Is homeschooling better than public schooling?
Perhaps your son has struggled all year to keep up the pace at your local public school. Or your high school-aged daughter has found a questionable group of friends and you feel you are losing her. You might be asking yourself: is homeschooling better than public schooling for my children?
In our family’s experience, homeschooling was better than public or private schooling. And we’ve done all three.
But not every school system is created equally. In fact, the nature of public schooling is like night and day in different parts of the country.
So there may not be just one answer to the question: Is homeschooling better than public schooling?
In fact, a better question might be, which option is better for your kids?
You know them inside and out. You know the character traits, values, and priorities you’ve worked so hard to instill in them.
So… the next question as you consider homeschooling vs. public schooling is: does your public school support those values and priorities?
If it doesn’t, you have a decision to consider.
Is homeschooling better than public schooling for my children?
Perhaps you’ve wondered if homeschooling would be an option for your kids’ education.
Maybe you’ve considered homeschooling, but you don’t think you’re smart enough. Or educated enough. Even after starting homeschooling, many parents struggle with feeling inadequate.
Although don’t we usually feel a little inadequate when we start something new? Especially when the stakes are as high as our children’s education?
You might be surprised to know that parents’ education has little to do with how successful their homeschooled children are, based on standardized testing.
Yes, that’s right! 85%!
So in most cases, if you’re committed to teaching your children, day after day… and you’re willing to learn with them, as they learn, you can homeschool successfully.
Does that mean you have to teach every subject? No. There are many options if you are truly uncomfortable teaching a specific subject, or at a particular level. Some of them are:
- trading with another homeschool (or other) parent with a passion for a subject you aren’t too crazy about teaching, while you teach her child a subject you love
- hiring a high school/college student as a tutor
- dual enrollment at a community college (for simultaneous high school and college credit)
- online classes
- getting together as a group and hiring a retired teacher in your community
- forming a history or science co-op with a few families using your same curriculum (or not) and trading the teaching with other parents
So please don’t think homeschooling is impossible if you still have occasional nightmares about lab reports. Or research papers. Or calculus.
There are ways of making it work.
Now let’s talk about gathering some information.
Where to start researching about homeschooling
As you’re considering whether homeschooling is better than public schooling for your child, there’s some information you’ll need to gather.
Fortunately, there are books to read, people to talk to and many places online to find information about homeschooling.
1. What are my state’s homeschooling requirements?
Each state has something to say about homeschooling in that state.
In your state, you might be required to join an accountability group or even report directly to the public school system. Alternatively, your state might allow you to homeschool without any accountability whatsoever.
To find out the homeschooling laws where you live, check with the Home School Legal Defense Association. They’ll tell you what you’re required to do and how to move forward if you decide homeschooling is better than public schooling for your family.
2. Am I qualified to homeschool my children?
As you’ve already read, it’s not at all about your education or teaching qualifications.
You could have three degrees and speak four languages, but that’s not what’s important.
What’s important is that you’re willing to sacrifice daily time and effort homeschooling your kids.
So, that usually means that at least one parent makes homeschooling a priority. Often this means financial sacrifice, with the homeschooling parent working part-time instead of full time, or choosing to work at home instead of outside the home. Or deciding not to work at all.
Mainly, it means that you’re committed. You don’t let homeschooling just “happen.” You’ll need to research, plan, and study your children to know how they learn best. (And this happens over a period of time, not just before you start homeschooling.)
It’s not just about your kids. You’ll also need to examine yourself. Give some thought to what intrigues you about homeschooling and what might make you crazy.
For example, do you love reading great literature, so you imagine cuddling up on the sofa with your kids, visiting faraway lands and long-ago places?
Or perhaps you want to give your children your love of flora and fauna and all things outdoors.
Alternatively, you might be thinking, I hate crafts! I don’t think I can homeschool if it involves glue or glitter.
It’s okay. You can work around that.
For many years, we joined with three families and did a history co-op that met every other Thursday for about two hours. In the summers, Moms planned the topics and time periods we wanted to cover. Then when school started, we took turns teaching.
And had a break for the other two weeks. It was fantastic.
- Craft-loving mom made cookie dough maps and taught our kids how to paint Greek pots.
- Drama-loving mom taught feudalism in the Middle Ages by having kids role-play peasants, nobles, knights, and a king.
- Game-loving mom had the kids create and play a Jeopardy-like game in order to review what they learned about Ancient Egypt.
And the kids LOVED IT. They loved being together and they loved the variety of projects and experiences.
3. Where do I find more information about homeschooling?
Your library may have a few books on homeschooling. And of course, there’s always Amazon.
Here are some homeschool classics that cover a few different styles and methods:
Many years ago when my husband and I first contemplated homeschooling we attended our first local homeschool convention.
We were totally overwhelmed seeing a hundred plus booths of curriculum vendors and booksellers crowded into a large church gym!
We bought How to Homeschool that day and I read it straight through when we got home. Reading about how someone else homeschooled gave me a visual picture of how homeschooling could work for us. It gave me hope and a vision that we could do this. Read more of our family’s story here.
In addition to reading, as you are gathering information, look for others in your church or neighborhood who are homeschooling. Find out why they chose to homeschool and what their homeschooling day is like.
Even better: Ask a homeschooling friend if you can hang out at her house and observe for part of a day. You could even offer to bring lunch. (A sure way to wrangle an invitation.)
There’s nothing like actually seeing homeschooling in action to understand the process better.
Make notes. Write down your questions. Ask people you trust for answers.
Popular homeschool methods
One of the first things you’ll notice when you begin researching homeschooling is that homeschooling parents don’t all homeschool the same way. Here are some of the most popular methods:
Charlotte Mason – Based on a 19th-century teacher from England, this method is characterized by its respect of children as “people.” Habit training and informal nature study begin before children are school-aged. Charlotte Mason adherents teach children using excellent literature (instead of textbooks) and also provide time to study art, music and practical crafts.
Unit Studies – With this method, students partake in an in-depth study of a particular theme. Different subjects and learning activities are integrated into the theme in a meaningful, engaging way. The theme could be outer space, an animal, a country, a continent, a character trait, chronological history, apples, etc.
Classical – Based on the ancient Greek Trivium, children are divided into three different stages of learning: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. Each stage is characterized by a different type of learning based on children’s development. A classical education usually involves learning Latin and has a strong focus on reading and writing, with writing beginning quite early.
School at Home – With this method, parents attempt to create “public school at home.” They often buy a boxed curriculum that includes everything needed for that school year for each child and tries and teach each child separately.
Delight-directed – Also called child-led homeschooling, this method has structure and often uses curricula and teaches the core subjects. But it’s also directed by children’s gifts, talents, and interests. This method can be used all the time or can be used as a break from “regular” homeschooling.
Eclectic – Most homeschool parents move to a more eclectic style after homeschooling a number of years. Parents choose the best of one or more methods and combine them in a way that best suits themselves and their children.
In the truest sense of the word, unschooling is actually not homeschooling at all. I mention it here because you might have heard about it and wondered what it was. Adherents to this method say it’s learning by doing real things, but not being limited by a curriculum or by someone else’s decision about what a child needs to do when. Unscshoolers feel as though each family has the right to do what it thinks best, rather than being bound by someone else’s “system” and “methods.” Learning is totally directed by the child but supported by the parents.
4. Where do I start? Can I afford it?
You can homeschool pretty much on any budget. It’s not necessary to have new, expensive curricula, a dedicated school room with fancy desks, or filing cabinets full of supplies.
But it does help to have a library card, a kitchen or dining room table, and some decent art supplies. We homeschooled using a literature-based curriculum, relying on excellent children’s books to teach history, science and language arts. So I scoured our church library, Goodwill, and other used bookstores to supplement what was available in our library system.
And for years, I also asked for books and supplies for all gift-giving occasions.
Budget Factors to consider:
- What’s your budget for homeschooling? (think curriculum, supplies, occasional field trips, any music lessons. etc. Some of this is optional.)
- How many children are you going to be homeschooling?
- Do you have children who are close in age and ability that you may teach together?
Keep in mind that it’s difficult to teach more than two children completely separately. But skill-based subjects such as math and language arts usually need to be taught separately, unless you have children of similar abilities.
It’s a much better use of time and money to group children when you can for subjects like history, science, and fine arts.
As you read about different homeschooling methods, you’ll find some resonate with you more than others. Also, you’ll find that some methods are less expensive to use than others.
You can use the Charlotte Mason or the Unit Study method to teach more than one student at a time, making curricula less time-intensive and costly than a “school at home” approach, where every child has separate curricula for history, science, grammar, writing, poetry, literature study, math, foreign language, etc.
The Charlotte Mason and Classical methods of learning use “real” books instead of textbooks. Think library books.
5. How do we make the transition to homeschooling from public schooling?
You make the transition patiently.
Especially if you decide to pull a child out of public school mid-year, many homeschool veterans suggest spending time “deschooling.”
That might mean just spending a few months reading (language arts), getting outside in nature (science), cooking (math), and doing some practical writing (list-making, notes). It means keeping academics a little more “functional” for a while, and less like “school.”
Reading aloud and just talking to your kids about what you’re reading keeps children’s minds active. Measuring and doubling or cutting a recipe in half is practical math, as is counting out the silverware to set the table. Writing a thank you note for a birthday gift counts as writing. You can enjoy many activities while you are ‘deschooling’ while still giving your children practice in the three R’s.
Be patient with yourself and patient with your children. After a month or two (some say much more than that), you can gradually start back with a subject or two at a time.
Homeschooling parents and kids need community
If you decide to homeschool, please seek out a local homeschooling support group. You’ll need this and so will your kids.
A support group is different than an accountability group; a support group is for just that – support. Find others who have children your children’s ages and plan to get together at a park or library at least weekly.
Additionally, many support groups schedule regular field trips as well as providing opportunities for special interest groups, lessons, and clubs.
Through our local support group, our children participated in karate, Lego Club, Spanish, Drama, tutoring, basketball, volleyball, politics, upper-level math, writing, yearbooks, annual “school” pictures, service projects, a prom, ballroom dancing classes, and graduation ceremonies.
And if you don’t have a convenient support group in your area, there are also many, many online groups of homeschoolers you can connect with.
As you hang around others in person or virtually who homeschool, you will be able to ask questions and seek advice when you need it.
And you will.
There’s such comfort in knowing that other homeschool moms are having the same struggles and victories as you. And some have done it longer and able to give you tips to make homeschooling easier and more effective.
You’ll be happy to hear that it’s okay that your daughter doesn’t like grammar or your son can’t sit still.
There’s a learning curve, like with anything else new. So be encouraged. You might feel ill-equipped at first, but you’ll know so much more in a year than you know now. Both about yourself and about your children!
And there’s the Internet…
In addition to connecting with other homeschoolers online, there’ so. much. information. there.
Almost too much.
And as you are in the gathering information stage, I invite you to take a deeper dive into my blog. It can keep you busy with many posts about how to competently and confidently homeschool all ages, with sample lessons, planning help, encouragement, great books, and more.
If you’d like to hear from me regularly, please give me your first name and email address below. I’ll send you two free ebooks of well-loved poems as my thank you gift. (And then send regular emails with high-interest lesson plan ideas, mom encouragement, favorite book suggestions, and an occasional heads up for member’s only and other sales.)
6. But what if my child has special needs?
If your child has special needs, you are often the very best person to be educating him, according to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
You can customize your homeschooling to fit your child’s needs. And if your student needs medical care, you’ll be there to give him exactly what he needs when he needs it. Not to mention the freedom from distractions that might be just what your special needs child requires to be able to focus on her school work.
For more information, watch the video below:
Additionally, check the National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN) for more information about homeschooling your special needs child.
For more helpful information about homeschooling, check out this informative guide by MomLovesBest.
Bottom line: if you decide that homeschooling is better than public schooling for your kids, and you are committed to doing the work of homeschooling, you can make it work.
So don’t let FEAR keep you from making the decision to homeschool instead of keeping your kids in public school if that’s what you decide is best for your kids and your family.
Your life and schedule might look different than it did before, but you couldn’t invest your time in anything more worthy than your children.
If you’re struggling with the decision whether or not to homeschool, I’d be happy to pray for you and give you any counsel that I can. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.