More and more parents around the United States are warming up to the idea of homeschooling. The academic merits are solid, with the bonus of not having to deal with Common Core Standards. Parents can see the advantages of one-on-one time with their children, and letting their child learn at his or her own pace. They can also appreciate the added advantage of side-stepping issues such as bullying, drug use, and peer pressure. Despite the many obvious benefits, though, some parents just can’t bring themselves to actually consider homeschooling. The idea of being responsible for your own child’s education can seem scary or daunting- the task too huge, the stakes too high. Does this describe you, or someone you know? If so, then maybe you believe one the following homeschooling myths:
I don’t feel qualified to teach, you need to “know” how to teach
This is one of the biggest myths that keeps people from homeschooling their children. But, stop to think for a moment: who taught your child to use a fork, knife, and spoon, tie their shoes, make their bed, brush their teeth, ride a bicycle, dress themselves, cross the street, and their ABC’s? Who is doing homework with them every night?
Most parents are already homeschooling their children part-time, they just don’t realize it. Homeschooling is not much different from what you are already doing to help them with their learning, and just because you aren’t getting paid to do it doesn’t mean you are less qualified than someone who is getting paid to teach them.
The truth is that the following three things are the ONLY qualifications you need in order to home educate your children:
- A deep love for your children
- The desire to see them succeed
- A love for learning
But, I don’t have teaching degree, or even a college degree, so how can I possibly be qualified to teach academics?
First of all, let me tell you a secret: people who get a degree in teaching have very little training on how to actually teach. They learn things like how to manage a classroom, how to make tests, the theories behind education, and how to work in a school. Very little of what they learn is nuts-and-bolts knowledge on how to teach, and none of it applies to homeschooling. Also, to teach in a school you don’t even need a teaching degree, any college degree will suffice. Some of the best and most effective teachers in the WORLD don’t have teaching degrees, nor do they have teaching certificates.
For example, one of the most successful educators today is Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy (free). His free, online instructional videos have taught math and science to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Sal does have a few college degrees in math and science, but he does not hold a teaching degree nor is he certified to teach in any state. He knows how to explain things, which helps make him a good teacher. But, the majority of people that we call “good teachers” are really just good facilitators. They manage learning, providing the direction and resources for a student to learn. Parents already have a lot of on-the-job training in that department.
We have been taught to believe that parents are unfit to teach their own children. We have been taught to believe that our children’s education belongs in the hands of “experts” who are more qualified to teach than we are.
That myth is completely false.
I don’t have the patience it takes
This is a HUGE myth. If you ask 100 homeschooling parents if they believe that they have patience enough to teach their child, 99 of them would answer “no.” So, how do they do it? Where do homeschooling parents get the patience they need to spend all that time with their children, much less teach them to read, explain multiplication, or help them write an essay?
Patience comes a day at a time, and with practice. Some days it does not come at all. However, once you’ve made the decision to homeschool you learn to deal with those days when your patience runs thin.
Homeschooling parents are not perfect parents! We didn’t just become patient angels from one day to the next! Besides, you don’t believe that teachers in school are incredibly patient, do you? Have you been to a school lately and heard the way those teachers YELL at the children? Personally, I believe a lack of patience is balanced by a good sense of humor.
One of the saddest things is when a parent thinks that they can’t spend all day with their children without going crazy or killing each other. Recently a mom shared her experience with me about this,
“I thought I couldn’t be with my kids all day, because they are all labeled, but I found out that they were like a person dying of thirst and “the water” was my attention. As long as they were in public school, they didn’t get enough. They were starving for it, so they pestered me all the time for more, more, more. I didn’t want to homeschool them, because man, they’d drive me insane, but after just TWO WEEKS of homeschooling, they settled down, just as that thirsty man would if he found a working faucet. They’re still a huge handful, but it’s much better than when they were in public school. Never going back.”
Although it seems counterintuitive, the more time we spend with our children, the better they start behaving around us. This is especially true if your child is falling behind because of Common Core, the teacher doesn’t care about them, or because of the drama of school. School can cause a lot of stress for children, which may cause them to act out and take it out on family members.
I need “me” time and homeschooling would take up all of my time
One of the things parents are surprised to find out about homeschooling is how fast the work gets done. The truth is that most children can complete a day’s worth of school work in just a few hours. The rest of the time they can read, play, help you in the house, go with you to the store, take extra curricular classes, go to the gym, get a job … homeschooling frees up your child’s schedule so they end up with more time in the day to do what they, and you, want.
Many states don’t mandate a certain amount of hours or days for homeschoolers, so check your state’s laws. That means that you can be free to plan your days and weeks to what works best for your family, not an arbitrary school schedule meant to make managing large groups of children easier.
I am one of the biggest advocates of “me time” for homeschool moms, for all moms! Part of a successful homeschool includes scheduled times for mom to spend either alone at the gym, or shopping, or enjoying quiet time at home, getting a manicure, wherever works. You have to make time for it, though, and train your family to understand that it is a necessary part of life. There are five children in our family, all homeschooled, and both my husband and I are self-employed, but we both make sure that I get some time alone. It helps keep all mothers sane, whether they homeschool or not.
I don’t have the room in our home for a classroom
Homeschool is not “school at home.” What that means is that you don’t need to replicate the “school” experience, look, atmosphere, and feel in order for your children to learn. Homeschool is what works for you and your children. Sometimes copying “school” is a good place to start, until you get your bearings and see what works and what doesn’t work for your family, but try not to use it as your yardstick to measure success.
Success is measured in many ways, especially the first year, and it is different for everyone! We homeschooled for many years with a dedicated classroom for the children, with desks, wall placards, maps, globes, the whole nine yards. But, it wasnt working for us. Funny, you’d think that we’d realize after 7 years of homeschooling that our children had never been in a school, so why would we try to make our homeschool look like a school? We decided to turn the classroom back in to a bed room, sold the desks and all the extra classroom paraphanalia, and set up a work table for everyone in our dining room, a shelf for cubbies for each child, and ever since we did that it was like a yoke was removed from everyone’s neck.
I have to work, therefore I can’t homeschool
I left this one for last because it is the biggest myth of them all. The key to affording homeschooling is directly related to how committed you are to the idea of homeschooling. If you are really convinced that you ought to homeschool, then you are more likely to find ways to make it affordable or make it work with your family’s schedule and budget. FACT: there are thousands of two-income and single-parent families that are homeschooling today.
To make homeschooling work you have to let go of some pre-conceived notions. For example, sending your child to a school includes childcare or babysitting in that your child will be reasonably supervised while they learn math & reading. The assumption is that if you homeschool, you have to supervise them yourself, and you can’t because you have to work.
As mentioned above, homeschooling takes up far less time than a traditional school day. Parents soon find out that their child can get their schoolwork done in the span of a couple of hours instead of 8 hours at a school. That frees them up to do other things with their time, such as sports, arts, music, volunteering, apprenticeships, gardening, etc. Plugging them in to other activities can help you in keeping them supervised AND productive. Perhaps you can tweak your work schedule so you can spend mornings at home, or work from home a few hours a week.
Homeschooling parents can share the load of time with the child and at work, tag teaming where necessary. They can also hire a tutor for certain subjects, or even a babysitter to stay at home for a few hours a day. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can also pitch in to spend time with the child during times when parents need to work.
According to a recent article in Fast Company:
Many homeschooling families belong to such co-ops or programs that provide group learning or specialized instruction at least one day a week. These co-ops and programs mean students don’t just stay home. They also go to college classes, or do intense athletic endeavors, or swap time at friends’ houses, all of which gives parents time to work.
Source: How These Parents Work and Homeschool Too, by Lauren Vanderkam, published in Fast Company on January 20, 2016
That article has a lot of great information about how to make home education fit around your schedule, so we highly recommend giving it a read.
The best thing about homeschooling is the flexibility you achieve while meeting the individual educational needs of your children. Although homeschooling is not for everyone, there actually fewer obstacles than you might think. A lot of the reasons why some people think they can’t homeschool are actually not true. If you are one of those people, I hope this article gives you some food for thought.