I used to joke about homeschooling my kids (mostly about why I could never do it). Then last year we, along with many other families I knew, became pandemic homeschoolers. Not because I was afraid of COVID, but because I was concerned for a much worse fate: Forced Virtual Learning. I understand that many people found this an appealing solution, but for someone who can’timagine the horror of being stuck at home all day on someone else’s schedule, this was not an attractive option for me. Over the last year, I have talked to so many people considering homeschool, because it’s honestly not for everyone.
That’s why I have compiled this helpful list to see if it’s something your family might benefit from or if you are one of those who likely won’t enjoy it.
1. Don’t homeschool if you look forward to buying school supplies. If the idea of searching through aisle after aisle of school supplies to the soundtrack of kids complaining and babies crying is thrilling to you, you may not need to homeschool. If you enjoy searching high and low for that 48 pack of Ticonderoga pencils, folders that must be plastic and absolutely have brads but obviously no pockets, and glue sticks that are jumbo but definitely not large, you can probably just stay put. The only home school supplies I buy are dry erase markers, a few mechanical pencils, and the biggest pack of brightly colored sharpie pens I can find just because I like them. And lots of books of course!
2. If you love sitting in your car for 30 minutes every afternoon while doing everything in your power to stay awake while simultaneously keeping a toddler entertained, you might not need to homeschool. As much as I will never understand it, I have to believe there is a handful of y’all at every school that actually think this is fun, seeing as how when I drive by the school 2 hours before dismissal, there are already several cars lined up. My usual MO was to spend the first few weeks of school figuring out how long the line actually took until the last car was gone, then spending the rest of the year sliding in about that time so my car line experience would be a solid 5 minutes at most. Sure my kids complained every day, but I like to set their expectations low so they aren’t constantly disappointed!
3. If a fun afternoon for you involves asking family members, co-workers, and Facebook friends to buy a dozen rolls of wrapping paper in August, you may not want to pursue the homeschooling route. At my kids’ first school, they asked parents for money at the beginning of the year with the promise that they wouldn’t bother you again for a donation. It was magical. I wrote them a check and was done with fundraising. When we moved to a new school, almost immediately there was a fundraiser. Only kids that sold $200 worth of baked goods were invited to a bouncy house party after school. Well of course my kids were dying to attend this exclusive event just as much as I was desperate not to hit up my friends to buy more crap they didn’t want. So I asked the PTA chair (who asked the principle) what their net profit from the $200 in products was, I wrote them a check for that amount, and my kids were able to bounce with their friends. Shockingly, the principle said she had never heard of that type of request but I thought it was a pretty creative solution!
4. If you savor those hectic, stress-filled mornings where you are doing everything you can just to get out of the house in time, you may not want to homeschool. I used to follow my kids around, barking orders like a drill sergeant, making sure they ate enough breakfast, brushed their teeth, and had the correct uniform on. Then I’d throw lunches together and jump in the car, only to discover one of them wouldn’t have shoes on. We’d all drive to school to the symphony of kids fighting, and I’d silently pray that the teacher opening the car door doesn’t realize I’m wearing my usual PJ pants/no bra get-up. Now our mornings are spent with the kids eating breakfast inside while I drink coffee on the back porch until I feel like I’m awake enough to talk to them.
5. Nothing like scrambling for a last minute costume because it’s “Superhero Day,” “Twin Day,” “Crazy Sock Day,” or the ever-popular “Dress like an Old Person Day!” I mean, you don’t want kids saying yes to drugs because you forgot to buy a purple shirt, do you? So if gluing 100 gum balls onto a shirt at 11pm brings you joy, then homeschooling may not be for you. I mean, we still have dress up days but they are more along the lines of “PJ Day,” “A Different Pair of PJs Day,” and “Leggings As Pants Friday.” Occasionally we’ll celebrate “Wear a Bra Wednesday” when we have to go to the grocery, but don’t worry, that’s just a half day!
6. Do you get a thrill every time half your paycheck is taken out of your bank account every month? Do you love paying tuition, knowing that it’s enough money to cover the mortgage of a vacation home (or 2)? Then you may not want to homeschool. Aside from a few hundred bucks here and there for curriculum (more if you do a co-op or tutorial), homeschooling is very affordable. And bonus: the co-op we attended covered all our art and science projects so I didn’t have to!
7. Speaking of science projects, don’t forget about that annual Science Fair every spring! This may sound like a fun project for those of you who bond by nerding out with your kids, and if so, that’s awesome! By all means, keep them in school so you can continue to enjoy this yearly tradition. But I would like to paint you a little picture of what science fairs are like in my house: Despite ample warning via emails and flyers coming home from school, the science fair will manage to sneak up on both my ADHD son and his mom who tries her best but is already drowning in a world without science fair projects. So I will frantically comb the internet to find a project that looks easy enough while he stares off into space. Once we agree to a suitable project (monitoring the effect of different temperature extremes on bananas; I know, it’s all very fascinating!), I drag 4 kids to the store to get the necessary supplies. We follow the painfully easy steps of the project and are all ready to turn it in when my son happens to remember that we were supposed to be taking progress pictures throughout the entire 2 week experiment! Naturally, I stage some pictures that I think look pretty convincing, pat myself on the back, and go print them out at Walgreens at 9pm the night before it’s due. We turn in our unimaginative project and get a “Oh interesting, that’s not what I was expecting to happen” comment from the teacher to solidify my suspicion that we somehow screwed it up. All that to say, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are no science projects in my kids’ homeschool curriculum!
8. If you have kids that learn in a typical way and you like others dictating exactly what they are learning, you don’t need to homeschool. Homeschooling involves searching through mountains of available curriculum and designing a tailor-made learning experience for your child. My son loves archeology so we did a unit on ancient Egypt where we read books on Egyptian life, watched YouTube videos that revealed secrets of the pyramid tombs, and did a dig to uncover some treasures of our own. My daughter likes science so we’ve done nature walks, grown butterflies, had an ant farm, dissected owl pellets, and she picked out a unit on arthropods for us to study next. And as their previous experience with history only included learning about MLK and a white-washed version of Columbus and the pilgrims, we’ve loved being able to dive deeper into it and learn about early American settlers, the Salem Witch Trials, the Civil War, and the Holocaust.
So am I trying to say that homeschooling is superior or that your kid can’t get a good education at a public or private school? Definitely not, and I’m aware that homeschooling is often not even a viable option. But am I trying to convince those on the fence to give homeschooling a shot? Absolutely. The more families that homeschool, the better chance we have of doing away with the stigma that homeschool kids are weird, or that they lack social skills, or they all dress alike in pilgrim dresses, or wear denim on denim. Although we do love everything “Little House on the Prairie,” so that stereotype may be true!
And the reality is that homeschooling is hard. The biggest sacrifice for me has been giving up my personal time. For example, this blog post was written in 15 minute increments over the course of several weeks. I am to the point where I unapologetically eat meals alone in my room just to get some quiet time and yes, some days I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when my name is called for the 5 millionth time. But my kids love it and begged me to do it again this year. They are thriving academically and realizing that learning is actually fun. And I almost forgot about the best part: Teacher Appreciation! You thought I was going to say all of that wonderful family time, didn’t you? But no, it’s definitely the gifts! My kids have had some incredible teachers over the years and I have never minded sending in gifts to show my appreciation. So why would I stop now?? And it’s perfect because I happen to know exactly what their teacher wants. And let’s be honest, a little self-appreciation is needed because some of our days go exactly like this picture!