What is the right choice for your child’s education? We know there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer.
I’ve experienced homeschooling, homeschooling groups, private school, and public school. Of course, everyone’s experiences are different (and I’m not going to tell you what to do), but here are some thoughts based on my experience. Homeschooling does have some advantages (one-on-one time, a curriculum tailored to your child, etc.). There’s a ton of info out there about the advantages of it, so I’d like to focus on some (possibly negative) aspects of it that require more discussion. There are many questions to ask yourself while considering school options; it’s not possible to cover them all, but if you are considering homeschooling, definitely ask yourself these questions before jumping in!
1. Do I have the high level of discipline needed to make it a success? (Be honest!)
You can’t half-a** homeschooling and have it be a success. There’s homeschoolers who start college at 16 and there’s those that don’t know their multiplication tables. What’s one of the big differences? Their teacher.
If you’re excellent at creating and following home/personal routines already, homeschooling may not be that challenging to implement. But if you struggle with following home/personal routines, adding homeschooling into the mix could just make it more difficult to stay on track.
If you’re not self-disciplined enough to create the best learning program for your child, there’s no external accountability in homeschooling helping you to do so.
For example, if you don’t feel like doing math this day or week (or month) with your kids, there’s no one making sure that you do it. Some parents are very self-disciplined and will inherently follow their curriculum/plan, but others aren’t. If you are a parent who meets expectations when “no one else is watching,” homeschooling could be very good and your child may “stay on track” so to speak. But if you struggle to meet your own expectations when “no one else is watching,” you might not get as much accomplished as you think.
2. Is being around my child 24/7 draining?
Being a parent is tough; being a parent and your child’s teacher is a whole new level of tough. You are with your children all day and all evening. Does this sound amazing to you, or is it a recipe for burn-out, resentment, and frustration (for you or your child(ren)?). We all need a break sometimes, even from people we love. Acknowledging that it’s not good for you and your child to be together 24/7 does NOT mean that you love your child any less.
3. Does my child make friends easily?
Consider this when thinking about your child’s probable transition from homeschooling into “traditional” school someday. For a child who makes friends easily, transitioning to public/private school isn’t a big deal. For children who have trouble making friends easily, transitioning into a system where other children already have their friend groups in place (some of them for years) can be difficult and isolating. If your child transitions to a private school, the small class sizes can be great for instruction, but it could be a challenge for some children to make friends when there’s only 11 other kids to choose from in the entire 4th grade.
4. Do I have the necessary skills and educational background to be an effective teacher?
Just as not everyone can be an effective public school teacher, not everyone can be an effective homeschool teacher. Some parents just don’t have the teaching skills and educational background knowledge to be a good teacher. There’s a stereotype out there that teaching is “easy” and that “anyone can do it.” As an education major, this just isn’t true. And acknowledging that you might not be the best teacher for your child is okay! Not everyone can be a great doctor, not everyone can be a skilled engineer, and not everyone can be an effective teacher. It’s okay to admit that “I’m not an expert at XYZ subjects and my child would be better off learning them from someone else.”
Some parents are ok with teaching themselves subject matter before teaching it to their child. But you have to ask yourself: realistically, do I have the time available to re-teach myself long division or pre-algebra before teaching it to my child?
5. Do I have enough resources to make homeschooling significantly better than a traditional school experience?
I volunteered in a kindergarten class once. Each area had a specific purpose: the play kitchen area, the dress up area, the art area, the building blocks area, the math area, etc. This room had SO many great resources for the students who came every day. If I were going to recreate something like this at home, it would take a significant amount of time, resources, and space.
Also, one bonus of homeschooling is that students have more opportunities to learn through travel, go on more field trips, do neat science experiments, etc.
What no one mentions is that all of these things cost money, potentially a lot of money. Yearly passes for a handful of different places like zoos, aquariums, etc. add up fast. Some libraries have passes available to these types of places, but some don’t. Traveling to Philadelphia or Boston to learn about the history of early America is an awesome experience, but costly. If you are on a very tight budget and don’t have the money for all of the “cool experiences” that are often what set homeschooling apart, realize you might be at home (or at other peoples’ homes) a lot more than you imagined. Will this (or going to the park for the millionth time) get old after awhile for you?
Many parents have concerns with buying their kids’ school supplies- either they can’t afford it (understandable), or they think the school should provide the items. But if you homeschool and want to do it right, you are on the hook for not just school supplies, but also chemistry sets, curriculum sets (or ink cartridges and paper to print resources), art supplies, math manipulatives, hands on learning items, etc. Unless your local public school is extremely underfunded, they provide the majority of these additional items and field trips and you’re not (directly) paying out of pocket for them.
6. Am I attracted to homeschooling as a way to protect my child from negative influences and bolster their faith?
It’s true, homeschooled kids are more sheltered than public school kids (it just depends where they fall on the sheltered spectrum, from “slightly” to “extremely”). And this can have its advantages: your child will be exposed to less profanity and bad habits of other children, they won’t be watching uncensored YouTube videos on their friend’s phone during the bus ride home, etc.
However, a homeschool education is not a magic fence that keeps your child in your faith or something that guarantees that they have a “strong” faith. (I have two siblings, we all received the same “faith-based” homeschooling, and we all ended up going down very different paths in regards to faith.)
If your child is questioning their faith/religious values, no amount of faith-based homeschooling is going to prevent this. If you send your child to public school, that doesn’t automatically mean that they will have a weak faith or be “led down the wrong path”– there are so many other factors involved. Also, having them go to school and come across an idea that challenges what you teach at home isn’t necessarily bad- it gives you an opportunity to discuss WHY you believe what you believe. Questioning can be good! Questioning leads to more research and discussion on WHY we believe what we believe.
At the end of the day, you have to do whatever works best for your child AND yourself. Hopefully, answering these questions helps you decide what is the best choice for both of you!