You’re in good company if you’re thinking about homeschooling your child this year. According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), approximately 2.5 million American children from kindergarten to 12th grade receive their primary educational instruction at home.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, NHERI predicted a two to eight percent increase in homeschooling per year. We’re living in different times now though, and the rate of parents who have stated they intend to homeschool this fall has skyrocketed. The percentage of increase could even reach as high as the triple digits.
With schools shutting down across the country from March to June and some not planning to reopen in the fall, many parents who wouldn’t have considered homeschooling before now see it as a much more viable option. After having no choice but to take up homeschooling practically overnight, American parents are realizing that they like the arrangement and want to stick with it. Many have expressed concerns about their child’s safety during the pandemic and want more control over curriculum as well.
Is Homeschooling Right for Your Child and Family?
Parents sometimes feel worried that colleges and employers won’t look upon a homeschool education favorably once their child has completed their K-12 education. While that might have been true in the early years of homeschooling in the 1980s and 1990s, the image of homeschooling has undergone a positive transformation since then. Colleges and universities not only welcome homeschooled students, they often compete for them. This is most likely because homeschooling allows students to become better self-directed learners than those who complete a public or private school education. Additionally, employers tend to view homeschool graduates as reliable employees.
As a parent, you must take numerous individual factors about your child into consideration along with your family’s current situation. For example, is your child ready for school? Can he or she work independently, even if it’s only for a few minutes? Have you researched homeschooling and feel confident in your ability to teach? Are you familiar with homeschooling laws in your state and prepared to abide by them?
These are just some things to consider before making the leap. It’s also important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling and factor that into your decision. We hope this guide, Ultimate List of Homeschooling Pros and Cons, will make the choice easier for you.
The Positive Aspects of Homeschooling
The following are some of the most common benefits of homeschooling cited by veteran homeschoolers:
Greater flexibility in your family’s schedule: Parents who have had their children in public or private school and then pull them out in favor of homeschooling are often shocked to discover how much of the family’s time revolved around homework, completing miscellaneous paperwork, and the school calendar. When they bring their children home, they often find that they have several more hours per week available to them. Families also benefit by scheduling travel in off-peak seasons and attending educational opportunities like the science museum during the day when facilities are less crowded.
Homeschool students get more sleep: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 58 percent of middle school students and 73 percent of high school students don’t get enough sleep on school night on a regular basis. Although schools have been under pressure to push back start times, many older students must be in school well before 8:00 a.m. That means getting up early to catch the bus, spending around seven hours in school, and coming home with a load of homework. Some students have an even busier schedule with extra-curricular activities and a part-time job. Whew! It’s no wonder so many students are exhausted.
The CDC also quotes the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendation for the minimum number of hours of sleep children should get by age. Kids between the ages of 6 and 12 should get 9 to 12 hours of sleep nightly while teenagers between 13 and 18 should aim for eight to 10 hours of sleep every night.
Homeschooling allows you to set the schedule according to your child’s peak hours of productivity. Not everyone is a morning person, which means students with a body clock that runs later will struggle to stay awake and pay attention in school. Educating your kids at home also means you have the flexibility to take breaks when needed and not according to someone else’s schedule.
Just say no to peer pressure and bullying: Unfortunately, peer pressure and bullying are both common and can be detrimental to a child’s school success. Even children who seem to reflect the values their parents work hard to instill in them at home can make a bad choice when faced with rejection or ridicule from their peers. Bullying in schools has become such a problem that some students have resorted to attempting suicide to escape it.
When your child is at home and you’re together most of the day, you have a much greater impact on building his or her self-esteem rather than tearing it down as peers can sometimes do. There’s also no fear of the extremely tragic situation of school shootings. With the distraction of peer approval removed, your student’s dedication to learning just might surprise you.
No busywork and much less paperwork: According to the most recent New York City Teacher of the Year, it’s common for elementary school students to spend one hour or less on actual instruction during the typical school day. Teachers devote much of the rest of the time to activities just to keep students busy such as worksheets and memorization tasks. They also need to deal with classroom discipline issues and other non-teaching responsibilities that only take time away from learning.
Homeschoolers, on the other hand, can get the same amount of work completed in far less time. Parents also don’t need to fill out endless forms and permission slips, something that adds even more time back into their day.
Religious freedom: For many families, the faith they practice is a core part of their identity. The problem with public school is that teachers cannot provide religious instruction whatsoever unless it’s in a historical context. Private schools are an option, but the cost of tuition is sometimes too great of a financial burden for families to bear. If providing your children with religious instruction is important to you, homeschooling enables you to include it in your curriculum without needing to answer to anyone else about it.
Spending more time together can create closer family ties: Parents and kids who learn together every day often build closer relationships than the typical school schedule would allow. Not only are kids away from home up to eight hours a day when you factor in transportation, they often return at the end of the day exhausted with a few hours of homework yet to do. This takes even more time away from enjoying each other as a family.
Although they might not admit it, many teens thrive in a homeschool environment. The close interaction with a parent and continuous supervision can reduce teenage rebellion and the potentially destructive behavior that comes with it. When you factor in the lack of peer pressure and bullying, it’s easy to understand how homeschooling can have a positive impact on the emotional development of children of all ages.
Tailoring the teaching approach to each individual child: This is often the first thing both parents andchildren say when asked why they like homeschooling so much. You already know your child’s learning style and can plan your curriculum around it. In a typical classroom, the teacher must present the information the same way to all students. Some will naturally acquire new knowledge faster than others, which means the teacher needs to slow everyone down if even one student needs more time.
With homeschooling, you can wait until your child is ready to teach certain topics or teach some things earlier than he or she would learn at a traditional school. It’s less of a struggle to keep your child engaged with schoolwork when you teach in a manner he or she responds to best and focus on known areas of interest whenever possible.
Teach your child your family’s values, not those of the state educational system: There’s no question that spending as much time as possible with a child when trying to impart values and morals is important. Some families object to public schooling because they don’t want their child’s conscience and sense of right and wrong determined by teachers and peers. Keep in mind that the messages your child receives at school could be vastly different than what you’re trying to teach at home.
You can spend more time with children who have special needs: Some children simply don’t do well in a typical school setting. Whether it’s a physical disability, emotional or behavioral problems, a learning disability, or another common concern, teachers just don’t have enough time to provide the one-on-one instruction and guidance that many kids with special needs require. Homeschooling affords the opportunity to devote as much time as necessary to your special needs student to make sure that he or she remains at grade level as much as possible.
Potential Drawbacks to Consider with Homeschooling
As flexible and fulfilling as homeschooling can be, it isn’t right for every family. We encourage you to carefully consider the potential cons of homeschool listed below along with the pros to help you make the best possible decision for your children, yourself, and your partner.
Dealing with the negative opinions of others: People are often slow to accept anything that goes against the mainstream way of doing things. This includes homeschooling. Unfortunately, you will need to prepare yourself to fend off questions such as “What about socialization?” or “Are you really qualified to teach?”
Remember that you’re under no obligation to answer these questions, especially from people who don’t know your family well or at all. If you want a good comeback for the socialization question, however, you can cite numerous studies that indicate homeschooled children are often more social than their traditionally schooled peers. Probably the biggest reason for this is that kids learning at home interact with people from a variety of age demographics and not just their own.
From the local librarian to the leader of homeschool phy-ed at the YMCA, children from homeschooling families have more opportunity to learn to feel comfortable and confident around a wide range of people. As for homeschooled kids supposedly acting strange because others might consider them too sheltered, know that there’s nothing wrong with being different than the crowd. In fact, it’s usually people who learned to think for themselves early in life rather than follow group consensus that tend to achieve greater success in adult life.
Financial pressure: The arrangement many homeschool families have is that one parent works a full-time job while the other takes over the responsibility of caring for and educating the children. That can be the equivalent of a full-time job as well, if not more. Living on one income can be stressful, but families who have their heart set on homeschooling find ways to make it work. It could mean selling some personal items and making drastic spending cuts in discretionary categories, but it is certainly possible. You also need to keep in mind that you alone are responsible for purchasing all homeschool supplies your child needs.
Homeschooling can be time-consuming for parents: Homeschooling isn’t something you can partially pay attention to while completing non-related tasks at the same time. It requires your full attention, both during the school day with your children and when planning curriculum. Working a full-time job at the same time is not realistic but a flexible part-time job might be doable.
Perhaps you have the common misconception that homeschoolers sit around the kitchen table learning all day. The reality is often far different. Many parents choose a combination of standard book learning with educational experiences that tie into what their children are currently learning. That means a lot of time spent outside of the home as well, including the time it takes to drive to and from activities. This can be exhausting to parents on a physical and emotional level, particularly when they had different expectations going into homeschooling.
Opportunities to play competitive sports may not always be available: One benefit of public or private school for student athletes is that they can try out for any competitive sport the school offers. It can be more challenging for homeschooling families to find these same opportunities. Your local school district sets its own policy on whether it will allow homeschooled students from the community to join a school sports team. If not, you can always look for leagues sponsored by your local Parks and Recreation Department. You could even consider joining with other homeschool parents to create your own competitive sports teams based on age and ability.
Teaching advanced subjects can be challenging: Teaching a child in kindergarten how to read and write doesn’t compare to teaching algebra or earth science to a high school student. Since it’s probably been a few decades since you learned these topics yourself, you may not have retained enough or can study enough to teach your child.
Once the subjects start becoming more difficult to teach, some parents opt to hire tutors to do most of the teaching or send their child to school after many years of learning at home. The latter can be an extremely challenging adjustment for older students to make.
You might find homeschooling to provide a little too much togetherness: The reality of homeschooling is that you’re rarely away from your child. While some parents relish this, it’s not a good fit for people with personalities that require a lot of alone time.
This isn’t to say that introverts can’t be good homeschool teachers. If you consider yourself on the quiet and introspective side but want to homeschool, just be aware of your own needs and carve out time to yourself whenever possible. Dropping your kids off at events during the day or taking a break after your partner returns from work are two good opportunities for you to decompress.
You or your child might struggle with the lack of structure: What some parents see as freedom and flexibility, others see long unstructured days at home with their kids and feel a sense of panic instead. If you find yourself feeling anxious, creating a detailed weekly schedule can help you feel more in control of teaching your kids. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can always change it if something unexpected comes up.
Some kids thrive in a highly structured environment like traditional school more than others do. These children may struggle to learn at home. However, you know your child best and can structure school days to maximize the time your child will stay on task.
Homeschooling is a Lifestyle Change, Not Just an Alternative Form of Education
Although your child may be the one learning at home, the decision to pursue this type of education affects the entire family. As you can see from the list of pros and cons, it can affect your finances, free time, social support system, relationship with your spouse, and much more. It’s a big decision that requires a huge commitment. At the same time, you could be the most qualified person to teach your child. You understand what makes him or her tick and can provide a personalized approach to learning that just isn’t possible in a traditional school.
In a study conduced by the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), 95 percent of parents report feeling happy with the choice they made to homeschool. Are you ready to join the ranks? All you have to do is study your child and listen to your heart to find the right answer to this question.