretty hefty fear. As my kids get older, there are dance classes, programs through the YMCA, club sports, and a host of other activities in which my kids can take part with other kids their ages.
Something to note: I used to teach high school homeschool coops. There are weird kids, yes. But if you think about it, there are also kids in public schools who have a really hard time in social situations…. so is it really the schooling choice that produces that? I’m not convinced.
Objection 3: I Hate Being Home All Day
Response: It’s Homeschool. Not House Arrest.
Home bodies: BLESS YOU! Feel free to skip this section.
I did not realize that homeschool and house arrest are not the same thing. Before having any exposure to homeschool, I imagined it as being a bunch of people (think a parent and probably 8 or 10 kids) sitting around a table, and all of them have out worksheets and pencils and calculators, it’s really quiet, and everyone’s working.
I dreaded that.
I know that lifestyle works for some people, and I applaud women who have that many kids, but I can’t stay in one place all day. I just can’t. But you know, we do go somewhere pretty much every day. Some days we go to the library in the morning. Some days we go to the YMCA so that I can work out. Other days we’ll go to Chick-Fil-A where we hang out with the in-laws, and the kids can socialize with other kids while I talk with them. Some days we go grocery shopping.
We aren’t stuck. Sometimes I will take my kids to Starbucks and we’ll do school at Starbucks. Other times we’ll do school at the library. Other times we’ll do school at home, but then we’ll go somewhere else for fun. Constantly moving, not stuck at all, and that is so important to me.
I just hope this is empowering; you can make your homeschool whatever you need it to be. Mobile, static, whatever. 180 days of school doesn’t mean 180 days of staying home. Or 180 days of worksheets, time at the table, or whatever else you dread homeschool looking like. Beautifully flexible, perfectly tailorable, structured or less-so, this is why homeschooling truly is for ANYONE who truly wants to do it.
Objection 4: My Kids Will Hate Me, and I’ll Resent Them.
Response: Homeschooling Isn’t About Academics. It’s About Relationships.
This was my biggest fear. I was afraid that they would hate me as the constant drudgery of homeschooling grated on us, slowly chipping away at our relationship as I nagged and pleaded them to finish their schoolwork and they railed against me, hating school and hating me.
And I was afraid that I would resent them. After giving up everything I cherished to stay home for them: my freedom, my career, my independence, my income (and, consequently, my standard of living) all to teach them–what if they hate school?
I was afraid that I was going to resent my life and resent my children. And I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret the choice that I had made.
I know that this will never happen. Honestly, though, this is one of those things that you have to make true for yourself. I will tell you what I realized, but unless you commit to making this your truth, letting it root in your heart and settle in your bones, then nothing I say will be able to assuage these fears.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize about that: There is nothing that will separate me from the love that I have for my children.
It seems simple. And I understand that some school days are going to be bad days. I know there will be tears.
But I believe all good parenting comes from the pursuit of the child’s heart. I firmly believe that if I stick to my parenting principal that I will pursue their hearts before anything else, then I do not believe that we could possibly grow to resent each other.
There are some days where one of my children just doesn’t want to do school. And that’s okay. Some days I make them do it anyway. Other days, I can incorporate more fun things that they’re interested in into the school day.
Now I know that there is a place for teaching self discipline and working even when you don’t feel like it, and I do teach those things, but I don’t want every school day to be like that. It has happened before where we just stopped doing school for the day. Other days, I give them a break for 15 minutes to go play, and then we can come back to school. Other days, I can give them something fun and educational to do, like building a STEM project like GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank, and they can learn while doing something that they truly love.
They love those school days. I have learned that my kids do not respond very well to worksheets, and I know that means that school will be harder for us as I try to use less and less of them, but I care more about my kids’ hearts than about doing something that’s difficult. So I will find a way. I don’t know how, but I will.
We do use worksheets sometimes, but I try to have the majority of the learning be done outside of worksheets. Then sometimes I will check their knowledge with a worksheet. That’s not every day though. So right now I simply cannot believe that they will grow to hate me or school when I am so willing to use my homeschool flexibility to accommodate their education to their needs.
And I will do whatever is necessary for them to love learning. Because I love learning. And I love them. And my relationship with them is more important than any pre-conceived notion about textbooks or worksheets.
Objection 5: What if I fail, and my kids turn into incompetent bank robbers?
Before beginning homeschooling, I was so scared that my kids would just be… idiots. And then, of course, they’d probably turn to a life of crime and rob banks. What’s worse, they wouldn’t even be good at it…
Response: Trust Yourself. Get Help When You Need It.
One quick note on here: Statistically, this is highly unlikely. Not many people rob banks these days. But seriously, imagine if you were super rich, and you could afford every subject for your student to be taught by a private tutor. Would you be convinced that they would become dumb? Of course not. We all know that education is more efficient in smaller groups. The difference is just that the parent is the tutor.
Also, there are so many homeschool resources available. There are coops (I used to teach for one) where students go to a specific location once a week with other kids and learn. The tutor can help with the learning. There are lots of homeschool options online now, as well. Reaching out to homeschool communities can be a great way to connect to others and get help and ideas. Don’t know where those groups are? Type “Homeschool Group” into your Facebook search bar and see the hundreds of groups that pop up. Type in the city where you live for even more specific search results.
I’m still in the middle of everything, so I have to admit that there have been some places where I realized I hadn’t taught something that I probably should have.
This was brought to my attention once when we were at the grocery store, and we saw some firefighters grocery shopping, too. My kids were really excited about meeting firefighters, and they had a million questions for them, like “Do you have a big hose? Do you put water on the fires? Do you have a dog?”
They were really geeking out about seeing these firefighters. A firefighter asked my kid, “What do you do if you catch on fire?”
My child looked at him, and with all seriousness in his eyes said, “You die.”
My other child nodded along gravely, like, “Yes, that’s what happens. That’s the end.”
The firefighter looked at me, looked back at them, and said rather incredulously, “No, you stop, drop, and roll.”
To be honest, I’d forgotten about that. I’ve never caught fire, it just went into the void in my brain, I guess. And I realized that I actually had missed that rather large safety discussion. I was really glad that firefighter brought that to my attention… and I felt like an idiot.
I know that there are some books out there that will tell me what I should teach my five-year-old, my second grader, my fourth grader, etc. I have used some of them. I currently do have a curriculum that tells me everything that I’m supposed to do during the day. I bought it used, and I’m glad that I did. However, the reading is also vastly behind where my child is, hence having to use the book we tried and the Hooked on Phonics program.
I like that I’m able to integrate different curriculum into what we’re learning.
But sometimes I still get a little bit nervous that there might be other things that I should be teaching my kids that I have completely forgotten about. But at the end of the day, I trust that they will learn everything they need to know in time, through my intentionality, and we’ll keep working together, learning together, and improving together.
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about trending up!