We’ve been homeschooling since our 16-year-old was toddling, so I suppose that makes me a veteran homeschooler. I didn’t expect to follow this path, honestly. I was a teacher — like, an actual schoolteacher in a real classroom — in my former life. The thought of leaving that career to educate my own kids never crossed my mind.
And yet, here we are. Life is funny.
I know that homeschooling is a mystery for many people, so I like to share my experiences to demystify it a bit. Like most choices, homeschooling has its pros and cons. Interestingly, some of the pros are also cons in my book. (Like I said, life is funny.)
Every homeschooler could make their own unique list like this, but here are five awesome things and five not-so-awesome things about teaching your own kids.
Let’s start with the not-so-awesome:
1. The Weight of Responsibility
If my kids aren’t well-educated, it’s totally on my head. That’s a lot to take on with three kids at different ages and stages. I can’t blame a cruddy teacher — I am the cruddy teacher. I can’t afford to slack, which is a bummer because slacking is something I’m really good at.
2. Messy House
I suppose this isn’t a given, but it is in my house. My husband and I both work from home and we have three kids homeschooling. Throw in cooperative schooling with a few other families, which involves frequently having nine or ten kids in my home at one time, and you can see how it’s hard to keep up with housework. Learning isn’t always neat and tidy, unfortunately.
3. Lots of Togetherness
This is one of those cons that’s also a pro. I love being with my kids. I also love being alone. As a homeschooling family, I get lots of time with my kids, but I have to purposefully carve out time by myself. I need it. Need it. But I don’t always get it as much as I need it. All togetherness and no aloneness makes Mommy a crazy lady.
4. Having To Be in Charge of Structure
Some don’t struggle with this so much, but I suck at this part of homeschooling. I am a consummate Type-B person when it comes to schedules and such. That flexibility comes in quite handy with homeschooling in many ways, but not always in this way. I need a teacher’s aide whom I can saddle with creating and maintaining a consistent routine.
I don’t know any homeschoolers who don’t occasionally question if they’re doing the right thing. And even if you are sure, there are always questions when something is “off” with one of your kids. Does my child struggle with anxiety because it runs in the family or because we’re homeschooling? Are they missing out on important experiences not being in school? Are there things I’m totally forgetting to teach them? Most of the time, I can reason my way through with positive answers to such questions, but the questions are always there.
Okay, now for the good stuff:
1. Not Missing Any Part of Childhood
My kids have gotten to be kids, and we’ve gotten to witness their full childhoods up close. One of the best things about homeschooling is that kids are sheltered a bit from the forces of society that want them to grow up too fast. Shelter isn’t always a good thing, but in this aspect it is. I love that my 12-year-old is still more interested in make-believe than makeup. Watching their innocence melt naturally and gradually over time has been lovely.
2. Getting to Learn at Their Own Pace
I initially chose to homeschool because I felt our early-to-read oldest child would have been academically bored in school. I’m thankful we ended up homeschooling our other kids for the opposite reason. Our middle child takes longer to master things, but once she does, she takes off like a rocket. She didn’t really read fluently until she was 8 or 9, and then she devoured 48 full-length novels in a year. Having the freedom to learn at their own pace without undue pressure has helped our kids thrive.
3. Close Family Relationships
Again, a pro to the con of togetherness. We’ve been able to really get to know our kids, and vice versa. Our family is tight. Our kids fight sometimes (togetherness!), but overall they get along well and have a lot of fun together. We’ve built awesome memories in all of our learning adventures.
4. Freedom of Time
This might be the biggest plus to me. Our family was able to travel the country for almost an entire year because we weren’t beholden to a school schedule. We’ve always been able to take advantage of off-peak times at vacation spots and avoid crowds at museums by going midweek. Our 16-year-old started taking community college classes this year, and while adjusting to a schedule wasn’t that hard, it made us appreciate how much that freedom meant to us.
5. My Own Learning
I’m positive that I’ve learned much more than my kids have through our homeschooling. My interest in certain subjects like history and science has deepened greatly. My understanding of education and what learning really means has been expanded. I’ve truly enjoyed learning alongside my children, and I think it’s been good for them to see that grown-ups are learning all the time too. There are hundreds of ways to get an education, and I love that we’ve gotten to experiment with that firsthand.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and I’d never make a blanket recommendation for it. But it definitely can be a great choice. There have been days when the cons made me want to throw in the towel, but the pros have always won out in the end. At this point, I can’t imagine our life any other way.