As homeschoolers, we spend a whole lot of time out and about in our community, while all the other kids are at school. So we’re always running into people who question us, “What? No school today?”
I tell them we homeschool, and then, nine times out of ten, I get this response.
“Oh, I could never homeschool my children!”
I’m never sure if this person is saying she couldn’t stand to be around her kids all day, or if she’s admitting that she doesn’t feel qualified.
Or maybe she assumes I’m judging her for not homeschooling.
Maybe she’s implying that I have some sort of top secret homeschooling superpower — that homeschooling is easy for me and I don’t have gut-wrenchingly difficult days. Though of course there’s always the off chance that she thinks I’m completely unqualified.
Or maybe she’s afraid I’ll try to convert her to the ‘homeschooling cult’ and wants to preempt my attempt.
Whatever her intent, I just politely shrug and laugh. I mean, what is an appropriate response?
But in all truth, there have been times I’ve wanted to respond genuinely to that mom and tell her a little about homeschooling. I’m just not very good at thinking up responses on the spot.
So, I’ve put together a list of ten things that I’d like my non-homeschooling friends and family to know. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll know what to say next time someone tells me they could never homeschool.
Here is what homeschooling moms want you to know:
1. We homeschool because we love it!
We all began homeschooling for different reasons. I began because my oldest was devastated about missing the kindergarten deadline, and I promised her school at home to soothe her distress. Once I started, I couldn’t stop — it was that much fun!
I have friends who began because their children were bullied, or because they had needs the school couldn’t meet. And I have other friends who homeschool because they don’t think it’s healthy for children to sit in desks all day long.
Whatever the reason we started homeschooling, we all continued because we love it so much that we can’t imagine our lives without it.
I love that my children are so close to one another, from the oldest to the youngest. I love that we all spend our days together, laughing and learning. I love how spending every waking moment together has cemented our relationships.
There is nothing I love more than watching my little ones discover the magic of words and books, and the miracle of the human body, and how Calculus gives all of the preceding math reason and meaning. I truly love homeschooling!
None of the homeschoolers I know do it out of fear. I was actually asked (in Ireland) if I homeschool because there are so many school shooting in the states. That was a good laugh! Nor do any of us homeschool from a place of superiority or a sense of duty. Truly, we all homeschool because we love it.
2. Our days probably don’t look like you think they do.
If you think our homeschools look like the school you went to as a kid, you probably wonder how on Earth a mom can manage her household tasks, plus keeping bottoms in chairs, teaching multiple subjects to different ages of children, and leading the ‘class’ out to a supervised recess.
Well no wonder you think that sounds impossible! I do, too, and I also think it sounds miserable. No, we only study a couple of subjects per day, and our school is finished before the public school lets out for morning recess.
We try to fit all of our practicing (all of my children play multiple instruments) into the morning, along with school, so our afternoons are free. The kids help me in the garden, or with housework or home improvement projects. They also have a lot more time to play outside and be kids than the other kids their age in the neighborhood.
So if it looks like my kids are playing outside all day long, don’t worry.
3. Homeschoolers are as varied as they come.
We’re not all super conservative, denim-jumper wearing, religious zealots. Homeschoolers are as individual as public schoolers are.
Within my own social circle, you’ll find moms whose 3-year-olds practice violin for hours daily, and moms who let their kids play at the park alone (gasp!). You’ll meet a worldschooling family, newly returned from 3 years abroad, and a family who focuses their efforts on service and missionary work.
Regardless of our differences, at the end of the day, we homeschoolers are the same as you — just working hard to do the best we can for our children. We all want to raise children who are honest, hard-working, ambitious, empathetic, and happy — children who contribute to the world in positive ways.
4. Parents are always qualified to teach their children.
More than once, I’ve been asked what my teaching qualifications are. One woman remarked that she had thought only qualified parents could homeschool their children.
My degree is in engineering. I haven’t studied education, beyond reading lots of homeschooling books. I have no classroom experience, and no certifications from my state.
But I’m the most qualified person in the entire world to teach my children, strictly because I love them more than anyone else. I love to snuggle them up and read to them, spend time with them, explore with them, and learn with them.
5. Yes, homeschoolers are sheltered.
Sheltered is just another word for protected. We all want to protect our children, right?
And the antonym of shelter is to expose. Does that make you think twice about feeling negative about sheltering?
I freely admit that I want to shelter my children from the burdens of alcohol, illegal drugs, and promiscuity. I’ll never feel bad about it.
6.Yes, there are things homeschooled kids don’t know or understand.
My kiddos don’t know how to raise their hands or line up.
I teach my 9-year-old daughter’s primary class, and whenever I ask a question, she shouts out the answer while the other kids raise their hands. I haven’t asked them to, they’ve just been trained that way. I’m not going to worry about teaching my children to raise their hands, either. I prefer the exuberance.
As far as lining up goes, we had a homeschool field trip to the local planetarium last week, where I realized, yet again, that my kiddos didn’t know what it meant to line up. I realize this periodically, and think I should show them, and then it flees my mind until the next time the skill is required.
So we were at the planetarium, and the person in charge asked all the kids to line up for their theater tickets. A few kids knew what she meant, but mine raced to line up shoulder to shoulder, all facing forward, like little soldiers. And then a bunch more followed them. We actually had quite a lineup, soldier-style.
We moms all laughed and tried to show our kiddos what the woman meant, but it was pretty chaotic. So she just went with it, since they were pretty still, and handed out tickets.
Probably the area in which my kiddos are most deficient, though, is understanding social heirarchy, where the mean girls at the top have all the power, just because they’re exclusive, and, well, mean. My kids don’t have a clue what ‘cool’ is or why anyone would seek to befriend the mean girls.
They don’t know that they should only be friends with kids their own ages and genders, or that befriending outcasts makes you a social pariah.
My 6-year-old son had a best friend at orchestra that he just loved and talked about all the time. When I finally met her, I was really surprised to discover, first that she was girl, and second that she was a 13-year-old girl! My son was really surprised when I brought it up, because he hadn’t noticed those things, either. She was simply a fun and funny friend.
7. My children are learning, I promise.
Occasionally, but more often than you’d imagine, total strangers find out my kids are homeschooled and then pepper them with math facts, geography questions, and spelling words. Sometimes, family members and friends are even worse. It makes me wonder if other people are wondering if we are actually learning anything.
One of our ecclesiastical leaders used to ‘interview’ my children frequently, and quiz them, not just about facts, but about our daily schedule and what subjects they were working on. He worked as a junior high principal, so I would typically excuse his excessive interest in education, but the only kids in the congregation he ever seemed to quiz were mine and one other homeschooling families.
I’ve finally taught my children to politely respond with, “My mom quizzes me enough at home.” I hope it helps perpetrators understand that it is terribly rude and none of their business.
8. We don’t have more time than you.
In #2 I talked about how our days look, and how we don’t actually spend 6 hours every day bent over desks. Neither do we spend our in front of the TV, popping bon-bons.
In addition to the 3 hours or so of school we accomplish every day, there is an enormous amount of preparation that goes into homeschooling. Plus, we homeschool moms have all the same housework you do, the same soccer practices and orchestral rehearsals and piano and dance lessons. And many of us work to help support our families, too.
I’ve often felt expected to pitch in more with church and community needs, because I stay home all day. But more often lately, I’ve felt the expectation on my older children. Because they’re home, and because they are so responsible and trustworthy, they are forever being asked to help out neighbors with babysitting, yardwork, housework, and even large construction projects.
The expectations are pretty huge and often burdensome to my children. Now, I’m all over pitching in and helping where there is a need. We like to volunteer as a family, and we love the good feelings that accompany service.
But it seems like it’s always 10% of the people that do 90% of the work, and that is tiring. It’s tiring to my children, and it’s tiring to me to have to keep track of all of their things and to have to run them hither and yon, and to have them gone when I need them. The reason we homeschool is so that we can be together as a family, not so we can be at everyone else’s beck and call.
9. Homeschoolers work on socialization intentionally.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked the socialization question, I’d be rich!
Everyone thinks that children who don’t attend school miss out on socialization — and they’re right! They miss out on being socialized by children who gossip, bully, and malign each other in order to climb the social ladder.
My kiddos don’t realize they have to conform to fit in, so they don’t conform, or fit in really, but it doesn’t matter to them, because they don’t depend on peer approval. Instead, they can be unique. They can be helpful, cooperative, brainy, dorky, and kind — all the makings of a total nerd at public school — and be loved all the more for it.
Because we spend less time on school, we are able to spend more time on extracurricular activities, to play our instruments at the senior center and volunteer at the homeless shelter. My kiddos seem just as comfortable socializing with the grannies as they do with their church youth groups.
My kids associate frequently with public-schooled kids in their various activities, and they all come home and tell me things like, “My friends at orchestra were surprised to learn that I’m homeschooled, because I’m so normal!”
10. We don’t think less of you because you don’t homeschool.
Okay, I can’t speak for all the homeschoolers out there. But I think you’re a fabulous mom, in exactly the same position as I am, just trying to raise your children to be their best selves and survive the chaos.
I may not personally know you, but I know my sisters and my friends who don’t homeschool, and they actually put me to shame in the motherhood department. Each of them is exactly what their children need.
My older sister works with the homeless, because God has called her to care for his overlooked, forgotten children. People in need are attracted to her. She takes her daughter along, and my sweet niece has maturity, empathy and compassion that I can only dream of for my own daughters.
Another sister has lived abroad for the last 15 years, and visited probably 50 countries with her children, to educate them, help them learn languages and cultures, and touch their hearts. Her children are wise beyond their years, having seen so much of the world.
And my third sister has a severely handicapped daughter who can do anything any other child can, because my sister has helped her to see herself as perfect and whole.
I never intended to homeschool, it just sort of fell into our laps, and I kept at it because I absolutely loved it. But I’m not a better mom, or a better teacher, or a better person, just because I homeschool.
I’ve read countless books on different homeschooling methods, and education methods in general, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the methods matter a whole lot less than having an involved parent. Involved parents, whether homeschooling, private schooling, or living in a remote jungle village and never setting foot inside a school building, are the common denominator to successful children.
We homeschoolers may look different, and we might truly be weird! I’m probably too close to the whole thing to be objective.
But we’re all moms. And we’re in this together.
I can’t help but think that someday my daughters will date boys who were probably not homeschooled. After all, only 4% of the population is homeschooled.
And I hope that it won’t be a stumbling block in their relationship. We moms, homeschooling and non-homeschooling alike, can take the first step toward that now by embracing one another with loving arms, regardless of our schooling preferences or methodologies.
I’d love to hear the funny questions you homeschooling mama’s get asked. Please leave me a comment below!