Why I Don’t Homeschool, And You Shouldn’t Either

People throw around a lot of silly reasons for homeschooling.  I bet you’ve heard them too. Homeschooled kids win all of the spelling bees.  The Ivy League schools are overrun with homeschoolers. Homeschooled kids are self-confident, and un-bowed by peer pressure.  They knit with old ladies, take care of babies, and never bully anyone.

This line of reasoning falls into two categories:

  1. Homeschooled kids are smarter.
  2. Homeschooled kids have better character.

Here’s the problem with category one: There is nothing inherently valuable about winning spelling bees or going to Harvard.  There is nothing wrong with them, either, but they aren’t goals worthy of guiding parenting decisions.  The problem with category two? Character is not a by-product of homeschooling.  What happens in any given homeschool household can contribute positively or negatively to the character development of a child. The same can be said for out-of-home school households.

If you are homeschooling to churn out brilliant, perfect children, you’re gonna be disappointed.

So why do we homeschool? Here’s a (somewhat random) list of the primary reasons we homeschool:

  1. We have time to do all of things I thought we should be doing when the boys were in school.  Things like: chores, and prayer, and brushing their teeth twice a day, and learning to do their own laundry, and visiting all of the wonderful museums and parks and people who live in our very cool city.  Things we could never seem to pull off when the boys were in school.
  2. I experience my kids in more intimate ways as we spend more time together and do new things together. This allows me to see some incredible strengths I didn’t know were there.  And some significant weaknesses.  Either way, I know them more deeply.
  3. They are getting the childhood I rushed them through (and they didn’t quite know what to do with) the first time.  Now we have time for, and interest in, forts, and crayons, and pretend play, and hours and hours playing outside.
  4. The boys love each other.  They always have.  But in the same way that Jeff and I have learned more about them this year, they have learned more about each other.  And they are enjoying it.
  5. Beehives and solar panels and computer repair.  Working with their father to create, tend to, and fix things is going to be a defining experience of their childhood.  Without the wide open spaces of homeschool, it wasn’t possible.
  6. The joy of learning all kinds of stuff I never learned.  Stuff like history, and geography, and nature studies, and art.  And sharing that joy with my sons and my husband.
  7. The hilarious things the boys say about the world.  I laugh loudly several times a day at their observations, misunderstandings, and innocent questions.  I don’t want to miss those moments.
  8. We can go to Costa Rica for three months.  And we can call it school.
  9. We can teach and play and learn and assess on our own timetable.  Algebra and oral reports in third grade.  Tying shoes and story sequencing in fourth. Math “tests” in the car on the way to the dentist, and four-hour bike rides on the first warm day of spring.

If I’m honest, I also homeschool for lots of other reasons, like the fact that I hated making lunch at 7:30 in the morning. Eventually, I just gave up and let them eat at school, where they chose peanut butter and Fluff on white bread, making me feel like a big loser.

But when you look at the primary reasons we homeschool, you get this: I like being around my kids. I don’t care about where they will get a “better education.”  I care about where we will get to spend the most time together doing things we love to do – or aspire to do – in ways that make sense our family.

That’s good enough for me.  We can homeschool, not because we should, but because we treasure the life it gives us. That’s why we homeschool.  And why you can too.

(You can read the follow-up post, where I respond to comments, here.)

  • Marilyn

    Wow Tara! What a change comes in one short year and a few months! That’s cool.

    • Tara Edelschick

      I know, right? This year is sooooo much different from our first year.

  • Darcy Downie

    “You are a better man the I Gunga Din”! I think I was the only mom doing
    the “happy dance” on the first day of school. I like your writing and I am very proud to know you!

    • Tara Edelschick

      So great to connect after all these years, Darcy.

      I know that happy dance well. For years, I did it every night when they went to bed. I don’t know if they are changing as they grow up or if I am. But I feel less and less happy dance these days, and more and more happy when they are actually awake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbarneson Jeff Barneson

    I like this post (actually I like ALL my wife’s posts!) and it is even substantially true – except the line about computer repair. Yes, we bought a new drive and meticulously disassembled that 12″ Mac Laptop. We marked every screw and placed them on the chart I downloaded off http://www.ifixit.com. We were totally psyched until Ezra pushed the power button and uh… nothing… We chalked it up to learning screwdriver skills and recycled the nearly-pristine computer with some guys who promised to take care of the toxic metals and not have any children disassemble the boards. We are all learning a lot with this homeschooling adventure. This line, I think, was that not everything can be repaired, at least not by us. Come to think of it, that might have been the best lesson of the year!

  • Wendy Smith

    We home schooled our 3 sons in the suburbs of Phoenix, while we have a church based at ASU…
    I found no encouragement from any homeschool anything that said your family should get to know your neighbors and everyone around you…BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNoW GOD!!

    We eventually placed our kids in public school and it has been wonderful(not without parent involvement)!

    We have experienced the Kingdom of God expanding and our children being used in their learning environment and leading others to relationship with God. Living in our homeschool environment left our kids looking outward, not engaging, at the world around them wanting what was so scarey

    • Tara Edelschick

      Wendy,

      I think this is one of the hardest parts of homeschooling – finding ways to be meaningfully connected to your community. I considered writing about that problem in this post, but decided it would make the post too long. Check back Friday, and I’ll dedicate the post to your concern.

      Tara

  • http://www.se7en.org.za se7en

    Hi there, I just popped over from HeadHeartHand and I love your post!!! We have been homeschooling about nine or is it ten years – lost count!!! And I have to say I may have begun with noble intentions of providing our kids with a better education than the local schools could provide… but all this way down the line I have to say I love my kids more for it and I can think of nothing better than hanging out with my kids and spending my days wandering through great books with them and learning together… It has been fun. Now that our kids are older and starting to venture out into the world and do so much stuff on their own steam I am so glad that we spent time together when they were small building up those relationships and making our family closer. Homeschooling has been great for us for all the reasons you mention… but mostly we are a tighter team because of it.

  • Sandy

    I love this and am going to print it out for future encouragement! :) It can be a struggle to let your kids minister to others in the world . . . if you let it. OR you can use the flexible schedule to serve meals at the homeless shelter, sort food at the food bank, read books to the kids and the women and children’s shelter, go on a missions trip, etc. etc. (Things it would be harder to do if your kids were in traditional school.) You are limited only by your imagination. Well, maybe some other things too, but you know what I mean. Thanks for a great article!!

    • Tara Edelschick

      Great ideas, Sandy. Thanks. I’ll add some of our own on Friday.

  • http://www.siefker-stuff.blogspot.com Dana

    I loved this article! I feel the exact same way! I have all sorts of reasons that I homeschool, but the main reason is to savor the time with my girls. This is our first year joining a co-op and I am apart from my daughter for 3 hours of the afternoon one day a week and you know what I realized the most? I miss her. I miss knowing what is making her laugh and what might be interesting that she is learning. I miss her and I cannot imagine her being away at school and the only time I get to spend with her is afterschool and on the weekends. So the main reason that we have chosen to homeschool is so that we can spend as much time as a family as possible. My girls are blessings and I thank the Lord each day that I have with them!

  • John Paul

    Kind of true, but still not. Homeschooling builds character. I take issue with her on that. By putting your kids into public or private school, you give them over to other people to teach. If you never spend time with your children, you can’t pass knowledge and character to them. So yes, homeschooling does lead to building character.

    And I could have gone Ivy-League if I wanted to, but that’s not the point. Character is what gets you into Ivy League, not homeschooling. I actually got discriminated on so much for being a homeschooler in applications and interviews for schools. It hurt more than it helped, until they realised that I was a normal person except more motivated and interesting. lol.

  • Christine

    Gosh, I’ve homeschooled for 16 years now, and my kids have never known any other than this. Well, that’s not quite true; my junior in high school is taking dual enrollment classes at the local college. My first thought before I even read your article was that I wouldn’t care what anyone else said, or thought, the main reason we have continued homeschooling after all these years is that I just really like being with my kids. Sure, some days are harder and less rewarding than others, but overall, it’s just so wonderful to have the relationships with them that we do.
    And I think that all the other stuff (the academics, the character, etc…) all falls into place once you’ve established and built those intimate relationships.
    Thanks for a lovely article!

  • http://theharrells.blogspot.com Elissa

    Love this. We don’t homeschool but these would be the reasons why if we did (or why we will in the future). Very well articulated!

  • Mike Burd

    Terrific and inspiring article, Tara — one quibble: Jeff is a giant of a man, a spiritual warrior, a creative genius, a blessing to our lives……but HOT????

  • Chelsea Buhrman

    Tara,

    Thanks for this great post! I was homeschooled kindergarten through high school, and I’d like to think I turned out somewhat normal (I guess you’ll have to ask Rick; he may have a different opinion on that!). Homeschooling is not for everyone, just as out-of-home schools are not for everyone. But I was all about it. I was able to explore all kinds interesting things that I otherwise would not have been able to tap into. I buried myself in endless books, our family traveled ( I laughed out loud at reason #8! We totally took family vacations whoever we wanted to), I went to work with my dad (he’s a yacht captain; I became the official “first mate” at the age of 13), did algebra while laying in my backyard tanning, planted and tended our garden in the backyard, and the list goes on! My sister, also homeschooled, spent a good chunk of her time in the kitchen (algebra never was her thing) creating and experimenting; she is now working at one of the best bakeries in South Florida making the most delicious cakes you have ever put in your mouth. Anyway, homeschooling can be a really great way to go for families. Glad it’s working so well for you all! Thanks for sharing this article.

  • http://urbanservant.blogspot.com dorothy

    Great insite! I have home schooled our crew for the past 10 years for all the good reasons you have shared. I now have teens, tweens and special needs kiddos who are each thriving in their own special ways. I wouldn’t trade it for anything….its all about relationships and really knowing each other – the good, the bad and the ugly.
    blessings!
    d – mom to 11 so far.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1488324892&sk=info David Ramsey

    Tara Edelschick has experience and provides a smart lead-in for what she really has to say.

    But has she left out one of the main reasons for homeschooling? It’s that some families have professional situations which leave homeschooling or boarding schools as the only options if schooling is to occur at all.

    Particularly, consider careers which require frequent moves, sometimes to areas where the local schools have a different system, a different philosophy, even a different language. In international careers, of course a large city overseas may have an English-language school, but that is likely not to be the case in a small town. Plus, even if frequent moves are not the issue, consider isolated situations such as the job of a lighthouse keeper along a remote coastline.

    Boarding schools are frequently havens for missionaries’ kids, and surely others of that variety are homeschooled. The local schools may be quite good, but how well do they mesh with the possibility of moving and the child’s own long-range objectives.

    And there’s the situation of long commutes, especially for secondary education, in sparsely populated regions. You can add, say, 4 hours to the child’s life each day, even in a farming region of the United States, or you can homeschool the child or send the child to a boarding school. In such a dilemma, homeschooling is often the choice.

    I’m satisfied that many homeschooled people are that way more by necessity than by choice.

    The thoughts of others are welcome.

    • AK

      I would definitely fall into the “choice” rather than “necessity” category! I live in Kansas and actually find the opposite to be true; most families I know here juggle many things for the freedom/choice to homeschool children, even with so-called “good” schools right down the street. Many also have the means to send a child to private school, and yet choose to homeschool at great expenditure of time, money, and convenience.

  • emily

    This title was completely misleading; your entire article was about the glories of homeschooling. sure you dissed the ” elitist” reasons for homeschooling, but those are rarely the reasons I hear for it. The article and most of the comments sounded like a brag fest for why homeschooling families are superior to everyone else, as if we don’t experience wonderful relationships, laughs, and adventures with our kids.
    just as I was forming a more positive attitude towards homeschooling, I read your article and am transformed back to my old stereotypes. Sorry to rain on your parade!

    • Tara Edelschick

      I’m sorry to read this, Emily. I tried to be careful to write about why our family enjoys homeschooling and to not say that every family should homeschool. I imagine that if you wrote a list of why you like your public school (or private school), it would sound similarly excited. I hope it would, and I hope I would be happy for you.

  • Jacklynn

    I see what emily is saying and I feel that vibe alot being the only person in my group of friends that is not going to homeschool (i have a 4 year old and 2 year old).
    I have said this so many times and I think this is the deciding factor. I don’t think it matters if you homeschool, public school, private school…you have to be involved. Parents will send thier kids to school and expect the school to do the rest. I feel like I am going to be more involved once my kids are in school b/c I want to still be there for them. I will still ultimately be responsible for what they are learning and retaining. Someone else will be presenting the information but it will be my job to help them apply it.
    I don’t think the argument should ever be about how you are going to “school” your children but just how can you be involved no matter what option you choose.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Thanks for writing, Emily. I felt similarly when I talked to homeschoolers during the three years I sent my kids to public school. Some of that was because in their attempts to justify a choice so few people seem to understand, they became defensive and judgmental. But some of it was because in my attempt to justify a choice I didn’t think they were giving enough credit, I became defensive and judgmental.

      I wrote a follow-up post that talks more about this. Check it out and let me know what you think.

    • Gigi

      My oldest daughter went to a public charter school for two years before we brought her home to home school. I don’t really care what schooling anyone decides to do with their own children and don’t judge anyone for their choices. However, I do share my experiences. I was NOT allowed to be involved in my daughter’s education when she was in public school. I kept trying to, but I was constantly being pushed away. There was definitely the mentality that our children “belong” to the school and that the teacher is the ultimate authority over the child and the child’s education. When we started having these authority issues, is when we began to look into home schooling (I never thought I would). Yes, I ultimately was responsible for my child, but by keeping her in public school, I was losing my authority and as a responsible parent, was not willing to damage our relationship any further. We have been happily home schooling for 3 years and LOVE it! In November, my daughter traveled with us to Russia to finalize the adoption of her little sister. We love being able to provide an education for her that reaches beyond books, desks and chalkboards!

  • Valerie White

    My husband and I have homeschooled our girls since preschool. The number one reason we homeschool is because we feel that this is what the Lord has laid on our hearts. I think we can agree on lots of the “other” reasons, but they come as a by-product of obeying the Lord. As a Christian shouldn’t I be seeking the Lord on every decision? I believe He cares about our children’s “education” and I believe He has an opinion about it too. I should be crying out to God to show me the way – and then follow it with all my heart. I don’t need to worry about, or even take into consideration, any other opinion. Homeschooling has stretched me beyond measure, and I’ve changed because of it. There have been tough years when I’ve really struggled. I’m fine with that, even grateful. It has sent me to the feet of Jesus and I hope that is where I will always stay.

  • max

    I believe whole heartedly in education through apprenticeship. We learn best through direct observation and practice, but most of our current educational institutions lecture. Most undergraduate students wind up leaving college with no practical job skills, and they often join the workforce only to be taught what they actually need to know. So teach your children, but you ought to be sure that you know something worth teaching. Lonely housewife doesn’t seem like the best career to pass along through the generations.

    • Tara Edelschick

      True dat, Max.

      But I wonder how many homeschooling parents you know. Do many of us seem like lonely housewives to you?

    • Rinda

      Why do you assume every homeschool mother is a “lonely housewife?” And also by your post you assume she is uneducated and passing this on to her children. I am a college educated woman (cum laude from a private university with a mathematics degree), yet I CHOOSE to stay home with my 4 children. My children are still very young (only 1 in school so far) but I am considering homeschool someday. Are they going to be “stunted” because I homeschool them? No I think not. And there are HUGE resources available, through public libraries, local homeschool co-ops, and the internet for subjects I need refreshing on or am not comfortable teaching from my own experience. As for lonely, my days are anything but! My children get playgroups, zoo trips, and playdates at friends’ houses WHENEVER I want to schedule them (read MY friend’s houses :). Yes, it takes effort on my part to reach out to find people who share my values and my vision, but doesn’t anything of any worth require effort?

  • Heather Sanders

    Tara,

    I loved your post. I have homeschooled for over 10 years, and I love it! I love spending time with my kids. I could not imagine sending them away all day. My youngest is going to public high school. Her first time in a public school! She really has enjoyed it, which I am so thankful for, but I really miss her while she’s away. We have explored and learned so many things together all the while growing closer as a family. I would not change our experiences for anything.

  • Shelley

    Haha…you got me! We’re going to homeschool our first child for kindergarten this coming year. I’ve read a ton about “Why I homeschool.” I decided that to make sure I know the downfalls as well, I wanted to read about “Why I don’t homeschool.” Nicely done :)

  • Tabby

    There are some great reasons to homeschool. This article, on the other hand, is a nightmare for homeschoolers in the image it presents.

    My parents both worked, long hours, and I went to public school. And you know what? There were tons of museums (on free days or when rich relatives bought us yearly passes, we didn’t have the money for three month trips to Costa Rica but thanks for the elitist dig). There were tons of bike rides. Ever hear of weekends? I had a nutritious lunch every day (sure there was occasional peanut butter cuz you know what? That’s what we could afford) that my parents took turns making until I was old enough to take responsibility. You can also make it the night before. I never heard them complain because they knew what parenting meant. Somehow I managed to learn to do my own laundry before middle school. I’m not sure why that’s such a challenge.

    I cringe when I hear parents say “we learn together.” That means you’re trying to teach something you haven’t mastered. Which means you can’t be sure you’re right, can’t teach with nuance, can’t teach depth and shortcuts. When you reach upper levels, you’ll either use coops (sounds like school to me), community college or tutors, which is amazing if you can afford it. Many cant. I see many homeschool parents accuse others of not making enough sacrifice. Privilege talking. We had one tv, no cable, no video games, one old car.

    Maybe I just had a bad taste in my mouth after the first paragraph, and wanted to vomit when you say you don’t care where they get a better education. I guess I just love learning and value knowledge. I could never deny them what was best for them educationally out of some selfish desire to see a little more of them. Your job is to provide for them and give them what’s best for THEM. Some parents find that homeschooling is the best for them. Great.

    This is not the right economy to not hold sending your kids to the best possible school in the highest esteem. I’m not sure what world you live in that you think sending your kids to Harvard is not inherently valuable. First of all, of course, because to learn with the world’s finest scholars with outstanding academic resources would be a life-changing experience. But also because people going to lower tier schools are finding it harder and harder to get into higher tier grad schools and people who don’t go to higher tier grad schools are finding it just plain hard to find a job (see e.g. law school placement controversy). The connections people form at higher tier schools will serve them. I want my kids to know those advantages.

    Of course if that’s not the path my kids can or want to take I will support them and we will figure it out but reality denial serves no one.


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