If you don’t homeschool, you don’t know what it’s like to live this life. Because homeschoolers are a definite minority in our society, they remain something of a mystery. Rarely are homeschoolers portrayed positively, much less accurately, in film,
television, books, etc.
That is why I’m sharing this series of Monday posts entitled ” Growing Up Homeschooled.” There’s a decent chance you’ve seen a parent comment on what it means to be homeschooled–how about the perspective of someone who was homeschooled and chose to pursue that path for her own children?
But, now, what about Mom and Dad?
The Path Less Taken
*For the sake of simplicity and not trying to navigate the muddy waters of providing lots of difference examples to fit every family type, for the sake of this post, I’m just going to go with the homeschooling standard of Dad = working breadwinner, Mom = stay-at-home homeschooling mom. It isn’t perfect, but as I’ve said before, nothing is.*
It takes a special breed of person to homeschool. Society deems it normal to send your kids somewhere else for the majority of the day once they’re 6 years old (if not sooner). This is the norm despite widespread complaints and problems about school standards, social atmospheres, uses of funding, and much more. Whenever I hear mothers go on and on and on about all the problems in their school district, I have to bite my tongue to avoid blurting out, “Why don’t you homeschool?”
It is tiring to be a parent all the time. It is tiring to be a teacher and a parent without a break most days. Homeschooling makes many things easier, but it isn’t easy. Are there days when I want to fling my children into the school bus and run, dancing, back into the house?
Most of the time, though, I’m just so grateful that I live somewhere I can teach my children myself, watch them grow through all the stages, not just the baby ones, and be there for them when they need me.
On top of its own challenges, homeschooling welcomes judgement from strangers into your life on a national, if not global, scale.
There’s the temptation to turn the tables and fling judgement back at those who peer down their noses at us, but another thing we, as homeschooling parents, must remember is that WE are ambassadors of homeschooling.
That’s why posts like this one are important, because we need to have the ability to calmly and classily pull back the veil and say, “Actually… here’s what it’s like….”
Money, Costs, and Bonuses
Homeschooling isn’t as expensive as some people think, but it isn’t without its own costs.
From textbooks to higher electricity consumption, homeschooling affects everything. You spend more time at home, and so the house sees more use. You are responsible for getting your kids to any extracurriculars, so you might spend more on gas than you wouldn’t otherwise, but this is certainly not universal. How much money you spend on food and special outings depends on lifestyle… which brings me to the point that homeschooling is a lifestyle.
Generally speaking, you’re going to lose out on some potential income if one or both of the parents is responsible for the “school” part of homeschooling. Homeschooling can be done cheaply by taking advantage of local libraries, second-hand books, and many other tricks. It can also be expensive with online classes, brand-new everything, tutors, and much more.
Growing up, most of the families I knew who homeschooled were middle class, near the poverty line, or (probably) below the poverty line. I knew many families who lived in manufactured housing. I knew a single-mother who managed to homeschool her boys by being a work-at-home mom, and I knew multiple families where the the kids were “office-schooled,” and did their work in a backroom of the family business.
It’s a common misconception that there’s 1 way to homeschool. There isn’t. It varies so much family to family (remember #1 on the Pro list?). There isn’t one type of homeschooling anymore than there is one type of family.
Homeschooling can be very good for families. You spend more time with one another than the average American family, and this definitely makes a difference.
Instead of spending 8 hours with your peer group, you spend it with your siblings. It is my experience that homeschooling siblings tend to be very close, even if they do fight a lot.
Strain, Responsibility, and Guilt
Homeschooling isn’t easy, for many reasons.
Sometimes, homeschooling puts too much strain on Mom or the family as a whole. I’m not going to be naive and say that homeschooling is for everyone, because it isn’t. Some moms can’t handle being their kids’ mother, teacher, organizer, cheerleader, chauffeur, and disciplinarian 24-7. Some families cannot afford the financial sacrifices it takes to homeschool, even if they try really hard and go without luxuries to try to make it happen.
Homeschooling isn’t perfect.
A lot of pressure goes on the teaching parent to not only be a great parent, but also a great teacher.
Speaking as a homeschooling mom, this pressure definitely gets to me. I think back to when I was a little kid, and it honestly never crossed my mind that my mom could be a bad teacher–I just assumed she was great! Thankfully, this was true 🙂 My mom was a good teacher. She made mistakes, sure, but who doesn’t?
Now that I’m the teacher, I feel the pressure. I want my kids to excel. I want them to be confident in math and science from a young age. I want them to have the opportunities to explore the arts and grow their creativity. I want them to be excellent writers so they can communicate effectively in whatever field they pursue into adulthood. I want them to be intellectually challenged without feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. I want them to know another language, if not two! I want them to explore computer coding and robotics!
I want so much for them… and it all. comes. down. to. me.
For my children to make the most of the opportunities available to them, I have to find those opportunities, and I have to make them happen. There isn’t a middle-man handling all this. It’s on me.
The thought that my laziness or weariness could hold my children back academically is terrifying.
That being said, I also recognize that as a well-educated woman with a skill at organization, I am fully capable of giving my kids a great education at home.
Nagging and doubting thoughts will always affect me. I’m naturally a self-doubter who’s prone to depression… Maybe that doesn’t make me the perfect choice to teach my kids, but I don’t think my perfect choice actually exists.
On the flip side of things, a lot of pressure is put on the working parent, since the spouse is usually too busy handling the kids and all their affairs to aid the family’s income.
In addition to that, there are some moms (like me) who feel guilty for not contributing financially to the family!!!!!!!
Advances in technology and society ease the pressure on some parents. There are more online classes available than ever before, allowing many moms to outsource some of the homeschooling (particularly during High School) to a teacher through the computer. Similarly, more and more people are able to work from home, which opens money-making opportunities for both parents, regardless of who is the “teacher” day-to-day.
Unique Issues… Or Not?
I guess the TL;DR of this post is this:
Homeschooling presents certain relational, financial, and practical problems that parents must face when they choose to keep their kids home.
But many of these issues are not unique to homeschoolers!
What average American family doesn’t struggle to strike the right balance between time at work and time at home? What American couple hasn’t had a serious discussion (or two, or three) about who should work? Where you should work? How much time should be spent at work?
What mother doesn’t struggle with mom-guilt for any of the million reasons why mom-guilt exists?
What father doesn’t stress about providing for his family and giving them everything they need?
Homeschooling, in most cases, gives some different reasons for the stresses in parents’ lives, but it by no means gives radically unique stresses that wouldn’t exist if you just put your kids in public school.
What is unique about homeschooling is the experience.
You can’t replicate the lifestyle of homeschooling any way except to live it, and I can’t speak for everyone, but I can definitely say that, for me, the homeschooling life is the key.
I don’t want anything other than the homeschooling life, and I’m willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to make it happen.