A reoccurring theme on TheBamBlog is my exploration of my homeschool upbringing. I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade. My four siblings were all homeschooled as well, give or take a few years in public school at the front or back end of their educations.
A year ago, I pulled my 4th grade twin boys out of public school to homeschool them for a semester while we were in flux with a military move. Wow—was that an experience.
There are so many great benefits of homeschooling, but there are some challenges too, as well as some serious pitfalls that, in my 12 years of being homeschooled and my 6 months as a homeschool mom, I believe homeschooling parents should avoid:
8 Things Homeschool parents should avoid doing:
1. Making public school a threat
My parents never threatened to send us to public school on “bad days” but I had plenty of friends who heard this threat on a regular basis. This warning to “shape up or I’m going to send you to public school” struck fear into their hearts, making all things having to do with public school terrifying–including teachers, in general, or children who went to public school. Public school was seen as the ultimate punishment and a place to be avoided at all costs (like prison).
The thing is, teachers are wonderful people, public school children can become your child’s best friends, and public school may become a needed schooling option in the future. Sometimes life happens—a spouse dies, an aging parent needs
Parents, try not to use public school as a threat
2. Allowing your children to develop an us vs. them mentality
Growing up, my homeschooled friends and I turned up our noses at “public schoolers.” In fact, we even used it as an insult—“She’s dressing like a public schooler.” “They’re acting like a public schooler!” It meant “worldly” or in reality, someone who didn’t fit into our prescribed, very conservative homeschool culture (I remember even saying this about a girl who wore wide-legged jeans, a hot fashion item at the time. ::cringe::).
Homeschooling is much more mainstream today but the “us vs. them” attitude is still alive and well. In the same way that we wouldn’t want someone calling our homeschooled kids “weird” or “unsocialized”, we shouldn’t let our kids say derogatory things about kids who just happen to be schooled in a different way.
3. Arguing that socialization doesn’t matter
As a homeschooled student, I had a speech prepared for that never-ending question: “What about socialization?” I argued, like I had been taught, that main-stream socialization produces one-sided, cookie-cutter adults; that I was better socialized because I interacted with people of all ages (like my parents and siblings); that I was more prepared for adulthood than my “public school” peers. In addition, I could list half a dozen activities I was involved in every week!
Looking back at my homeschool experience, I can now see the real complexity of this issue and the gaps in socialization that I couldn’t see as a child or teen. The bottom line is, the socialization does matter. In my 10 part series “Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out,” the article I wrote about socialization was probably the most fascinating research of the study. Check it out here.
For us, socialization is one large reason that I believe public school is a better option for one of my sons. Because he is on the Autism spectrum,
4. Giving up on your interests or friendships
When I was homeschooling my boys (with two little ones on tow), it felt completely all-consuming. I didn’t have (or make) time for friends and I felt too exhausted to pursue my hobbies or interests in the evenings. I poured myself completely into homeschooling but I was drying up in the process. I felt like a shell of myself, even though I was giving my all to my kids.
If I were to homeschool my kids again, I would be sure to prioritize friend-time (and date nights) as well as my artistic hobbies and pursuits.
5. Neglecting your mental health
Part of my struggle with homeschooling was not prioritizing my needs (like friend-time or hobbies) and this took a toll on my mental health. I also really struggled because I was the sole educator for my children who have special needs, including learning disabilities. I often felt alone and discouraged, even when I tried to reach out for help and support from others, like in homeschool co-ops.
Anxiety and depression soon crept in and I battled the exhaustion, sadness, irritability, and dread of each new homeschool day as a result.
Parents, prioritizing your mental health while homeschooling cannot be emphasized enough—especially if your children have special needs. During the semester we homeschooled, I reached out and got a counselor for myself and my son. Even though I still struggled, counseling was a positive step in the right direction.
6. Assuming your child will follow in your faith footsteps just because you homeschool
Although not all families homeschool for religious reasons, faith is often a huge part of the homeschool family. While homeschooling, we really enjoyed the ease of integrating the Bible and our faith into our everyday curriculum. Bible study was a huge part of my homeschool experience growing up as well.
However, not all homeschool kids follow in their parents’ faith footsteps when they grow up. While this may be a struggle of Christian parents in general, it seems like an especially hard blow to Christian homeschool parents who place a great emphasis on faith or who homeschool primarily because of their faith.
The truth is that even in kids are soaked in a faith-saturated homeschool atmosphere, it doesn’t mean that they will absorb that faith for themselves. Ultimately, choosing to be a person of faith is a personal decision and does not automatically occur just because a child has been raised in a religious or Christian home. Keeping an open heart and hand concerning your child’s personal faith decision can help to soften the deep heartache that often occurs concerning this issue.
7. Assuming your high schooler does not need you
One of the joys of homeschooling—both as a homeschool student and as a homeschool parent—is enthusiastic learning, especially if that learning is self-led. For many parents and homeschool students, independent learning is the goal. By the time I was in high school, I was planning my own curriculum and lessons; I rarely needed “help” or support from my mom during the school day.
Except that I really did.
If I was bored with math, I would skip it. If I didn’t understand the literature I was reading, I would just shrug my shoulders and move on. Sometimes it took a failed test—like chemistry—to alert my mom that I didn’t know the material. I never pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
As a high school homeschool student, I needed support, even if I didn’t realize it or even want it at the time.
Parents, your homeschooled high school student needs your involvement and support more than ever, especially if they are college-bound. Be aware of where they are at academically, provide them with resources (tutors, co-ops, community college courses), and don’t allow them to coast these last few years before graduation.
8. Feeling ashamed if you stop homeschooling
While I loved being homeschooled growing up, homeschooling my own kids was very hard (for many reasons) and my husband and I made the decision to put our sons back in public school. It was the right decision for all of us.
But just because it was right doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle with the decision. I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t make it work. I wondered if it was because I didn’t (or did?) do x, y, and z. I wondered if I gave up too quickly (everyone says the first year is the hardest).
At the time, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t make it as a homeschool mom.
But now, several months removed, I know that homeschooling was not the right choice for me or my kids and I don’t need to be ashamed to admit that.
I’m going to say it again: Parents, there is no shame in admitting that homeschooling is not a good fit, or may not be a good fit anymore, even if it once was the perfect schooling choice for your family.
Thanks for reading! Want to read more about my homeschool experience? Check out the articles below:
Homeschool, Public School and the heart of socialization
My kids are now the “Public School Kids” I used to judge
Facing the stereotypes: our GOOD public school experience
The end of the homeschooling experiment
Part 1 of my 10 part “Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out” series
Are you a homeschool parent or were you homeschooled yourself? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts here or on my Facebook page.