What if I fail?
Teaching my child at home could be a disaster!
That’s what it all boils down to, right? You could fail. If you are an ethical person and a loving parent, the possibility of failing your child strikes terror in your heart. You’ve seen homeschooling families in the grocery store together or at parks and museums. They do seem to be a bit different. Could you really be like those parents? Do you even want to be like those parents?
Most people turn their children over to professional educators by preschool, kindergarten at the latest. Should you, a mere amateur, take it upon yourself to teach your own child? Will you have the patience? You lost it several times during the terrible twos! Then there’s the question of socialization. Your child will have two dozen potential playmates in every classroom, each year. How can you possibly provide comparable social opportunities? Besides, staying home with the baby was temporary. You were looking forward to earning money and progressing professionally again. If you teach your child at home you will have to juggle your finances, manage your time and compromise on your professional goals.
There are a lot of sarcastic posts on the internet which mock your concerns. That’s not what this site is about. I like humor as much as the next woman, but where your child’s education is concerned, you are entitled to ask hard questions and get serious answers.
Teaching My Child at Home? I’m Not a Patient Woman!
Besides, What About Socialization? If I had a nickel for every time I heard that I would be a rich woman. That last one is generally a rhetorical question, as the person making the remark is always convinced that public school is the only place socialization can occur.
I’m addressing the question of parental patience and socialization together, because while they seem like two concerns, they share the same simple solution. It turns out that socializing your homeschooler is ridiculously easy. Sure, the first few months are an adjustment, but you’d have to work at remaining isolated. The big difference is that a homeschooling parent manages their child’s social environment. An interesting thing happens to your relationship with your child when you begin to choose who they will associate with, how and when. Far less patience is required to interact with your child, because your child is properly socialized!
I started homeschooling my daughter when she was assigned to a middle school with a lot of social and academic problems. Naturally teaching my child at home scared me. I did worry about socialization. In short order I learned my fears were groundless.
Filling a homeschooled child’s social calendar is easy, because homeschooling families get together for athletic leagues, homeschool cooperatives and field trips. Even better, homeschooling families spend time with their extended families and each other. homeschooling families invest in their communities, putting a great deal of their time and energy into church ministries and civic groups. This results in a lot of high-quality socialization, and engaged parents are present every step of the way, encouraging appropriate interactions.
I’m No Teacher! Should I Be Teaching My Child at Home?
I think that is the most reasonable question of all. Many teachers homeschool, and they worry too. They worry that they don’t have the qualifications to select curricula, which schools rarely allow teachers to choose for their themselves. Parents who don’t have much education beyond high school worry the most.
Fortunately, parental education level doesn’t predict homeschool success. Homeschooled kids perform about the same academically, regardless of their parents’ educations. On the flip side, children in public schools perform well or poorly according to their parents’ education levels. This means less-educated parents give their children a huge boost when they choose to homeschool.
All parents, regardless of their academic achievement, feel unqualified to teach some subjects and grade levels. Most parents solve this problem by homeschool cooperatives and tutors. Others solve it by enrolling their students in online classes. Some homeschooling parents do not teach any subjects. These parents provide good home environments with plenty of structure. Their children still do exceptionally well and enjoy plenty of free time to spend with the family, their friends, hobbies, ministries and civic groups.
I freely confess that I did teach most of my children’s core subjects, but I did not even try to teach them art or theater! Both kids had talents and interests I did not have. While they were learning about art and theater from parents who were experts in those fields, I taught mathematics and government to other people’s kids. When it seemed that I was not very good at teaching my son composition, I enrolled him in an online composition class which was taught by a professional language arts teacher. Sadly, he did worse in her composition class than he did in mine. After that experience he and I both tried much harder, and together we managed to dramatically improve his writing skills.
That’s the homeschool advantage. When you homeschool, you and your child work together toward mastery of the material. Sometimes you literally learn together. Homeschooling isn’t about you teaching your child, it’s about you and your child working together to reach common goals.
Homeschooling? Can We Even Afford That?
Teaching my child at home was expensive at first. I was terrified, so I bought a full curriculum from an institution that would supervise my daughter and I and issue her a diploma. At the time both of those things really mattered to me. The price tag was pretty steep. I changed my mind around Christmas. Dealing with my son’s public school was that much harder when I needed to be home teaching my daughter. I started homeschooling him in January. This time I didn’t pay extra for unnecessary supervision and a diploma, but I did buy a full curriculum designed by experts.
Wow, that was rough! My daughter loathed the literature selected by the experts who designed the curriculum. My son was miserable under the course load the expertly-prepared curriculum entailed. She spent a lot of time crying and even had nightmares based on what she was reading. He spent an enormous amount of time on busy-work. I cried a bit too.
The following school year I started designing both kids’ curricula based on what they actually needed to learn. I chose materials and curricula that suited their learning styles. I spent far, far less money. We all stopped crying and started laughing, and we joined a homeschool cooperative. The kids and I found time to volunteer with several ministries. My husband and I spent about five hundred dollars that year, and we got a far, far better homeschooling experience.
Homeschooling itself can be very inexpensive. The real price is the cost of keeping one parent, usually mom, out of the workforce. I don’t want to minimize this. Most homeschooling families are very, very frugal. Many homeschooling parents find ways to work from home or work part time. Many homeschooling families own small businesses. In short, this is where your real cost lies. Will the family’s finances require juggling in order for a parent to stay at home and teach? If so, then you will find enormous resources within the homeschooling community to help you solve this challenge.
Have You Fairly Assessed Your Child’s School?
I didn’t begin teaching my child at home until we had exhausted all other options. This is a really big decision, and I suggest you give your local school an honest chance. Look at what they offer. See if you can be happy with your child being in the environment they provide.
Even after you’ve enrolled your child in school, watch what happens carefully. Go in and observe; volunteer if you can. You may be really impressed by what you see. My children each had a few teachers who really cared and taught very well. If the environment had remained safe and a higher percentage of the teachers had been caring and proficient, my kids might have stayed in public school. You might decide that your child’s school is doing a great job. Why mess with success?
Your Concerns are Valid
You want what’s best for your child. I hope I’ve laid some of your worries to rest and helped you to think about this question rationally. Ideally, you can ask “Should I be teaching my child at home?” without doubting yourself. Yes, you can do it. You are more than up to the task.
Is homeschooling right for you? Is it best for your family? Will it meet the needs of your child?
You decide. No matter what you choose, I’m behind you one hundred percent. Reach out and drop me a comment. Let me know how I did on this post and what questions you would like answered. I love hearing from readers, so don’t be shy.