Every now and then, I get bored and decide to search for articles and positions online with which I generally do not agree. I’m curious what “the other side” has to say.
Sometimes I learn something, and I’m glad when that happens.
But other times, I just walk away shaking my head. This is often truest when I search for terms along the lines of “disadvantages of homeschooling.” These articles are clearly written by people who have never done a lick of research into homeschooling, nor spoken to any actual homeschoolers. They bring up concerns that are not remotely concerning to actual homeschoolers, and attempt to dissuade families from trying it based on a complete misunderstanding of what homeschooling actually is.
It’s beyond irresponsible for organizations with some level of “authority” to publish abject lies, further shaking the confidence of families who are already striking out away from the mainstream. It’s more proof that we should not trust them…how can they educate our children when they come across so poorly educated themselves?
If you are considering homeschooling, you may run into one or more of these lists. As a veteran homeschooler (eight years under my belt so far!) and wife to a former homeschooled man, I’m going to address the common “concerns” on these lists, and set things straight!
The Truth About the “Disadvantages to Homeschooling”
Concern #1: Homeschoolers End Up Poorly Socialized
This is always the first concern homeschoolers hear, and it’s one almost no actual homeschoolers have. It seems to be predicated on the idea that homeschoolers are just stuck at home all day, never seeing anyone at all besides their parents. Perhaps that was true 40 years ago, when homeschooling was mostly illegal; and perhaps it is still true in very rural communities.
But for the most part, homeschooled kids have more opportunities today than ever. They participate in co-ops, sports teams, scouting, dance classes, music lessons, church groups, and more. They also go out and play with other kids around the neighborhood!
What’s more, when they are around other kids, there are usually more adults present and available. They are able to get immediate guidance and mentorship if something goes wrong. This is unlike a school playground, where the adult-to-child ratio is very high, and bullying runs rampant. Public school socialization is nothing to brag about!
Besides, how easily a child gets along with others has a lot more to do with their personality than where they are educated. Personally, I went to public school and am an introvert who does not enjoy being around people much. My husband was homeschooled but is more outgoing and very good at getting along with a wide variety of people. It’s very individual.
Concern #2: Homeschooled Kids Don’t Have The Same Facilities
Science labs. Theaters. Sports equipment. Public school advocates will name all of these — and more — that schooled kids have access to that kids at home don’t.
The problem is, it’s really not true.
Not all public schooled kids have access to all of these things. It vastly depends on how wealthy the district is. Some have all of that and more. Others don’t even have up-to-date textbooks.
It’s also not difficult for homeschooled students to do recreational sports teams, community theater, etc. Their homes do not have to be equipped with everything they need when they have an entire community at their fingertips.
Concern #3: Homeschooling is Expensive
It can be. If you feel the need to purchase full, out-of-the-box curricula for every subject of every year, or to choose a wide variety of online classes.
But also, there are many free and low-cost programs available. There is the library. There is the internet. Many places offer homeschool discounts (including many museums).
It can be expensive, but it does not have to be.
Concern #4: Homeschoolers Will Get “Behind”
Who decided what the standards are, anyway? Why do all 7-year-olds need to read a certain list of words, learn their state’s history, and do fractions? It’s entirely arbitrary.
In truth, every child learns at a different pace. And every child has strengths and weaknesses — subjects or topics that come easily to them, and subjects or topics that don’t. Expecting all children to be at the same level across many subjects is absolutely ridiculous.
Homeschoolers do not “get behind” because standards don’t matter. Instead, they accelerate in areas that are easy for them, and they take extra time to truly understand things that are more difficult for them. They’re not judged with bad grades or being told they’re “dumb” by their classmates, either. They can keep at things that are frustrating for them because they are not being held to an impossible standard, and they are given the time and resources they need to be successful.
There is absolutely no benefit to pushing kids along through the public school system even when they do not fully understand what they are learning (which happens too often). That may look like “rigor” to some, but is actually utter foolishness.
Concern #5: Parents Never Get a Break From Their Kids
This is a concern for some families — but there are solutions other than sending kids to public school.
Some mothers choose to higher a mother’s helper for a few hours a week to give them a break. Others trade kids with a friend, so each has some kid-free time (this is also a socialization opportunity!). Still others may share the responsibility between parents, with each giving the other some time for themselves.
It’s also less of an issue as kids get older. They are able to play more independently, go over to friends’ houses, be at youth group. And when they are around, the attention they need is not the same as the attention that toddlers and preschoolers need. (No one’s worried about a 10-year-old throwing themselves on the floor because you handed them the wrong color bowl, or the 12-year-old trying to climb the counter to get a knife.)
Not all families feel this way, though. Some truly enjoy the closeness and time spent together. It is very individual.
Concern #6: Lack of Structure
Some people feel there is a distinct advantage to starting classes at 8 AM sharp, transitioning when the bell rings every 45 minutes, and having defined schedules for everything. If that’s how you prefer to work, then that’s great. But there is truly no universal benefit to this.
Everyone has a different work style. Some prefer to get started later in the day. This is not “lazy,” it’s just different. Some prefer to work at a desk while neatly dressed. Others prefer to work on the couch in their pajamas. Neither is better than the other!
Beyond that, homeschoolers do not need a full day to get their work done. They are working independently or in small groups, so there is no need to build in time for busy work, transitions, study hall, etc. Much of the public school day is designed so that one teacher can address 20 – 30 different students, who may be in vastly different places in their understanding or needs (and this takes time, which means other students have to be busy doing something while the teacher helps individuals or small groups). That isn’t true at home.
Homeschoolers evolve their own structure — or lack thereof — based on their personalities, needs, and preferences. And there are great advantages to getting to do what works for you, instead of having to fit into someone else’s structure!
Concern #7: They Don’t Get to Go to Prom Or Experience Other “Big Events”
It amuses me that this is a real concern. Like people somehow think that all the milestones and happy times in life are based on a public school education. Obviously, kids who are homeschooled will develop different memories and milestones! Many do not feel that they are missing out, because they have their own lives and communities.
Besides that, many homeschool communities actually do throw dances or graduation ceremonies now, so those who want to participate, can.
Homeschooled kids will also have treasured experiences that public schooled kids don’t have…but no one’s thinking about how they’re missing out, are they? Life is just different — not worse.
Concern #8: But People Will Criticize You!
There will be someone who criticizes every parenting choice you make. Whether you choose home or hospital birth, breastfeeding or formula, co-sleeping or sleep training, gentle parenting or corporal punishment, etc. etc. there will be someone who has something to say about it.
You can’t please everyone. And neither should you try. Should we be making an educational choice that will impact our child’s entire future based on whether or not adults in our lives will like it? Adults who may know nothing about it…but still have an opinion?
I mean, I’m not. Those who are…maybe their public education socialization skills are showing a bit. 😉
Do what’s best for your children, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Who Should You Take Advice From?
If you are considering homeschooling, talk to actual homeschoolers, particularly families who have homeschooled for years. Ask them what their struggles were like, what their concerns were and are, what disadvantages they have found (every family will have something a little bit different). They are immersed in the world and can give you an accurate view of it.
Better yet, talk to several homeschooling families, including adults who were homeschooled themselves! That will give you the best view of what homeschooling is really like and how homeschoolers turn out.
Do not take advice from people who know little to nothing about homeschooling and have never practiced it. Everyone has “heard” about some horribly negative outcome, or knows “that one family” who is stereotypically awkward and weird. It does not seem to bother these people that they actually are totally unfamiliar with homeschooling; they speak freely and confidently on their opinions anyway. Smile, nod, walk away and don’t take them seriously.