There are plenty of preconceptions floating around out there about families who homeschool their children. If someone is living in a remote location and has no other choice than to educate the kids at home or send them away to a boarding school, people generally consider it acceptable to homeschool. Most parents can connect with a reluctance to pack a bag for your kiddo’s and wave them off to live at school, only seeing them during the holidays. In this situation teaching them yourself is a choice the majority of people would make themselves.
Sometimes I feel like I have to “admit” to homeschooling my kids like it is a dirty little secret of which I should be ashamed. As soon as the words “they are homeschooled” fall from your mouth, the person you’re talking too invariably raises their eyebrows, says something like “oh, really?” and instantly decides you are a religious nut-job, a trendy hipster who thinks you know everything, some kind of anti-establishment, anti-government prepper type, or a complete tool. Sometimes maybe even a combination of all of these.
The thing is, our family has some very personal and specific reasons for educating our children outside of the standard public system. I’d like to share them with you and maybe change your mind about those of us who decide to take a different path to that which is most frequently traveled.
20 Not Everyone Is Typical
Imagine a class with thirty children. Twenty-seven of them might learn in much the same way as the general population, in the kind of classroom environment that most of us experienced.
The other three pupils may have a difference that requires a significant deviation from the regular teaching model.
Each of our children has a difference that makes it more difficult to be successful in a regular classroom setting. These are not the kind of vague “my child is so special that school doesn’t understand him” type differences that some parents see in their kids when the little ones don't do well at school.
Our kids have various, medically-diagnosed conditions, some of them have multiple conditions, that means they do better with an education which has been carefully tailored education to their needs.
19 Teachers Are Overworked
“Ah,” I hear you say “But aren’t teachers best qualified to provide to design and deliver those individual learning plans for your children?”
In theory, yes.
In an ideal world, our education system would be well funded enough to have small classes with a low teacher to pupil ratio and plenty of education assistants for support. The reality is our schools have to do their best for the majority of learners, and the schools have too few resources. Consequently, teachers are already overworked dealing with the requirements of an overcrowded classroom.
When you throw in extra demands into the mix like children with additional challenges, something’s got to give, and it’s usually those high need kids that lose out.
18 Teaching At The Learner's Pace
Our oldest son lives with autism and cerebral palsy and spent the majority of his school career in the public school system.
Like most kids in our classrooms today he wasn’t able to take all of the time he needed in which to absorb what was being taught. Consequently, as he made his way through High School, our son often had questions about the subject being taught that went unanswered, because the rest of the class had already moved on.
This resulted in our son losing interest, becoming less and less motivated and his grades dropping. Once we removed him from the system and began homeschooling, we were able to work through any questions or reexamine a concept until our son was confident in his knowledge.
His grades, as assessed by an external body, climbed and he graduated High School with excellent marks and a high level of confidence.
17 Speaking Of Confidence
I was bullied in school. Every. Single. Day.
It’s not easy being a kid at the best of times, but when you are the geek of the class, you are two years younger than everyone else because you are a “brainiac” AND you are a ginger with liberal sprinklings of freckles, you might as well paint a target on your forehead.
Our youngest daughter is me, in miniature, and I have no desire for her to go through that. She doesn’t have to listen to a constant tirade of spite from other kids, and she is growing up with self-confidence and the skills to cope with other people’s negativity.
16 Tackling Anxiety
As a mom, I found it incredibly challenging to have to almost forcibly drag one child to school every day, leave them alone in an environment in which I knew they were unhappy, and have to listen to them cry about school every night.
We aren’t talking about a child who displayed a reasonable reluctance to get out of bed for school in the morning or had the occasional day with an exam they were nervous about; this was a full-on school attendance anxiety that resulted in significant mental, emotional and physical symptoms.
Homeschooling has removed this anxiety and allowed our child with debilitating anxiety to learn and blossom.
15 More Of What They Love
When you teach your children at home, you have the flexibility to spend time on what your child enjoys.
If you are in the middle of building a fabulous LEGO robot, there is no recess bell or end of the period buzzer to make you put everything away.
You can keep going until you are satisfied with your result, or you might want to go online and discover ways to add motors and electronics to your robot. Before you know it you’re learning to code and competing in a remotely controlled robot face-off.
14 More Of What They Don’t Love
On the flip side, there is no playing truant to avoid a class or a teacher you don’t like when you are homeschooled. If you are sick, no worries we’ll just hold off on learning about economic theory until you are well again.
There is no returning to school and discovering you are behind your classmates, that you have missed a crucial subject element making it more difficult to move forward, and there’s no claiming your dog ate your homework.
In fact, when your mom’s one of your teachers and your principle, there is little scope for dodging any element of your schooling.
13 The Best You Can Be
Our youngest son also lives with autism and is so severely affected that he is unlikely to ever live independently. This little man will always need somebody with him to ensure he is safe and to see to it his basic needs are met.
While in a regular classroom, our young son spent most of the day, sitting in a corner, coloring or struggling with a basic craft while the other kids sped ahead in all subject areas. There just weren’t the resources available to help him effectively. Every day, he fought against going to school.
Through homeschooling he now has basic math skills, can read a few words and, most importantly, wants to learn.
12 Fitting Everything In
Sticking with our youngest son, he requires long hours of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and other medical interventions. This is an absolute nightmare at the best of times, traveling from appointment to appointment and trying to book times that fit around what is happening in the classroom was even worse.
By homeschooling, we can schedule appointments at home, or at a doctors office during the middle of the day, without disrupting lessons. Our son never misses out on valuable teaching time because he has to be taken out for a therapy of some kind.
11 Facts Vs. Thoughts
In schools, children are taught what the broader educational system believes to be factual, ethical, and culturally appropriate at any given time.
Unfortunately, at school, our kids are not always educated in the differences between irrefutable facts that can be proved with unbiased evidence and strongly supported beliefs and opinions.
I feel this has resulted in many of us today being unable to distinguish between evidence backed facts, and opinions which have informed by current social beliefs. Homeschooling our kids allows us to ensure they understand the difference between what they know, and what they think they know.
10 Freedom Of Belief
“Ah ha! Caught you!” I hear you cry, “I just knew you were a nut-job or zealot of some kind. It’s religion isn’t it?”
Sorry to disappoint you but no.
Our family doesn’t have any particular religious beliefs. We’re a vaguely “maybe there is a higher being directing things or watching over, maybe there isn’t” crew. As parents, my husband and I want our children to make up their own minds about religion.
We feel it is vital for them to hear about a variety of beliefs without having any particular religion promoted or disparaged and this is very difficult to achieve within a standard school setting.
9 Real World Project-Based Learning
In our homeschool, our kids learn predominately through working on projects, and not on specific subjects. Although when they were younger, we worked on the basics like reading and math skills as single subjects, once they had a firm grasp on these we moved to a more holistic approach.
Instead of sitting down to work on specific subjects one after the other, scheduled at regular intervals throughout the week, we might spend a month on “Mining Studies” learning about how precious metal and gem discoveries, mining advancements, and events shaped our world then segway into the effects mines might have on ecosystems.
8 Elastic Grade Levels
Schools aren’t generally set up for children to be excellent in one subject area and to struggle in another.
It is difficult enough to schedule hundreds of kids into classes where they are all the same age, having to move them around according to individual ability would be almost impossible.
However, that is what we are able to do. Using the mining project example above, I can pitch the geology elements at a grade four level and the physics elements at a grade nine level for the same child.
7 No Stressful Testing
While it is important for our kids to learn how to prepare for and take stressful exams, they also need to learn to be successful in their coping mechanisms for these as well.
Developing these skills in a more relaxed, home environment is less stressful. In addition, our kids aren’t being told how important their exams are and experiencing pressure to achieve at a very young age.
We have friends whose fourth-grade kids have been literally sick with stress over the standardized testing in their school. With teachers and schools being ranked according to the standardized testing results, it comes as no surprise that the pupils also feel the pressure.
6 More Than Exams
Another problem with standardized testing in our schools is that, by necessity, teachers have to dedicate a great deal of time, teaching what will be on the exams.
A narrow focus on a few academic areas is needed to ensure all of the kids in a class are going to achieve a result in the exams which reflect well on the school.
As a result, less time is available to study anything else. Physical activity, the arts, and many academic areas have to take a back seat while exam preparations are prioritized.
5 Time To Wonder
The need to shoehorn everything the school system wants our children to learn into a regular school day means that teachers are often compelled to merely give information and children are expected to receive and retain that information.
There may be little opportunity for questioning, wondering, asking “what if?”
One of the beauties of teaching our kids at home is that we have time to, for example, lay on the grass in the garden and randomly throw ideas around, let our imaginations run wild, or simply appreciate laying on the grass.
4 More Than Receptacles
By homeschooling our kids, we are able to instill a different attitude to their role in the educational experience. They’re not the passive vessels they’d be expected to be at school.
Our children are expected to actively engage in both their own learning and that of their siblings.
On one occasion, when our son was in a regular school, we were called in to see the principle. It transpired that our young man had politely pointed out an inaccurate fact delivered by one of his teachers.
The teacher told him that he was there to accept what he was told and write down what he had been told. Our son refused and as a result, was suspended for three days.
I don’t want to raise our kids to passively accept and parrot things they know to be wrong.
3 Social Butterflies
Many people believe that homeschooled children are in danger of becoming isolated recluses without social skill who will be unable to function in society. This couldn’t further from the truth.
Homeschooled children have online and in-person social groups, and they are active in all of the regular extracurricular opportunities that traditionally schooled kids are.
For example, one of our sons attended Air Cadets, and ended up as Squadron Chief, responsible for hundreds of cadets, attending events across the country and was employed by the Defense Department to deliver Survival Skills training. He is actually the most annoyingly relaxed in any situation person I know!
2 Your Time Your Way
Being homeschooled also allows your child to make the most of their interests and activities, without it having a detrimental effect on their studies.
Using our Air Cadet son as an example, he was able to benefit from multiple opportunities that would have required him to take time off of school if he had been in the classroom system.
Traveling, meeting fantastic role models, building relationships with people he would never have otherwise met, connecting with people who would continue to mentor him for years to come. None of this would have been possible within the constraints of a regular school timetable and calendar.
1 There Are Selfish Reasons
Two of our children who are currently being homeschooled were diagnosed with ADD. Although we, both us as parents and them as kids, have been lucky enough to have avoided the problems of significant behavioral issues, going to school was, to be perfectly honest, a massive pain in the butt.
At least once or twice a week we would receive a call to say son number two wasn’t paying attention (don’t know why this was a surprise from a child with ADD but there you go) and could we come in and speak with his teachers about his lack of progress.
Not having that sinking feeling if the phone rings mid-afternoon is glorious.
Reference: This mom of five's personal experience.