Should I or Shouldn’t I Homeschool?

Last week we posted Jody’s testimony of how she began homeschooling her son, Chase in Mom, Will You Homeschool Me?

By our small-blog standards, this thing has gone viral. Today alone, we’ve already had more than 14,000 visits to the blog! Do you know what this tells me? A lot of people are looking for education alternatives for their kids, and a lot of people are taking a serious look at homeschooling.

Jody’s post did a great job of illustrating how difficult this decision can be. Deciding whether or not to homeschool is no small choice to make. You’ve got to count the cost, and if you decide to do it, you’ve got to be committed, because I can guarantee that your resolve will be challenged along the way.

If you’ve never homeschooled, it can be hard to think through the pros and cons, so we wanted to post something from a veteran perspective to help families who are considering this option.

Between Jody and I, we’ve homeschooled 8 kids (not including my toddler, but we homeschool him too) for a combined 23 years (13 for her and 10 for me). We’ve experienced working with a special needs child, high schoolers, pre-readers, academically gifted and academically challenged kids and audio, visual, kinesthetic learners.

We’ve also had an umbrella school for homeschool families for four years and counseled many families on most aspects of homeschooling.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’ve been there and seen a lot, so here are some basic pros and cons that we’ve seen over the years.

Homeschooling Pros

  • Customized Education — You can customize your child’s education. This is my absolute favorite! I LOVE that my ninth grader can start her own business and spend a good portion of her day learning about the formation of business entities and marketing strategies. I love that she can take the time she needs to perfect her craft so that she can offer an excellent service to her clients. I love that my 4th grader can spend a big part of his day growing plants and learning about botany because that’s what he loves. I love that two of my kids can use their peak performance hours to write movie scripts, film the movie, learn how to use professional editing and special effects software and master a final copy. And even with the standard academic subjects, they can all move as slowly or as quickly as they need to actually learn it.

  • Learning at Their Own Pace — Which leads me to my next pro — the goal of education can be learning, not passing a test or getting a grade, but actually gaining knowledge and understanding and being able to apply it. Sometimes that happens much faster than the standard American classroom allows it to happen. Other times, it takes a lot longer than a school lesson would take. It all depends on the kid and the subject the kid is learning.
  • Maximized Time — This is similar to the first two, but homeschooling avoids wasted time spent on transporting to and from school, transitioning from one class or one activity to another, waiting on long lines for food, water and the bathroom and constant distractions of friends, other kids’ questions, noises, sights, etc. Our children’s childhood is precious, and homeschooling allows you to maximize it.

  • Character Training Opportunities — So many people say that they couldn’t homeschool their kids because their kids would drive them crazy and they don’t think their kids would even listen to them. Homeschooling gives parents the time they need to teach communication and interpersonal skills and obedience. I’m not saying that it’s never frustrating or difficult, but when they’re with you all day, you can take the time you need to shape their character.

  • Community Involvement — Homeschooled kids can interact with the community throughout the day. Unlike their peers who are gathered into age specific groups for most of the day, homeschoolers tend to spend their days with kids who are both much younger and much older than themselves, adults, the elderly and people in different job sectors and socio-economic classes. For example, on Mondays our kids take a drama class with a large group of middle and high schoolers. On Tuesdays they spend the morning downtown with their youth pastor from church talking to to the homeless and offering them food and water. Then they spend the afternoon at a local tea house doing schoolwork, where they’ve been able to network and find new venues for their small businesses. After that they go the opera house, where they work with musicians and performers from around the world. On Wednesdays they take a few classes and then study at home or at a park. On Thursdays they take a class, sing at a local prayer house, babysit little kids and head back to the opera house. What I’m getting at here is that homeschooled kids have the flexibility to really connect with the community. Because of their availability, our kids have had the chance to be on the radio, attend community luncheons, sit in on city planning meetings, volunteer at a local parade, work with the Humane Society and nursing homes, and so much more.

  • Self-Esteem and Confidence — There’s a difference between self-esteem and confidence. Self-esteem is how much you value yourself. Confidence is a belief in your abilities. We’ve got a post on how to build self-esteem and one on building confidence, but homeschooling can help with both. For one, they’re free from the negative social aspects of schooling (bullies, unhealthy comparisons, unrealistic expectations, etc.). As kids are given the freedom to spend a good portion of the day discovering who they are and finding purpose, their self-esteem will rise, and as they take the time to practice and become successful in a variety of things, their confidence will increase.
  • Life Skills — They can participate in the running of the household. Jody did two great posts on Raising the Head of a Household and Raising a Proverbs 31 Woman. I encourage you to check them out. You’ll be inspired! But homeschooling affords you the time to really train and equip your kids for adulthood, and along the way, you get lots of help. Speaking of which, check out the post on how to Turn Your Kids Into Clean Machines!
  • Experiential Learning — There’s greater opportunity for experiential learning. This is another BIG benefit for our family. We LOVE a good field trip, and we take A LOT of them! A few times a month we go somewhere — a theater, a dairy farm, an art studio, a pizza place, an aquarium, a science center, a newspaper printing press, a castle made entirely of recycled materials, a hydroponic farm, a TV station, a supermarket, a metal fabrication shop…you get the idea. We like field trips. We also love internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing opportunities and mentorships. And we seek out those opportunities like a dog on a scent!
  • Scheduling Freedom — We school year round, but that doesn’t mean we’re all work and no play. Oh no, no! We LOVE a day at Busch Gardens, and we love that we can go on Tuesday when everyone else is at school. No lines, no crowds – it’s beautiful. We happen to live in a vacation destination spot, so whenever family and friends are in town visiting our beautiful beaches and warm weather, we can take time off and go sight-seeing or boating or to an amusement park with them. Just as my husband has the flexibility to schedule his vacation time when he wants, we can schedule our time off when we want. We can also have occasional PJ days, and on a rainy day, when everyone feels sluggish and drab, we can make food together and cuddle on the couch to watch a documentary. Netflix and Amazon Prime are a homeschoolers best friends!
  • Well Rested and Hydrated Kids — Homeschooled kids can develop a sleep schedule that works well for their bodies and their family lifestyle. We’ve got a friend whose husband is a chef. They’re all night owls so they can involve dad in their life, but they can also get the sleep they need in the morning. And how about hydration? I know it sounds weird, but this was actually one of the minor reasons I decided to homeschool. My daughter’s kindergarten class didn’t allow them to keep water at their desks. Instead they took them to the water fountain twice a day. I knew that a few sips at the water fountain and her water bottle at lunch weren’t giving her the 20+ ounces she needed a day. At home I could schedule two big water breaks and make sure she was always hydrated – a super important part of being able to learn!

Homeschooling Cons

  • Financial Restraints — Homeschooling can be expensive. It doesn’t have to be (let’s face it, a library card is free), but if you want to use pre-packed curriculum, take special classes and benefit from a bunch of cool field trips, it takes money.  The good news is, you set the budget and let that determine what you can and can’t do. There’s always the library and the Internet.
  • Not Being Able to Work — It’s hard to work outside the home. Working and homeschooling at the same time can be done, but it’s no small task, and it’s probably not a good idea for a new homeschooling parent. It takes top notch organization and time management systems, a student who is willing and able to work well independently, and an effective process for monitoring your kid’s progress.

  • Sports, Music and Art Limitations — Sports, music and arts opportunities may be limited. We happen to live in a state and a county where there are no limitations on the public extra curricular activities that we can do. As county registered homeschoolers, our kids can participate in any public school sport or music or art program. They can even take classes at local public schools. But it’s not like that everywhere, and for some kids that can be a big drawback. You can seek out extra curricular activities (our kids do opera, Civil Air Patrol, scouts, art and music) or you could team up with other homeschool families and offer homeschool sports. Here in Sarasota, we’ve got homeschool tennis, volleyball and archery (I’m probably missing some others).

  • Therapy Limitations — Limited access to special needs therapy. Again, here in Florida, our kids can get all the speech, physical and occupational therapy they need through the public school system, but that may not be the case in other parts of the U.S., which can be a huge problem for some kids.
  • Limited Social Opportunities — It never fails. Whenever someone asks about homeschooling, we can expect this question: “But what about socialization?” We’re going to do a whole post on the myth of socialization, but let me just say that I’ve homeschooled in three different states, and I’ve never had trouble offering my kids great social opportunities. But I do realize that for some people, there is not a large local homeschool community. We’re blessed to have a few homeschool graduations and proms and yearbooks to choose from. Because of the extensive network in our area of homeschool families, our kids don’t have to miss out on anything public school kids do, but we know that’s not the case for every family. The truth is, as a homeschooler, you will have seek out social opportunities for your kids.
  • Your Own Challenges and Limitations — Here’s a tough one to face: as a homeschool parent, your own struggles and bad habits and challenges and limitations will be on display for your kids. If you’re disorganized or have a short fuse or are addicted to the television or the phone or the Internet; if you are prone to white lies and excuses or battle depression or overeat, your kids are not only going to know, but they’re probably to going to pick up the same issues. Remember, more is caught than taught. Your kids will do what you do, not what you say. But there’s a great silver lining in this dark cloud — homeschooling can also be the catalyst for you to begin making the changes you’ve always wanted to make in your own life. Being a role model for someone else can be a powerful motivator! So pick one thing; do some research; make a plan to fix it, and then work the plan. When you’ve got that one licked, move on to the next.

We hope we’ve helped you in this process. While you’re here, leave us a comment below and tell us what pros and cons we’ve missed!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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