Homeschooling vs Public School: from a mom who has taught both


Are you feeling unmotivated and uninspired?
Has homeschooling become a daily grind rather than an ongoing inspiration?
Have you lost sight of why all this effort to homeschool is better than the alternative?

After all, your friends have over six hours to themselves every day, while you are nagging kids to do their schoolwork, refereeing sibling conflicts, preparing food and cleaning up messes ALL DAY LONG, and generally feeling like you are daily sacrificing your wants for everyone else’s needs.

It can be tough to remember the big picture.

Homeschooling vs Public School: from a mom who has taught both

I am here on iHN today to renew your motivation by reminding you of why you are keeping your kids at home rather than sending them off to the local school.

As a former public school teacher, I have inside info about how the school system really works. And as a veteran homeschool mom who has graduated four kids who stayed home K-12 (one left!), I am well aware of the struggles you are facing every day.

Let’s compare the two, shall we?

Homeschooling vs Public School Side by Side

Accountability

As a homeschool mom, you feel like the bad guy, because you have to nag your kids to work without becoming distracted, to finish within a reasonable amount of time, to actually learn rather than just checking the box, and to move on to the next thing without wandering off. Sometimes it seems like you’ve spent the entire day just pushing your kid along. The public school teacher would do all of that for you, right?

Nope. At the school your child is one of many. The teacher does not have the time nor the mental resources to keep track of each one with much level of detail. While your kid is in their classroom, the teacher may try to have some input about work habits, but as soon as one class departs from their sight, they are focusing on the next group of crazy kids. Teachers HAVE to wipe the slate between classes or they will go crazy. And they have no desire to take that emotional baggage home with them — they do have lives and families of their own, after all — so they ignore it until class the next day.

Or, in the case of elementary school (although classes do change between subjects there now more than they used to), the teacher is only able to do so much. She doesn’t have just 3-5 kids to deal with all day long; she has 20-25. You tell me how she will do a better job of getting your child to get stuff done than you can.

Yes, there is outside accountability. Translated that means due dates and grades are a thing. But it will still be you, the mom, who is doing the nagging, keeping track of assignments and when they are due, pushing your kid to get their homework done, etc. And in some ways it’s harder, because you didn’t design the assignments, nor do you know how they were taught. Trying to figure out what was in the teacher’s head can be a challenging task.

So while it is difficult being the force behind your kid getting anything done all day every day, it’s easier (and more effective) than doing it as a reaction to someone else’s work load and expectations.

Related Reading: Homeschooling Teens Who are Easily Distracted

Educational gaps

You worry because it’s taking forever to complete the curriculum you’re using. You feel guilty for not getting through it all. Will your kid learn everything they are supposed to?  Are they experiencing gaps in their education? At the public school they are more on top of things like this, right?

Nope. I remember taking SIX WEEKS off of the regular curriculum (every year) to prepare for the standardized test the kids would be taking. Because if they scored well on the test, the school would get more funding. So forget about 7th grade math — let’s just focus on multiple-choice logic questions and learning how to read graphs — FOR SIX WEEKS.

Public schools have so many things that steal their productive classroom time. School assemblies, pep rallies, holiday celebrations, field trips, fire drills, that rowdy kid who pushes the teacher’s buttons every day, movie days, substitute teacher days — and the list goes on. I certainly never finished the curriculum in a given year — and I don’t know of a single teacher who did. Gaps in their education? You bet.

You are probably getting through more of the curriculum at home than they are at the public school. Truly.

Specialized programs

One of your kids struggles with learning in a big way. And/or one of your kids learns so fast it’s scary. It feels like you don’t have enough knowledge to really help them. The local school has resources and programs for kids like this, with teachers who specialize in these areas — surely your kid will get a better education there, right?

Listen, y’all: even those specialized teachers don’t know your child like you do. And they still have classroom timetables to keep and MANY students to deal with. Even in a smaller classroom situation, if that small class is filled with students who have special needs (in either direction), that teacher will still not be able to keep up with it all. More on this in a bit.

But for now, please remember that while you may not have as much knowledge as that teacher, you can still provide a COMPLETELY INDIVIDUALIZED education for your child. You can structure their day for how they work best. You can adapt to a bad day or a newfound interest. And guess what? The internet is a thing — you can research your child’s individual issues and find ways to meet them that are best for the child AND for your family. The resources out there are numerous these days, including iHomeschool Network bloggers who can come alongside you with encouragement and information. 

The public school, even with all its “resources,” will still groupify your very individual child. Just sayin’.

Related Reading: Opportunities My Teens are Missing Because We Homeschool High School

Personal Time

You feel like you are stuck home every day doing school rather than being able to go out and do things. If you just had some time to yourself, you could be so productive! Putting the kids in school will give you freedom!! You can have some peace and relaxation!

Not so. Unless you put your kids on the bus (which can be a sketchy proposition these days), you will have to get them up before dawn every morning, rush around to get ready — very likely nagging them to keep moving the whole time — and drive them to school. Then you get to do it all in reverse later in the day. This definitely cuts into your “me time,” hello.

But wait! Today is a half-day, so you have just barely dropped them off before you need to turn around and go back. Oh, and Johnny has sports practice after school, so you pick up his siblings at the regular time and then have to return to get him a couple of hours later. Tonight is the choir concert, and tomorrow is your day to volunteer in class, and yikes, you forgot about that parent-teacher meeting; Suzy is supposed to be bringing cookies to celebrate some miscellaneous holiday, and Betsey left her essay on the printer, so you have to take it to her before third period…

Freedom? No, instead you are tied to a schedule that is not of your own making. You are the servant of everyone else’s plans for your child and family.

This means that your teen cannot sleep in and get that extra rest they so desperately need during these years of crazy physical and emotional growth. Your 7-year-old takes forever to get over that stupid cold they caught from the kid at the next desk, because they can’t take a nap when they need one. And you are actually MORE stressed from all the running around.

If you value your time, then homeschooling is actually less stressful, because you indeed have more choice about how that time is spent.

Mom vs professional

You feel like you are always uptight and overwhelmed. You don’t like that your kids are exposed to that all day; certainly a professional teacher will provide a calmer, more emotionally-safe atmosphere. Calgon, take me away!

Here’s a truth bomb: teachers in general are a stressed-out lot. They are usually not given the resources and help they need to teach effectively and happily; instead, they are often under the gun of administrative bureaucracy. Criticism from parents can be a frequent thing, not to mention the handful of highly disrespectful students who seem to take the most time and energy and leave little for the rest.

Many teachers are not knights in shining armor but ordinary, flawed people who don’t necessarily even enjoy being there. Conversations around the teacher’s lunch table can be rife with complaints about so. many. things. Though a teacher may have started out with high ideals and the desire to help little minds grow, their mindset often degenerates to the goal of just getting through the day and leaving it all behind when they go home.

Teachers yell, too, did you know that? And they get impatient. And sometimes they wish they could just go hide. Don’t ask me how I know.

(And don’t forget all the other stress your kids would be subjected to at the public school that is absent at home: peer pressure, the bully in second period, keeping up with the Jones’s clothing or toy or electronics choices, not understanding fractions but the class has moved on, conversations about all that stuff you’d rather tell them yourself…)

Related Reading: What to Do when You are Overwhelmed by All You Have to Do

When thinking about homeschooling vs public school, we can tend to focus on our day-to-day homeschooling difficulties yet use rose-colored glasses to imagine the public school lifestyle. Let’s not.

The fact is that each choice has its pros and cons. But with homeschooling, you can know that your kids are in the hands of the people who know them best and love them most — their parents. This can make some of the difficulties feel more endurable, and it can also remind us that the supposed advantages of the public school may not really be all that great.

If you still feel like quitting — and we’ve all been there, sometimes many times, lol — iHN has a wonderful book that will encourage you to stay the course. It’s written by many of the iHN bloggers, each one with words of inspiration about many of the doubts we all struggle with. Homeschooling: What to do When You Want to Quit is definitely a resource to have on your shelf and consult over and over again! You can read more about it in my review here: When You Feel Like You Want to Quit Homeschooling. And there are other ideas in that article for when you are at the end of your homeschooling rope! So be sure to check it out!

You can also head straight to the shop and purchase it by clicking here (referral link): Purchase Homeschooling: What to do When You Want to Quit.

If you want a paperback copy rather than digital, you can get it from Amazon by clicking here (referral link): Get Homeschooling: What to do When You Want to Quit from Amazon.

I could go on about the advantages of homeschooling vs public school, but I hope you are inspired enough to keep going by now. Homeschooling is a long-haul gig; there will be ups and downs, seasons of plenty and seasons of drought — but in the long run, you will be glad you stuck it out. Trust me on that one, from a mom who has lived to tell the tale!

Ann Karako

About the author

Ann has been homeschooling for 18+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

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  1. Haveing homeschooled for 20+ years graduating 2 with one more to go this article is spot on. I think if parents volunteered at their child’s school on a regular basis for a year most parents would see the negatives of ps and realize they can homeschool.

      1. Thank you so much for writing this. I am brand new to homeschooling and though I know it is the right thing to do for my children, I have allowed doubt and guilt to creep in several times. I am still trying to find a work from home job that will allow me to continue with this but I am trusting God for that. This was the encouragement I needed for today.

    1. That is exactly what happened to me. My daughter’s kindergarten class went from 23 to 31 kids and only 4 parents volunteer in the class. I was going to sign my husband up to volunteer too, but why should I? 31 kids and only 4 parents care. I am not even helping MY daughter, I am spending my time helping someone else’s kid. I still work with her for about an hour after school everyday because she doesn’t get her work done in class.

  2. Thank you so much for this encouragement. This time each year I start to feel a little overwhelmed. With what I feel like our son should have learned by now. I just discovered that he is dyslexic and knowing that has answered a lot of questions as to why he hasn’t learned as much in Reading and Math as I think he should have by now. My husband also has dyslexia so he will be able to help me in many ways, figuring out how to teach our son. But if there are any resources that you can think of that may help in this please let me know.

    1. Hi Susan, sounds like you are on the right track. As you keep learning more about how to teach him, you will feel better and better about the whole thing. As far as resources, my guess is this blog has many articles about dyslexia — and there are several iHomeschoolNetwork bloggers who write about it, also. In fact, our own Marianne Sunderland writes a blog called Homeschooling with Dyslexia, which you can go to here: https://homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com/. Hope this helps!

  3. Year 15 for us! This article is so AWESOME! Thanks for sharing! Our journey has had so many twists and turns and highs and lows. It’s been AMAZING! I wouldn’t change a single one!

  4. Thank you so much for this!! My mind races through all of these thoughts on a semi-regular basis lately; mostly because I am afraid that I am inadequate to teach and that she will get a sub-par education! This article was truly a blessing for me today! <3

  5. What a well written and factual article. Thank you. Went to a meeting at the school this am and the principal spent 15min on attendance. He said that if your child is a little sick send them to school anyway. He can send them home if they are truly too sick to be there. School is a business and my kid is the inventory.

  6. Thank you so much for this. We have had a disrupted start to the school year with a house move and then sickness. I feel I have not had time to plan projects or do anything much beyond the basics. It’s so easy to think that school would provide more whereas in fact we would have just missed a whole week. With homeschool we can recommit at any time. I believe a key problem with public school is that the class moves on even if none of the students have mastered a topic. Sal Khan has a good TED talk about individualized learning for mastery of a subject.

    1. Yes my daughter is homeschooled she gets that one on one. but things public school are having problems now are bullying and mental abuse to students and my experience teachers aren’t caring anymore and scared of the children. Where I live it’s been the last two years it’s been 85% parents took they’re child out of school cause it isn’t the children’s safe place anymore.

      An the school was supposed to be they’re safe place when their not home.

      Hope this don’t offend anyone. It’s what I experienced. My daughter had a mental breakdown at the public school.

  7. Each of these comparisons is spot on! I know because I grew up in the school system and sent three of my kids there before we started homeschooling. Even on those days where it didn’t seem like we accomplished much in our homeschool, I have no doubt we accomplished more than they would have in school, and in a much more meaningful way.

    1. Thanks for this encouragement, my daughter is in the middle of our 3rd grade curriculum and is really getting upset by all the things she thinks she’s missing out on in public school like having president’s day off or spring break when the other kids have it off or a locker…she’s in two different dance classes at two different schools and girl scouts as well as church so she’s constantly comparing her schedule to others. She get emotional about from time to time and it really makes me doubt sometimes, but i know I’m doing the right thing for her.

  8. I clicked on this thinking I was going to read something that would offer a balanced view. Instead but I got is someone trying to justify the choice they made by putting down public school as if they are all the same. Homeschool is not for everybody yet repeatedly homeschool moms bash schools. I’m not sure if homeschool is right for my children but I know this does not help me to make that decision.

    1. I do homeschool but am considering enrolling my two oldest (4th and 2nd grades) in the public school this year. It’s a tough decision. I’ve cried over both sides many times and yes, I was looking for a balanced view as well. It was never HOMESCHOOL against PUBLIC SCHOOL for us. Homeschooling worked for a few years and now that it doesn’t really work I’m really struggling with it.

  9. My kid loves to homeschool. His birthday usually fall during examination week while attending regular school. This year, we took a three day off to celebrate his big day. No pressure..no absences..
    And on a daily basis…he can sleep straight 10hours, do 30min exercise daily, has enough devotional time, plays guitar during break time, bakes and cooks, do chores, more play time, can mingle with friends from different age group, read more books on topics he is interested in, able to spend vacation any time of the year, etc. Hes just 10 but he can do oral reporting…explain a topic without staring from notes or books. He makes his own visual aids and draws illustration to support his ideas. Seeing him improve each day is a fulfillment and reward in itself. Intentional parenting is beyond compare. No public school can replace that magical bond between you and your children…witnessing up close..their growth, including their struggles and victories is such wonderful experience. Its tough at times but still worth it.
    Thank you Ms Ann for sharing your sincere thoughts about homeschooling.

  10. My son was in public school and struggling in reading. He went to a special reading group outside of his class. When he “graduated” from the program I told his special reading teacher that my son was reading just as poorly as he was before he started the 12 week program. Her reply? “Well, he finished the workbook we have so there’s nothing more I can do.”. That’s when we realized we would be better off homeschooling.

  11. I needed this today. I’m glad I find this while scrolling Pinterest wishing I could ship these kids off. Thank you for the encouragement and resource recommendation!

  12. Love this so much! Thanks for sharing the perspective from someone who has taught in a public school classroom. That is so helpful to me. We are going into our second year of homeschooling and I doubt myself a lot!

  13. I also thought I was going to get a more balanced view. There are some big gaps in this article. For example, Her first argument misses the point, in that the teacher can’t nag everyone so mom will be doing all of the reminding either way. No, the child learns to take responsibility for their own work (public or homeschool). The goal of a parent-educator (many public school parents actively take part in their kids educations) is to teach your child not to depend on mom or teachers in the way she is describing. When you consider this, you realize that her very first argument really has some gaps. This is especially interesting given that she seems to be referring to children who are presumably in grades where they are rotating classrooms (ie middle and high school) and should really taking responsibility for their own work. When this ex-teacher lists daily interruptions that impede learning, she is right, there are interruptions. However one must consider that some times these “interruptions” are art, music, computers, library as well as guest speakers and community outreach events, all entertwined into the “8-3” day. Those “bad” kids that cause interruptions sometimes have heartbreaking stories that we can talk to our kids about, and teach them about loving others who are different than us and understanding that not all kids have the same home lives as they do. Maybe the “interruption” is that your child has a student with Severe autism
    in their class and they learn how to interact with people with mental disabilities. (In CA some special needs kiddos are integrated into the “typical” classes with a 1-1 adult aide ratio) Some “interruptions” can’t be measured by means of curriculum covered in a day. While I agree that homeschooling is absolutely amazing for some, others find a fantastic, well rounded education in the public schools. We really are blessed to have all these options for our kids, homeschool, private, public, charter…Families who choose public or homeschool, are both looking for the best way to nurture their child’s hearts. We are both hoping to foster an enriching education based on our children’s unique social, emotional and mental needs, and it’s helpful to keep that in mind when researching what is best for your family.

  14. I came across your article while Googling “former homeschool moms that go back into public school” to see how anyone survives it. I taught in public schools 20 years ago and my husband and I knew then that we would not subject our children to what I saw one a daily basis. We homeschooled our two children all the way through high school. Once they graduated, I needed a job to help with college expenses and retirement (hopefully, one day). I kept my teaching certicfate current, so I started back teaching in public school this August. To say that it has been challenging would be a gross understatement. I have only been teaching 9 weeks and am already wanting to quit. Any advice on how to make it in an environment that is so contrary to everything I believe about education?

  15. Thoughts on homeschooling a 9th grader. He is a complete introvert. He hates school but does get As and Bs. Is it hard to get into a trade school after homeschooling. Also, I’ve never homeschooled. I would have to quit my job. How hard is it to get started.

  16. This article does well to promote your products you can sell to online traffic and desperate parents during this covid-19 pandemic.

    My wife is really interested in homeschooling our children (3 and 1) when they get older, but I still have doubts. We have NOT been teaching PS for decades like you or other posters, but I’m not too worried about if it’s possible. I’m worried about giving my children the following that I believe you can get from PS over HS:
    1. How to interact with peers in a public environment, how to interact with superiors and within a system of those with authority and being accountable to it in the child’s school work, not just a mom. As of now, I don’t believe you can get the same experience to prepare for real life (work, deadlines, consequences from a system, not a timeout from mom) if you’re being HS.
    2. Social interaction and comradery that comes with school classes, school sports, plays, extracurricular activities. (Yes, I know you said you lose time as a parent to participate in that, but I don’t think the loss of time is a negative if you’re helping them with these things.) They can obviously do some of this while HS, but they can also get the full social experience with school and they’re peers. I made tons and tons of friends that I never would’ve met otherwise. I was able to date a lot more people when in high school that I never would’ve met otherwise. I felt accomplished with a team that I spent time with that gave me the best memories growing up (family memories were the best too, but it was a different best). Yes there are potential bullying experiences and that may persuade me to HS, but I never would have made as many friends being HS and going to some social things. I need convincing about how HS will not be LONELY.

    Since you have the experience, I’m asking for your professional opinion on these concerns. Thank you for reading this.

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