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How to Decide Whether to Homeschool: Pros and Cons

A field trip to MIT organized by an online homeschool group.

A field trip to MIT organized by an online homeschool group.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."

— Robert Frost

Do You Have What It Takes to Homeschool?

Are you on the fence?

Are you still unsure that homeschooling is for you?

You may know people who never even questioned if they would be able to homeschool. They just believed that homeschooling was the road to travel. I, on the other hand, was wondering if I could do a good job. Looking back the most important aspects aren’t if you are smart enough to teach your children but do you have what it takes.

Here are four important things to think about if you are considering homeschooling.

1. It will take a lot of your time.

Do you have the time to make this a priority in your life? Do you work? If so, would you be able to cut back on your hours and work from home? Would you be able to quit your job and live on less? I worked from home but very little at first: four hours per week. We gave up a lot of “material things” and vacations so I could stay home with the kids and every bit of it was worth it.

2. You need to be organized.

This definitely helps but isn’t a deal-breaker. There is quite a bit of organization in:

  • Setting up a schedule
  • Dividing up the curriculum into daily tasks so you will get through the full curriculum in the school year
  • Planning projects
  • Buying the curriculum
  • Setting up field trips
  • Setting up time with other kids

And this is on top of the normal running around for sports, clubs, etc. Teaching your children to be organized helps a great deal. If you have older children who can help with the teaching of the younger children that helps as well. Also, combining classes with your children even though they are in different grades is easy to do for science and art, especially in the elementary grades. These subjects are repeated throughout your child’s twelve years of education. In doing this you should expect more work out of the older children.

What I enjoyed was when we split a class with another family. One year we did science this way. My children would go over to a friend's house for one day a week for a science lesson and then work independently on their own lessons. Then on another day of the week their children would come to our house with all of their studies and I would do the science lesson. This gave us moms both a day off from schooling during the week, which gave us more time to prepare lessons without interruption and have some downtime as well.

3. Your house will not be as tidy.

Can you live in a constantly “lived-in house”? Gone are the days of leaving the house clean and it’s still clean when everyone gets back home. You will be home an awful lot. House cleaning does not stay a priority when you are homeschooling—at least it didn’t for me. And there is always the opportunity for life skills; i.e., the children helping out with the house cleaning.

4. People will see you as "different."

Can you live with being different? For some people, this is the hardest part. They have a tough time being different from everyone else. There were many times that I chatted with other moms and they asked where my children went to school. When I told them they are homeschooled, they didn’t get it. Some were even quite offended that I would choose to do something different. Others didn’t want anything to do with me. Even I didn’t understand why people homeschooled before I had a reason to try it myself.

There were also disadvantages concerning sports. Even though the sports were through the city when they were younger some coaches believed that my children would not be playing for the public high schools so they didn’t feel the need to put much time into coaching them, maybe even keeping them on the sidelines more because they weren’t as important. Weren’t they surprised when my kids were able to play for the high school as a homeschooler?

There is nothing wrong with taking a different path than everyone else. I do believe when something doesn’t work for you there is another way and I’m not just talking about schooling my children. Life is too short to follow everyone else around and not take the time to discover your own gifts and what you are meant to become.

Benefits to Homeschooling

There are many benefits to homeschooling. Here are a few:

  • More time to spend with your kids.
  • Flexible curriculum to meet your child’s individual needs.
  • Flexibility in vacations.
  • Ability for your children to find and focus on their gifts.
  • More chances for internships as they get older.
  • Field trip opportunities that bring their learning to life and can include the whole family.
  • Your children have a lot of time to find out what their passion is and what it isn’t.
  • They can learn life skills every day: baking, cooking, money/shopping, gardening, car maintenance, etc.

One of my children discovered—very much to my surprise—that he loved to write. We were preparing for a field trip called Exchange City when he was about ten years old. Exchange City is a two-day event where the kids go through training for one day and then live in a mock city for another full day. The city is made up of stores, a bank, a local newspaper, a fast-food chain, a payroll office, etc. In preparation for the event the kids vote for a mayor, learn to write out a check and need to go through a job interview process - decide what they want to do to earn a living. My son picked a journalist for a newspaper company. I was shocked. I didn’t know he liked to write that much. But he did it and enjoyed it very much. He is now a college student and is an English major with a concentration in writing. Who knew? Homeschooling gave him the time to focus on his passion - writing.

My other son had a great interest in exercise, so in his first year of high school we found an exercise science/anatomy online class to cover his science requirement. He very much enjoyed the class. He is now at college as an Exercise Science major. He took the time to start working out and for him it became a need when we found out that he has Spondylitis (another story in itself). He also found internships on his own when he was in high school and continues to work in his field as he begins his studies.

My ten-year-old writer working on his newspaper article on a homeschool field trip at Exchange City.

My ten-year-old writer working on his newspaper article on a homeschool field trip at Exchange City.

Disadvantages to Homeschooling

I suppose the disadvantages are pretty much the opposite of the advantages listed above. I do want to emphasize the following:

  • Less time to yourself.
  • Less money to spend if you were previously working.
  • Less time for hobbies and friends if you weren’t previously working.

It does take a lot of time to homeschool including some preparation throughout the week as mentioned above. But it is fun to let your imagination go wild and find new, fun ways to help your children learn.

How to Begin the Journey

Now, if you have decided to homeschool, there are a few things you will need to do. After checking your city rules and deciding on curriculum as explained in my “Homeschool Life” article it is important to get connected. There are many homeschool groups around, each of which has its own goals.

  • Some are informational
  • Some groups homeschool their kids together in certain subjects
  • Some support the families and have a mom’s night out
  • Some get together for field trips

Find one or more that fits your needs and join in. We were blessed to have many homeschool families we knew and got together for play time, field trips and some homeschooling together. We also joined an online group to get information on field trips.

Next, set up a calendar for the school year.

  • Do you want to use your city’s school year, so your children are on vacation the same time as everyone else?
  • Do you want to homeschool year-round, so you can take vacation whenever you want?
  • Do you want to travel for a period of time so they are seeing the world as they are studying?

We did it differently every year. We very much enjoyed being able to vacation during the off-season when things weren’t so crowded. Answers to the above questions will help you start writing out your schedule. NOTE: There are rules as to how many days per year you need to have school days.

Then think about extracurricular activities. This usually doesn’t change for the younger kids because a lot of the activities are outside the school system anyway. However, when the kids get to high school there may be options you don’t know about. There are many travel teams for sports and music organizations. Our kids played sports for the local high school. Not all cities let you do this but we were fortunate ours did. Contact your high school athletic department to see what their policy is and if they will take exceptions. Again, depending on the city, there are other activities that your child can participate in the public school systems. Some cities even let you take one or two classes and homeschool the rest. Your child could take a class that you don’t feel as confident teaching. Don’t forget about the arts: music, drama and art classes or clubs, to name a few.

These are the basics to get you started on the homeschooling path.

I hope this helps. Best of luck!

© 2017 Carolyn LaCroix