All parents want what’s best for their children. But when it comes to schooling, the field of choices can be murky and the decisions difficult. Parents don’t always get a close look at what goes on in their kids' schools, nor can they fully understand the demands of homeschooling until they’ve made the leap.
Both options incur financial and intangible costs; both offer benefits that can be enticing. An increasing number of parents, though, are making the financial sacrifice to stay home and educate their children themselves.
Homeschooling fosters deeper connections between kids and parents, allows a more tailored approach to education, and accommodates the family schedule, among other positive effects. It can also leave children isolated from peers and social interaction without the resources offered by traditional schools. Before deciding whether or not to homeschool your kids, it is important to examine all the facts—the clear advantages as well as the challenges that homeschooling families face.
Pros of Homeschooling
- One-on-one attention: To prepare for homeschooling, many experts recommend modifying the home to create a classroom or area designated especially for schooling. While this transformation can be costly depending on its extent, the potential benefits are many. Being together in that classroom every day enables your kids to spend one-on-one time with you. Not only can this potentially strengthen the parent-child relationship, but it also gives you time to devote special attention to exactly what your children need to learn. If they require more time to concentrate on a particular subject or lesson, you’re free to spend the extra time necessary to ensure that they fully understand the concepts. Class can pause at any time without the usual pressure to keep up with other children. Conversely, if your child excels in a certain subject, that lesson can be taught at an increased pace.
- Flexible schedule: Kids who need a very rigorous schedule may benefit from taking part in traditional schooling, but those who require a more flexible schedule can prosper in a homeschooling environment. Homeschooling’s flexible schedule allows parents to take time for doctor appointments or private lessons. If your child is sick often, lessons can wait until they’re feeling better. If your kids are more productive during certain hours of the day, school can easily be reserved for that time period. And if your child is having a particularly bad day, they don’t have to feel overwhelmed by going to school; instead, they can learn in the comfort of their home.
- Teach in your child’s style: Parents and teachers know that different kids learn in different ways. Some may learn spatially, using images and dimensional understanding; visual learning and photographs should be implemented in their lessons. If your child is an auditory learner, consider integrating music and sounds into their learning process. Linguistic learning requires speaking and writing to understand concepts. Kinesthetic learners prefer to assimilate ideas through the sense of touch, so hands-on activities are a must. Different learning styles use different parts of the brain, so it’s important to integrate elements of all of these learning styles when homeschooling your child. However, particularly difficult concepts can be taught in the style that helps your child understand best.
- Cover topics that schools don’t teach: Most public schools are good at teaching reading and math, but they might not delve into practical things that don’t appear on standardized tests. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to teach math in the context of budgeting and show your kids how the stock market works. You can blend science with cooking. If your child is obsessed with a particular subject like trains or dinosaurs, you can work that into your curriculum.
Possible Homeschooling Drawbacks (and Their Solutions)
- Lack of art and sports facilities: Public schools usually have gymnasiums, sports fields, science labs, and other facilities that can be hard for homeschooling families to replicate. But that doesn’t mean homeschooled students have to miss out on traditional extracurricular activities. To make sure your kids can still take time for art and sports, sign them up for classes outside of school. Many art supply stores offer art classes for children, providing the materials for the craft and teaching your kids to do it themselves. The kids get to take the finished product home. You can also stock up on basic crafting supplies and turn to Pinterest or YouTube for ideas. Also consider signing your children up for extracurricular sports through clubs or organizations in your community. Outside art and sports classes allow homeschoolers a chance to socialize and experience elective activities with other kids their age, as well.
- No special education therapists: If your child has special needs, they’ll be missing out on having access to an in-school special education specialist or therapist. While this can be inconvenient for in-the-moment issues, many homeschool parents sign their children up to see a specialist outside of school, absorbing the added spending as part of their child’s overall health care costs. The more flexible schedule offered by homeschooling can allow for lessons to be planned around these other appointments outside of school.
- Peer interaction: Children who are homeschooled miss out on the classroom dynamic. They’re the main focus of the class, as opposed to being only one among a number of students. To help kids stay social while being homeschooled, sign them up for extracurricular activities. Sports and art classes are a great place to start, or think about letting your child join a club (a scouting or other outdoor group, for example). Many parents who homeschool also network with other homeschoolers, allowing them to hear advice from other parents on how best to navigate curricular, economic, or other homeschooling challenges. Networking with other families who homeschool also presents the potential for group field trips and outings, and allows kids to make friends among others with whom they have something in common, further improving their social skills.
- No nurse: Homeschooling means that unless you happen to be a nurse, there is no nurse. If your child falls and scrapes a knee or feels sick, no one with medical training is around to help. To address this problem, consider taking some basic first-aid classes, as well as CPR classes. Keep a first-aid kit handy in your classroom in case of an accident.
At the End of the Day
When deciding whether or not to homeschool your child, it’s important to keep in mind both the positives and negatives of homeschooling. If traditional schooling is difficult for your child, homeschooling may be the answer. The negative aspects of homeschooling often have straightforward solutions to make the process easier for both parent and child, meaning that homeschooling your son or daughter has the potential to be a success.