That’s right — things I dislike about homeschooling.
Mmm-hmm, I said it. For all my gushing about how much I love our homeschooling lifestyle, there are a few things that I’m really not all that fond of. And I don’t mind admitting it.
I will say that the good outweighs the bad, tremendously, or it’s not something we’d keep doing. I can never imagine going back to the years my kids were in school. But I think we veterans do newer home teachers a disservice if we aren’t honest about the negative aspects of homeschooling. Because there are a few…
1. Feeling under scrutiny all the time. If your public or private-schooled kid acts like a fool out in public, or says something that makes him sound at least three grade levels below his age, you can always blame his teachers or the kids he hangs out with all day. But when you homeschool, it all falls back on you. And people aren’t always as gracious as you hope they might be. They’re all too quick to slap that “weird homeschooled kid” label on your child, not realizing that he would be just as quirky — possibly, more so — if he went to school all day. Another aspect of this is that people tend to expect your kids to be geniuses and like to quiz them on the spot. Somehow a myth got started that all homeschooled kids are academic superstars. But most are remarkably average. And like any other kid, they don’t usually enjoy being asked to multiply 235×684 quickly in their heads just to prove that they’re actually being educated.
2. It can be overwhelming. The choices — OH EM GEE — the choices! Everything from curricula to co-ops to conventions, there are so many options for us these days. In many ways that is a blessing. But for the decision-impaired like me, it can feel like too much to choose from. Kind of like deciding you’d like to try a new shampoo — I could easily stand on the hair-care aisle at Target for an hour, reading labels, trying to figure out which meets my needs best. Making educational choices for your precious children is like that, but a thousand times more complicated.
3. It can be lonely. Not in the “lonely weird isolated homeschooler” stereotypical kind of way, but the burden of carrying sole responsibility for your child’s education can feel very lonely at times. Even your spouse rarely understands exactly how heavy it can feel. And friends who don’t homeschool — particularly those who teach for a profession — just don’t get it. You have struggles that you cannot share with some of your closest friends because if they haven’t walked that path, they really don’t understand what you’re dealing with. And often, they see it as something you brought on yourself. Which, I suppose, would be true…
4. Curriculum is expensive. Sure, there are sources to buy used stuff, but at least online, that can be iffy. It is so hard to make a good choice without holding the materials in your hands (which is the value of attending homeschooling conferences)…and even then, you can think one program is going to fit your child perfectly, only to discover that he despises it. Though the flexibility to switch courses midstream is one of the big positives of homeschooling, sometimes you just can’t afford to.
5. People wonder what you do all day. “Since you’re home all day, can’t you _________” (Fill in the blank: run this errand, babysit my child, talk on the phone for an hour, head up this ministry, teach this class…) And the snark-lover inside of me wants to reply, “Sure! Because all I’m doing is sitting on my arse eating bon-bons while the kids play video games all day!” I have never been this busy in my life. Which leads me to…
6. Homeschooling is a full-time job. What with planning, teaching, grading, co-op classes and field trips for children of varying ages, grades and abilities, homeschooling easily takes up as much time as any other 40-hour-a-week job. And of course, that’s in addition to the already full-time job of running a household, and any other paid work you do, like my freelance writing. Boredom is something I only vaguely remember — I never, ever wipe clean my to-do list. There is always something to do.
7. You’re always second-guessing yourself. Should I have chosen the other science curriculum? Are Jane’s kids learning more than mine? Is the Thursday co-op better suited to meet our needs, or should we stay where we are another year? Are my kids keeping up with their schooled peers? What if I miss giving them something that they truly need?
8. You wonder if your child will have regrets. I hear this one a lot from the traditionally-schooled crowd. Sure, my kids might feel bad one day that they missed playing high school sports, or going to pep rallies, or attending the prom. It bothers me that they might miss these things. But we can’t have everything. There are homeschooling alternatives to just about anything positive a good school can offer its students, and that will have to be good enough. I hope that my kids will know one day that homeschooling wasn’t about depriving them of anything, but doing our best to give them the best. Even if that does mean missing prom.
9. Everything at home wears out much faster — including yourself! Because we’re at home a lot, everything gets used more frequently than in a household where everyone is gone to work or school all day. Our dishwasher door just broke, the septic tank must get pumped soon or we’ll be in real trouble, our furniture and computers take a real beating. And as far as me wearing out, some days I just have nothing left to give by the end of the day. Especially now that we have a toddler in the mix. I know I should take better care of myself, but finding the time for that is difficult.
10. Your house is never, ever clean for more than a few minutes at a time. Again, because we’re here so much, I struggle to keep things clean. Sometimes I really miss those blank hours I enjoyed when my kids were in school, when I could get something done without a bunch of young ‘uns underfoot. My sink is always full of dishes, the floors are always in need of cleaning, there is always a pile or three of laundry on the furniture or sitting around the house in baskets. It seems the minute I get one area tidy, another area goes to pot, and it’s just one long fruitless cycle of trying to stay ahead of something that I cannot beat.
Now, if you read all of that, you might wonder why anyone thinks homeschooling is worth it. But as I said above, the good things far outweigh the bad. And before I’m tempted to start listing all of those gems (which I already have, more than once) I’ll shush for now.
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