How Advantages of Homeschooling Can Backfire

How Advantages of Homeschooling Can Backfire
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There are lots of awesome things about homeschooling—things so full of awesome that parents will base their entire reason for choosing to homeschool upon them. But is there a flip side to those awesome things? Let’s consider for a moment the possibility that some of those benefits and advantages to homeschooling can backfire.

Yes. I said it.

Here are three benefits where I’ve noticed that homeschooling can backfire with a big ol’ boom.

1. Parents are in close proximity

Why homeschooling is awesome:

A lot of homeschooling parents learn and experience and have fun right alongside their kids. They are often pretty involved in what’s going on—not necessarily in a helicopter parent kind of way—but let’s face it, a parent in close proximity usually comes with the homeschooling territory.

Mom or Dad usually aren’t too far away and are usually able to help or explain when it’s needed. No more waiting for 29 other kids to get their question answered before the teacher gets to yours. That’s the great part of homeschooling.

How homeschooling can backfire:

The thing is, though, Mom or Dad aren’t always going to be in the next room with a less-than-30-second wait to answer the question you have.

I. Know.

What this means is that kids who are sometimes used to only waiting 30 seconds to get the information their little hearts desire so deeply are sometimes shocked to find out that it’s not the status quo of the World Out There.

So yes, I get that we are right there and can help them, but it is totally okay to let them struggle through the math problem for awhile instead of running straight to you when the formula freaks them out.

It’s okay that you’re not right there. It’s okay that you’re not always together.

Teach them to find the answers on their own—not just to things they’re interested in (which is what we generally don’t have to worry about!) but to the things they don’t really care about or might even (gasp) hate to do. Independence is a great thing!

Help them to put that computer in their pocket to work for them. Because even though you’re right there to answer their questions now, they need to understand that’s really a luxury compared to how the rest of the world works.

2. Late Starts and Lazy Schedules

Why homeschooling is awesome:

If you think about it, the act of choosing to homeschool is built on the foundation of flexibility. The simple fact that someone chooses to homeschool means they were taking advantage of having the flexibility to step away from what the majority of folks are doing.

I probably don’t have to point out that homeschoolers are known for being able to change the what and how and when and where of their learning around.

Why? Because they can. And it’s great.

Our schedules can, if we wish, be somewhat late and lazy—or at least really flexible! And because our days are usually spent around family or other homeschoolers, it’s generally considered “part of the territory”.

How homeschooling can backfire:

When your boss says report to work at 10:00, it actually means 10:00—not 10:14 or 10:37 or whenever you get to it.

This is sometimes hard for people who have lived an ultra-flexible lifestyle to catch on to. When you’re accustomed to things being changed so you can get there, or being able to change things around so you can get there, it can be a shock to find out that life doesn’t always work that way.

It’s great that homeschooled kids have the opportunity to get the sleep that public school kids might not be getting, but let’s be honest—there are things in life that start early in the morning.

A kid who is used to not having to get up for school until 9 (or noon!) can sometimes be a pill when they have to get up for something at 7 am. They think the world is against them and they mope around because ohemgee, 7 am, not realizing that 7 am would still be considered sleeping in to most public school kids (at least around here).

Waking up to do things when you’re tired is part of life and yes, people eventually learn to do it. I mean, we all have alarm clocks on our phones and we figure out how to live life with them.

But here’s the thing that many parents fail to realize. In the middle of your kids learning to live life with an alarm clock, you’re the one who has to deal with their less than awesome attitudes.

So, yes. Take advantage of the late and lazy schedules we can keep, but let’s also keep in mind we’re releasing our kids to world that doesn’t necessarily operate on that timeline.

3. Ability to deal with illness

Why homeschooling is awesome:

As homeschoolers, we can get through so much stuff so much faster than folks in public school (for the simple fact we aren’t teaching 29 kids at a time). That’s not to say that we’re always speeding through stuff, though. We’ve got the freedom to dig as deeply into a subject as we want.

At our house, if the kids wake up feeling less than awesome, we generally skip our plans until they’re feeling better. The theory goes: why try to explore or give information to a kid who doesn’t feel good, when you have the freedom to give them the day to rest and get back at it tomorrow when they are feeling top notch?

Most homeschoolers know that even if you shove today’s intended lesson in with tomorrow’s lesson…or next week’s lesson…you’re still not going to have a ton of trouble “catching up”.

How homeschooling can backfire:

As awesome as it is to be able to hang out in bed if you wake up and you’re feeling a bit of yuck, the reality of adulting is often suck it up, take some ibuprofen and get on with it. 99% of adults know that you can’t just not do the thing simply because your pounding head or your stuffy nose says it doesn’t want to do the thing.

When a kid grows up with I’m feeling a bit off so we’re not doing school today, they are often surprised to find out that even if they’re feeling a bit off, they could still (gasp!) be worship assistant at church or show up for shooting sports practice or mow Grandma’s lawn.

We need to be careful about the reality we’re building for our kids. Although it’s wonderful that we don’t have to stuff our kids with information if they’re not feeling the best, we need to also help them realize that they would still survive if we did.

What about you? Have you seen other ways that homeschooling can backfire? Leave your ideas in the comments.

There are many awesome things about homeschooling. But let's talk honestly for a bit about how some advantages of homeschooling can backfire.

Check out my book about homeschooling. It’s a like a cup of coffee and a chat with that friend who will tell you what you need to hear: The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick

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9 thoughts on “How Advantages of Homeschooling Can Backfire”

  • You can study whatever you want! However, never being exposed to things you aren’t necessarily interested in doesn’t make you a very well rounded human and you might just miss something awesome that you didn’t know you loved!

    You can take your kid with you to the bank, and the store, and the fieldtrip and the playday, and the co-op, and the piano lessons, and the… However, you might discover that you no longer have time for the HOME (or SCHOOLING) parts of homeschooling.

    You can customize the curriculum for each child. However, it’s hard enough wading through the sea of curriculum for one child, and heaven forbid if you have several.

    I don’t think any educational choice is 100% perfect and each option has pros and cons. The trick is to know them and make an educated decision about your education decisions. 😉

  • I especially struggle with #1 when I’m teaching at church or co-op. My kids aren’t used to sharing my attention with others and it shows when we’re interacting with other kids.

    • I taught my children that if they need my attention when I am busy with someone else, to put their hand on my shoulder and wait patiently, and I would address them as soon as I could. This eliminated them rudely interrupting my conversation with someone else.

  • One that we have learned in the past year (because I am seen as a hard-a$$ by other HSing people) is that accountability and record-keeping is critical, especially as they get older and are thinking of college.

    It is great to think “There are no grades in homeschooling!” because really, there aren’t….especially if you don’t follow traditional/classical schooling methods. And we all want our kids to learn and actually know and use the information so they have a well-rounded view of their world, and critical thinking skills to boot. And getting wrapped up in “grading” work for a homeschooled kid can get weird.

    But the reality is…college want grades. They want tangible proof of learning and the way that works is via grading. They want honest assessments and they want to know that the assessments come from qualified people because they have to justify their admissions decisions to other people who live in grade/assessment land.

    So it sucks, but it is a necessary evil.

    • That’s why there is the panic that happens in parents as their kids get older. It’s that realizing that the things you said didn’t matter because “Free and Easy” is the name of the game…actually might matter when your kid figures out what path they want to take in life. O_o

  • My favorite is: they don’t have to learn through tedious repetition. If your kid can figure out 36×4, he doesn’t need to repeat 2×2 over and over again. ….. But there are things (like playing an instrument) that you ONLY get good at through repetition. Even concert violinists spend MOST of their time doing scales.

  • I definitely love this post! I’ve actually known quite a few homeschoolers who grew up with the super relaxed, lazy schedule, and then when they got to college, it was a huge struggle to suddenly have 8 AM classes and to make it to work at 6 after classes. In fact, they wished there was just a bit more structure in their homeschool so it wasn’t such a shock.

  • I think one of the pros of homeschooling is that you can get through the academic work in the mornings. The downside is that sometimes it gets hard to keep them constructively occupied for the rest of the day.

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