Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.
On the topic of homeschooling, I’ve already covered some basic requirements and structure.
I’ve also used my own experience to illustrate elements of homeschooling that I feel are essential for a successful education.
Were I to homeschool my children, however, there are several cons (for lack of a better label) that I would consider before undertaking such a massive endeavor:
Finances — For many families, existing on one parent’s income is impossible. Because of the time investment homeschooling requires, it is very difficult for both parents to work and for one of them (usually Mom) to still have time to devote to children’s studies. Homeschooling is a lifestyle choice like any other, and it demands that you assess your priorities. Do you want to be able to eat out regularly? Do you have more than one car on which you make payments? Do you need cable? Are new clothes, shoes, electronics, and other possessions integral to your happiness? Although our society’s media may insist, Yes, you need all of this, it’s up to you to determine if a single income will provide life’s necessities so that one parent may invest in your children’s education and, in the long run, their future success.
Zero “Alone Time” — I hope that I can put forth the premise that people often “get on each other’s nerves,” without offending any of my readers. Although we are social creatures, we often need solitude, and seeing the same people in the same situations day after day can test the limits of patience. Public education offers separate time for parents and children; homeschooling removes that distance. (Of course there even variables here, particularly with developing homeschooling communities, but I’m speaking from the perspective of traditional homeschooling where, generally, one parent handles the majority of education.) In my experience, my mother had to learn how to actively create that separate time for herself — a difficult task when you consider that she was both mother and teacher at all times — and for my sister and me; we would have been in separate classes in public school, mitigating much of the arguing that was caused in our younger years by being together constantly. As I continue to belabor, flexibility is of paramount importance in the homeschooling lifestyle, and this is an area where it is an indispensable characteristic.
Educational Responsibility — Linked to the concept of prioritizing finances and time is parental onus for your child’s educational success to a certain point. Now, this is not at all to say that you can’t homeschool successfully if you don’t have a degree in education; that is not even slightly accurate (and a future post will look at that critique). The point is that children are rarely intrinsic self-educators, so it will be the parent’s job to guide daily study, read assignments, check work, and continue teaching until the child absorbs the material. Even as students get older, there is still the need to hold them accountable for schoolwork. In many cases, your child will only glean from homeschooling as much as you are willing to put into it.
Timed Tests and Homework — Each homeschooler’s routine is likely as unique as the family. If I were to ever homeschool a child, one diversion from my own experience would be the integration of timed tests and homework. These were the two areas I struggled with during my freshman year of college. Part of our homeschooling routine that was inflexible was the requirement that all of our work had to be done before dinner. Thus, my evenings were always free, and in college it was difficult for me to get into the habit of remembering and balancing homework. Also, I took so few timed tests that I can remember them all: achievement tests in 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th grades; SATs in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades; 4 biology tests at Aquinas Academy; and 3 chemistry tests at the community college. That’s barely more than one test a year for my entire K-12 education, so when my Intro to Lit professor gave us ten minutes for a quiz with ten multiple choice and three short-answer questions, I was unprepared. Luckily for me, that was a situation in which I could adapt easily, but College Algebra was another story: I was accustomed to the flexibility that allowed me as much time as I needed to work out problematic equations, not a 55-minute block that allotted only a few minutes to each question. Because of the developing professional trend toward requiring extensive post-secondary education, these are habits that should be ingrained early on in a homeschooling household for those children to avoid a rude awakening in college.
Yet, in spite of these (and other) obstacles, many families have been, are, and will be homeschoolers. Educating a child at home is no easy feat. Accolades are due to all parents (including mine!) who sacrifice something of themselves for their children’s education. Homeschooling affects nearly every aspect of life for each person in that family, so it is a lifestyle into which you should enter only after serious consideration, but also with joy and hope in your heart. On my list, the pro side is significantly longer than the con.