It’s that time of year when many moms of preschoolers have that all-important question looming over them—the question of schooling. What kind of school? Where to school? What will be best for my child? The wonderful thing about this is there are so many options these days. We can choose to public school, private school, homeschool, or even hybrid school (a form of homeschooling.) Many moms wrestle with this decision, but this is actually a good thing because it means you care and will most likely feel confident in your final decision.
If you’re considering homeschooling, my goal for this article is to lay the truth from my experience about homeschooling out on the table, so that you can (hopefully) make an informed decision and be more prepared. Just know you may not be as prepared as you like the first year. For many moms, the first year of homeschooling is the hardest.
I was different. For me, deciding to homeschool was easy, and my first year was my easiest year. I chose our curriculum, planned a daily and yearly schedule, and set up a cute little corner for a classroom in our large living room. I also planned activities, projects, and field trips and had tons of fun doing it all.
But unlike many moms starting out, I was a licensed teacher and former preschool director, so I enjoyed all of that and didn’t stress over it. My first year was actually my best year, and the next year was great too, but third grade—this past year—hit me the hardest.
What started out as a fun experience getting to play teacher with my sweet kindergartner who loved school has turned into a daily chore. She is growing up. Our family has changed with a new addition—a very busy and demanding little brother. And I have a lot more on my plate these days. But overall, homeschooling has been a fun, wild, and challenging ride.
Just like in any other school, every year in homeschool is different, even if the same players are involved. Some years are smooth and others are rough; but you can take the good and bad from any year and grow.
Oh wow, will you grow. I’ve learned a lot over these few years as a homeschooling mama, and some of you mamas out there are trying to decide whether or not you should keep your child at home. So I want to share with you what I’ve discovered.
Before I share, please know that I’m neither pro any-kind-of-school nor anti any-kind-of-school. I believe that choice is up to each family as to what works best for their child and their unique family situation. ANY kind of school can be a positive or negative experience.
If you homeschool, you are the parent, the teacher, the principal, and the school board. It’s up to you what kind of homeschooling experience you and your child(ren) will have, and your child’s education rests in your hands, which can seem overwhelming. Just take it one day at a time, and I promise that one day you’ll look back on the month, year, or all 12 years and think, “Wow … we made it!”
Less socialization and more isolation
Some homeschool moms would adamantly argue this point. However, many home-school moms have pulled their children, who have been going to public or private schools since kindergarten, out of that environment. They are suddenly alone at home with mom. This is a huge adjustment, and it takes time to find a support group or home school community. Even the fact that the child has gone from being in groups of 25 to a group of 2 each day is drastic and counts as less socialization. Many children, even ones like my daughter who have grown up in home school, can feel isolated at times, and so can the moms.
I admit that I’ve gone through seasons of intense loneliness and isolation, no matter how many play dates or field trips we attended. Socially it’s no different than being a stay-at-home mom. If you homeschool, your child’s socialization is up to you. You will coordinate the social gatherings, co-ops, meetings, or field trips—and even then, sometimes you and your child(ren) will be lonely.
You are still Mommy to your children–not just a teacher
This sounds so logical and “duh,” but there is so much more to this simple statement. Your homeschooled children will not see you as their teacher or treat you like a teacher. They will still see you and treat you like their mother. This has probably been the most difficult aspect of homeschooling for me. I went into homeschool thinking my daughter should respect me as her teacher and treat me the same way my students taught me when I was a school teacher. Not so! Your children are comfortable with you and already know where to push your buttons and know your limits and boundaries, and just like at home, they will work them during school.
Unless you have your children trained like a little army at home, they will whine, complain, cry, talk back, fidget, get up when they’re not supposed to, be impatient with you (and you with them), and interrupt you. Most children would not do such things with a school teacher in a classroom setting, at least not daily. I know mine wouldn’t. But … you are Mommy and always will be.
My advice: Enforce your boundaries right from the start—let them know what won’t be tolerated during school, and be consistent. Reward systems are great, and you may need to modify them from time to time.
No exposure to other full-time teachers
So many days I’ve wondered if I’m getting through to my daughter or have a positive impact. I’ve wondered if I’m somehow limiting her experience and learning by being the only school teacher she’s ever had. There may be a loss in her not getting to be positively influenced, inspired, or helped by other adults who could also be role models. I strongly believe in varied life experiences, influences, and a well-rounded, holistic, “life” education. Another teacher might be able to help, encourage, or teach something to my child in ways that I cannot or don’t think of, or may provide resources, experiences, or even a friendship that I can’t.
Younger siblings present challenges
If you have infants or preschool-aged children, get ready for a challenge. Our littlest children don’t consider or care that you are trying to set aside time to teach your school-aged children. They don’t understand its importance, and they will demand your attention. They will still have dirty diapers, make messes, make noise, and want to “help” you teach. Little sibling will try to do what big brother or sister is doing.
Frustration will strike when they cannot fully be a part of school or get your full attention, and they’ll let you know in their own ways! School time takes away from their time, and if your little ones are like mine, trying to entertain them with coloring, blocks, or a game tablet at the school table will entertain them for maybe three minutes. In fact, mine has become so frustrated that one time he threw his tablet (very hard) on the floor (while screaming of course). Believe me, I’ve tried everything to keep the kid occupied. It’s just something I’ll have to work with until he’s older.
Finding the right curriculum can be difficult
While there are no state guidelines that say you must use a curriculum to teach at home, most homeschool teachers use curricula to guide them in their lessons. It can make teaching much easier and cut down on preparation time. But choosing the perfect curriculum that agrees with your family’s world views, educational goals, and is easy to follow can be challenging and overwhelming.
Some homeschool teachers choose different curricula for different subjects, while others choose one curriculum that covers all subjects. Some choose a curriculum that covers some subjects while coming up with their own lessons or media for other subjects. You can choose faith-based curricula or secular curricula.
I’ve tried all of these options. You may spend a bunch of money on curricula only to find out that you don’t like it or your child doesn’t learn well from it. It can take time to find you and your child’s groove with the right resources. I’ve finally found a curriculum that covers all subjects that I absolutely love, and although my daughter doesn’t always “love” it, she learns well from it.
It can be expensive
Although I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, many have said that homeschool is expensive. If you purchase curricula, teaching materials, and supplies, it certainly can be. Curricula is NOT cheap, and even if you buy it second-hand (like I have), it can add up to consume a good chunk out of of your budget. Teaching materials to use during lessons are not cheap, either.
And then there’s the membership dues you pay to your home school association, as well as any additional costs for optional homeschool co-ops, homeschool groups or classes, or extracurricular activities. For my daughter, that includes piano lessons and soccer, which count as her music and P.E.
For anyone new to homeschooling, I suggest you set aside a generous amount in your budget, mostly in the month you plan to start school. However, home-schooling is still more affordable than private school.
There’s the potential for financial sacrifice
If you have been in the workforce and you decide to homeschool, you may have to consider quitting your job or at least cutting your hours in half. If you haven’t been working outside of the home and plan to homeschool, then just prepare financially to not be able to work as much. Even if you work part-time or from home while homeschooling, like I do, it’s a huge cut in finances from working full-time. Typically, homeschool takes anywhere from 3-6 hours a day, usually 4-5. You just will not have as much time to work and make money, and unfortunately, homeschooling your child doesn’t pay (although I wish it did!).
I consider it my part-time, full-time job that I don’t get paid for. Part-time meaning hours of instruction and facilitating; full-time taking into account the planning, preparation, extra curricular activities, and social experiences. For me, homeschooling means that I don’t get to work full-time, so it’s a huge financial sacrifice for us.
If you’ve read this far and I haven’t scared you from homeschooling yet, congratulations! Here’s the good stuff that I hope encourages you.
More learning potential
We all know that the student-teacher ratios for homeschool are significantly lower than what public and private schools offer. If you do your job teaching, this means a better education for your child. Your attention will not be divided among a class of 12-25 students, so there is no doubt your child will learn more with the attention and help they receive from you, plus the fact that you KNOW your child better than any other teacher ever could. You will spend more time explaining concepts to your child and will likely spend more time on projects with him/her, therefore resulting in more learning.
Opportunity for teaching and learning at your child’s pace
Because you’re able to focus on teaching only your children, they can not only learn better but faster. Many homeschool children are far ahead of others academically in specific areas, and that is because they have been able to focus on it more and the parent can teach at the child’s learning pace. Unlike a classroom teacher who has to keep 25 children on board who are at different levels, which means slowing it down for some and speeding it up for others, you can move at your child’s pace in any subject area.
My daughter’s strongest subject is reading. I can choose what she reads to challenge her, or I let her choose what she reads with my approval. I can move through the curriculum as quickly as I’d like, choose the grade level of the curriculum, and if there are areas she has mastered, I can skip over those and move onto something new.
Limited negative peer influences
This is one of the main reasons we decided to homeschool. While I know we cannot completely shield our daughter from the influences of the world, we can safeguard her from it to the best of our ability by knowing her friends and her friends’ parents. Regardless of which school a child may attend there will be negative influences in the mix at some point.
I’ve talked to several homeschool parents who pulled their children out of public or private school due to bad influences or treatment from their child’s peers. Bullying is just one among many ways a child can be mistreated, abused, harassed, or influenced for the worse at school. At least when I homeschool, I know my child is safe at home with me and under my watch-care.
This is probably my favorite aspect of homeschool. No matter how bad your homeschool year, month, or day has been, the wonderful thing is, you can take a break any time.
Is your kid crying and you’re pulling your hair out? Take a breather. You can return to the work later.
Has it been a crazy month? Take off for a day or two—it can even be mid-week—and just chill or go on a mini vacation. Leave it all behind, and recharge your (and your child’s) batteries. And if your child is heavily involved in sports, dance, or music lessons, you can work their schooling around their lessons, games, and practices.
Do you have a day full of appointments? It’s okay. You can make up lessons another day, or even that evening if you choose. No one says you have to have lessons done by 3 p.m. You can finish at 7 p.m. if you want. If you grow weary of teaching curriculum, you can take a field trip any day. You can also choose when to take your family vacation. It doesn’t have to be in the summer. As long as you have 180 days of instruction per year, you can take breaks and have make-up days any time you wish!
If you ever decide to move out of your school zone, there are no worries if you homeschool. You can move anywhere, anytime and take school with you. You don’t have to worry about moving to a zone with schools you approve of. There’s no applying to a private school or magnet school and waiting to see if your child gets accepted. You also don’t need to deal with the huge adjustment your child would have to make to a new school, new teacher and new classmates. Your child will still have the same school, same teacher, and same siblings around. It makes for a much easier transition for you and your child(ren).
Homeschool support groups
The great thing about homeschool is that you and your children never have to go through it alone. Many communities have a variety of homeschool support groups and co-ops, and Columbia has several. Through these, you’ll meet other homeschooling families. It’s great to have people there who are on the same life page and can answer questions, give advice and guidance, and empathize with your struggles.
Another great thing about these groups are opportunities for your children to meet other homeschool kids and make friends. When you meet with other homeschool groups, your children are exposed to children of all ages, and kids in all grades and younger siblings can all get together to play or go on outings.
This is another one of my favorite aspects of homeschool—no daily commute to school and back! No alarm going off super early, dragging your kids out of bed, and rushing to get out the door and into the van. You and your kids can sleep in if you like (my alarm clock is my 2-year-old, so I don’t get to sleep in). You can take your time getting ready. There is no school traffic to get stuck in. The trek to school is a walk across the house to wherever you have lessons—for us it’s the dining room. (You can even have school in your pajamas and slippers!)
My evenings are usually hectic or I’m exhausted by then, so I enjoy leisurely mornings. I have time to make breakfast and sit down and eat with a cup of coffee. If the weather is nice, I let the kids play outside for 20-30 minutes each morning to get fresh air and get their energy out (and to give me some quiet time). As the teacher, you are the master of your schedule, so it’s whatever works for you and your family.
I hope this gives anyone considering homeschool an idea of what to expect and helps you make an informed decision. May your children blossom and thrive in whatever educational setting you choose.