Homeschooling FAQ

My friend Michelle inspired me to write this list of Frequently Asked Questions. The questions are about homeschooling in general but also specifically about our own decision to homeschool:

  • What Curriculum are you using?
    • We are eclectic homeschoolers. I actually believe in the unschooling method for younger children but find, particularly as my children move into middle school & highschool grades, that I like to assure they are meeting traditional milestones. I choose different curriculum for each subject, child and semester based on each child’s needs.
  • What about socialization?
    • The socialization that happens in a traditional school environment scares the shit out of me. Under the best of circumstances, it is so contrived and unrealistic. Under the worst of circumstances, it is abusive. Socialization is one of the primary reasons I keep my kids out of school. But meeting and having friends is still very important to me. I make sure to live in neighborhoods full of children and to participate actively in outside groups and activities. My children participate in a wide variety of activities with a wide variety of ages, religions, ethnicity and learning styles. I believe this model of living is much more in line with actual adulthood where we will be required to work with all different personalities in our daily lives in college and the work force.
  • Do you think public schools are bad?
    • Yes, as a whole. Do I think kids can succeed despite this opinion? Yes. Do I think teachers are bad? No. Do I think good schools exist? Yes, rarely. I did work for change for awhile. When I first pulled my child out of public school I continued to work in the school in various ways but the issue is so much bigger than any one school. I admire those who work for change in big ways.
  • I’m a math (reading, history, etc) dunce so how could I ever teach my kids?
    • Did you know that private school teachers and substitute teachers do not even have to hold teaching degrees in most states? Even teachers with degrees in teaching are not naturally gifted in all areas of study. A good curriculum makes up for teaching weaknesses whether the school is at home or in a traditional setting. If that isn’t reassurance enough, there are other support sources. I, for one, hate history and love science but have a natural inability to preform even the most simple of science experiments successfully. I rely heavily on my science-gifted and history-loving husband for help in those areas. I also rely on outside resources such as the amazing classes held for homeschoolers at our local science museums, the co-op classes held through our homeschooling group and I have directed my children to seek answers from friends and family who have a love and knowledge of these things far superior to my own on more than one occasion. When children are older and studying very difficult topics such as physics or calculus, parents can turn to the local community college for classes sometimes as young as age 13. Some homeschoolers find that the democratic and “free learning” atmosphere of a college classroom are more in line with their own learning philosophy than a highschool classroom would be, not to mention the added bonus of building college credits.
  • Are you accountable to anyone?
    • Only myself and my children & husband. At the end of the day being accountable to my children is more of a driving force than any other outside source ever could be! I want my children to leave the nest feeling educated and capable.  In both states I have homeschooled in, there are essentially zero accountability standards. Whether this is a good thing for children is debatable but I know its a good thing for most of the homeschooling families I know because they don’t get sucked into the “teach to the test” mentality that is such a problem in public schools. They are free to really teach to the child’s needs and talents. There is a myth that if homeschoolers aren’t held accountable, children simply won’t learn and a climate of abuse could exist. This is, by and far, untrue. Parents who chose homeschooling tend to be extremely well researched and have often tried many many other educational options before bringing their children home. They know what kind of education they want for their child. They are sacrificing a lot to make it happen. They are active participants in their child’s education, whether they lean toward an unschooling philosophy or a very structured school-at-home philosophy or something in the middle. It is my belief that a much smaller percentage of homeschooling families are abusive as compared to families overall.
  • How long will you homeschool?
    • As long as necessary. My children may choose to go to school or stay home for school on a year-to-year basis. This year my youngest is going to public school Kidnergarten to give it a try. I wish she’d stay home but she has other plans. I’m also educating my oldest child for his last year of highschool this year.
  • How do you balance homeschooling more than one child?
    • It gets easier, for me, every year. I rely on a lot of lists and schedules for myself and a few for the kids in order to assure that goals are being met. I maintain some separate areas throughout the house so they don’t distract each other when they work. The older the child the more independent the learner. My goal for all my kids is to have them fully independent learners by the time they graduate so they can continue to be independent learners throughout life. So they are expected to take more and more responsibility for their own learning as they get older. But I am still ultimately responsible for the planning, scheduling, and teaching. I also try to include a younger child or two when teaching a more advanced concept or topic to an older sibling because I have found they absorb a lot more than we think this way.
  • How do you find the patience? I’d kill my kid – we barely survive the summer together!
    • Traditionally schooling families view this issue through their own lens of experience but it really isn’t comparable for homeschooling families. It is difficult to have separate lives and schedules and then have to merge them on the weekends and over the summer and other school breaks. Everyone’s routine is shifted, everyone’s expectations are changed. Siblings are often used to dealing with other kids who are primarily their own age and often have a lot of trouble understanding the needs and developmental levels of younger siblings when they spend most of their time away from each other throughout the week. The same, actually, can happen to parents. School kids are, like it or not, spending more time away from family than with it. It makes sense that the adjustment to spending prolonged periods of time together can be very difficult for everyone involved.  In a homeschooling home, none of those issues exist. Everyone is used to spending time with each other, siblings are more apt to understand the differences in age and expectations, this is just the everyday norm. And it doesn’t tend to get disrupted during the weekends or “breaks” – it is just more of the same. When siblings are put in an environment together for so much of their lives, they tend not to fight nearly as much in my experience. They become friends as well as siblings. Bottom line, there is a lot less to need patience for! So I’m no more or less patient then the next parent down the street but my family dynamic is just totally different so it requires less from me in those ways. That isn’t to say we never argue, we don’t have hard days and the kids are always super-compliant happy non-whining angels. Not at all!! But there is a perception by some traditionally schooling families that because their kids might be whiny and difficult from 4-8pm that I am probably dealing with whiny and difficult kids from 8am-8pm and it just isn’t apples to apples.
  • Aren’t you worried about college?
    • This is a multi-faceted question that all ends in “not at all”. First of all I don’t think college is a necessity, by any means, in order to find success (either spiritually or financially). I don’t raise my children to think that they absolutely MUST attend college at any cost – I have seen how many adults I know who have never used their degree and how many more wasted so much time and money with no direction because they were just too young to really know what they wanted to do yet. I’m not interested in any of that for my kids.  I fully support them and will help financially if they desire to attend college but we are just not the “you have to go to college and we are not discussing it further” type of family. Second, they will likely all take community college classes long before the age of 18 anyway (my 13 and 16 year old are both enrolled in college classes this fall) and I believe the homeschool lifestyle helps children, in the long run, because they learn to be independent, self-accountable learners long before their peers. My kids will have always known the “freedom” to show up to class (or not) and the attraction of that which is so often a major problem for college freshmen won’t be a big deal for my kids. I guess what I’m saying is that college is a natural extension to homeschooling. Many colleges recognize that homeschooling children do even better than traditionally educated children and are very pleased to offer placements within the school for these children regardless of official diploma or even, sometimes, standardized tests. I am walking a fine line of expressing my views of my own family and children and expressing my views overall, here, because I too have heard the horror stories of the totally mystified college kid who was homeschooled all his life and had no idea how to fit in or get to class or complete his work. I do think, though, that this is the exception and not the rule. All families homeschool differently, it is up to the parents to decide how to best prepare their children for adulthood. Some (very few) chose not to prepare them at all but that just isn’t my style.