In Defense of “School at Home”

“Remember: it’s homeschooling, not school at home.”

If I’ve heard or read this once, I’ve heard or read it a thousand times. And I think it’s stupid.

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe the people that spout this like gospel have good intentions. They believe homeschooling should be exciting and interesting, with every day filled with explorations and creative learning and deep discussions and fun. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Except when doing something different than their ideal means that you get shamed for being “less than.” When you aren’t considered a homeschooler because you are doing “school at home.”

In Defense of School at Home

“School at Home” vs. “Homeschooling”

I’ve never quite understood how they can grammatically and/or etymologically get away with this, anyway. I mean, the very literal definition of “homeschooling” has GOT to be doing school at home; am I right?

But the purists have created an entirely new definition for the term “homeschooling” as being something other than merely educating your kids at home by whatever means you see fit. Their definition involves doing it the way they think is best — which can’t involve desks or textbooks or a schedule or B’s, apparently — and which may or may not be the way your family thrives.

I personally hate any method that involves me having to do a lot of teacher prep, such as creating curriculum or doing crafts. Blecky.

I also prefer to have an objective evaluation system that involves quizzes and tests, or at least some type of black-and-white, it’s-either-right-or-wrong method of determining whether my kid has learned anything.

I don’t mind leading discussions or having my kids make projects (as long as I don’t have to help, LOL) or doing lotsa reading or research — but I don’t want to do those things all. the. time. And I don’t want to try to come up with a grade for activities as subjective as that and have it be the sole method of evaluation. I am, of course, going to love everything my kid creates/says/writes, so I can’t swear that I wouldn’t skew them towards higher grades than they, in fact, have earned.

I don’t trust myself to be accurate with stuff like this; and to me, accuracy in grading is important.

Anyone else out there who feels this way?

In Defense of Textbooks

One question I’d like to ask the non-school-at-home purists is this: What’s wrong with good ‘ol textbooks, y’all? Why do they have such a bad rap within your worldview? Cuz I, for one, love ‘em.

Here’s why:

1) Textbooks are created to provide information in a structured, thorough way. I don’t have to worry if we’re missing something important because my research about Ancient Egypt was limited to the two books I could find at the local library. And getting things out of order or not understanding something fully before moving on to the next thing? Doesn’t happen. We have all the info we need, and we can absorb it and then move on.

2) Textbooks provide a very effective vehicle for training our kids in the skill of independent learning. This skill, in my opinion, could be the most important one in their lives (after that of reading).

All my kids were 100% in charge of their learning during the latter part of high school, and they were thus prepared for college, where independent learning is how. things. are. The professor (or TA) doesn’t hold anyone’s hand and remind them when things are due; he hands out the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and shows up for lectures and office hours. It’s the student’s job to ask questions, study the appropriate pages, write the paper, or study for the test — and then turn things in on time or show up to take the thing when it’s scheduled.

Textbooks are great for getting your kids used to this type of scenario while still in your home when you’re not yet spending tens of thousands of dollars hello. And once your kids know how to learn all by themselves, they can do it for the rest of their lives. Anything wrong with that? Nope.

Related Reading: This is What Happens When You Use Independent Learning in Your Homeschool

3) Textbooks provide objective evaluation in the form of quizzes and tests (depending on the curriculum). This means you KNOW how much of the material your kid has learned, and you can choose to move on or review based on that information.

You can also be confident, when you record their grade, that it is not affected by your emotions on any given day. I don’t know about you, but when I’m frustrated with life, my kid is more likely to receive a bad grade on a project; but if all is right in my world, then they can do no wrong, and a good effort is worthy of an A even if the content is wholly inaccurate. LOL. But maybe that’s just me…

4) Textbooks are a known budget factor. They don’t often require extra materials or last-minute trips to the store. In fact, you can usually use a textbook for more than one student in your home.

We used old, hardcover Saxon math books five times over, as well as Apologia science and Rod & Staff grammar. No need for the latest and supposedly greatest; math and grammar don’t change, and while science kinda does, that doesn’t usually happen at the school-age level of understanding.

There were some years I hardly spent any money on new curriculum because I had the basics in textbook form to use again and again. Wouldn’t you love for once not to go into debt for curriculum purchases? Sheesh.

What’s Really Necessary

Here’s the ONLY thing you MUST do when homeschooling: obey your state’s homeschool law. That is I-T it. If anyone says that you “should” be doing something else, you can ignore them.

If you feel better with your kids at individual desks and you at the front of the room, don’t let the naysayers stop you. If you prefer an all-in-one curriculum so that you know everything is covered, then go right ahead. If you hate crafts, nature walks, and reading aloud, who cares?

Chances are as you grow more comfortable, you’ll be more open to other options, but if these give you more confidence, then you do YOU.

Related Reading: Dear Homeschool Mom Who Feels Like A Failure: Maybe You’re Looking at it Wrong

As long as your kids are learning what your state homeschool law says they should, and you are making sure they will be able to communicate with others and be responsible members of society, does it matter exactly how they get there?

Because here’s the main thing I want to point out for those who seem to have forgotten: There is no one right way to do this homeschool thing.

Can I just repeat that? There is no one right way to do this homeschool thing.

You are an adult who is capable of deciding what is best for YOUR family. If “school at home” works for you and yours, then rock on. If you prefer a more free-flowing exploration of the world, then more power to you. Let’s let each decide for themselves what they “should” do, okay? We can all happily co-exist in the homeschool world, y’all.

So no more shaming, and no more feeling less-than. Enjoy your kids and your homeschool, YOUR way.

And enjoy the diversity we have within the homeschool community. It’s a pretty neat place to learn in all sorts of ways.


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. Why do you choose to homeschool then if you want to do it the same way the schools do? I’m curious about your motivation to school at home instead of schooling at school.

    1. It’s a bummer that the original author didn’t return to answer your question about her specific motivations, but I’ve met many people who homeschool for non-academic reasons who have no problem with school-at-home methodology. They didn’t start homeschooling because of dissatisfaction with the school system, but rather for religious reasons, health reasons, bullying, severe allergies, or accommodating family schedules (travel, unusual days off or shift work for parents, etc). Many reasons to not “do school at school”!

    2. Hi Jimmie, I apologize for not seeing this sooner. As Kirsten mentions below, our reasons for homeschooling had not as much to do with the method of education at the schools as with the atmosphere and influences there. We wanted our kids at HOME. That was the main thing. HOW we educated them was always secondary. Frankly, the fact that I get to choose which resources to use and when to schedule a given subject and how long it will take and whether to review or not and what kind of test to give and when to take days off etc etc etc makes it feel not much like “doing it the same way the schools do.” I have the freedom to do what I want, whether that be textbooks or unschooling or something in between. That is what homeschooling is all about.

  2. It may be that one thinks of homeschooling as a choice/tool that helps achieve a desired lifestyle and not as a lifestyle in and of itself. So if your family loves to travel, for example, but you want to get the necessary academics done as well, the school-at-home method may be a good fit.

    If you’re like me and view homeschooling as just getting the diplomaish things done, then school-at-home makes sense. All the other things—crafts, read-alouds, exploring interests—just count as living. All of life is an education anyway.

    In the end, home is not school and can never be, and that’s why many people homeschool. The method doesn’t really matter.

    Great article!

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