As a former teacher, I didn’t originally want to homeschool. Then I had my kids and it seemed like a natural extension of my career. A few years and a few kids later, I felt overwhelmed at the thought and we sent our oldest to a local private school only to pull her from this amazing classroom environment after just a year and a half because I felt an overwhelming desire to have my family together all the time. So we started homeschooling mid year and have been for a couple of years now. And we’re loving it.
But because I have been on every side of this equation, let me go through a few key facts that every parent should know if they are considering homeschooling for their family.
Homeschooling has become more popular with time. In fact, at an average of 11 percent growth rate annually, it’s more than just a fraction of students learning in non-traditional classrooms. And now, with the craziness 2020 brought, that number is most likely much higher.
Benefits of Homeschooling your children
Homeschooled children do exceptionally well on standardized tests, have great opportunities to be accepted at colleges and universities. As adults, they have a reputation for being dependable employees who need little direction as they are self-starters.
Most homeschooled students are able to choose what they want to study and when they want to study it. That doesn’t mean that all the basics aren’t covered. But those basics can be covered at age six for one child, and at age ten for another. It’s up to you to determine your child’s ability, maturity, and interest levels.
This also means that parents can choose how rigid, creative, or unique they want to approach learning material. In our home, we use a lot of games to both learn concepts and also assess overall knowledge. Some parents are more structured with a lot of worksheets, workbooks, and textbooks. Not saying I don’t have those; they’re just not the primary focus.
After getting into a regular study schedule, parents who homeschool say they feel they have more freedom. Their lives no longer revolve around the school schedule, homework, and school events. They are able to plan off-season vacations, visit museums during the week, and schedule their time according to what works for them.
Our family actually took a 7 week adventure on the road our first semester, stopping at locations along the way that correlated to what we were learning about in “school”.
Homeschooling allows your child to be free from peer pressure, competition, and bullies. Studies show that homeschooled kids, especially girls, have a higher level of self-esteem and confidence than kids in public or even private schools by the time they reach middle-school.
Homeschooled kids have the freedom to dress, act and think the way they want, without a need to “fit in.” They are free to just be themselves without fear of being judged, thus it allows them to grow into their personalities in a very unique way.
If you feel that your religious and spiritual beliefs are important to teach your kids, homeschooling provides the opportunity to incorporate your beliefs into your daily lives.
Freedom to pursue individual athletics.
Several different individual sports are available to kids and with homeschooling there is more time to practice and learn them or even “best the best” at an individual event. In fact, many Olympians choose to homeschool because of the time commitment and investment into their sport.
Such sports include but are not limited to gymnastics, figure skating, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, and more.
The downsides of Homeschooling
Learning outside of the school environment can devour a lot of your time. Most parents think that time is being spent at the kitchen table with books and worksheets, but that’s not usually the case.
You can choose a more hands-on experience with interesting activities as learning tools. However, planning, driving, and participating in those activities can take up most of your day. Which can be very draining on your energy level.
Limited Team Sports.
We live in Massachusetts where some districts allows homeschool children to participate in extracurricular activities. But it’s not all districts and definitely not all states.
While community sports may be abundant for younger kids, it’s hard for teens to find community sports to participate in. Depending on your local area, homeschoolers may or may not be welcome to participate on school teams with their peers.
Living Outside the Norm.
Living outside of the mainstream, homeschooling may be seen as strange to parents who don’t agree with it or understand it.
Some may feel that you are not as able to provide a good education for your child as a trained professional. The irony is that I get questioned about my qualifications to teach my own children even when my degree is in education.
You may need to develop a tough skin to deal with negative comments and criticisms.
Sometimes it can cause anxiety. Because of not falling in line with how other people think a child’s education “should” look like, there have been cases of nosey neighbors or concerned citizens calling the police — or worse — because children were playing in the yard during school hours or other “issues”. I don’t believe we should live in fear, however, this is something parents considering homeschooling must consider and know about in advance.
Even in non-reporting states, it’s a good idea to do your due diligence in keeping some records whether work samples, getting tested each year, or simply keeping a log of books read.
A few quick tips to make homeschooling easier if you choose this route
Join a co-op, museum, or other
Having a bit of consistency in your life is so helpful. My husband regularly says he wants my life when I can’t remember what day it is… day or day or the week. But the reality is, it can be frustrating. It is always helpful when we’re in a playgroup or co-op that meets once a week because it gives us rhythm and routine.
Even if you don’t join with other people, a museum membership could be something you do on a regular basis and it’s just a great option to support local businesses and non-profits while getting out of the house.
Choose your investments wisely
What extracurriculars can you simply not provide for your kids? What benefits each one the most? What will get the most use? Etc? It is easy to ooze money as a homeschool family. From home playground equipment to telescopes to bikes and lessons and musical instruments.
Make a priority list.
Make a list of what can be accessed for free or cheap like online music lessons to get started and paid if they keep up with it. It is staggering the amount of free information online, even really complex classes offered by Harvard. A little bit of research can uncover some of these opportunities and it is worth the time making that priority list to them research free, cheap, and worth it to allocate your money.
Consider doing Unit Studies
Especially if you have more than one child, I find it much easier to go through a unit together rather than teach ancient history to one child, modern to another, and Civil War to another.
Doing a whole unit means you study all the same things, but the level of depth for each child may vary. It just cuts down on headaches and even prep time as a parent. I highly recommend both Layer of Learning and Gather Round Homeschool for going through a unit-based curriculum.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!