10 homeschooling stereotypes (& their rebuttals)

classroomWritten by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling

So you’re thinking about homeschooling. Here are a few basic items you need to get started:

  • A designated school room, where you gather to teach the kids their lessons every day.
  • A schedule, obviously, so you know which topics to cover every day.
  • A curriculum, so you know what to teach them every day.
  • A degree, preferably in education, so you are qualified to teach them every day.

Got everything? Good. Let’s get started…

This seems to be the general idea of what goes on in our house daily. I probably thought the same when I first researched homeschooling, and while it may hold true for some, this type of environment and structure doesn’t work for us.

Since I get asked a lot about our personal experience, mostly on the hows and whys, I thought I’d share some of the most common homeschooling stereotypes I’ve come across along with my rebuttals.

1. You must know XYZ since you homeschool.

Contrary to this popular misconception, I don’t know everything. Just because I teach my kids doesn’t mean I remember every detail of every subject that I had learned from Kindergarten through college. I don’t think anybody does. The good news is, you don’t need to!

While the primary years are a piece of cake to me, my high schooler’s subjects, admittedly, do pose a challenge. Just because I got an A one semester in Advanced Algebra in 12th grade doesn’t mean I remember how to factor quadratic equations or solve distance-rate word problems. 

In these instances, I just pop open the computer and re-learn it along with my son. This internet thing is really amazing.

2. You must be really organized.

In theory, I know exactly how to be organized — place everything within clearly labeled folders, within clearly labeled binders, within clearly labeled containers, within an equally clearly labeled closet or shelf.  In practice, however, you will find piles of worksheets here, half a project there, and the whereabouts of some important paperwork completely oblivious to me.

We spend an insane amount of time looking for pencils.  It is common for me to uncover long forgotten activity books while cleaning. I wish I could be better organized and just get my act together. But it isn’t how my brain functions, and apparently, my children have inherited this trait.

3. You must have a lot of patience/Your kids must be really disciplined.

My children are angels — when they are not bickering or irritable or fighting over whose turn it is to do the laundry. We are human, not robots.

We have emotions and react to good days and bad ones, just like everyone else. But we generally like each other and get along.

4. Do you follow a curriculum? How do you know what to teach them?

I don’t follow any curriculum, although I find the notion romantic. It would be so easy to use an all inclusive game plan, in which all the subjects are beautifully intertwined and the lessons and activities build upon one another.

The reality though, is that I am not that disciplined. Or organized (see #2). Or patient (see #3). I cannot sit for 3-4 hours a day, five days a week, doing school. I make plans on occasion, but I don’t expect to follow them for too long.

10 homeschooling stereotypes (and their rebuttals) ~SimpleHomeschool.net
Photo by Crunchy Footsteps

5. Are there organized homeschool activities? Do your kids see other people? Do they play with kids their age?

Ah, the infamous Socialization Question! Why is it that homeschool kids have to hang out with homeschool kids in “organized homeschool activities?” This notion boggles me.

Sure, we hang out with other homeschoolers and raid the playground during school hours, but that’s not our only outlet. In almost all my children’s extracurricular activities, they are the only ones schooled at home. We don’t discriminate.

6. Do your kids get recess?

I had a really long dental appointment, in which the dentist was grilling me on all things homeschool. One of the questions he asked was whether my kids get recess, which I found amusing. I said, “no”, because I didn’t want to get into it (it’s really hard to talk with dental instruments in your mouth).

Truthfully, though, if you take “recess” to mean a break from schoolwork, I guess they get way more of it than their schoolroom counterparts. There’s breakfast, lunch, computer breaks, chore breaks, reading breaks, bathroom breaks, and just plain need-a-break breaks… We have lots and lots of recess. It’s amazing we get any schooling done.

7. Do your kids get homework? How are they graded?

I’m always telling my kids to do their homework, but it’s probably not what you think. They don’t have “school work” in the morning and then assigned “homework” afterwards. I pretty much call everything they are working on alone homework. 

As far as grades, I don’t need them. We look over assignments and correct the mistakes. I have a good idea what they excel at and what they need work on.

8. What about testing?

My children participate in annual state-mandated tests. I don’t argue over the pros and cons of standardized testing and we don’t make a big deal out of it.

They do practice tests and then take the real thing.

9. What about high school? College?

I used to be very anxious about how my children would adjust from homeschooling to going to high school or college. I had visions of my kids, lost in a sea of teenagers and young adults, unable to cope or find the bathroom. Of course, this is all unfounded.

I imagine it’s like any child starting their first day of school, except that a 13-year-old would have a better capacity to find his way than the 3 or 5-year-old (and don’t really want you around holding their hands anyways).

We took baby steps so that by the time my teenager hit high school, he embraced his independence. As for actual high school coursework, we started with online college courses, weekend seminars, summer courses at college, concurrent enrollment at college, as well as internships and loads of volunteer experience. So far, this has worked great for us.

10. You must be a great teacher.

Another comment I often get from people is that, just because I homeschool my kids, I can take on their kids or check their homework. No, thank you. While I may be “a great teacher” to my own kids, I have no desire to teach anyone else.  I couldn’t handle the responsibility.

So there you have it — a quick glimpse into how we operate. Keep in mind, though, that homeschooling is very individualized (isn’t that the point?) so I don’t know about the homeschooler down the block or in the next state or country.

Your legal requirements and family dynamics may differ greatly from ours, as do your methods, backgrounds, and ambitions. You may even have a jar full of #2 pencils at your disposal.

What are the top homeschooling stereotypes you’ve come across?


About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. I enjoyed this article 🙂 Thank you
    Renee’s latest post: Caution kids at play

  2. Concerning # 10, when my mom started homeschooling my sisters and me 20 years ago, a teacher told her “you divided by 4 will always be better than the best teacher divided by 25.” I think about that often now that I’m on my own home schooling journey with my own children. I may not be the “best” teacher, but I don’t need to be.

    • Rachel, you ARE the best teacher! –For your children, that is. You may not be the best teacher for my children, as I may not be the best teacher for yours. But as in the article, you know what your kids excel at, what they need to work on, and you know best how to meet their needs, how to challenge them and how/when to ease up on the challenges.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I have 6 children, 3 of whom are in public school, as I type this. Next year I will begin homeschooling 2 of them and then gradually phase them all into it. It can feel incredibly overwhelming at times, and to read your take on all the misleading stereotypes versus the true reality of homeschooling is very uplifting! Thank you!

  4. Thanks for this, Amida. We’ve started our own unschooling journey last September and I feel under especially intense scrutiny. From everyone: “how’s the homeschooling thing going?” i.e. are you going to come to your senses soon and send her back to public school? I’ve learned to just respond with “Great!” and leave it at that.
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    • Angie Milligan says:

      I got that question alot too…”so, are you still going to homeschool?” Like it was something I needed to get out of my system. 🙂 I kept saying it was awesome and those friends stopped asking.

      • Mary Jo,
        Think of it as akin to having a baby. Yes, it’s great! (Except for the 3 a.m. thing, and the diaper blowout as you sit down in church thing, and the won’t eat/wants to always eat thing, etc.) But you don’t send your baby back just because you/baby have a rough day/week/month/year. Home education is a commitment that is worth every moment. No one said it was easy. Is it better? Yes. Best? Yes. Easy? Excuse me while I fall off the chair laughing–or break out in tears, depending.

  5. I always get the standardized testing question. As in, how do you do those tests? How do you know how your children are doing if you don’t do them? I don’t do them, but I reply that I just know how she’s doing by being with her and looking at her work and teaching it to her. I get blank looks. Some things others just don’t understand unless they are doing it or have done it.

    • I never had my kids take a test that told me anything new. All you need is the state requirements, and later on, the ACT or SAT. Period.

  6. I think a couple that I have come across lately were….that basically homeschooled children were not as controllable. They don’t learn how to follow the rules, stand in line, listen to authority. I have found the opposite to be true. I have seen that they tend to be more respectful of authority, but don not blindly follow rules.

    Another weird one was that children that don’t attend a “normal” school are not as exposed to the social issues like boy/girl relationships and therefore are more aware of it. I think that boy/girl relationships are an unfortunate part of education and not something to be admired, but can happen, no matter where you are schooling.

    Most of all, I find the one you mention about grades interesting. I have found people say that children would do better if their grades were given to them by a teacher and not by their mother. However, grades from a homeschool co-op classes, online class etc. do not count as “real grades”.
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  7. Lol. You have a teaching certificate. I have one, but I could homeschool without it.
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    • My friend with a teaching certificate said emphatically that there was nothing she learned in her pursuit of the degree that was helpful in home education. A degree does not teach you how to work with people, how to understand your child, nor how to motivate/encourage others, nor how to love anyone. If you love your child and want to provide the best education possible for said child, you’re good to go. The rest will work out.

  8. Well said, Amida! I’ve noticed in my own research that it is often the moms who do NOT have a college degree who are more effective at homeschooling. Maybe because they want it to work so badly, or maybe because they are learning alongside their kids. The stereotypes live on, but we’re happy to rebutt them every chance we get at our house! When my daughter is asked where she goes to school she just says, “I’m homeschooled.” And that’s it. Sometimes she gets weird looks and sometimes she doesn’t.
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    • How are you measuring the effectiveness of college educated mothers vs. non-college educated mothers? By test scores, parent or child satisfaction, etc? I have not seen that kind of research before… ( I am not trying to be challenging but feel that this is kind of a form of stereotyping unless there is some really solid research behind it) I like that this article is encouraging parents to try homeschooling even if they don’t feel qualified but I do think there is such a thing as poorly done homeschooling and people seem to think that bad homeschooling is better than the best public or private school. Some organization, patience, and knowledge is needed to homeschool well. Just as there are good and bad teachers, there are good and bad homeschooling parents. My kids are too young for school right now and we are still undecided about what to do for their education. I had some really great teachers growing up and some really great opportunities to stand up for my faith and to show God’s love to other kids and adults. I am still considering homeschooling for a variety of reasons but I am open to what God calls us to do.

      • Lyn,
        As a veteran (28 years) of home education, I’m excited that you are considering this option for your children. And you are home schooling them now–manners, picking up toys, thank you/please, brush teeth, etc. It just isn’t all books. (Learning never is all books.) Check out http://www.nheri.org/ and Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute for statistics. You are right–there are some very educated lousy home educators, and some great home educators that barely got their GED. And while I happen to believe every child would benefit from home education, I do not believe that every parent should teach their child at home. Many are unwilling to put forth the effort–either timewise or in understanding the child and how to best help the child learn, or both.

  9. Love this, thank you! And we always losing pencils! It drives me crazy!

  10. Socialization is still #1 here. Followed by the question; How do “school” with little ones around? Do you send them to a sitter?”
    Thank you for #1. I struggle with all things in the language department, but I am thrilled that even though this is an area of struggle for me I can still learn alongside my child.
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  11. Elizabeth N says:

    I love this post! I can really relate to this. It is so nice to know I’m not alone.

  12. People are baffled that I am homeschooling an only child. Y’all, there’s no quota. You can homeschool one kid or sixteen of them. One happens to be how many I have.

  13. Angie Milligan says:

    WOW! Thank you for this post! I can relate to all of it and have heard each of those comments more than once! Your explanations are awesome! I especially loved how you didn’t “discriminate” against the kids who aren’t homeschooled in your kid’s extracurricular activities. 😉
    One thing that still truly baffles me is just the “gall” of people who think they have the right to ask ANYTHING they want about our homeschooling. ie: How is “boy” doing? Does he know how to read yet? Can he do his multiplication tables yet? etc.. I always feel like I should grill them on how their child is doing in public/private school. Unfortunately, I really don’t care how their kid is doing in school. I guess we should be flattered that so many people want to know what and how we’re doing??!! It sure does get old, though! 🙂

  14. what most infuriates me is when people quiz my children! spell orangutan, what’s pi to the tenth place, what’s the capitol of argentina? seriously?

    • This infuriates me too! My uncle in law quizzes my 3rd grader every. single. time.
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      • Shelby F says:

        My MIL is constantly asking if they’re “where they need to be”. Arggg!! Like I lost them somewhere?

        • Yep! They are where they need to be…right with their loving mother who is trying to provide them with the best education possible, administered by (most likely) the one who cares most about the child’s success. End. of. story.

    • Try to figure out ways to stop them–politely but firmly. Ahead of time, think of questions or statements that will not allow them to do that to your children. Yes, it is amazing how rude people can be sometimes. (Like the woman who offered “condolences” when she heard we were expecting baby #6.) They are everywhere…so find a good defense that is really an offense that will also hopefully educate them about home education and will also protect your kids from the poor social skills of the asker. (Usually, most questions about hs that seem rude stem from lack of knowledge or the questioner’s knowledge of a family that “does home education” poorly.)

  15. love this article! I wanted everything that you first listed when I started homeschooling and realized it just isn’t practical. as the children multiply, I seem to be becoming more and more of an “unschooler”……though, I do have a jar of sharpened pencils 😉

  16. Awesome. Just awesome. I am so disorganized it’s insane. We start and stop curriculum like most people change clothes. I only have a 6 year old to school right now and I’m just not stressed over it. We have a lot of fun in our chaos and even manage to learn a thing or two.
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  17. Thanks for this post! I want to homeschool my son…but I’m not as organized as my mother was when she homeschooled me. I was homeschooled from Fifth Grade until I graduated High School. The transition into a classroom again was (at first) a little intimidating…but after the first class or two – It was no big deal! and I was complimented quite often on my grades…even made Dean’s List one year (FIVE A’s…oh yea, I printed it out and put that sucker on the fridge!!) I haven’t really dealt with any of the problems listed above except the social skills…I HATE IT when people find out I want to homeschool my son (and don’t know I was homeschooled) they will ask, “What about social skills, how will he learn how to be around other kids?” I ask them, ‘Do I interact well with others? Do I have acceptable social skills to you?” They of course reply, “Yes!! Of course but..” To which I reply, “I was homeschooled for 7 years.” they don’t really comment too much more after that. hehe

    • Morgan,
      That is so funny…yeah, I’ll bet they don’t like the taste of the humble pie. My kids have experienced the same thing. People seem to think homeschoolers–parents and kids alike–have three heads, or green skin, or don’t speak in intelligible sentences, or know who the president is, or…fill in the blank.
      Organization comes as you go…just like in real life, you organize differently with a different house, or a new baby, or…beginning official home education with books and papers.

  18. I’ve learned so much from this! A classroom is for gathering & teaching?!? We use ours to store all the extra school stuff so it’s not in the way while we “do school” in the family room. A schedule so we know when to do things? Mine would say, “Wake up when you’re done sleeping. Learn. Go to bed before Mom’s head flies off her body. Don’t forget to eat.” Truly, I could relate to this whole post! Please read my latest post if you don’t believe me!
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  19. #5 really struck a chord with me, due to a recent experience. We’ve just joined a homeschool co-op, where my eldest does sports and Kapa Haka (Maori cultural group), and the Kapa Haka was severely lacking in members. My daughter’s best friend attends the local Waldorf school, and was really keen to join in as well, so I asked on her behalf. I was told that she couldn’t join, *not* because they were reserving spaces for homeschooled kids, *not* because of some special homeschooler-only funding, but because “the other parents wouldn’t be happy with their children being around a child who goes to school” !!!????!!!! Thanks lady, you just put our socialisation defense back a decade. Crazy, and thoroughly embarrassing.
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    • What?!? That is so weird!
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    • Nova and Nichole,
      This may seem weird to you, and I understand your point…but let me try to explain the possible thinking of the parents. Many home educators do so in part because they are trying to guard very carefully the minds and hearts of their children and provide for healthy development. Young plants often need special care–protection from certain bugs, soil with a certain pH, specific water needs–in order to grow and bloom in an optimal manner. Same with children. While they may know you and your children, they may be uncomfortable with other families with whom they are not acquainted. I would hope that the parents of whom you speak have this particular frame of mind and that the possible objection is not a school bias, but simply a general cautionary care for their children’s emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. (And really, caution is a very good thing in most cases…most of us or someone we know have been in a position where greater caution would have been a good thing.)

      • I think that parents who homeschool need to model inclusion and acceptance of others. There is a line between protecting our kids and completely sheltering them from anyone who is a little different. I really respect parents who have the faith to raise their families in third world countries or inner city areas in order to be able to reach out to people around them who are hurting. A homeschool group is a perfectly safe place to allow kids from different backgrounds and educational systems to meet and practice building friendships.

      • I completely agree with you, but unfortunately this case was 100% school bias, since the group is quite large & has no entry criteria (other than full-time homeschooling, evidently). I’m not a big fan of a lot of the baggage of traditional school culture, but there is a big difference between not wanting to immerse your child in that culture, and letting them spend an hour a week in a group of kids that includes a school child. I can only presume that the families who object don’t send their kids to swimming or ballet lessons, boy scouts, or any other sort of ‘after-school’ activity…? Ironically too, the child who wasn’t allowed to attend doesn’t watch TV, use the computer, or listen to commercial music, and is well removed from consumer culture, all influences that many parents try to avoid… Whereas my kids DO watch TV, play on the computer, and their dad is even a public school teacher! Perhaps the group let the wrong child in? 😉
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  20. This is such a great post. Very true.
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  21. I always get “I’d never have the patience for that!” To which I always say, “Neither do I!”
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  22. PENCILS?? Where do they go?? I put a jar on the kitchen counter with a note promising brownies when there were 15 pencils in it. They were all there before I got out of bed!

    • Ha! The ultimate bribe–FOOD! My homeschool group looked at me like I had two heads when, in a discussion on how to motivate reluctant scholars, I admitted to using food for those who cared about it…as in, no, you may not have snack today until you produce the writing assignment that was due three weeks ago; or, you may join us for lunch when your math lesson is done (that should have been done 2 hours ago). It’s more pleasant and more effective than yelling at the child.

  23. Yes! Great overview, sometimes I’m amazed that these stereotypes still exist…but, they do. Good thing I get more and more confident each year 😉

  24. Jenny Sometimes says:

    I loved this post! I “unschool” my kids and, as I’m sure you do, get a ton of flack about it. I am going to borrow some of your answers the next time a “school” mom attacks me with questions and stares of shame. THANK YOU!

  25. I literally laughed out loud about the pencils. Seriously.
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  26. Great article! I wish I could be less organized and more relaxed like many of you. But guess I still have tons of time to enjoy this fun ride!

  27. My kids tell people we don’t do school. So we are on eternal recess, we don’t have a school room or a curriculum. When people ask if we are taking a spring break. WE say: “what’s that?”
    Truly… we just live life.
    tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations’s latest post: Give Away Friday: Teach Them to Your Children

  28. arianna says:

    so funny- I actually feel like I wrote this. at least thought it all in times past.

  29. Hi. fantastic post. My grouse….What do you say to someone who says that you are depriving your kids of the “school experience”?

    • Meredith says:

      What I would like to say: “Oh, you mean the experience of being exposed to inappropriate things at a startlingly young age, while feeling like he has to measure up to everyone around him, and having the love of learning squashed out of him by insipid, repetitive tasks?” (referring to my 1st grader)

      What I usually say: “What do you mean by ‘school experience’?” (Sometimes, getting people to clarify their terms tells you where they’re coming from, and, by extension, how to answer them. Many people romanticize their own school years and aren’t talking about an actual “school experience” at all, but rather, their memory of some specific “experience” like sports or prom or something.)

  30. Clarissa says:

    I am insulted you stated I need a degree to teach my preschooler how to learn his letters. Really that is a typical I am better teacher then you because I have a degree attuide. There are many parents who succed in homeschooling who do not have a degree. Just because you have a piece of paper does not make your ability to understand my children and how they learn better then I. Many mothers are confronted with that attuide when they pull thier children out of public school ( public opinion, other relatives, and the school districts). Many of the books that homeschoolers use have basic instructions. Wow just wow!

    • The intro was obviously a very tongue in cheek take on what many people believe is necessary to homeschool. That you need a degree to teach your children is one of the misconceptions that she was specifically addressing.

  31. I’m a first year homeschooler, and I don’t have
    * a school room – I live in a tiny apartment.
    * a degree – I dropped out of college at my third year.
    * a set curriculum – those suckers are too expensive and limit

    I don’t understand sarcasm.. was this it? lol
    Because, yeah, that doesn’t jive with our family dynamic…

    … Yet. Maybe one day.. but today’s not that day.

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  34. Great post!
    I also wanted to check your blog http://unschoolme.blogspot.com/ but fr some reason access is closed for me! Can you please help?

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