Oh, I could never do that.
Most homeschooling parents have heard this after mentioning the way they educate their children. It has always seemed to me a strange response. For one thing, I’m never suggesting the other person do it. For another, homeschooling isn’t all that hard.
Societal messages abound that lead people to believe that it is difficult, and these days, there are plenty of people and establishments willing to exploit that and offer parents a place to leave their kids that looks a lot like school. For learning centers, alternative schools, educational day care centers, and places like them, encouraging the idea that homeschooling is hard is good for business. But is it true?
Nothing is without its difficulties, of course, but homeschooling can make life easier in many ways. No more fights over getting out of bed in the morning. No more rushing to get to school on time. No more tearing your hair out trying to make sure your kids do their homework. Problems like bullying, anxiety, depression, and lack of interest in learning can also disappear.
So what are some of the myths that make people think homeschooling is hard?
Educating kids requires trained experts Let’s face it, education is big business. Schools employ scores of people, and while teachers may not be getting rich, thanks to standards based education, corporations are. For the entrenched school system to continue to survive, and for newer initiatives like Common Core and mandatory testing to take hold, the overarching belief must be that children need trained experts to teach them. When schools fail, the general response is to insist that kids need even more time with trained experts. Longer school days and mandatory preschool have become a rallying cry for many who insist that children need school, and lots of it, to get a decent education. Homeschoolers reject these notions, operating under a different paradigm, one that values children’s natural curiosity and drive to learn.
Spending time with kids is no fun Our culture is steeped in the idea that parents can’t wait to get rid of kids. The media is filled with images of moms and dads filled with relief at back to school time. We’re just not supposed to want to spend too much time with our kids. If we do, we’re accused of helicopter parenting, overprotectiveness, or trying to live through our children. It is true that to homeschool, you have to want to spend time with your kids, but doing so isn’t a burden. It offers us the opportunity to know our children well, develop strong relationships with them, and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle centered around living and learning together.
Kids won’t learn unless you make them This myth goes alongside the idea that kids are lazy. It’s simply not true. Human beings are innately curious, which means they have an innate capacity for learning. Trying to make kids learn things they don’t want to learn, aren’t ready to learn, or don’t see any reason to learn–yes, those things are hard. Exposing them to a wide range of subjects, honoring their natural curiosity, providing resources, supporting their passions, and tapping into community opportunities make life, learning, and even hard work seem more like a piece of cake.
Kids have to be with other kids The idea that homeschoolers don’t have opportunities for socialization is a common myth. Support groups, community organizations, lessons, sports teams, volunteering, internships, jobs, you name it–the opportunities for homeschoolers to be out in the world with other people are boundless. And yet, the age segregation of schools has led many to the belief that in order to develop socially kids have to be with children of the same or similar ages on a regular basis. As a result, new homeschooling families sometimes bend over backwards to try and connect their kids to their age-mates. Eventually, most get over that and discover that it’s easier to enjoy the benefits of age-mixing.
College is a requirement Most parents stress about whether and where their kids are going to get into college. We want them to be able to go to any school they choose, but we also assume that choosing one is a must (I disagree). Despite the fact that homeschoolers get into college all the time, the belief that they’ll be disadvantaged is still common and contributes to the idea that homeschooling is hard. The fact is, homeschoolers who want to go to college do, but for many, the experience of having been alternatively educated opens their minds to choices that don’t include conventional four-year college.
While homeschooling requires commitment and work, it doesn’t have to feel hard. For me and so many others I know, it feels more like a rewarding, worthwhile effort that can be done without the aid of learning centers and other entrepreneurial start-ups that target homeschoolers. Still, all the suggestions and reassurance in the world won’t help you if you can’t find a way to trust that you are doing what’s right for your family, and that your child is competent and capable of learning. If homeschooling is important enough to you and your family, you’ll stick with it. If not, hopefully you’ll find what’s right for you, no guilt or shame necessary.