Should I Homeschool Or Not? – Part Two

Written by Misha Thompson of The Offense of Joy

Last month I wrote part one of this article–you are welcome to click here to read it.

The decision of whether or not you should homeschool ultimately comes down to one single factor: knowing your child(ren.)

I had a special treat on Mother’s Day and as I was enjoying my time alone, another mother I know walked in. She has homeschooled four boys and we got to chatting.

“Misha,” she said, “it really does come down to knowing your children. I worried and stressed so much about keeping them up to grade level and making sure I taught them all they needed to know.

But really, what I wish I would’ve done more, is just sitting down and reading for hours. Enjoying their company. It goes so fast.”

I meet so many parents who know their opinions and their literature and their plans and their goals – but really influencing our kids is about knowing our kids. Listening to them, their needs and their hearts helps us assess if we are able and willing to be the ones to give that to them.

Photo by Misha Thompson

When I set out to see if this was the right path for my kids we tried homeschooling for one initial week. In those five days I saw the kids I know re-emerge. They were back to their inquisitive, fun-loving, excited about learning selves. I wasn’t willing to lose that.

Or better said, I was willing to do what I needed to do, for them not to lose it! We went through this book as a family and did all the “tests” in it together. As much as I study my kids, I was still caught off guard by the things I learned about my children.

Here are some more tips that have helped me in this process:

1. Know What Is Going On In Your Community.

There are a slew of resources in many communities. Call your local schools, check your phone book, Google your area, ask at play groups, check your library – there are so many community-based, grass-roots organizations that are formed for the primary purpose of being a support to you.

We are a part of a parent partnership program in our community that works through our local school district and provides support, accountability and reimbursement of some of our tax dollars for school supplies. There are many programs like that around the nation that are an incalculable support.

2. Know Some Helpful Coaches.

I say this all the time, but you simply cannot homeschool alone. I am always looking to find experienced homeschoolers and I invite them out for tea or to go for a walk–then I ask them for help, perspective, input and wisdom. I am a big believer in mentors. People who know more than I do and are happy to help me learn are worth gold.

I have one former homeschooler I email, a few who blog that I know I can ask questions of, and a couple in my town I know would help me in a panic.

Look for experienced parents and keep them on speed-dial!

Photo by Misha Thompson

3. Know Some Good Books.

I probably ordered and subsequently read well over 30 – 40 books on homeschooling, learning styles, educationally philosophies, and methods. There are only a very few that I have found indispensable.

But the ones that are have to do with the philosophies we have found most helpful to our individual kids. I think that knowing your child(ren)’s learning style is imperative. Knowing your own is, too. This book is near unto the Bible for me in raising my own kids due to their personalities.

Once you know your priorities, style and goals choosing relevant books as guides and resources will be much easier (and less expensive!)

4. Know What You Need To Enjoy The Process And That It’s Okay To Take Your Time.

All in all in the U.S. we have a plethora of resources. With a little initiative, finding support and input will never be your struggle in this country. (I started with a class at our local community college on homeschooling and almost didn’t follow through just because of the sheer volume of resources out there. I felt so overwhelmed to research them all!)

Confidence in knowing that you are doing exactly what you want to for your family is a process. And it’s worth looking at these questions and taking the time to think it all through, so that you can handpick the resources that are best for you.

I would say a big tip for us has been not committing to anything long-term. We take it one year at a time, evaluating every new school year what is best for each of our kids. That helped me not feel overwhelmed. That helps keep it about them.

Also key was not being afraid to try different methods out and seeing what fit with our kids. (I have experimented with over five distinct philosophies this first year – and as much as I know them, I would never have guessed what my kids ended up gravitating towards the most.)

With a little research into the process of homeschooling, combined with the depths of knowledge you already have about your children, you’ll be able to discover whether homeschooling is the best choice for your family.

How did you know homeschooling was for you? Or how did you know it wasn’t? We’d love to hear about your process in this big decision.

About Misha

Misha is a writer and teacher on the subjects of pain and joy. She loves paddle boarding, dutch salty licorice, and she really, really loves sunshine. (She lives in the Pacific Northwest.) She also loves her kids who still give her grace after all her screw ups as a mom. She writes at The Offense of Joy.

Comments

  1. This is interesting Misha. We honestly don’t view public school as an option, except as an add on in future years, so there never was this question of “is this the right thing for our children”. It just always was our choice for their education, from before they were born.

    I find, as helpful as books are etc, it’s knowing people ahead of me in this journey that is most encouraging to me. To see their successes (and maybe learn from some of their mis-steps). They could be families I know or people who blog but I really find their example helpful.

  2. Hi Renee,

    I know many people would agree with you in not seeing public school as an option. Thank you for bringing that up.

    The main reason I say that for us, is we come from strong missionary backgrounds (both of our families have been humanitarian missionaries all our lives working as doctors around the world, with drug addicts and prostitutes in Amsterdam, with run-a-ways on the hippie trail in the Middle East in the ’70s, in shanty towns in Africa) and for us we saw that we learned things in those environments that trumped even “quality education.” (It was an education!)

    I grieved when I felt that my kids shouldn’t go to our local public school because I went to a public school in the heart of the red light district in Amsterdam and learned more from that experience than I would have from (even a far superior) education at home. But at the end of the day, we know this is what is right for our kids, for now.

    I know we are doing the right thing for them, but I know even attending a public school in the drug capital of Europe was one of the best gifts my parents gave me. That’s why we don’t approach our kids’ education based on only assessing education – but on what they could learn – and give – in many different ways and on assessing what is best for them in each year of their lives.
    .-= Misha@ beautyandjoy’s last blog: New Post Up At Simple Homeschool =-.

  3. I had always thought about homeschooling in the back of my mind, but was not brave enough to seriously consider it until my oldest was in grade 2, and complaining nightly of her boredom with her schoolwork. I could see that she was not being challenged, and that the busywork she brought home for homework (in grade 2!) was a ridiculous waste of time. Then I knew for sure I wanted to homeschool when I joined her class for a field trip, and I saw that a) almost the ENTIRE afternoon was spent by the teacher trying to keep everyone organized and together; very little learning happened, and b) the worksheet the kids were given was just to keep them busy; although some kids worked really hard on getting all the right answers, they were just thrown in the garbage at the end of the field trip. I saw that so much of public school is basically filling in the time, keeping the kids busy and organized but not necessary doing anything meaningful to them.

    It was scary taking the plunge, but I’ve never regretted it. It took me about a year to find my groove after experimenting with different educational methods, and now, 3 years later, things are running quite smoothly and I can’t imagine putting my kids into public school.
    .-= Laura @ Getting There’s last blog: My feeble attempt at knitting. =-.

  4. Somehow I just “knew” that I wanted to homeschool – it always felt right; like the only choice for us. Having said that, I also had to learn to kind of “let go”, in my heart, my tight grip on homeschooling so that if God ever called us to something different that I wouldn’t be in fear… that I’d trust that it would be good for my kids at that time. My oldest wants to attend highschool at some point and we’ll offer him the freedom to choose when the time comes (he also wanted reassurance that if he hates it that he can return to homeschooling). I cannot imagine having made a different educational choice for our family and live constantly thankful for this privilege (and great responsiblity) of raising up and educating our children.

  5. I was homeschooled myself from middle school onward. I always knew that I would homeschool my kids – especially after seeing how much effort my public school friends go through just trying to counteract the negative influences on their kids.

    What I am going through right now is that I sense a shift in myself as far as educational philosophies. I am starting to notice more and more that the things that they retain and are excited about are not worksheets. I am trying to figure out how to balance a quality education that at least partly satisfies my need for checking-things-off-a-list but also gives my children the freedom to pursue their own desires and interests. I don’t care for the word “unschooling” because it sounds too much like “nonschooling”, but I feel myself moving toward it.

    It’s freaking me out a little, actually. I just placed holds on lots of books at the library and am hoping to find one that resonates.
    .-= Deb’s last blog: Business Trip =-.

  6. I love hearing about each of your processes. I’m sure it is so helpful to others to hear, too. Thank you!
    .-= Misha@ beautyandjoy’s last blog: New Post Up At Simple Homeschool =-.

  7. Taking your time and enjoying the process – YES!

    There is no “behind” when you homeschool, there is simply where you are.

    What works in one household may not be the right fit for your household. If you aren’t enjoying the method or it feels like drudgery rather than a delightful learning process, then it isn’t the method for you – no matter how beautiful it looks in the pages of a book or how fun it sounds on a blog. Giving myself permission to make what I read and saw other place OUR OWN took me a while, but I’m so glad I’ve learned that. It has made all the difference.

    Your friend is right – this time goes so fast. I don’t want it to be lost in lesson plans, even when those lesson plans are my own :-)
    .-= Kara Fleck’s last blog: Homemade Baby Food 101 for the Modern Mom – Part II =-.

  8. I really appreciate all the insight around here. Our daughter still has 4 more years before kindergarten, but we’re still trying to make arrangements for the future (mostly whether I’ll pursue a Master’s) and whether to make homeschooling work for our family’s schedule. I think the best point might be the willingness to reevaluate as time goes on. Just because we pursue and make preparations for one decision now, doesn’t mean we are held accountable to it later by anyone but ourselves. We can always change our minds and reevaluate what’s best for our family and for our daughter.
    .-= Chris’s last blog: Bridging the Gap =-.

  9. Excellent post, Misha! Very helpful, and I agree–the key is knowing your kids. Well said!!
    .-= Jena’s last blog: Congratulations Peter! =-.

  10. We opted to send our oldest daughter to public school this year for kindergarten. After making the decision, I was having second thoughts, mainly because so many of my peers lean toward homeschooling. But after making two lists–one for reasons to home school and another for reasons to send our kids to public school–I had a greater peace about our decision.

    There are plenty of valid reasons for either choice, and we do want to remain open to what seems best for each child as well as our family as a whole. For the future, we may explore the options again, including private, Christian, and international schools, if we are ever in a position to afford them.
    .-= Julia’s last blog: Wordless Wednesday: Backyard Fun Without a Swing Set =-.

  11. We haven’t told family or friends yet, that we’ve decided to homeschool all of our kids next year. Most know we’re considering it and they all know that we brought our would be Kindergartener home after just two weeks last fall. I guess we’ve been homeschool/unschooling him. Really I just take him to the library whenever he wants new books and read to him a ton (I think I may be an expert on dinosaurs now). I’ve tried doing workbooks or organized projects with him and they blow up in my face. If he started next year, they would put him back in Kindergarten and I know he would get bored.

    My husband and I first talked about homeschooling when our oldest was about 4, but eventually decided on a local charter school. It’s been four years since my first started Kindergarten. Two of our kids are there now, and really, it’s been a great school, we couldn’t ask for more dedicated and inspired teachers and staff, but something is still missing. I think that having a positive school experience has helped me feel more confidant about our choice to homeschool because I know that even a great school wont be everything I want it to be. I’m sure homeschooling wont be everything I think it will be either, but I feel like a lot of the issues that could come up with homeschooling would be things we’d have to deal with as parents anyway or would come up no matter where they were schooled.

    Mostly I’m just excited to be witness to their learning again. To watch the light bulb go off when they finally figure something out and to let them have the time to fully develop the interest that they have. I’ve seen too many of their passions fizzle after the holidays because there is just no time or energy left for them.

    Thank you for this site, it has been unbelievably helpful and has such great resources. I love reading blogs of homeschoolers, but it takes up so much time and this way we get a nice sampling quickly with links if we want or have the time for more.

  12. We have made the decision to home school my oldest daughter for Kindergarten. Currently, she is in a progressive pre-K program and is already beginning to reading. With my decision to quit work, and be a full-time Mom, this school is now out of our price range. I know she will be bored at public Kindergarten. I am terrified; I have been looking at several different curriculums, but cannot decide. I feel since I have not taught yet, I need a structured curriculum. I know I want to use Saxon Math, and I am drawn to Sonlight core program, but it is too pricey for me. I am going a home school conference in June, does anyone have suggestions?

    • I’m “testing out” homeschooling with my preschooler this year. I loved the Sonlight philosophy, but I didn’t want to pay for the full Sonlight program either, so I just bought the “teachers manual” (P3/4). Now I can buy any of the books I want to keep, and check the rest out from the library. A much more budget friendly option. :) I’m glad I went this route as well, as it as turned out to not be enough for my daughter.

      Good luck!

  13. Thank you for sharing this series of posts. We are new to homeschooling.
    Your link to the book that you consider “near until the Bible” is exactly what I have been looking for. I have already put it on hold at my local library. The subtitle sounds so much like our son. I have always known that he would greatly benefit from homeschooling, but I think this book will help me understand him better so that I can meet his needs. Thank you, thank you!
    .-= Michelle M.’s last blog: Oral Health Needs Of A Family =-.

  14. We are still trying to figure out what to do & these posts have been really helpful. We homeschool in the summer & are trying to figure out what to do for the year round. We thought we had made up our minds, but depending on the day we go back & forth. I feel like we are supposed to homeschool, Hubby agreed but now we are back to maybe “one more year” & then depending on the day we aren’t, LOL!! It’s great to have more food for thought to help as we sort through everything :)
    .-= beth aka confusedhomemaker’s last blog: Purple Nurples =-.

  15. Hi Misha,
    I know I’m a few months behind on the comments here, so I’m not sure if you would still check this. I’m just curious after reading this – I’m in my first year of homeschooling right now and in a similar process you described.

    “Also key was not being afraid to try different methods out and seeing what fit with our kids. (I have experimented with over five distinct philosophies this first year – and as much as I know them, I would never have guessed what my kids ended up gravitating towards the most.)”

    So, which five did you try out and which one did you gravitate towards? Very curious!

    I loved this article, especially about knowing your kids – Thanks :)
    Leslie’s latest post: Another confession

  16. I’m a teacher in the public school system, and I would just like to add one point. A poster before me mentioned not doing things out of fear. We’ve got a lot of families in our area who ‘homeschool’ (and unfortunately, there’s very little education of any kind going on in 90%+ of the cases) because they fear the influence of the world on their kids. Then we’ve got families who’ve taught their kids to shine wherever they are. It saddens me when bright kids who are obviously soaking up the interaction are yanked away from their friends to spend their time sleeping in, helping clean and do farmwork, and doing a page or two in their workbooks. (From what I can tell, this is a regional problem. I have some good friends who homeschool, and it’s obvious they made the right decision for themselves and their children. But they made that decision out of confidence, not fear.)

    Having said that, it also saddens me when public school teachers are so exhausted they resort to busy-work.

    btw, you might wonder why a teacher is poking around on a homeschooling website…believe it or not, I get a lot of great ideas and encouragement from reading these posts! :)

  17. I had thought about homeschooling in a dreamy wouldn’t-that-be-nice kind of way but not as an actual reality… until my son’s 4 yr check up. His doc, who we LOVED, started asking him to draw this or write that so I asked her what she was doing since it was out of the ordinary & I’m nosy like that. “I gave him the kindergarten and now the 1st grade entrance exams.” Hunh? She then said, “I know he’s on the young side but you should call the school district today & ask about getting him into kindergarten this fall.” Gulp! I wasn’t ready but figured I should at least make the call & get some information. After talking to the school district employee about “my child” for more than 5 minutes they sounded ready to sign ‘em up… then the secretary asked the all important, life changing question, “So what’s your daughter’s name?” Uh, what? I said, “HIS name is ______.” Absolute silence. “Oh,” she said. What the hell does THAT mean? I thought. “Yeah, we don’t like to admit boys before their 5th birthday, in fact we prefer closer to their 6th if possible.” So, he could test in now but they didn’t want him for another 2 years? I explained again how our pediatrician was the one who prodded me to call. Her response, “We think it’s wonderful that ALL parents think that THEIR child is special…” I interrupted her and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about homeschooling and you just helped me decide. Thank you.” And I hung up. That was 6 years ago.
    Stevi’s latest post: Yum Yum Donuts Tour

  18. Misha,

    I would love to read your blog post about your initial week of homeschooling, but I’m blocked from the post. Is there any way I could get a copy of it somehow?
    Kimberly B.’s latest post: I’ve Raised a Criminal

  19. I really thought I had to homeschool to have a “good ” kid. So I decided that was too much of a defensive position we were able to put our ,hild in a private school where I teach. until I can decide to homeschool for positive reasons rather than defensive and out of fear, we have a great setup. I am in the building with hwr and know all her teachers and friends. :-)

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