Here’s the long awaited (sorry for the three month delay) part two of the pros and cons of homeschooling. Elizabeth did an excellent job tackling the positive side of things, so here’s where I chime in with my take on the dark side of home education. Hopefully this can help prepare people who are planning to make the transition with some of the obstacles they’ll soon be facing, and give some encouragement that no obstacle, no matter how difficult, can’t be overcome.
1. Home schooling presents financial challenges. Homeschooling is expensive. There’s no other way to put it. As US citizens, our tax dollars go to fund public schools. Unfortunately, we don’t get to opt out when we educate our children ourselves. So we’re effectively paying for our children to be educated in the public school system, and again to educate them at home.
Curriculum doesn’t come cheap. Sure, there are ways to teach kids all kinds of things without pre-packaged textbook/workbook combinations, provided what you find meets your state requirements. Sometimes (many times, in fact) the price of the curriculum is worth it to avoid the hassle of scrapping together a rag-tag mix of materials.
2. There’s more homework for parents. As your child’s teacher, you have to know the material inside and out, backwards and forwards. We’ve tried the “stay one lesson ahead” approach, which works just fine until the kids start asking questions. Nothing exposes the ignorance of a parent like an inquisitive three-year old.
Some systems we’ve used are quick to learn. Others, like Saxon Phonics, took longer to learn and set up every night than it did for the kids to do their lesson. That just doesn’t cut it in our house.
While the parental workload is not a hurdle that can’t be overcome, the time required for parents is a major factor in deciding to home school. If you think you’ll just read from a book and call it a day, think again.
3. There’s no escape from your kids. Personally, I don’t see this as a con at all, but I recognize parental burnout is something a lot of parents deal with. It’s true that if you home school, you lose most of your “me time” in the same way having an infant means you lose most of your “sleep time.” Most parents would agree it’s more than worth the investment, but be aware that if time for your hobbies is a priority, your homeschooling efforts will suffer.
4. College admissions can be tricky. This is not an area I have any personal experience with, but have heard it raised from time to time. Frankly, I don’t see the problem. When I was making my rounds applying for colleges, I was told repeatedly the ACT scores (or SATs, depending which schools you’re looking at) were the first and primary thing a school would look at.
Perhaps your child has amazing ACT scores, but was home schooled. That could be one of the things their college of choice would frown upon. But it seems to me this is something they could just as likely smile upon instead. The bigger factor, however, isn’t so much where they attended school, but what they did while there.
Again, this is a valid objection, but nothing a little preparation can’t easily overcome. Be sure to encourage your child to get involved in community activities that aren’t available to the average high-schooler who is assigned to a desk from 8:00 to 3:00, such as entrepreneurial pursuits, helping with a local election, or volunteering at local charities. That ought to get the folks at the college admissions office smiling.
5. Some people just don’t get it. If you are homeschooling, planning to home school, have expressed interest in homeschooling, or have been known to use the words “home” and “school” in the same sentence, then be ready for the third degree. Everyone and their dog will want to know why you’d want to do such a wing-ding thing as teach your own kids.
6. Parents have to face their child’s weaknesses. If Johnny has a stuttering problem, Johnny’s dad doesn’t get to brush it off as something the school will fix. If Sally is dyslexic, Sally’s mom doesn’t get to ignore it and hope the “experts” will sort things out. While there are resources available to parents, it’s important to note you will be face to face with your child’s issues in a deeper and more constant (dare I say nagging) way if you choose to home educate.
7. Parents take on sole responsibility for their children’s education. Yep, with homeschooling the brunt of the work falls on the parents (most often the mom). It’s up to you to make sure they can read, write, and memorize the atomic mass of plutonium.
But this isn’t so much a con as the main reason for homeschooling. You get to choose their curriculum. You choose what they learn, how they learn it, and when they learn it. Feeling overwhelmed? Realize it’s no different than how you chose when, how, and where they would learn to ride a bike. That’s considered a bonding activity, so why view the rest of their education as a burden?
8. Parents may feel inadequate to address the needs of gifted and special needs students. Third time’s a charm. Let me restate the last two points in order to deal with this one: it’s hard, but there are resources available. Places like the National Home Education Network (NHEN) provide a lot of valuable information, but when it comes to the actual day to day interaction, there’s no hand-offs. You get to love and cherish and struggle with that child every day. And that’s a good thing.
9. Extended time with family can strain tense relationships or lead to burnout on the part of the teaching parent. This one hits especially close to home. We had this issue with our oldest daughter, Mara. As a stubborn little girl, she tried our patience, and for a short time we even considered putting her back into public school. Strained in reference to our relationship would be a nice way of putting it.
One of the joys of having a flexible schedule was that my wife was able to take brakes as needed to recharge. Talking with other home schoolers for support was also a much needed relief. Elizabeth learned she wasn’t alone and was encouraged to keep at it. I know Mara and Elizabeth have grown closer because of it, but recognizing it can seem like too much for some people.
10. Family crises, illness and lax supervision by parents can interfere with learning. If you like structure, you’ll have to realize from the get-go that at times your carefully crafted schedule will be put on hold, ignored, laughed at by you and everyone you know, and sometimes just sent through the wood chipper for good measure. Life just gets in the way.
We’ve had periods of months where there was little to no schooling going on. There are illnesses, family crisis, and spontaneous pie eating contest related mishaps that can take time away from schooling. This is frustrating, but shouldn’t catch you by surprise. Your adult life is full of such surprises, why would your homeschooling be any different?
11. Parents must search for activities such as sports and music that are easily accessible at school. Very true, but home school networks can help you in this area. Or you can take the simple route and just get a list of sports from your local school. It’s really not hard to keep connected with sports if you’re willing to make a trip to the local school office.
12. No Time for House Work. Because home schooling takes up a lot of time in preparation and delivery, you may run out of time for house hold duties and chores. Yep, some days you just have to let other things go. You may not have a perfectly clean house all the time, but is your focus your house, or your kids?
13. They Just Don’t Listen. We get this one a lot. “How do you get them to listen?” Practice! It’s all in training your kids. This goes for all areas of your life. Structure, and consistency are big. If you don’t feel in control, your kids will know and use it against you. Pacing yourself and figuring out your priority goes a long way.
Think I missed one? Think my list didn’t fully address a common objection? Leave a comment and let me know.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dean Mehrkens is a marriage and family coach who blogs about home life subjects at www.homeSTRONG.net. He has invested the past decade loving his wife and raising their eight children and aims to help others to do the same (except with their own spouse and kids, not his, because that would be weird.)