Homeschooling was one of the best things that ever happened to my family. But at the start, I felt overwhelmed and scared and I heard some terrible opinions about homeschooling. Fortunately for me and my family, it didn’t take us long to learn the truth. Here’s what we learned.
Myth #1: A parent is not qualified to be the teacher.
I believe that if parents truly care about their children (as all good parents do), that by itself makes them more qualified to be in charge of their children’s education than any school or teacher. You are their first teacher from birth. They enter school having already mastered some of the most difficult things humans ever learn: physical mobility, mastery of language, and adaptive behavioral skills. You did that. Even when your kids are in school, you continue to be the primary educator. Successful hard-working people usually learn those values from their parents or grandparents, not from school.
Several years ago I sat on a panel of homeschoolers facing a class of graduate education students at Columbia University. These students were already experienced teachers working in classrooms, now earning advanced degrees. One young teacher asked me a question that shows the extent to which we believe this myth: “What do you do when you cease to be a resource for your child?”
I was momentarily taken aback. I had never considered myself to be my child’s sole resource. I looked this fellow teacher in the eye and asked, “Are you the only resource in your classroom?” There was a pause as the entire room realized that a classroom is full of books, computers, maps, and other resources. “What about your school?” I asked. “Are you the only resource there?” Of course, he had access to other teachers: an art teacher, science teacher, gym teacher, etc., and their resources. “What about your students?” I asked. “I sincerely hope you regard each and every student, and their families as well, as valuable resources. They each come to you with a history, knowledge, and background that are unique.”
Homeschooling does not mean going at your child’s education alone or depriving them of school experiences. When you homeschool, the world is your school! My children and I attended museum lectures; outdoor concerts; library events; used libraries both big and small, specialized and general; interviewed everyone from our next door neighbor to the immigrant shopkeeper on the corner to a costume designer and a marine biologist. And that was just the beginning.
Myth #2: Homeschoolers are social misfits.
A popular myth is that homeschooling is done alone, in a closet, without any companions or group experiences. While this may happen to homeschoolers who I have never met, my experience has been as far from this as you could imagine. Homeschooling parents create group opportunities for their kids in a variety of ways. Homeschool groups create events and field trips; homeschool learning centers offer classes; parents buy group tickets to performances, concerts, theme parks; learning cooperatives are formed; and weekly play groups are arranged in local parks.The difference is, most homeschool families define homeschooling as participating in the real world. In fact, homeschooling is a misnomer—it does not happen (exclusively) at home, and it is not like school.
The end result of this approach, where education is more experiential, is a social sophistication that is hard to explain without witnessing it. I can always tell a homeschooled teenager because s/he will look me in the eye, greet me with an outstretched hand, and engage me in conversation. The truth is that homeschooled kids interact with people from all walks of life and all ages in a wide variety of ways.
Myth #3: Homeschooling is expensive.
Ready for a mind-blowing truth? All you need is a computer and a library card to have access to unlimited materials for homeschool. Additionally, virtually every city has homeschool resources you can take advantage of for little to no money. Start asking around and do an online search for homeschool groups and opportunities in your area, and you might be amazed at what’s going on in your own neighborhood.
I like to compare the cost of homeschooling to the cost of throwing a party. It’s possible to do it for nothing—have folks bring potluck dishes, make all of your own decorations, find used or discount items, and so on. In a similar way, it is possible to set a meager budget for homeschooling and easily find all of your books and materials free or used, or borrow from other homeschool parents. You can join with other parents to team-teach or find free classes and workshops in your city or online. Or you can spend a bundle. It’s all up to you and what works best for your family.
Myth #4: It’s hard for homeschoolers to get into college.
This was a big one I learned firsthand: The most selective colleges actively solicit homeschoolers! They know that homeschoolers tend to be self-directed independent learners who are socially well adjusted and better equipped to adapt to college life. Colleges seek diversity in their student body, which they know homeschooled students provide.
Most homeschooled high school students take courses at local community colleges, have jobs or internships, and gain more real world experience than their schooled peers. The freedom of homeschooling allows students to be selective in their learning, so many kids became experts in their interests by their middle teens. They often know early what they want to learn and the sort of environment where they want to experience that learning. Naturally, every situation is individual, and there are always advantages and disadvantages with every choice. But I have seen that homeschoolers have a real advantage over regularly schooled kids when it comes to applying to a selective college. Want to know more about homeschoolers applying to college? Click here.