Overcoming the Obstacles to Homeschooling

Growing up, my mom would have frequent conversations with women about homeschooling. I often heard comments such as: “Homeschooling sounds like a good idea but I could never learn to teach.” or “I just don’t know if I am smart enough to teach high school.” This always struck me as weird because my mom never gave me that impression even though she had only gotten a general Associates Degree and had no prior teaching experience. Yet in talking to her I realized that she had felt the same way starting out. “I can’t be a wife, a mother, and a schoolteacher” she would say to people. But one year she decided to give it a try because she “couldn’t very well mess up first grade” and since then she has been a very successful homeschooler of four. This is a very common feeling for ladies to have when considering whether or not to homeschool. It can seem like a very daunting task but I want to reassure you that it is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance! Here are a few simple things to think about that may help you when you feel that, though you would like to, you do not have the ability to be a successful homeschool mom.

  Number 1: Style makes all the difference. It can be scary when you start thinking about all of the things you need to teach your children and it’s easy to get lost in that instead of stepping back and looking at the big picture. Just because the public school system teaches using a certain curriculum or a certain number of subjects does not mean that is what you have to do. The goal is to have children who know where to find answers, rather than having to actually know all the answers. Instilling a love of learning is more important than learning facts. There may be some things you don’t know but if you can sit with your child and say, “I’m not sure. Let’s figure this out together,” then you are both learning and teaching them to learn as well.

Some people like to have a very rigid homeschool schedule where the kids get up at 6 am and have an hour for each subject. This can work very well but it may not be your style and it doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. Find what works for you and your family. For my family growing up, my mom wanted to put more emphasis on reading, writing and math. She picked books that incorporated history and some science, had vocabulary and spelling drills, and essentially let all the things she considered to be less necessary become part of the things she thought were necessary. This helped her to be less stressed out about having so much to do, and enabled her to feel more confident in herself. Develop what works and have confidence!

Number 2: You don’t need to be ultra-smart; you just need to have faith in yourself. My husband got a degree in engineering physics and I pretty much had no clue what was involved in that until it was explained to me. I am no rocket scientist to be sure! In growing up and watching my mom teach us I learned that fortunately, I did not need to be a rocket scientist either to learn the things I needed throughout my schooling, or to teach my own children. What is needed, however, is the ability to learn. Letting your children figure things out for themselves helps them with their diligence, critical thinking and self-motivation. Perhaps it may not be your style but it is something good and it takes the burden off you feeling you must do or know all of their work. When they realize that they are responsible for their learning instead of having things handed to them, they will often rise to the challenge! When they do need help, be there for them and don’t worry if you don’t know a subject well. You can learn it together and help build your relationship with your children.

Number 3: The amount of schooling time is not as long as it seems. Often people may think that homeschooling will take up too much time in their day. This can be true, depending on your children’s personalities, learning speed and what type of schooling style you use. However, I have found with myself and so many other homeschoolers that they actually have a lot more free time in a day then those in public school. It makes sense if you think about it. With public school you have one teacher for an average of say 30 kids. The teacher has to divide his/her time between that many students. Those who are smarter have to wait for those who are slower, and those who are slower are rushed. Additionally, there are recesses and travel time between classes. When you do school at home you eliminate so much of this. You have fewer students and a teacher who can spend more time on each one, and perhaps the older students even do their own schoolwork. Often growing up, I would get up at 4 am to start school and if I worked well I would be completely done before lunch. And no homework! Of course, 4 am was never appealing and it doesn’t have to be that way but this kind of flexibility is very helpful and can allow you to do things at each child’s pace and to have time for afternoon field trips to the zoo, etc. If you want them to do one math lesson each day, or two lessons and skip a day, you can alter the schedule according to your needs.

Number 4: We can make learning more fun and emphasize what really needs to be there for our kids. If you want to put an emphasis on science, go for it. If you want emphasize reading, go for it. If you want your children to learn things they aren’t learning in public school, you can teach them. If you don’t want your children learning things they learn in public school, don’t teach them. It’s so wonderful to have the flexibility and ability to be in control of what your children are learning and to make school more fun and interesting. Maybe the best way to learn about bugs is to take them into a field, observe, and have them write a report. Maybe the best way to teach home economics is to have them help with dinner. Homeschooling is meant to be a joy and not a burden, giving you opportunities and different choices, and especially allowing you to spend quality time connecting with your children as family.

Number 5: We homeschool even before we send our kids to school. Someone asked my dad once: “Why do you homeschool?” and he replied, “Why did you stop?” I found that to be a very humorous way of illustrating a big truth. We are teaching our children whenever they are with us! They observe everything we do. My husband often comments to me about a couple of mispronunciations I have, and recently when my mom and grandma were here I realized that they both have the same mispronunciations. It made me realize how much I had taken in subconsciously as a child.

To toddlers we teach colors, shapes, behavior, letters, songs, you name it. It comes very naturally and yet as soon as it becomes geometry we get a little nervous. This is understandable. It can feel daunting when you realize the influence you have makes a difference. But this is meant to encourage us to rise to the challenge and believe in ourselves that we can do it, and we can be flexible to get it done how each of us personally needs to do it. As Bob Wiley says in What About Bob: “Baby steps!”

There are many other factors to mention but I hope you find these tips helpful as you consider your possibilities for best educating your children!