Deciding to Homeschool (or Not)

Dear Reader,

A frequent question I hear from moms of younger children (and sometimes older ones) is whether they should homeschool and how they know what is right for their family. Honestly, I am not sure we made the decision to homeschool in  a logical, well-considered way. Initially we just put off preschool. And then kindergarten. And before we knew it we were homeschooling. And we found that it was a good fit for us. Now there are so many reasons we love homeschooling that I once again can’t answer the question of why we do it. It is not just one thing but everything.

None of which is helpful to someone else trying to make the decision. So I would like to give a list of areas to consider when making the decision. But first some general principles:

1. Whatever you decide does not have to be your once-for-all decision. You are allowed to change your family’s educational choices in the future.

2. Most of us have some idea of what life will be like if we send out kids to school (public or private). But it is hard to know how you and your kids will like homeschooling until you try it.

Now here are the areas I can think of for consideration when one is trying to make this decision: religious/philosophical, academic/educational, social, medical, and lifestyle. And here are some questions to ask yourself in all of these areas:

1. Do you have religious or philosophical ideas that are causing you to consider homeschooling? For Christians, the primary concern is often to provide one’s children with a God-centered education. For non-Christians, there are often other philosophical concerns. Unschoolers, for instance, feel that children should not be forced to learn sets of facts we adults present them with but should follow their own interests. If you have any such concerns, which environment is going to best meet your families expectations in this area?

2. Where are your children going to get the best academics? Are your local schools doing an adequate job? Is this important to you or are other considerations more important?

3. What about the socialization question? This can cut either way. There are many ways to make sure kids do get time with other kids while homeschooling. But they will probably not be out on their own interacting without you like they would be in school. Is this a good or a bad thing? Your view of whether the socialization found in the public schools is positive or negative is probably going to depend a lot on what your own experiences were. If your kids are older and have been in school, try to see things from their perspective. A warning though that just because your child enjoys school does not mean it is good socialization for them. I have talked to a number of moms of older kids whose kids love school and have tons of friends but the moms are not happy because they feel the family is being pulled apart.

4. Which brings us to lifestyle issues. The public schools give a lifestyle which is familiar to most of us. It is predictable. But homeschooling allows more family time. It allows one to take more field trips and vacations and to do them when everything is less crowded.  On a daily basis, homeschool takes a lot fewer hours leaving more time for play or other activities. I know my children would do a lot fewer extracurriculars like dance and art if they were in school. On the flip side, homeschoolers’ houses tend to be messier. We are in them all day doing things and it is harder to clean them up or keep them clean. Homeschool moms often find it tough to do things alone, like go to the grocery store or see their own doctor or dentist. These are not insurmountable obstacles and they do diminish over time, but they are still worth mentioning.

5. Then there are financial considerations. Homeschool probably costs more than public school (though a lot less than private school if that is tour alternative). We pay tax money to the schools that we then don’t use. Instead we have to buy our own curriculum and pay for our own field trips. There are ways to do these things fairly cheaply but it requires a little more thought and effort. There are also some hidden costs to homeschooling, like higher heating bills when people are in the house all day during the winter.

6. Another issue some have is with their relationship with the rest of the world. I used to think this was just a Christian problem, how does homeschooling relate to witnessing to our neighbors and being in the world but not of it. But apparently liberals also struggle with this–does our withdrawal from the schools negatively affect institutions and ideas we support? These could be huge discussions, and I am not going to get into them here.

7. Finally, some may have medical issues that affect homeschooling. We did not homeschool because my daughter has type 1 diabetes but it sure has helped with her care. It allows us to be consistent in that I am always her primary care-giver. I do not have to rely on school nurses or the lack thereof. I think my son’s headaches would also have been a lot worse if he had been in school. Conversely, I have known families where the mom has health problems that make it difficult for her to homeschool.

Those are the big issues I can think of. There could well be more. I think in the end one just needs to make a decision and try it for a while. Remember you can always change your mind (just try not to go back and forth too many times in one school year).



2 responses to this post.

  1. […] reluctant child to help with chores around the house. Nebby at Letters From Nebby presents “Deciding to Homeschool (or Not)” – With the new school year approaching, there are always new people considering […]


  2. Posted by Anne Gregor on November 18, 2014 at 1:52 am

    Homeschooling may be difficult in the beginning. But as your children grow, it will actually make the job of teaching them easier, because they will begin to realize what it takes to teach themselves.



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