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The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

learning about wild berriesI never really intended to be a homeschooler. Just like I never really thought I’d be a homebirther, I started out expecting to go down the same path as everyone else, and along the way I figured out why other people were choosing another option. The more I read, the more I realized, “hey, I think that might be the right thing for me!” And so I birthed both my babies at home, and now I am homeschooling them too.

While a homebirth is a relatively short event, with a professional midwife or two attending as a backup in case things go off course, homeschooling is a very long term endeavour that is undertaken largely on your own. There are homeschool co-ops and park days and community events to participate in (in my neighbourhood, at least), but on the whole, homeschooling is something you as a parent have to be alright with doing pretty much on your own.

On my good days, I’m quite OK with that. On my not-so-good days, well, not so much.

Lately I’ve been caught up in a vortex of doubt and conviction that goes round and round in my head. And so, for the sake of sharing and in the (perhaps vain) hope that writing it down will make it stop going round and round so much, here is my homeschooling pro and con list.

Advantages of Homeschooling

  • My daughter is a bubbly, outgoing little girl who regularly stops and talks to neighbours, friends, new people she’s just met at the park, cashiers, and anyone else she feels comfortable talking to. She loves to describe things she’s been learning about or tell stories about places we’ve been. I really don’t want to have this exuberance trained out of her by a teacher who needs her to sit down and be quiet for the sake of an orderly classroom, especially not while she’s young.
  • I love the idea of enthusiasm-based learning. I want to give my girls the tools and time they need to really learn about what fascinates them.
  • I really don’t want my daughter coming home with homework every night.
  • Learning at our own pace means we can take more time to learn things that are challenging.
  • Homelearning will allow us to keep family bonds strong, and will give the girls more time to be relaxing and having fun with their dad instead of having to do homework in the evening when he’s home from work.
  • Homelearning means my daughters will be more likely to have an adult present to guide and help them navigate social experiences.  Children are not very good role models or attachment figures for other children, and the teacher/student ratios in schools mean that there are not enough teachers to have an attachment relationship with every child. Also, I hate the idea of mean girls bullying my kids. Really, really hate it.
  • I don’t believe the conventional path of school-university-career-relationship-house-kids is the best or only way to succeed in life. Knowing what you’re good at and being able to creatively find a way to do that and make money at it is far more useful and important.
  • In the very big-picture view, I believe that the world that our children will inherit will most likely be a very different place than it is right now. There will probably be unprecedented challenges that will require creative, unconventional solutions. Learning how to think critically for oneself, even if that is counter to the general consensus, will probably be a very important skill to have. In my experience, school teaches just the opposite.

Challenges of Homeschooling

  • Risk of mom-burnout. I love my daughters and want to have a strong attachment with them, but I also want and need them to have strong attachments with other adults in their lives. I know we can figure out ways to do this within our community of friends and fellow homeschoolers, but if we ever move away from our current community we’d be really isolated for a while.
  • I suspect the mom-teacher relationships get intermingled and can perhaps interrupt learning. For example, if there is an issue in the parent/child relationship, that might make a child resist learning from the parent, which could lead to a power struggle around learning activities. Keeping our relationship healthy and strong by working things out ASAP is the solution, I’m sure, but still, this intimidates me.
  • I want to have things going on in my life other than just my kids. A healthy writing career will help me keep myself strong, but making the time for that while homeschooling is intimidating too. I know lots of women do it, so I know it can be done. I think I need to be better at organizing and time management to make it work.
  • Fear of the unknown. Not much to do about this one except do my research and trust my own instincts, I guess.
  • Standing up to what other people think. Stereotypes about homeschoolers abound, and the, “so, are you going to preschool?” questions have already started. I know it really matters not a whit what other people think, but my desire to fit in and be the same as everyone else is still lurking beneath the surface. Ironically, I believe my desire to fit in stems from being bullied and teased at school. The idea of defending my choice to educate my children at home to everyone and anyone who asks makes me feel like becoming a hermit. Perhaps I just need to grow a thicker skin and stand up for myself a bit better.

For anyone who’s interested in learning more about homeschooling, here are the books I’ve read that have helped me learn about why and how people homeschool. If you’re an experienced homeschooler, feel free to leave more book recommendations for me in the comments. :)

Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto

Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto

Teach Your Own by John Holt

Teach Your Own by John Holt

Family Matters by David Guterson

Family Matters by David Guterson

Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Do you homeschool? Have you considered it? What are your pros and cons of homeschooling?

Disclaimer: Book links are affiliate links to Amazon.  If you buy the book through the links I get a small but much-appreciated affiliate payment.

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • grandma linda July 23, 2010, 5:46 am

    Hi,
    In response to your request for more book recommendations, just wanted to let you know I’ve turned *The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self into a 15 Year Anniversary Edition as an e-book so it could be much less expensive at $8.95. It can be found at http://booklocker.com/books/4734.html. It’s especially helpful for those “doubtful moments,” as well as explaining why and how homeschooling might be a very good choice for families today.
    Good luck with your learning journey!
    Linda

    • michelle July 25, 2010, 8:28 am

      Thanks grandma linda. I’ll check it out. :)

  • Nichole July 23, 2010, 10:11 am

    We started homeschooling our daughter last year, and I did have a hard time with the “what preschool are you going to” questions. It’s been easier this year, even though going to kindergarten is a Very Big Deal and thus all of the moms have been discussing it. I’ve tried to be more verbal about why we’re homeschooling rather than just saying “we’re homeschooling” and changing the subject.

    I think my biggest issue is going to be the power struggle. My daughter is very strong-willed. She also loves to learn, though, and that ought to work in my favor!
    Nichole´s last [type] ..Take a chance and eat some food

    • michelle July 25, 2010, 8:33 am

      I tend to avoid the schooling discussion in real life, especially with people I don’t know too well. With good friends I feel comfortable talking about why I think homeschooling is a good choice for us, but I have very little desire to defend our choices to people who either a) think I’m completely nuts or b) think I’m making a criticism of their choice to send their child to school. But truthfully, I haven’t had much confrontation about homeschooling in real life, I’m just especially sensitive to it and a little apprehensive.

      My daughter sounds like yours – strong willed and loves to learn! I think if we can do most of our learning in a fun, real-world way she and I will be fine.

  • Kelsey August 5, 2010, 4:47 pm

    Michelle,
    I’ve really been enjoying your articles, and I have to say that this has been one topic that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I remember being bullied in school, not having the capacity to “sit still and shut up”, and getting reprimanded time and time again for being too exuberant about things that i was really excited about. They eventually knocked it out of me in highschool, but by that point i was thoroughly bored with the teaching methods, and responded by sleeping through classes as a defense mechanism. They never managed to fit me into a box, but they sure tried. When it comes time to make my own decision about whether or not my child will attend school, I’m pretty convinced already that I would prefer to take the challenges that homeschooling brings rather than subject my child to the things that I went through, that still effect me to this date. Even the thought of having a job that requires me to be somewhere against my will for hours at a time provokes a feeling of a panic attack, a symptom that began in elementary school. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling these last months, and i have spoken to a number of parents who have children in kindergarten and grade one. Across the board there have been complaints that their once exuberant child has been complaining of head and tummy aches, and that their child in grade one is coming home with an hours worth of homework. Isn’t six in school enough?
    Anyway, no ranting, but i really appreciate the post, and i can relate to a lot of your pro and con list. As a writer, i’d like to ensure that i still get time to work on my own projects, but i can definitely understand your wariness of the school system. Six year olds should not be made to sit still for five hours, nor should they be receiving an hours worth of homework once they’re finally finished.
    http://bkmarcus.com/blog/images/comics/CalvinSnowflake.gif

    • michelle August 7, 2010, 9:01 am

      Kelsey, thanks for your comment, and for the Calvin & Hobbes. :) Very apt!

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