Homeschooling Badly: Your Lifestyle Prevents Academic Learning

WhenCowsKidsCollideby Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide

There is a post at Guilt-Free Homeschooling that is a get-out-of-jail free card for any homeschooling parent.  Titled “21 Things That Can Slow Homeschooling Progress”, the list encompasses so many snags that any failure in homeschooling can be attributed to an outside problem.

For my sanity, I am going to clump the 21 items into larger categories – with my own titles – prior to discussion.

Category One: Turns out being a parent DIDN’T prepare me to educate my kids effectively.

1. Homeschooling for the first time
2. Leaving public or private school to switch to homeschooling
3. A reluctant learner who balks at the idea of schoolwork in general
4. An eager learner who wants to explore extensively into each topic

Response:   Learning to teach takes a great deal of time and effort.

By the time a teacher faces a classroom of students alone, they’ve received at least four years of college education in teaching plus at least half a year of supervised teaching.  Part of the rationale for this much training is to lessen the negative effects on students who have an inexperienced teacher – like the problems that come from homeschooling for the first time.

A related concern from an experienced teacher – the oldest child is screwed.  For teachers, the first time teaching a prep (teacher jargon for a specific class or subject within a grade area) is the least effective.  A teacher is learning different ways to present and demonstrate the material as well as making choices about which activities to use.  In traditional schools, the negative effect of first prep teaching is minimized by the fact that students have many different teachers in pre-K through 12th grade.  In my life, a less than ideal 4th grade math teacher was more than compensated for by an exceptional 6th-8th grade math teacher.   In a home school, the oldest kid is always drawing the short straw when it comes to getting new preps.

Student teachers also learn how to deal with transitioning students into the school year, motivating discouraged students and challenging advanced students – without any of the added emotional burden of being that student’s parent as well.

Category Two: Dealing with reproduction and tiny children are ginormous time-drains for parents.

5. Pregnancy
6. Childbirth
7. Adoption
8. An infant
9. A toddler
21. Miscarriage

Response: This is the QF excuse section.  Most Americans have small families (1-4 kids) of relatively close birth spacing.  While this makes for crazy years when the kids are small by the time the oldest kid is 6-7, the worst of the insanity of pregnancy, infants, and toddlers is over.

Not QF families.

Women are stuck trying to balance the needs of the current infant, toddler(s) and pregnancy while still managing a homeschool over and over again.

Various bloggers offer up “year-round schedules” as a solution, but if a mom needs 12 weeks off for a newborn and 8 weeks off for morning sickness/exhaustion during a pregnancy, that’s a total of 5 months of “vacation” per year when most students in schools get 3 months off a year.

That’s not quantifying the amount of time and effort diverted from homeschooling by the parent and school-aged kids to tending the needs of infants and toddlers.

Additionally, women who practice QF will suffer more miscarriages than the average American woman of similar fertility.  The number of miscarriages a given woman will experience is related to the number of pregnancies she experiences.  QF women have far more lifetime pregnancies than women who practice birth control so they will as a group have more miscarriages than the rest of the US.

The realities of how hard pregnancy and young children are on women led to public schooling.  Communities realized centuries ago that grouping school aged children for education outside of the home was a situation that benefited their reproductive-aged mothers by providing child-care and education while benefiting the teachers by providing income.

Category Three: Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans….
13. An elderly parent/grandparent who needs care or must be moved to a care facility
15. A legal or financial crisis
16. A job change
17. Moving to a different home
18. A wedding

Response:  An added bonus for out-of-home education is continuity during rocky times at home.  A school gives a student a needed respite from family worries at the least.  Often, students find support from other students who have gone through the same problems or from staff members who lend a listening ear – and sometimes a box of kleenex.  Additionally, schools are linked into the social services web.  (Yes, I know those words are anathema to CP/QF people, but that doesn’t make the reality less true.)  As a teacher, I don’t know all of the support available to a family facing foreclosure or a lawsuit – but I have a list of resource people like social workers who do know and will help get services for a family.

Category Four: When Life Is Genuinely Hard

10. A special needs child
11. A chronic illness or other health crisis affecting any family member
12. A severe injury requiring extended recovery or rehabilitation for any family member
14. Extensive property damage from fire, flood, or natural disaster
19. A divorce
20. A death in the family
21. Stillbirth



Response: These are major, life-changing events that can make homeschooling much more difficult – if not impossible.  Like the problems in Category Three, traditional schools can provide needed supports for students during crisis periods that affect their families.

Reflecting on some recent life experiences for me, I question how well families can homeschool in these situations.

  • There is no way I could have homeschooled for the first month after my son was born; I was recovering from life-threatening pregnancy complication while dealing with all of the issues that come with having a critically premature baby.
  • Homeschooling once he and I was more stable – say months 2-4 of his NICU stay – would have meant cutting the time I spent at the NICU with him by 60% or more.
  • Homeschooling would have stopped dead when my son was home, but dealing with severe reflux leading to choking.  We had to keep him in the same room as an adult who was confident of their ability to do CPR on an infant and awake 24 hours a day while feeding him one ounce of formula every hour by NG tube.  (Thank God my parents lived nearby and are amazing.  That month is a blur of anxiety and sleep deprivation.)
The blogosphere of homeschooling parents gives me additional reasons for caution:
  • I’ve yet to find a homeschool blogger who managed to continue homeschooling after a divorce. Being a single parent is plenty hard enough without adding sole responsibility for her children’s education to the mix. (The divorced bloggers are clear that being a single parent – or co-parent – is MUCH easier than being in an unhappy, unhealthy marriage.)
  • When dealing with an ongoing medical crisis involving kids, homeschool bloggers often discuss how hard life was while the kid was hospitalized or in rehab – but are very sparing with discussions of how homeschooling was accomplished for the kids at home.
    • Raising Olives‘ Kimberly had a son who suffered a broken right humerus (the bone between the shoulder and elbow) and Brachial Plexus Palsy which paralyzed his left arm due to a shoulder dystocia at a home birth. He needed physical therapy along with evaluation by orthopedists in three different states.
    • Raising Arrows’ Amy recently gave birth to a daughter who has an unusually small lower jaw that was causing her airway to be blocked by her tongue.  (Thank God she gave birth in a hospital; Mercy would not have survived at home since she required intubation from birth until her jaw expanded enough to support her tongue.)  Mercy was hospitalized for 6 weeks in a neighboring state.  Amy hasn’t made any statements about how she accomplished homeschooling while traveling between states, but it had to be difficult.
Families go through hard times; that’s life.  The important thing for parents to do is accurately access when they are able to school their children at home – and when families are best served by accessing public or private schools to educate their children.
moreRead more by Mel

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