It’s not 1977 anymore. Attitudes toward homeschooling are not what they once were and though, yes, there are still people out there who look upon homeschoolers with serious suspicion, doubters like that are becoming fewer and farther between.
The negative attitudes toward homeschooling that have been a thorn in the flesh for home educators for decades now are, thank heavens, beginning to fall away. Homeschooling is proving itself. (And, incidentally, so is the public school system, to its own chagrin.) It’s becoming harder and harder to argue with statistics that show homeschooling to be an effective, if not superior educational choice. And when issues like bullying and school safety are thrown in the mix, it only serves to make homeschooling all the more appealing to a wider audience than ever before.
When I tell people I homeschool, I’m not always met with a totally positive response, but, in most cases, neither am I met with a negative one. Sometimes, in fact, people are very curious. Parents who may never have considered homeschooling 10 years ago, (I was one of those!) are now beginning to at least think about it. And according to a report in the Education News, though only about 4% of school age children are currently homeschooled, the number of primary school students being homeschooled is growing seven times faster than the number of kids being enrolled in traditional K-12. More and more parents are not just thinking about taking control of their children’s education, but doing it.
But when I talk to parents who haven’t yet made that plunge into homeschooling, almost without fail I find a common thread in our conversations–there is primarily one obstacle standing in the way of them homeschooling their children.
FEAR. Utter, often paralyzing fear.
Now I think it can be helpful to realize that not having to take control of our children’s education is a fairly new phenomenon. Until a hundred or so years ago, deciding how your child would be educated was as intrinsic a part of parenting as providing them food and clothing. As a society, however, we’ve gotten so out of practice at this specific aspect of parenting that it’s really no wonder it frightens so many people so much, even in a day when there are more free and easily accessible sources of information available than ever in history!
Usually, I think, the fear of homeschooling comes in one of these forms, or maybe in a combination of them.
- I don’t want to homeschool because I fear what others will say.
Homeschooling is not the norm and sometimes it’s very, very hard to step out and do the “new thing”. It can be especially difficult when you know you won’t be supported by the friend who is a public school teacher or the father-in-law who spent 26 years as a public school principal. Then there’s your mom who’s sure to remind you how badly you did in high school geometry and your best friend who will probably bring up the fact the two of you cheated your way to a passing grade in Chemistry….
*And before I’m asked this question, let me throw in my disclaimer. I do not advocate homeschooling against the wishes of a spouse. That is the one person I feel should share your views on the issue, or at least be accepting of the attempt, before you begin. I’ve known several who eventually won their spouses over to the idea after time and patient prayer.
- I don’t want to homeschool because I fear the economic impact it will have on our family.
Homeschooling does require sacrifice, particularly for those who may have accumulated debt or just grown accustomed to living on two incomes. But while I realize there are sometimes extenuating circumstances, generally speaking, people find a way to afford the things that matter most to them.
I still hear people say it is impossible to live on a single income in this day and age. Really? Because I personally know scores of families doing it! Now are they living less extravagant lives than many of their friends and family? Absolutely, but they have decided what is most important and made their decisions accordingly.
Sometimes we have to be willing to ask ourselves some tough questions, like: What is most important–the brief years I have my child in my home or the vehicle in my driveway? What matters most–my child being educated in a safe environment in an individualized way, or the two-week vacation I long for every summer? No, it isn’t always that simple, but there are many times it is.
Sometimes the extras in our lives add up to a lot more than we realize whether in the upfront purchase price or later on in maintenance costs. Shopping. Eating out. Travel. Hobbies. Boats. ATVs. Digital devices. And sometimes the cost of working is more significant than people realize! I once had a friend who, when gas, parking fees, daycare expenses, and lunches were allotted for, was bringing home a whopping $100 extra dollars per month from her job. Yet convincing her she could quit work and stay home was absolutely impossible. Cutting out their cable and eating at home one extra time per month could easily have made up the difference.
Now I do understand that the move to homeschooling may require more drastic measures for some than for others. The high cost of living in one city may require a job change and a move. An oppressive house or car payment may require selling and downsizing. These are tough decisions and sometimes scary ones, but there are others who have overcome their own fears and made the necessary changes so they could be home to educate their children. It’s not always a change that can be made overnight, but with careful, intentional planning, so many are proving it can be done.
- I don’t want to homeschool because I’m afraid I’ll prove myself to be a terrible mother.
Aha! And here we find the fear that gripped ME most in my pre-homeschooling days! I was not, (and STILL am not,) a patient, long-suffering, ever-forbearing mom. I’m a natural loner, (how ironic that I should have four kids, huh?) and I’m short-tempered and stubborn and grumpy sometimes–everything I thought a homeschooling mom could not be.
Not only that, but I was struggling to hold my house together and keep my children in mostly clean clothes even before homeschooling! Putting on the perfect mom mask is part of being a good mom, right? Well I knew any image of myself as a good mom and homemaker was going to go down the toilet if I decided to homeschool!
But there were many flaws in my assumptions in those days, the first one being that homeschooling moms are naturally more patient than your average mom. Nothing could be further from the truth! While homeschooling does have a way of growing your patience, (maybe not at the rate we want, but growing it nonetheless,) that makes patience a product of homeschooling, not homeschooling a product of patience. (Did you get that? Read it one more time if you missed it.)
And homeschooling moms aren’t perfect homemakers either. With time, you can learn to live with a house that isn’t perfect. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. Really.
So if you’re worried homeschooling is going to reveal all the cracks in your own character and destroy your Super Mom image, IT WILL! But that’s really not so much of a negative as you might think. I truly believe homeschooling is making me a better mom, often by revealing the more undesirable aspects of my personality and helping me to deal with them. Growth in us as individuals, though admittedly painful at times, is really not something to be afraid of.
- I don’t want to homeschool because I’m afraid I’ll prove myself to be a terrible teacher.