Where I live, everyone is scrambling to figure out what school is going to look like this year. The pandemic has changed everything. And all of us are struggling to figure out how we are going to do life in this current reality. The school choices my friends and family are facing as public schools around us move to all virtual or require unhealthy masking are not easy. Teachers and administrators are scrambling to figure out the temporary new normal. Parents are wrestling with whether or not to send their kids back to public school virtually, back to school in a mask, or maybe switch to private school or homeschool. The choices are daunting. This is hard!
Now, I will admit to having a bias. After seventeen years of homeschooling, I’ve put two kids into the college of their choice easily, and both are excelling both academically and socially. I know that homeschooling works, so I’m coming from a place of both experience and confidence. I still have four kids schooling at home, so I know what it’s like to homeschool multiple children, at multiple levels, while also working.
Lots of people who are anti-homeschooling will tell you a huge list of “cons,” none of which I agree with. The negative impacts we have experienced (and there are a few) are far outweighed by the positives. I’m also well aware that for some of you, my positives might actually be negatives or at least appear to be in the negative column before you start homeschooling. So I’ve put together a long list of reasons you may or may not want to consider homeschooling for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.
The Homeschool Pros
What are the positives about homeschooling? How can homeschooling be a good thing for each of your children and even you? Here are the positive reasons to homeschool.
Homeschool Pro #1 – You are in control of the curricula.
If you choose to homeschool, you get to pick the curriculum. If you want you can choose something I call “out-of-the-box” which is a complete curriculum you can take out of the box and use on day one and everything subject is covered. If you prefer, you can pick and choose different publishers for each subject and take a more eclectic approach. You can use materials that support your worldview and help your children defend this worldview should they choose to adopt it. You can cover things not taught in public school. You can go deeper and stay longer in any area of history or science you enjoy. You can skip the stupid stuff. (No busywork!) When you homeschool, you are in charge of the curriculum and course of study.
Homeschool Pro #2 – You set the schedule.
When you choose to homeschool, you can hold school whenever and wherever you want. If your days are filled with zoom calls and job demands, you can homeschool in the evenings and on weekends. Your child will not have any required meetings on zoom unless you choose to enroll them in an online class. You can visit the grandparents whenever you want — and if you want you can even take schoolwork with you. You can go to the beach or take a quick field trip whenever you want. You can schedule dentist appointments, doctor appointments, and haircut appointments whenever we want. And if that isn’t enough – you can also have birthday celebrations in the middle of the day, go to playgrounds at the park when everyone else is in school, and take your breaks to line up with significant family events. And you won’t have homework hardly ever. And at the latest Star Wars Premiere? You will find us at the earliest matinee with an essay about the movie due from each student within just a couple of weeks. When you homeschool, you make the schedule and you make it work for you.
Homeschool Pro #3 — You can tailor the school work to your child’s needs.
I’ve noticed that each of my children is very, very different. Maybe you’ve noticed that too? In public school, out of sheer necessity, teachers must teach all the children at once, on the same level, with very limited ability to tailor the teaching to a particular child’s needs, strengths, or weaknesses. When you choose to homeschool, you can use seek out methods that help your child excel. You can vary your teaching methods and curriculum choices to help each child at his/her level and ability, skills and strengths, weaknesses, and personality. You can let children work at their own pace and work for mastery of a subject. Everything about your homeschool can be designed from the ground up to be completely optimized for your child.
Homeschool Pro #4 – You have the freedom to socialize like real life.
Yep, you read that right. Homeschoolers get to socialize. In fact, homeschoolers get to socialize with people of all ages, from every circumstance. When you homeschool, your child is not forced into peer-level boxes. Children can learn to talk to adults, play with little kids, interact with the elderly, and yes, even interact with people his own age. When a homeschool student graduates, she can converse intelligently with supervisors or college professor while also cheerfully interacting with young children, peers, and friends of all ages. Many public school proponents fuss that homeschool students do not get “socialization”, but in fact homeschooling is a lifestyle of socialization that most closely resembles the type of social experience you will have in real life.
Homeschool Pro #5 – Your child can have a say.
My children know that if something isn’t working, we can change it. If they can’t figure out one spelling program, we can find another. If the history book isn’t communicating well, we can find something else. If they aren’t getting phonics with the current approach, we can switch things up. My kids can give me input at the beginning of the year on what topics they’d like to study. They have choices. Especially in high school, homeschool kids have a ton of choices. One of the best things we did for my oldest daughter was to let her begin to pursue her passion for graphic design while she was still in high school. All of her high school electives were classes that directly impacted her ability to excel in her chosen field in college.
Covid19 Specific Homeschool Positive – Mask-Free Education
The negative side effects of wearing a mask all day are becoming more well-known as we face this pandemic world-wide. Its one thing to deal with these side effects as an adult, and another thing entirely to deal with negative side effects as a child.
Covid19 Specific Homeschool Positive – Independent Excellence in Academics
Across the nation, educators are scrambling to adapt to virtual learning. It’s a bit of a learning curve to figure out this technology and come up with ways to provide an excellent education in a virtual environment. It can be done, but the funding, training, and support for virtual learning vary from state to state and district to district. Homeschooling in the place of public virtual school has all of the benefits mentioned above and also helps compensate for shortfalls in the new crazy normal teachers are having to figure out as they go. Just to be clear – I know many public school teachers who are exerting herculean efforts to make virtual school amazing. But that’s simply not going to be the case for every student. If your local district is not doing a great job transitioning to virtual school – homeschooling is an excellent choice for you.
The Homeschool Cons:
Most of the things the general public considers to be the negatives about homeschooling are not really true. Socialization – yeah we’ve got that covered. Playing with friends? My kids are all over that. Academic excellence? Anyone still arguing that homeschool kids can’t compete with their peers have their heads stuck in the sand. Homeschooled children can and do get into the best universities and excel while there. But I have noticed that there are some negative things about homeschooling nobody mentions. These are the negative impacts I’ve seen on our family as we homeschool.
Homeschool Con #1 – Being Home all Day can Make a Big Mess
People are in your home 24/7 making messes. You have to serve three meals a day, which means that your house has three sets of dirty dishes every day. Children actually get to spend time playing with their toys every.single.day. Which means every day, there is a mess of toys to pick up.
People use your bathrooms for eight hours longer than the average American home. That’s more mess. Children who are home all day change clothes more often. I’m not sure why this is true, but I can guarantee you that when we are out for the day, less clothes end up in the wash. Homeschooling is a messy business. Crafts are good, but boy can they make a mess with scissors, paper, glue, glitter, and paint. Oi.
Homeschool Con #2 – Kids at Home Eat More Food
If your child was home from school at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic you already know this is true. The good news is this — eating small meals more frequently is really good for your child’s metabolism. The bad news is this — second breakfast is a real thing. And more food costs more money. Expect your grocery bills to go up when you homeschool.
Homeschool Con #3 – Homeschooling Creates Higher Electric Bills
We have to have the heater and air conditioning running like we are here all.day.long. Because we are here all day long. We also have to cook more (I already mentioned that, right?) so that uses more electricity too. And the lights are on most of the day except in the rooms with big windows. So yeah. Our electricity bill is higher. I’m not kidding.
Homeschool Con #4 – People Think You Are Crazy
This might not matter to some people. And I consider myself pretty good at ignoring peer pressure. But there is nothing more aggravating than being looked at like you have three heads when you take a few of your school-aged children to Target before school lets out. Especially if one of them insists on wearing skirts with tennis shoes all the time. I mean seriously. I’m wearing jeans. But my daughter is wearing a skirt with tennis shoes so we must be “crazy homeschoolers” right?
Worse? When people talk to your children like they are deprived, even when you are standing right there. More than one store clerk has said something like, “You poor thing, when do you ever get to make friends?” to my stunned children at a period in our lives when we lived on an Air Force base literally full of homeschoolers and they could spend six to eight hours a day “playing” with their friends.
Homeschool Con #5 – You Have Full Responsibility for Your Child’s Education
Committed parents, no matter where your child goes to school, are taking a certain responsibility and role in their child’s education. Studies show that the students who excel have very involved parents. But homeschooling takes parental responsibility in education to a whole new level. If your child fails, you will take the blame. And that’s the weight of the world for us as parents isn’t it? This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Now, once your child reaches high school, the responsibility shifts significantly in their direction, but homeschooling is still a big job. You can do it – but you will need to be prepared to shoulder the responsibility.
The Positives and Negatives of Homeschooling
Every life choice has a positive side and a negative side. Our decisions should not be made solely from making a list of pros and cons. In this case – I could never have predicted the negatives when we made the decision to homeschool. I had never experienced those negatives. And for people who do not homeschool to make a list of “negatives” is to judge. Don’t judge based on opinion or bias. Look at the facts.
Are homeschooled students academically handicapped? — Ask your local college acceptance board, read about academic testing in homeschoolers, look up the statistics about how many homeschool kids get scholarships. There is no academic handicap correlated to homeschooling, this is a myth. Start with this excellent article about the academic and social strengths of homeschool students.
Are homeschooled students incapable of socializing in a group setting? — Well, that depends somewhat on the child. Some children are naturally more adept at making conversation. Some people are going to be nerdy whether they homeschool or not. (Admit it, it’s true! You graduated with a few nerds who struggled to have a conversation didn’t you?) The good news is, homeschooled nerds can be helped in the process of socializing by parents who understand. In general, homeschooled children make well-rounded, conversation-ready adults.
Do homeschooled students dress weirdly? — Well, again, that might depend on the child or the family’s budget. For my part, I’m so glad my daughter gets to wear clothes that make her comfortable and don’t make her crazy. She can wear dresses and skirts with tennis shoes if she wants – and not get laughed at. And that’s a good thing. Homeschool kids certainly don’t have to dress weirdly! Most of my kids prefer to be on-trend and shop at all the same places your child shops. For what its worth, one of my teens recently chose to spend a huge chunk of his mowing money on a pair of expensive Yeezys. I think that’s pretty weird.
At the end of the day, you need to make a schooling choice that works for your family and your child’s needs. Homeschooling is an amazing choice and not one you need to fear.
You might want to read The Benefits of Homeschooling for more perspective.