The Drawbacks of Homeschooling

Dear Reader,

It seems that I am posting on both Charlotte Mason’s fifth and sixth volumes these days. The CM Blog Carnival is on the sixth which is where I am reading anyway, but I am also still completing my series of posts on the fifth volume.

So this post is a return to the fifth volume. There was quite a lot I highlighted in the section entitled “Home Training –Physical.” Here is some of what Charlotte has to say:

“We may assume at once that the discipline of the school is so valuable, that the
boy or girl who grows up without it is at a disadvantage through life; while, at
the same time, the training of the school is so far defective that, left to
itself, it turns out very imperfect, inadequate human beings. The point for our
consideration is, that the duty of the parents to educate their child
is by no means at an end when he enters upon school life; because it rests with
them to supplement what is weak or wanting in the training of the school.” (p.193)

Though most of us Charlotte Mason types are homeschoolers, this is not really a very pro-homeschool passage is it? Charlotte has spent some time discussing the drawbacks of the school environment (see this post for example), but her solution is not to homeschool but for parents to be proactive and to supplement what is lacking in the schools, namely moral training.

Perhaps we should ponder also what we may be missing. Charlotte says that those who do not attend school are at a disadvantage lacking its discipline. I assume by this she means the discipline that is required of one in completely assignments, dealing with a room full of people, and the like. I can’t find that Charlotte spells out what she means here. In fact, she says that “It is not necessary to discuss here the respective merits of large and small schools, of day and boarding schools” (p.193), so I am only supposing that it is this sort of thing that she means.

And I think we as homeschoolers need to acknowledge that there may be drawbacks to homeschooling. I think sometimes we are so defensive, we feel so in the minority, that we fail to recognize homeschooling’s weak points. But this does not in the end benefit our children nor does it help our cause. Let us say, rather, that there are pros and cons to homeschooling, that there may be areas where it is weaker. But just as public school (or private school) parents do best when they supplement what goes on in the schools, when they fill ni its gaps with what happens at home, so we too must be conscious of what our children may be lacking and must find ways to provide it.

So what are the potential drawbacks homeschooling? Charlotte speaks of discipline and I think this may arise for us as well. It can be too easy as homeschoolers to let things slide. We do not tend to have strong fixed deadlines and so our children may not learn how to budget their time and complete assignments on time. They may not learn how to juggle the assignments of multiple classes. I am not suggesting that we all need to get more rigorous. A big part of the reason we personally homeschool is that we feel a lot of the work schools give is useless busywork. I don’t want to replicate that at home. But it could be good at least once in their school days to place children in the situation where they have to manage their own assignments and get things done on time. I know around here a lot of high schoolers take outside classes, either at co-ops or community colleges. Personally, I don’t want to outsource everything, even in the high school years, but it could be good for children to get some experience conforming to others’ schedules and expectations.

A friend alerted me to another weak point in homeschooling. She herself was homeschooled in the early years and she found that when she first entered a classroom, she could not navigate group discussions well. There is a talent, for want of a better word, to participating but not dominating. To giving one’s own opinion while respecting and discussing those of others. This is hard to duplicate in a homeschool environment. But there are ways we can seek out such experiences without necessarily abandoning the homeschool model altogether. And I think even just telling our children that they may need to work harder on such things, that they need to think about how to talk to others in a group, and maybe spend some time observing how others do it before they jump in themselves can be  a big help. They key for ourselves and our children, particularly older children, is to be aware of where our weak points may be and then to deliberately go about filling them in.

I am not including socialization among the drawbacks of homeschooling. I know that is one that many would name (mostly non-homeschoolers). I think rather that the socialization that homeschoolers receive is better than that which goes on in traditional schools. I have known a couple of families that spend most of their days at home doing school work all day and who don’t get out to meet with others (pretty much the stereotype of homeschoolers chained to the kitchen table never playing with others). I don’t think their situations were healthy, but I also don’t think they are the norm.

What do you think? Can you think of other potential weaknesses? How can we counteract them?


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4 responses to this post.

  1. […] we can see the “big picture” when we look at the pros and cons of something… The Drawbacks of Homeschooling is presented this week by Letters from […]


  2. Having 3 children formerly homeschooled and now in their first year of Catholic school, I see many benefits of them having been homeschooled, and only 1 downside. The oldest two found it hard entering school in 7th and 8th grades having multiple classes and a whole lot of homework to do in the few hours before bed. The options it seemed were to allow them to stay up late and mess up their younger sibling’s sleep or to eliminate all extracurricular opportunities such as music lessons, Scouts, and sports. One of the great benefits of school was involvement in sports, but if there is so much homework that they can’t do both,what is the point? We never had conflicts like this in 10 years of homeschooling, they did their work during the day.


  3. […] Formation of Character, I am up to the section on children’s intellectual development. As I have said before, though most of us here are probably homeschoolers, Charlotte does not assume such an environment. […]


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