There are a lot of reasons that people homeschool, and each one is valid. Here is why I homeschool after being a public school teacher for years.
I started teaching in the real world in 2008 if you don’t count my student teaching. I emerged from undergraduate studies with a lot of energy and a lot of ideas about what was the right way to educate a child.
Lest I give away my personality, I am a planner and an idealist.
Would you know once I discovered that my state’s lowest-performing school district was a mere nine miles from my college dorm, I made a beeline for the application? I was offered my first real job in May 2008 at one of the elementary schools in that district.
I was pretty excited, but my work was cut out for me when I arrived. (I will not divulge the amount of time it took me to clean out the cabinets from the previous teacher who occupied Room C-8).
Upon completion of my four years of teaching service to the state of North Carolina, I was at a crossroads. I could work for another school district, or I could start a family. I chose the latter.
When my husband and I started discussing schooling before our first was born – yes, I am a planner – we decided to look into homeschooling. I had always been a teacher, and I was willing to try to teach my own children.
Of course, I knew that nothing was final, and we could always change our course if we wanted. I never felt trapped in our decision to homeschool. It had always been a decision made out of freedom.
My purpose in writing is not to condone people who homeschool over people who have served as teachers in public (or private) schools. I have done both, and I am no better a person now than I was when I taught other people’s children and vice-versa. I am writing to share my perspective and explain some differences I observe between public school teaching and home education.
Homeschooling Is More Efficient
Let me begin by saying I can better manage my home than I can other people’s children.
I am not going to say that the day-in and day-out grind gets any easier in the homeschooling environment. However, I will say that I prefer this grind to the grind of the public school teaching life.
One reason is the efficiency I experience. I make our schedule. It is not a schedule that separates our school life from our home life as much as one might think.
However, there is a dedicated block of time in the day when we are sitting down to read together or my kindergartener and third grader are completing independent studies (with my help).
Why is it more efficient in the home? First of all, we are done with all of our core studies by lunch. We begin as close to eight-thirty as possible. In the classroom, I’d spend much of my days preparing students for transitions.
Classroom management involves knowing how to call children up in smaller groups to stand in line so that I can transport the larger group from Point A to Point B.
Classroom management involves instructing children on rules, routines, and procedures for each and every subject, even recess. I do not have to instruct my children at home on how to play in their own backyard, or how to find a snack.
Believe it or not, I am no longer in the stage of instructing my children on proper bathroom protocol.
However, homeschooling does allow us to work on life skills. For example, my six-year-old can scramble and cook her own eggs for breakfast. This took a few weeks of practice. With the bowl and pan in an easy-to-reach cabinet, she is happy to say that she made her famous cheesy egg recipe for breakfast this morning!
The life skills we learn in homeschooling are not busy work or skills that won’t come in handy in adulthood.
Basic things we homeschoolers take for granted are emphasized and practiced every day in public schools. How do we walk down the hall? How do we line up to go to specials? How do we sit in the library for a presentation?
I am not saying that I do not habit train my own children. I have a step-by-step process for tasks like brushing teeth, making the bed, and making one’s own breakfast.
However, these tasks are taught amid limited distractions in the home. I can also provide plenty of positive reinforcement for my own children upon successful completion of the task. As a teacher, we had positive behavior incentives, too. It just became more about the extrinsic and less about the intrinsic, character-building reason for contributing to the home.
Homeschooling Is More Customizable and Reasonable
Teaching at home is more customizable. Unless you have a dozen children, chances are the teacher-student ratio is way better in the homeschool than it is in the public school.
It’s quite simple- the better the ratio, the better you can differentiate. One can’t really beat the attention of his very own private tutor.
I am not saying that public school teachers do not differentiate. In fact, they are probably some of the very best at providing customized lesson plans that group students by ability or even interests. I love how much I learned about meeting specific needs from being a school teacher.
Nonetheless, I do think that it just makes sense that my own child would receive more attention from me than from a classroom teacher who has 20+ students of his or her own.
There are Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students who are performing significantly below grade level in public schools. These are paper plans that require teachers, administration, and parents to have meetings to review progress and revise plans, if necessary. They leave a paper trail on a student’s record, for better or for worse.
Some people enjoy the added support of an IEP, but for the teacher, these meetings are just added work on top of an already large workload.
Sometimes the goals outlined in an IEP are unreasonable. I had one student who really struggled to focus and learn in my third-grade class. Upon meeting his parents, it all made sense.
This student was in need of so much more than I could provide. Yes, his IEP did help him to receive specialized instruction.
Most days, this student was “pulled out” to receive remediation in math. I tutored him after school, as well. A lot of time and resources were dedicated to this boy’s improvement.
We caught glimpses of improvement and, with that, improvement in his own self-image. I was so touched knowing how good he must have felt about himself to remember his times tables. I was so proud of him.
But one of the problems I discovered was the simple fact that the student had a TV in his bedroom, and instead of focusing on reading or homework, he played video games late into the night.
No wonder he could not focus as well in class. I spoke to the parents about this, and they just laughed and admitted they should probably take the TV out of the room. I hope they did.
Once again, homeschooling is not for everyone. I am fairly certain both of this student’s parents worked. I know it is not for everyone. However, it is for many who want to do it.
You don’t have to be rich to homeschool. My husband grew up in a family who homeschooled K-12, and his family knew quite a few homeschooling families who survived on the equivalent of a small church pastor’s income. Each of these families lived incredibly frugally.
Homeschooling, Like Teaching in Public School, Requires Support
I do believe that any person who chooses to homeschool needs a certain level of support. If people do not have the support, regardless of type – monetary, emotional, or social – homeschooling is incredibly hard.
One can live on a tight budget, but if there is emotional and social support, anyone can thrive. Likewise, one can be wealthy, but if there is no emotional and social support, homeschooling can be very frustrating. All the curriculum resources in the world cannot buy ease or satisfaction or even a happy home.
That said, if you know of a homeschool mom who is struggling financially, emotionally, or socially, it might be a good idea to think of ways to serve her in some way. Could you keep her kids for an afternoon while she catches up on work? Could you bring her a meal just to support her, because you care and want to be a good friend? Better yet, could you get childcare for the two of you and take her out for a meal?
There are many ways to step into the lives of others to love them.
Homeschooling Can Be More Nurturing
I am not saying that every family who homeschools is raising children in a nurturing environment. I am sure there are some sad cases of toxic environments out there. Homeschooling is not a cure for sin. This can happen in any family, and homeschooling families are not immune to family dysfunction.
Nonetheless, in homeschooling, I have found relationships to be more authentic. I can hold my child and share the gospel, for one. I could not have done this in my public school classroom. Well, I could have, with a lot of criticism and backlash.
When I was growing up in public school, I had teachers who hugged me and even a couple of especially nurturing, grandmotherly types who kissed me on the forehead!
Can you see this happening without some kind of suspicion or impending reprimand in school today? I know I did not feel comfortable kissing my students, as there were training sessions upon training sessions regarding safe touches. I am pretty sure kissing was not a safe touch.
However, children need affectionate touch. Parents are really the best for giving this if they have a good relationship already with their children. I love cuddling on the couch to read aloud. I am sure there are benefits for my children, as well.
Homeschooling is Growing
Among my friends at church, I am one of maybe three homeschooling moms (and we have a lot of moms in our church). That’s pretty normal in society as a whole, right?
If roughly 5.6% of U.S. families homeschooled during the 2021-2022 academic school year (National Home Education Research Institute), it’s still pretty rare.
But anecdotally, I can say that I’ve noticed more and more people who homeschool every year, even if the numbers have fallen a bit since the pandemic-caused spike during 2020-2021.
The data backs this up, too. The number of students who were homeschooled in 2021-2022 is still higher than in years prior to the pandemic (NHERI). This means I’m different from a lot of my peers, but maybe more and more people in the United States are finding reasons to homeschool that aren’t just related to pandemic restrictions.
I know that no matter if a parent homeschools or not, parental involvement and love are more important than any other institution when it comes to helping children thrive. Is it the church’s responsibility to raise a child? Is it a public school’s responsibility to raise a child? The answer to both is “no.”
The responsibility lies with the parents. Even if you do not homeschool, you spend more hours with your children than the state spends with them. This is good news! You are your child’s number one advocate and support.
Educating my children at home is more about them than it is about me. Remarkably, I actually enjoy it! I believe I’m using my creativity to impact children – something I felt called to when I began my public education journey decades ago.
Homeschooling does not make me special or morally good. It just makes me a parent who educates my children at home. As a former public school teacher, I’ve observed the differences between the education my children receive at home with me and the education I provided my students in the classroom years ago.
Sure, there are pros and cons to each scenario. Sure, there are days when I fail my children, as there were days when I failed my students. There are times when I think about alternatives to homeschooling. I know that does not make me a weak or bad parent.
I want to do what’s right for my children, and that might look like different things at different ages. In homeschooling them now, I am holding out hope that the small steps of consistent work will yield something greater than I could have imagined before.