Being a parent means making a million and one decisions for your child, and one of the most important ones you'll make is about their education. You've got the natural worries that come with releasing your little one "into the wild," and you're determined to give them the very best... but is that public school? Private school? Homeschooling? If the third is on your radar, it can be helpful to hear about the pros and cons of homeschool, from people who have experienced it themselves.
No matter what your reasons for considering homeschooling, you certainly are in good company. Between 1999 and 2012, the amount of children being homeschooled rose by 850,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The reported reasons for homeschooling varied, including a desire to incorporate religion, fears over the environment of local schools, and special needs of the child. The “2017 Schooling in America Project,” developed by EdChoice and conducted by Braun Research, Inc., found that 3 percent of children in the U.S. were homeschooled.
My husband and I welcomed our daughter in April, and she's about to turn four months old. I've already shed tears at the thought of her leaving me and going to school one day. Scary events on the news have even led me to announcing, through tears, that she is never going to school! But what would that actually look like? As a proud product of public school myself, I couldn't tell you. That's why I'll defer to those who have walked the walk.
1. Pro: Lesson can be tailored to a child's learning style.
Everyone learns differently. When a student is home-schooled, every single unit can be taught in a style that works best for them, minimizing the time it takes for them to master that material. Plus, homeschooling allows for creative, interactive lessons that wouldn't be realistic with 20+ kids in a classroom setting, from messy art projects to educational excursions.
For Grace Fuller Hamner, mom of twin boys, the ability to learn in a hands-on manner was a major appeal of home schooling. "Instead of sitting in a chair and reading and hearing about world history, the family can visit these places," Hamner tells Romper.
2. Con: Children miss out on daily socialization with peers.
School is the main social outlet for most children, and children who are homeschooled miss out on this aspect. Autumn Pressley, who was homeschooled for two years in high school, describes this time as "lonely." "The only way I was able to make friends was online and more than half of the time, I never met them in person so never having a social outlet was rough," she told Romper.
3. Pro: You'll get plenty of family time.
There's no shortage of family bonding time in a home school setting, and it can be the perfect recipe for a tight knit family. For Jake Augustini, who was homeschooled from kindergarten through sixth grade, this was a positive aspect for everyone involved. "My mom wanted to spend more time with my siblings and I, rather than only getting to spend the evenings with us," Augustini told Romper.
For children with siblings, homeschooling allows for togetherness that traditional school settings don't. "I was the oldest of six kids. There was a 12 year age difference between me and the youngest," Jené Winchester, who was homeschooled from 3rd to 12th grade, told Romper. "We also got to quiz each other or help each other with homework."
4. Con: It can be difficult to transition into a traditional school setting after being homeschooled.
While Pressley felt adequately prepared academically, she struggled with the social aspects of transitioning into a new high school. "A lot of students had been together all four years, and some had even gone to school together since kindergarten, so it was really difficult trying to make friends with people who had no desire to add more people to their social group," she explained to Romper.
Hamner is dedicated to preparing her sons for an eventual transition. "I do intend to make conscious efforts to teach them the realities of college and prepare them to be successful then," Hamner told Romper.
5. Pro: Children benefit from the one-on-one teaching.
Growing up, all of my classes had 25 to 30 kids. While I could ask questions as needed, the one-on-one time between myself and my teacher was certainly limited. In a homeschool setting, 100 percent (or nearly 100 percent) of the parent's attention is on the student. "I think the quality of my education was better, because it was like having a one-on-one tutor for every class," Augustini told Romper. And that wasn't the only advantage that he got from learning at home with his siblings by his side. "I got to benefit from 'listening in' on my siblings lessons, particularly my older brother, which I think help me grasp concepts and learn at a faster rate than I would have in a class confined to a single grade."
6. Con: Children don't experience diversity and may wind up feeling "sheltered."
Traditional schools provide opportunities to interact with children from different walks of life that homeschooling often does not. While many homeschooling parents will go out of their way to expose their children to new experiences and people, it often doesn't compare to learning and playing alongside children with diverse backgrounds. This rings true for Augustini, who told Romper, "I felt that I grew up pretty sheltered, so when I 'entered the real world' it was difficult to adapt."
7. Pro: Children can work through material at their own speed.
Children learn at vastly different speeds, but with homeschooling, the child sets the pace. This was one of the most beneficial aspects for Winchester. "The teachers advised homeschooling me because I was more advanced than the rest of the class, at the time at least, and I could move through the curriculum as fast as I wanted to at home," she told Romper. Pressley echoed this sentiment. "I always felt like I had to slow down in public schools because I was constantly working ahead but with homeschool, I was allowed to work ahead if I wanted to," she told Romper.
8. Con: You are not paid to teach.
Homeschooling families typically live on one income, as one parent stays home to teach. For some families, this requires careful budgeting and making certain sacrifices. For other families, homeschooling means working at nights or on weekends to make it financially feasible. However, as most homeschooling families will point out, any sacrifices are worth it. "I feel like if more parents could see the beauty and flexibility of different homeschooling styles, so many more families would be doing it," Hamner tells Romper.
9. Pro: Children can learn other skills that aren't typically taught in a classroom.
There are boundless opportunities for learning additional skills and exploring other interests in a homeschool setting. Hamner only has one mission through homeschooling. "My entire goal is to help my children develop a love of learning. A deep, intrinsically-driven desire to expand their minds," she explains to Romper. Once they discover a passion or interest, she will follow their lead and dive in.
In Winchester's case, homeschooling also provided her with life skills that ended up benefiting her greatly as an adult. "We had chores where we would take turns cooking lunch for the family," she told Romper. Additionally, she helped raise her siblings and learned the ropes for creating a schedule.
10. Con: You'll likely need to re-educate yourself, and learn an entirely new curriculum each year.
Years after leaving school, most of us have forgotten exactly how to diagram a sentence or the function of every part of a cell. When you sign up to homeschool your children, you're also signing up to learn alongside them. And, unlike traditional teachers, you won't be teaching the same grade level year after year. You'll need to continuously brush up on every topic your children will be learning.
11. Pro: You can create a flexible schedule.
As long as you're covering the required material, there are no rules for a homeschooling schedule. Because Winchester was able to move through the material so quickly, she was able to limit school to four days a week, with Friday being used as a family day devoted to activities like visiting museums or hiking. Pressley, who struggled with severe insomnia, was able to push back the daily start time to 11:00 a.m., giving her time to sleep in.
12. Con: You may not have access to various resources used in traditional schools.
You can stock up on notebooks and markers, and even install a dry erase board, but you simply won't have access to everything that kids have in traditional schools. You likely don't have a bunsen burner handy for a science experiment, or the sports equipment of a school gymnasium and musical instruments of a band room. While there are certainly ways to make do, ensuring you have everything you need for various units can become a huge undertaking.
13. Pro: You can join forces with other like-minded homeschooling families.
Homeschooling doesn't always look like a mom and her child at the kitchen table. If you have other family friends or extended family going the home school route, you can do group homeschooling. This has plenty of benefits, like greater socialization opportunities for your children and sharing the teaching load with other adults.
14. Pro/Con: There are both costs and savings associated with homeschooling.
By choosing to homeschool, you won't need to buy everything on those lengthy school supply lists. You won't need to purchase things like backpacks and lunch boxes, or pay private school tuition costs. Heck, if I were homeschooled in middle school and high school, my wardrobe budget would've been cut in half. However, you will be responsible for buying textbooks and other necessary materials.
Like every decision in life, there are pros and cons to homeschooling. For some families, it's not realistic or even desirable. For other families, it's the greatest choice they've ever made. While it's always helpful to hear from those with experience, at the end of the day, you are the only one who knows what's right for your family.