Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
Hi! My name is Amy and I’m addicted to lists.
Sometimes I even write up lists of things I’ve already accomplished just so I can cross them all off.
So when my oldest wanted to officially be homeschooled (we had already completed a year of unofficial homeschool) I needed to know what my chances of success were. First, I went looking for statistics (there were VERY few!) and next I created a list of homeschooling pros and cons.
With only a year of sort-of-homeschooling-a-kindergartner under my belt, that initial list was lacking. Now that I’ve had eighteen years of experience homeschooling all eight of my kiddos, and successfully graduated my three oldest, my list of the pros and cons of homeschooling has grown and expanded.
Whether or not to homeschool your children is a difficult choice. I get it. We all just want to give our children the best educations possible. That’s why I’m sharing my lists of the pros and cons of homeschooling with you — to help you make an informed decision.
I’m one to always rip the bandaids off, so let’s start by talking about the cons of homeschooling, followed by the pros.
Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
Disadvantages of homeschooling:
As much as I love homeschooling, there may be some families that homeschooling won’t work for.
1. Homeschooling can be expensive. Frugal alternatives are available, but homeschooling can be expensive. >>> Here are 12 Tips for Homeschooling On a Budget <<< In addition to the cost of textbooks and curriculum, your children may also need a computer or tablet, or a microscope and other lab equipment. I’ve heard from friends that our local public high school charges an arm and a leg for fees, but overall I still think that public schools foot a huge portion of the education bill. Further, you need to take into account the loss of income for whichever parent is going to take charge of education. Or you need to figure out a way to supplement your income from home.
2. Extracurricular activities require more effort. Public schools make access to athletic teams amazingly easy. If your teen loves sports and wants to pursue a sports scholarship, he might have a better chance of being noticed in a school setting. Public schools also provide art, dance, drama, music and other elective classes that are enticing. If I want to provide my kids the same opportunities, I have to put in extra effort to find suitable classes, drive my children back and forth, and pay for the classes out of pocket. I’ve been doing this for the last 18 years and found the community offerings to be superior to what our local public school offers, but there are still days when I thoroughly regret having signed up for things. It’s no picnic!
3. Teenagers can be HARD! If your teen has a bad attitude or struggles with motivation, he might respond better to an outside authority. At times, difficult teens may want to feel like they have a life of their own instead of always being associated with the family. Or your teen might simply struggle with always being around younger siblings and desire some separation.
4. Your home is not a school. Your local school may be able to offer your children things that you can’t provide at home, like science labs involving extensive equipment. I’m willing to go above and beyond for science, because I love it. Even so, we don’t have a lab setup like our local high school. For one thing, I can’t devote an entire room to a lab, so everything we do has to be cleaned up before the next meal. Another problem is that my little ones will poke their fingers into any and every single chemical you’re working with, and they might even try to drink it. So my teens are limited in what they can do at home.
5. Homeschooling does not provide the built-in structure that public schools do. Public-schooled kids have to be in their seats at specified times all year long. Teachers assign school work and deadlines and penalties for missing them. If you are naturally disorganized it might feel overwhelming to structure your home and homeschool (they naturally become intertwined) to provide your family necessary structure. Will you get your children up in the morning if there is no bus to catch? Will studying for the purpose of learning (as opposed to passing a test) motivate your children sufficiently? Or will you administer tests and enforce deadlines?
6. Homeschooling is another thing to add to your list. Are you willing and able to add the responsibility for educating your children to all of the mom tasks you already shoulder? When I was deciding whether or not to homeschool, I mistakenly thought I was adding a 9 – 5 teaching job to my load. Luckily, it’s nothing like that! School fits naturally into our days and actually enriches them. However, it is still another hat to add to my collection: chauffeur, chef, nurse, nutrition coordinator, personal shopper, teacher. We start worrying about college in kindergarten, because we shoulder the responsibility of preparation. And we have the burden of all that accompanies readiness for college, like academic requirements and tracking dual enrollment credits.
7. Recordkeeping. Your little ones don’t need a diploma or transcript to graduate elementary school. However, your teens absolutely will need a transcript in order to apply to universities. This can be intimidating if you prefer a relaxed and unstructured style of homeschooling or if you didn’t keep records during the earlier grades. Honestly, I only keep records for my high schoolers, and it probably takes me less than an hour per teen each semester, but it is still another thing to worry about and keep track of, and sometimes even just one more thing can feel like the straw that breaks the camels back.
8. Homeschooling has an opportunity cost. Regardless of the numerous opportunities homeschooling offers, there are things homeschoolers will miss out on by not attending public school. Your children won’t be eating lunch with friends daily or cheering on their football team on Friday nights. Of course, public schoolers miss out on eating lunch daily as a family and other experiences unique to homeschooling. You just have to weigh the opportunity cost of your own choices.
9. Socialization has to be more intentional. Homeschooling can be lonely, beacause it takes more effort to find appropriate extracurricular activities or opportunities for socialization. Even my most introverted teens fare better with plenty of social interaction. I’ve found that probably 80% of our homeschool friends send their kids back to public school once they hit middle school. I get it — homeschooling high school can be intimidating. That just means, if you have older kids, your local homeschool co-op might no longer be a great opportunity for socialization and you’ll have to look harder. We’ve found community sports, community theater and private school extracurricular offerings to be just what we were looking for. My teens have also enjoyed their peers in their concurrent enrollment (college) classes.
10. You have to endure strange looks and comments from strangers. As an extreme introvert, I find it very uncomfortable to try to defend my decision to homeschool to complete strangers who inexplicably consider my children’s educations their business.
If you want to read a few more honest misgivings about homeschooling, this might help:
Advantages of Homeschooling:
1. Homeschoolers have time to develop talents and explore interests. Academics can be accomplished in so much less time at home that your child will have ample time to explore his interests and develop his talents. All of my children play multiple instruments and belong to a fabulous orchestra. I don’t know where they would find the time to practice if they had to spent 7+ hours at school each day.
2. They have unlimited academic opportunities. At public high schools, kids are limited to 7 or 8 classes, depending on how your local high school arranges its schedule. In addition, most of those classes are determined by the school, leaving few choices for students. If your public-schooled teen is fascinated by a certain subject, he’ll have to find time outside of school to explore it further. If you homeschool, though, you can turn that avid interest into a class and help your teen to find online classes or other materials to encourage his studies. Further, as his guidance counselor, you can help him to individualize his own educational program with academic opportunities such as science fairs, model UN, mock trial, that match his interests. Your teen will never be limited to only what the school provides and allows. Elementary schools provide even fewer academic opportunities, because it would be impossibly for one teacher to differentiate instruction or curriculum for 25 kids.
3. Your children will get adequate sleep. I’ve read so many articles about children (especially teens) needing far more sleep than they actually receive. It seems especially true of ambitious teens who involve themselves in multiple, wonderful extracurricular activities. I remember having to be at school 1.5 hours early several days each week to practice for our school musicals, and stay after school several afternoons for ski club. I had friends who spent 12 hours a day at school between all of their extracurricular activities. No one can accomplish much when they are run down and worn out!
4. Homeschoolers understand that education is about more than a grade (maybe because there are no grades, ha, ha!). I remember feeling so compelled to be a straight A student (because that was where I felt my self worth originated) that I excused lying and cheating (and learning nothing) in order to maintain my GPA. Because we aren’t worried about checking off boxes or working towards a grade or standardized test score, the sole objective of our homeschool is to learn and grow.
5. Homeschoolers also understand that education is about more than a schedule. We don’t worry about how long it takes to learn to read or do long division or calculate complicated integrals. Instead, we are concerned about development happening in a way that facilitates a love of learning. When children are made to feel dumb because their developmental timeline is different from others, they shut down. That is less likely to happen in a homeschool where students are encouraged to learn without imposing a schedule of what should be learned when and comparing all the children born within a certain time frame to one another.
6. Homeschoolers learn from failure. Successful people are resilient and creative. They have learned to approach problems from different angles and that, like Edison, when something doesn’t work the first time you just keep trying. Failure is a critical part of the learning process. Home, because it’s a safe, loving and supportive learning environment, is the best place for children to learn the value of failure. It’s important to empower children to understand that taking risks is crucial in their learning journey.
7. Strong familial relationships are another wonderful benefit of homeschooling. Siblings will be around much longer than school friends, and homeschoolers are lucky to have so much time to work on forging strong relationships. Spending so much time together will require you to have to work through difficulties on a daily basis. The shared time and experiences will cement bonds between your older and younger children that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Further, because homeschooled youth are more involved with their families, and are required to help maintain the family through chores and such, they grow up with a family-centric perspective instead of a self-centered one.
8. Homeschoolers are better socialized. Bullying, peer pressure, cliques, mean girls and other negative social situations can be rampant in public schools. Kids are considered uncool if they’re smart or serious or earnest or religious. Homeschooling provides a much simpler, real-world type of socialization because kids interact with others of all ages regularly and in a more natural environment. 25 kids all born within 12 months of each other in a classroom is not natural. No wonder a Lord of the Flies style social hierarchy ensues. Homeschoolers know how to interact with and relate to a wide variety of people, of all ages, successfully. Because homeschooled teens exist in a loving environment and understand their worth, they have greater confidence to lead rather than wanting to follow a group. The are generally at less risk for violence, exposure to drugs, and a myriad of other things that plague today’s schools.
9. Parents maintain their influence. Who do you want primarily influencing your child – you or his friends or his teachers? As a parent, you influence your child’s most important values, like ethics and religion, and future educational and career choices. This is especially important with teens. The stronger your relationship with your teen, the more influence you’ll have. And the more time you spend with your teen, the better your relationship. I’m so grateful that I have the chance to share my own worldview and religious perspective with my children. I’m grateful to have been able to teach them about the Christian founding of America and tie the Creation into all of our science classes.
10. Homeschoolers learn to how to think independently. Our modern media situation, where we are bombarded with social media and 30 second sound bytes, has created people that are incapable of thinking independently. They adopt new ideas as if they were fashions and drop them just as quickly. They find it difficult to even formulate or articulate their own opinions because they haven’t actually learned to think. As homeschoolers, we can give our kids more time and space to think, and we can have dinner time conversations about difficult topics, encouraging our kids to think deeply.
11. Your child will have his own, individualized educational plan (IEP) whether he has been diagnosed with special needs or not. You’ll be able to customize your child’s learning as he grows older and recognizes his own gifts and passions. Who makes a better guidance counselor than a parent? Your child is your greatest concern, you have a vested interest in seeing him succeed, and your desires for your teen are exclusively altruistic. Nobody will work harder on your child’s success than you.
12. Homeschoolers have learned self-discipline. As a busy homeschool mom of eight, I have no choice but to require my children (especially my older kids) to be at least mostly responsible for their own educations. With my teens, I act as a guidance counselor rather than a teacher. I help my youth look up university requirements and I remind them of deadlines, like ACT registration and AP Test registration and such, but day to day education is completely up to them. It’s great practice for college, because the stakes are lower! It’s the perfect time to develop good habits and discipline to serve them well throughout life.
13. Homeschooled youth are much more genuinely respectful. I remember rolling eyes at my parents (and I had friends who swore at theirs) and thinking they were so dumb and antiquated. I once called my parents homophobic. Isn’t that horrible? My health teacher at school taught us about the benefits of alternative lifestyles (LGBT) and told us not to repeat what we had learned to our parents, because they were homophobic. I wasn’t a particularly dumb or rebellious teenager, but for some reason I chose to go home and repeat all the benefits to my parents and then, when they were good and angry, call them homophobic. It stands to reason the the adults who spend the most time with a teenager will have his ear and the opportunity to guide him into adulthood. I’ve noticed that my own children are much more genuinely respectful than I ever was. I knew better than to spout off (most of the time) or be outwardly disrespectful, but my inner feelings left a lot to be desired.
14. Homeschoolers tend to be proficient at life skills like cooking, cleaning and home maintenance. We homeschool from 9am to noon every day, then my kids become my slaves, evil laugh! Totally kidding! But they really do help a lot. We finished our basement last year and the previous year we remodeled the rest of our house. So my kiddos know how to frame, install HVAC and electrical and insulation, finish sheetrock, paint, and even do finish carpentry work. Many hands make light work. Everyone takes a turn to help me cook and bake, and all of the kids have daily chores, too. The end result is that my kids know how to run a home. I don’t have to cram all the things they should know into a crash course before they leave for college!
15. Homeschooling high school encourages a love of learning. Have you ever been working on something exciting, but been interrupted and required to change subjects every 50 minutes? I’m sure you moms are laughing — we rarely even get 50 minutes, right? So you understand the frustration. Homeschooled youth can spend a whole day or week or month or year going just as deep in whatever subject they are studying at the moment. Conversely, things that don’t interest them can just be studied lightly or not at all. Homeschooling provides a fantastic learning environment to encourage a love of learning.
16. Homeschooled teens can take advantage of early college programs. Homeschoolers can earn college credit through dual enrollment, beginning around age 15. In addition to earning college credit, your teen will also benefit time spent with other students and classroom time with a teacher other than this parents — one with strict deadlines and grading criteria.
17. Homeschooled teens enjoy access to other educational opportunities. Homeschooled teens can also take advantage of opportunities such as apprenticeships, mentorships, and entrepreneurial opportunities. My daughter wants to study film score composing and she’s been able to work with a mentor (who owns a music production studio and writes music) to produce her own compositions. As she writes more and gains experience, she’ll be able to create a website and sell her compositions online.
18. Your teen will be better prepared for college. As our teens become more independent both socially and academically, they are preparing themselves for college. College professors have noted that homeschoolers value learning, go above and beyond and are more engaged. Professors have also spoken about how homeschooled graduates aren’t afraid to ask for assistance when needed. They are known to have tenacity and persistence.
19. Your teen can work and save money. My teens always want to participate in 5 million extracurricular activities. Private music lessons (my children each play several instruments) are about all I can afford, so my teens pay for the remaining activities. One of their favorites is an awesome, summer music camp, which requires them to save up almost all year. Luckily, homeschooling provides them the opportunity! Since my teens only attend classes (concurrent enrollment classes at the university) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they are able to work far more hours than their peers. I’ve seen so much growth as a result of allowing my teens the opportunity to learn financial independence! We also require our kids to foot their own college bills, which greatly encourages them to work hard to earn scholarships, in addition to saving a percentage of their income.
20. Homeschoolers are often entrepreneurially minded. My oldest wanted to attend a very expensive music camp when she was only 12 — too young to work officially. She babysat here and there, but it wasn’t enough. So she started a soapmaking business and she started teaching piano and violin lessons. She knew her skills were valuable and others would pay for them, and she wasn’t afraid to learn new skills. My older have formed a string quartet and they play for weddings. It’s not terribly reliable income, but when they have gigs they make more per hour than most professionals. Two of my kiddos run a window washing business that pays for many of the things they want to do.
21. Homeschooling allows kids to learn in the most effective way. How do you learn best? Sitting in a desk listening to someone for hours? Not me! I swear I learned more about American History walking the Freedom Trail in Boston than I ever did in all my years of school. You can learn about Chinese history touring the Summer Palace in Beijing or American Indian cliff dwellers at Mesa Verde. You can learn geology hiking Mt. Saint Helens or the Grand Canyon. Experiential learning, or learning through experience, is far more effective and fun besides! Further, it pushes kids out of their comfort zone, helping them to grow as people while they’re learning.
My Final Thoughts About the Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
Clearly, I’m biased. I have loved homeschooling my kiddos (I’ve graduated 3 so far) and I love the wonderful adults they’ve grown into. I plan to homeschool the rest of my children, too, although they are welcome to attend public school at any time.
The above list is by no means exhaustive. I’ll bet that if you asked 20 homeschooling moms to come up with lists of the pros and cons of homeschooling, you’d get 20 very different lists. We all have very different families and children and abilities, strengths and weaknesses — of course our lists will be different.
For us, the benefits outweighed the disadvantages, but it’s helpful to begin homeschooling with a clear idea (or at least as clear as possible) of both its pros and cons. Only you know your own strengths and weaknesses.
As an avowed introvert, I often struggle with rarely having alone time. I neglected to include it in the list of homeschooling cons above, because it’s not really a disadvantage of homeschooling as much as it’s a personal disadvantage.
I compensate by taking a whole lotta field trips to the library, where I help my children find books that will entrance them for hours. I also send the entire family to afternoon naps just so I can get some peace and quiet.
Can I just end by telling you that I benefit as much from my children being home as they do? My older teens are so helpful. They drive and cook and teach and mentor. They help me shoulder my own responsibilities. I enjoy their company!
I love laughing with my younger children around the kitchen table. I love explaining algebra and calculus and watching their eyes light up as they understand amazing concepts.
I love thinking of myself walking side by side with my children — learning together. It is a beautiful, precious gift for which I am very grateful.
I hope this list of the pros and cons of homeschooling has helped you to see yourself in one role or the other and to have confidence in your decision!
Pin these pros and cons of homeschooling for later!
If you are currently homeschooling or have homeschooled in the past, what pros and cons would you add?