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The Cons of Homeschooling, According to a Homeschool Mom

A former homeschooler, Kierstin is now homeschooling her own daughters.

What Are the Cons to Homeschooling?

  1. There is no universal standard to measure your homeschooling against.
  2. You'll second guess yourself a lot.
  3. The more kids you have, the more organized you have to be.
  4. There are few financial resources for homeschoolers.
  5. You will have to make extra effort to facilitate healthy social interactions for your children.
  6. It's a lifestyle that involves financial sacrifice.
  7. People may think you're a free babysitting service because, you know, you just sit around all day doing nothing.
cons-of-homeschooling

I could go on and on about the pros to homeschooling (like being able to take cheaper, off-season vacations since we're on a flexible schedule) which has been a cornerstone of my life since my own parents began homeschooling me at eight years old. Now that I have two kids of my own, we're following in my parents' footsteps and while learning from home used to seem like an unconventional lifestyle choice even a decade ago, it's becoming more and more popular. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homeschool students in the United States is somewhere around two million and growing.

Still, it's not exactly most families' default or even preference when they're considering their child's education, especially when they begin mulling the disadvantages of homeschooling and wonder if it's even a good idea.

My answer to this would be: homeschooling can work for any family, but only if you make it work for you. No two households will do it the same way, and what gets one family through the day isn't going to jive exactly for another. That being said, there are a handful of—I don't want to say cons, so let's say less exciting aspects to schooling your kids on your own. Should you let them stop you from taking the leap? Nope. But knowing these things can help you better prepare for the adventure ahead!

There Is No Universal Standard to Measure Your Homeschooling Against

Yep, believe it or not there's no universal rules or standards that you can just follow along with to ensure you're hitting all of those milestones and educational marks.

Why It's Tough

For some parents, homeschooling can feel like a freefall. Not knowing exactly what your child should be learning at a specific time or gaining the reassurance that you're fulfilling a universal standard may be overwhelming and cause panic and stress within your home.

How to Manage

Keep in mind that even public and private schools do not have a universal set of marks they must hit because educational standards vary from state to state and even district to district and they can fluctuate from year to year!

Tips for Gauging What Your Child Should Be Learning About

  • Use their annual well-child visit as a time to pick their pediatrician's brain on what academic developments they expect for your child over the next year. A good pediatrician will leave room for flexibility but also give you pointed answers like learning to read, understanding the difference between times of day, etc.
  • Grab an all-in-one workbook (I use Brainquest because it's super affordable and comes with colorful, fun illustrations that motivate my kids to engage with the exercises) to help you gain insight on what your child is probably ready for in math, reading, spelling, social studies and science. From there you can build out their learning opportunities to coincide with where they're at and where they need to be.
  • If your kids are older, Google "high school graduation requirements for [your state]". This'll give you insight into what your student needs to be considered ready for graduation.

These moments of doubt not only make you miserable, they can make your kids miserable too.

You'll Second-Guess Yourself a Lot

Even after you get into a groove and build trust with yourself as someone who is fully capable of facilitating your child's education, you're still going to have this little whisper pop up in the back of your head like "You're stupid and have no idea how to handle this."

Why It's Tough

These moments of doubt not only make you miserable, they can make your kids miserable too. If you project your homeschool insecurities onto your kids they may begin to doubt their own abilities and that creates a toxic stew that distracts from real learning.

How to Manage

Being a parent in general can fill you up with insecure thoughts centered around the fear that you're failing your kids, so remember that that's going to seep into your role as their educator too. When this happens remind yourself that you know your child best which is what makes you not only their perfect parent but an ideal teacher.

The More Kids You Have, the More Organized You Have to Be

It's true, just like you have to be organized getting your kids out the door to catch the school bus, you have to have some level of organization to homeschool your kids without tearing your hair out. And, as with every other aspect of parenting, the more kids you have, the more organized you'll have to be.

Why It's Tough

As if you don't already have enough on your plate, you need to coordinate who is learning what and at what level (because even with only two daughters who are just a year and a half apart, mine are learning different things at different levels).

How to Manage

  • Get into a solid morning and evening routine. Do you need to stick to it perfectly? Nope, put having an idea of how the day is going to start and end gets everyone on the same page quicker. Kids thrive when they know what to expect, when.
  • Create a designated area of your home to store the majority of your school supplies. We don't have a "classroom" in our home. We live in a small condo and utilize the whole house (and yard!) for different things, but we have a shelf next to our dining table that holds our abacus, pencils, crayons, Bob Books, laptops and devices and their cords and of course, fun workbooks. This way, we know that whatever we're learning about, in whatever way we're learning it, we have quick access to the tools we need. If you have many kids in a range of ages you may even modify this to a shelf per student so you don't have high school science getting lost in the mix of elementary tracing pads.
  • Invest in convenience foods. When kids go to school outside of the home they eat at least one meal there. Since your kids are with you the majority - if not all of - the day, you need to troubleshoot daily stressors before they get the best of you. For us and for many other homeschoolers I know, that has been snack and meal times! I keep Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches and cans of coconut water stocked for breakfast and Chobani smoothies, cheese sticks and individually packed cracker and chip packs on hand for snack times along with fruits that can be peeled (like bananas and tangerines) so that when my kids start crying out "mooooom I'm hungry" for the 6th time before noon I can direct them to these easy snacks and save myself from feeling like a short-order cook on top of my roles as mom and educator.
Whether you're homeschooling one or seven kids, you'll need to keep yourself organized in order to create a calm environment that fosters learning for the whole family.

Whether you're homeschooling one or seven kids, you'll need to keep yourself organized in order to create a calm environment that fosters learning for the whole family.

There really aren't any financial resources for homeschool families including teacher discounts on school supplies.

There Are Few Financial Resources for Homeschoolers

My husband and I are taxed an extravagant amount of money twice a year to our local school system. And we're happy to pay, we believe everyone deserves access to education. However, those tax dollars don't cover education expenses for our own kids and there really aren't any financial resources for homeschool families including teacher discounts on school supplies.

Why It's Tough

While many kids who are enrolled in public school enjoy discounted or free virtual classes, organized sports and music classes homeschool parents have to pay out of pocket on top of the public school taxes we already pay. It gets expensive!

How to Manage

Utilize free or cheap resources like:

  • Your local library's materials and programs including documentary streaming services.
  • YouTube's limitless horizon of educational channels. We love Crash Course, Crash course Kids, HiHo Kids and National Geographic Kids just to name a few! If your kid is curious about it, YouTube has the answer!
  • Free online games, classes and learning opportunities from ABCya!, Varsity Tutors and PBS.
  • Local or regional homeschool groups that offer free or subsidized field trips, social meetups and classes.

Torrie of the Oglesby Ohana Lists the Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

You Will Have to Make Extra Effort to Facilitate Healthy Social Interactions for Your Children

Growing up as a homeschooled kid, I never lacked for friends and as an adult I'm grateful for that. I've carried many of those friendships into my adult years and still talk to my childhood friends several times a week.

Why It's Tough

Managing your child's social life is a lot of work! And I can say I'm not doing it very efficiently, especially as we've hurdled through a pandemic and long, harsh up north winters. Sometimes I'm so worn out from just trying to get dinner on the table before it's time to read a bedtime story that I can't fathom fitting in a playdate without screaming into a pillow.

How to Manage

Think outside the "playdate" box, especially if your kids are older. Hosting or joining playdates can be great fun, but when you're a busy homeschool parent it can also be daunting to prepare your home or be somewhere at a specific time and feel obligated to stay longer than you really want to. Instead, get your kids out after school hours so they can interact with other kids their age whether it's at the beach, a basketball court, a bowling alley or a quaint neighborhood coffee shop. These real world interactions give your children a better sense of how to approach their peers and give them the opportunity to pick and choose their friends and who they feel connected and comfortable with.

Also, recognize that social interactions for your kids don't always have to be in person. Virtual classes, interactive online games like Roblox and apps like Marco Polo make it easy for your family to chat with friends long distance too.

Family game and movie nights at home are a great way to chill out together on a budget.

Family game and movie nights at home are a great way to chill out together on a budget.

It's a Lifestyle That Involves Financial Tradeoffs

Homeschooling itself doesn't have to be expensive, but homeschool families almost always need one parent or responsible adult (teenage siblings don't count) keeping track of and troubleshooting the school day which means that two fulltime incomes is probably out of the question.

Why It's Tough

We live in an era where getting by on anything less than two fulltime incomes is very tricky and not always feasible. If you're used to a more extravagant everyday you may struggle with the financial tradeoffs of homeschooling.

How to Manage

Analyze your financial output and decide if there's room to cut back. If not now, then perhaps you can plan for the future by downsizing your living space, vehicles or extra spending. In our own family we've made homeschooling a priority with me working for less from home while my husband works full time outside of our home.

To cut down on expenses we're a one (used) vehicle family, our home is small and we can only afford to go out to eat about twice a month. We eat every other meal at or from home (including packed work lunches!) and cut corners where we can like DIY hair cuts and doing the majority of our home spruce ups ourselves. If that seems depressing, it's not. We're very happy but part of the reason we are is that we've learned not to compare our lifestyle to other people's since we're living on an income and a half over here.

People May Think You're a Free Babysitting Service Because, You Know, You Just Sit Around All Day Doing Nothing

When the public schools have a snow day or the neighbor kids' parents are mysteriously MIA every afternoon you may find yourself being railroaded into becoming a free daycare.

Why It's Tough

As a homeschool parent you're going to struggle with wanting to say yes to everyone who beseeches you to watch their kids and there will be lots of people who, once they know you homeschool, will ask this of you. After all, you're just sitting at home anyway, right?! Wrong!

How to Manage

Learn to set boundaries:

  • Say no more than you say yes to requests for babysitting which will set a precedence that you're busy.
  • When it does work for you to take on someone else's children look at it as a social opportunity for your own kids and set clear limits on when you can watch them until.
  • If you find that neighborhood kids (and their parents) see your home as a revolving door, hang a sign on it and don't answer until your family is ready to welcome others in.
When you homeschool it's more important than ever to see and allow others to see your home as a quiet and sacred space for learning and living, not a free-for-all for other parents to dump their kids on you.

When you homeschool it's more important than ever to see and allow others to see your home as a quiet and sacred space for learning and living, not a free-for-all for other parents to dump their kids on you.

Questions About Homeschooling For the First Time

Do you need to be a teacher to homeschool your children?

Absolutely not. You do not need to be a teacher or have a degree in teaching to homeschool your child. Teachers and their education and experience should absolutely be respected. What they do is incredible. But what they do and the education behind it is about effectively educating a large group of children from all walks of life. As a homeschool parent your job is and should be seen as less daunting. All parents are equipped with the ability to homeschool their child just as they're equipped with the ability to parent their child.

Is homeschooling tax deductible?

No, it is not. There are no universal financial subsidies or financial resources or credits for homeschool families.

Can homeschoolers go to college?

Yes they can! Requirements can vary from state to state and college to college but for the most part your homeschooler will just need a high school transcript (this is very easy to put together yourself at home) and then they can use that to enroll in a community college and move up to university from there. If your student plans to go straight to a university they'll just need to take the school's entrance exams and likely pass standardized tests first (like the SATs).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Kierstin Gunsberg

Comments

Ann Carr from SW England on April 06, 2021:

This is excellent. I wanted to homeschool my children but I had to work (as a teacher!); even earlier when I had the opportunity, it wasn't possible due to other commitments. I really wish that I'd been able to do it, as school was not easy for my daughters.

I admire all home schooling Mums as it can be a hard job but I know many who've found it rewarding, along with their children.

Here in Britain we have Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) which oversees all schooling, be it state, private or home. Everyone has to meet standards and be checked when Ofsted sees fit. So there is some control and guideline which is good in many ways. The downside is that our National Curriculum is too narrow - in schools it's rarely possible to have enough time to go off on a tangent (when pupils ask interesting questions!) but at home that is possible and there is the freedom to do as you wish (as long as the curriculum areas are met). There are also self-made groups to share the social side of things, though that's been difficult with Covid of course.

Great that you have managed well and come through will all this advice.

Ann

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 06, 2021:

God bless all homeschooling moms out there. It's a tough job on the best of days. Me, I was a teacher for twenty years, and I think I got out of the profession just in the nick of time. :) Loved your article. Best wishes.

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