Danielle Aubin, LCSW
"I could never homeschool..."
Updated: Aug 17, 2022
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this. "I could NEVER homeschool." After home birthing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and learning about respectful parenting, many people naturally find themselves considering homeschooling. Many of us have had difficult experiences at school and homeschooling looks like an attractive way to create the most custom, individualized learning experience for our children. It seems almost abrasive to send our children to school after being home with us because of how radically different school is compared to home life. In a world full of uncertainties, it feels comforting to keep our children close. We all have different paths, some people have needed to send their children to daycare from the beginning while some of us have felt strongly pulled to keep our children home.
So why is that people feel drawn to homeschooling in the first place? There are millions of reasons each person considers homeschooling. Perhaps their own school experience was negative and they wish they had a more gentle, nurturing experience. Many people are faced with a choice between sending their children to a large, very institutional public school vs a very expensive private school and wish they had other options. Some people want to keep their children close for longer and be deeply involved in their lives. It's personal. The pandemic also created a lot of homeschoolers by default and many people decided to stick with it even after the schools re-opened.
Here's an overview of the different types of homeschooling:
So then why is it that so many people don't feel like they can homeschool even though they want to? I believe there are a number of factors at play here. The top reasons I have found that people feel like that they can't homeschool are:
1. They believe homeschooling requires tons of patience and "teaching"
2. They believe homeschooling is literally recreating school at home
3. They believe you need to be home full-time to homeschool
Let's address each of these concerns.
1. When people think of homeschooling, they imagine being bent over math workbooks with their child, struggling to get them to pay attention and absorb the information. While some homeschooling families may do that, most learn that children will learn when they are motivated and see that the work is applicable to their life and goals. There is no need to spend endless amounts of time trying to get your child interested in their schoolwork because they will engage in whatever interests them and learn from it when they are ready. The more structured the homeschooling approach, the more likely you will need to help your child focus and maintain interest since the work they will be doing might not be what they are actually interested in. If you follow your child's interest (like with unschooling), then you will not need to motivate your child because they will be self-motivated and engage in the work they want to engage in. Your child does not need to learn from you personally. The community has many mentors and teachers for them to learn from. There is no need for you to be proficient in 8th grade math or teach them how to play the piano. With the internet and community surrounding you, you will be able to connect your child with people to learn from.
2. Many people believe homeschooling is recreating school at home which looks really challenging (and maybe boring too?). Although some people do that, that is not necessarily what homeschooling can be. Homeschooling can be whatever you and your child want! Homeschooling is an incredibly diverse practice and ranges from very strict religious-based homeschooling to unschooling which is completely child-led and everything in between. There are literally millions of ways to homeschool since it can be completely customized by the family and it can change as the family's needs change.
3. The word homeschooling implies that there will be a parent home 24/7 to be with the child. Although many families have set up their lives this way (and live simply to afford it), there are co-ops and other situations which could make homeschooling possible even for families that have parents who work outside of the home full time.
What about socialization?
Those are not all of the reasons people feel like they can't homeschool, of course. There are more complicated and nuanced reasons such as having one parent on board and one completely against it. There are people who believe that children need institutionalized socialization as opposed to spontaneous/natural socialization that would occur on a homeschooling day out in the community.
That's like saying that you socialize better at work than outside of work because you are surrounded by people at work. Huh? But work isn't for just socialization for socialization's sake, right? You are supposed to be working. Well, that's the same with school, you are supposed to be "learning."
How many classes at school are on social-emotional health and how to communicate or deal with conflict? Not many... It is not a place to learn about socialization. There is an implication here that children cannot socialize with adults or that if they do, it is not as productive as socializing with peers which I find absurd. Are children not people too? Most of human history was spent in small, hunter-gatherer bands of mixed ages where kids learned skills from adults via observation and played with children of many ages. To argue that school is the best place to socialize seems a bit misguided considering schools are places to "learn" and there is little room for unstructured play and interaction with other children.
So what if your spouse or co-parent is still unconvinced about homeschooling for whatever reason? I would suggest first acknowledging that society supports the opposition. Institutionalized schooling is the 100% culturally preferred way so we have to realize that we are swimming upstream. Not everyone is willing to swim upstream and our partner might not be up for it. We have to respect that. We can still respect that and provide information and help them see the benefits of homeschooling. We can look for a middle ground.
I believe if you look at any task in its entirety it looks completely overwhelming and impossible. Homeschooling definitely looks that way to me. To be "home" with my children for the next 13-17 years? I am responsible for all of their education to become productive adults? No way! It all comes back to the question "how do you eat an elephant?" the answer is "piece by piece." You do not tackle 17 years of home education today. You do it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Some days will look radically different from others. The exciting but daunting reality is that you don't know what it will look like, it will change, evolve and may go in directions you never imagined. That can be anxiety-producing for those of us who wish life would just give us predictable outcomes. I get it. But there is great freedom in allowing your child to be the designer for their own education and daily life. Your child will design their education (if unschooling....) and you have no idea how that will look. And that's ok!
Institutional school vs homeschooling
Institutional school gives us the false belief that they provide uniform results, that if you give them your child, they will deliver a final product which will be an educated child. Homeschooling offers no such promises and that can make us nervous. But get this, the school can't truly promise that. I went to an institutionalized school and I did not become the product they claimed I would become. Many, many children don't. Society craves guarantees and that is one of the reasons why society holds on tightly to the idea of school and the factory model of raw material in (kids) and final product out (educated adults ready for the world). We want it to be true so badly yet that we ignore the evidence that it doesn't work for all children. Look around and you will see the products of institutional schooling produces the prisoner and the prison warden, people addicted to drugs, and successful medical doctors.
If you want it bad enough...
Life is about trade-offs. Almost anything is possible if you are willing to make hard decisions and compromises. Homeschooling is no different. If you want to homeschool but for whatever reason think "I could never do it", I invite you to think about the reasons why you want to homeschool and the reasons why you feel like you can't and see if there is anything you can change. There are homeschooling support groups aplenty on the internet and in person. There are a lot of us out there who are not the most patient people or the richest and we are trying to figure it out anyway. If this is something you truly want for your kids, I hope you find a way.