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Why You Maybe Shouldn’t Homeschool

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Have you ever considered whether or not you might want to homeschool your child? 

You have my permission to run away, now. Promise not to hold it against you!

The chances are strong that this post is not going to make me any friends.

My friends who are in their early days of homeschooling might read this post and tell you (or themselves) that the reason I’m saying these things is because I just didn’t “do it right”. To them, homeschooling is the answer they’ve arrived at for the very serious, very real question of how to best raise up a child. “And if she’d done it right,” they’ll think, “she wouldn’t be having these feelings.” How do I know this? Because back when I was first starting out, and I read about moms who were struggling,  I told myself that very thing.

My friends who don’t homeschool will feel vindicated. “I could NEVER homeschool!”, they say, with tight smiles, while, inwardly, pictures of non-socialized, aberrant bizarro-children danced in their heads. But if they were to read this post closely, they might discover, they’re feeling vindicated for the wrong reasons.

My friends who homeschool and are moving toward the finish line in their homeschooling careers won’t thank me for pointing out the reality of their situation. In fact, they might call their doctors to finally check into the possibility of getting that antidepressant they’ve been mulling over. Or maybe just remember to call to get their prescriptions refilled. Or reach for a xanax. But if they’re extremely self-disciplined, maybe they’ll just breathe into a paper bag, while quoting scripture about not worrying about the morrow.

In other words, if you’re a mom, and you connect with what I’m saying, this could be an anxiety-provoking post.

Nevertheless, I feel a bit like Jonah, who has been given the task of delivering some less than happy news. I’ve tried to run from it. I’ve gone down to the port city and checked out the cost of the fare to Pismo Beach, but there’s a big storm in the forecast, and there’s a whale bobbing in the waves with my name on it, and I might as well go ahead and tell the truth, as I know it, in this stage of the game.

Maybe someone in Ninevah will be the better for it.

So here’s the catalyst that caused all these thoughts to finally bubble up to the surface:

The other day, a friend told me she wanted to buy some of my pre-school curriculum. 

This friend wants to buy my used Five in a Row books.  Five in a Row is a curriculum I used with my kids when they were pre-schoolers, in which you read a really great children’s book with your child for five days in a row, and the curriculum gives you suggestions for ways you can incorporate science, math, geography, art and even scripture, using that book, into your “school” time. 
I made notebooks for each volume of the Five in a Row curriculum that we worked through. As we would read a new book, I’d take the scripture verse that went with that book, print the verse in large manuscript, and hand draw an illustration that was reminiscent of the book. Then each day I’d read that verse with my kid,  so that my child could practice memorizing the verse, and pick up on the process of reading, by watching as I pointed to each word. 

For example, for the book, “Goodnight Moon”, I drew a picture from the book of the little bunny in bed, and wrote the bible verse: “For he grants sleep to those he loves”.

Are you thinking about homeschooling? Wondering if you should continue homeschooling?  Reflecting back on your years of homeschooling? Wondering what's next after homeschooling? Then this post might be for you.

Are you thinking about homeschooling? Wondering if you should continue homeschooling? Reflecting back on your years of homeschooling? Wondering if you did the right thing by homeschooling? Wondering if you did the right thing by NOT homeschooling? Then this post might be for you.

Here, you see my semi-identifiable illustration of the Goodnight Moon Bunny, all  tucked in for the night.

I never claimed to be an artist!

The notebooks are sweet. You might glance at one or two of the pictures, and say, “Awwww….”, and think a tender thought. I poured so much love and effort into them, regardless of my own somewhat limited artistic skills.
I had completely forgotten that I had made those notebooks, and when I pulled the Five in a Row curriculum guides off the shelf for my friend, I spotted the notebooks I’d made also. I started looking through the work I had done with such loving care, And as I turned the pages, I found my eyes welling up with tears. Which gave way to a fairly significant sob session.  I was taken by surprise not only by the notebooks, but by their effect on me.
“What a labor in vain!” was the thought that was being whispered in the back of my mind.

 Of what worth were all those hours of love and effort?  No one wants these to keep. The kids barely remember them. They’re not truly special to anyone but me. To me, they bring back a flood of memories, of a wide-eyed, hopeful mom. A mom who was confident that she could raise up children who would, with their little emotional cups filled with love and their minds filled with great books, do things/be things that would change the world.

The notebooks became to me, I think, a metaphor for all that I have done, over the past 14 years, homeschooling my kids.

 I showed the notebooks to my firstborn, who sort of remembered them, but mostly didn’t. He was a pre-schooler, after all.   An hour or so later, he came back to my bedroom to check on me. (Probably, the fact that my nose was red and my eyes were puffy when I showed him the notebooks was a tipoff that all was not well in Mommyland.)

 He said, “Mom, do you think it hasn’t had any fruit? I still have a relationship with God! I’m hoping to attend a Christian college, if I can afford it.” (Sweet, perceptive boy. Nailed it in one.)

 But I was feeling such heavy, heavy sadness.
I had such hopes! Such dreams. I was such a diligent Mommy. And I love my kids! I adore my kids! I’m proud of my kids!!! It’s just that I had, and maybe still have, such a feeling of futility, when I let myself go there. 
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
I homeschooled because I thought I could.
Because I had a degree in elementary education.
Because I wanted to.
Because I thought I could teach my child to read as well as anyone else could.
Because I wanted to spend time with my kids.
Fear was NOT my primary motivator, although if I’m honest, the fact that the shooting at Columbine High School happened the spring that I was making the decision as to whether or not to enroll my son in public school kindergarten WAS probably the tipping factor, the thing that pushed me over the edge into homeschooling.
It’s been a life-changing decision, in many ways. Some of those ways are good. Some of those ways are great. And some of them are downright negative.

The Good Things:

I haven’t been out of my jammies for almost 14 years.

Ok, I exaggerate, a bit, but not much.

The Great Things:

I’ve read GREAT books.
I’ve read GREAT books WITH my children. These have spawned more wonderful times together, more interesting dinner table conversations, more laughter, and more tears than I can count. It’s like having your own private book club, only you get to read the book together, in real time, and share your reactions and observations as you read. I miss those times more than I can say. Reading aloud was the best. It bonded me to my kids in ways I cannot even fathom.
My mind has been kept alert, active and engaged in learning, rather than stagnating.
I know my kids so well; I know their interests. I know their quirks. I know what makes them laugh. I know their struggles. I know their failings. I know what touches their hearts.

I am, quite possibly, the most attached non-attachment parent you will ever meet.


The Negative Things:

I have been out of the work force now for 18 years. Despite the fact that I possess a graduate degree, and more life experience than you can shake a stick at, I am possibly less hirable now than I have ever been at any point in my entire life. And I’ve done this to myself, by my own freely made choices.

I knew all the negatives going in, but DeNile is a seductively lovely land, a land where tomorrows never come, and “that kind of thing” will never happen to me.

I wouldn’t trade all these years of knowing my children better than anyone, and living life in the trenches with them, I don’t think. And for what it’s worth, they thank me for homeschooling them. They were both given the option, each year, to do something else, but neither one of them wanted to.

The love of jammie wearing runs strong in our blood.

But here I am, nearing the end of  my homeschooling journey. If we are blessed enough financially for me to finish up to the end of my daughter’s senior year, I will have been home for 22 years of my life.
And what do I have to show for it?
Did I make the right decision?
Sometimes I think that it’s only a prideful idiot who would choose to believe that they have what it takes to educate their children at home. 
If your kids appear to be doing well, there’s a tendency in parents to want to take some credit. But I always think that’s a dangerous thought process, because if you take credit for a child doing well, you better be equally prepared to take credit for their failures.
And who wants to do that???
 I have lots of friends who, apparently, HAVE done it right. They can smile and wave at the fans, and be the Poster Parents for Homeschooling.

One thing I know for sure: I am not cut out for that job. We have too much humanity floating around this house to ever be the Poster Family. (And, honestly? I often wonder what’s really going on behind some of those pristine, shiny facades that some folks seem to present.)

So be warned, all you homeschooling Mamas, who are doing it right: stick with it long enough, and these kinds of thoughts might one day be rolling around inside your pretty head.

Nah…that’ll never happen to you.

You’ll do it right. 😉

Being a mom is hard – whether you homeschool, or send your kids to public school, or private school!

I’ll bet I’m NOT the only mom who wonders about the choices she’s made.

In fact, I’d venture to say that questioning our choices comes with the territory of BEING a mom, no matter what course we have taken. 

I’d love to hear from you, if you’d care to share.

Lori Holmlund

Monday 1st of May 2017

Hi Susan - Thanks so much for this post. Next month our youngest (of four) will be graduating from our homeschool. So, our 23-year journey will come to a close. Lots of emotions and second-guessing. Grateful for God's faithfulness in all of of our lives...That somehow He will use ALL of this to work for good. We survived. I think the positives outweighed the negatives. Some rough times, but mostly good, I think. We still love our kids and they love us. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat :-) Congratulations to you on a job well done... Lori


Thursday 12th of January 2017

I don't know if this will be read, but I felt moved to make a comment, which I don't normally do. I speak as a child who was homeschooled and as a mother who now homeschools. I don't have any special training or education to teach, but I'm doing the best I can.

You talk about whether it was done right or wrong. About the vanity, pride or such. I don't know if it's about any of that. Your picture reminded me of what my own mother did when I was young just starting. The hours spent perfectly crafting the pictures and letters, laminating them and cutting them out. No, I don't remember the letters, the time it took or anything, but what I remember if my mother who spent that much time on me. I don't remember the labor. I remember the love. I remember how hard she worked so I could have an education and graduate. My biological parents never did. I felt compelled to do so, if only to prove I could. The pictures, no matter how much time was spent on them. Deep in the subconscious of children, adult or otherwise, children remember. How do I know? Is it the years of psychology study I've done? No. Probably not. I know because that's what it was for me. A labor of love is never wasted or in vain. You talk about how it was all wasted. It's not. Nor will it ever be. It is one piece of a puzzle that makes up a child's psyche. It helps them feel loved and when they are older be loved and give love. An act in love, especially true love. Is never wasted, but will be remembered for a lifetime.

I have 'failed' many times with my son, but that's okay. Without failures, how would I know how to be better? I always tell myself I'll do better tomorrow. No matter how badly I did. Children don't remember it, I've found. What they remember is the love spent on them. Often in the deepest most protected areas of their hearts. I don't remember the labors. I remember that my dad was willing to stop on his way out the door to listen to me speak about what I was learning, if only for a minute. I remember the dedication my mother had to me.

You ask who wants to take credit for their children's failure. I do. It's not an utter failure as me as a mother, but it means I need to change tactics. I need to change my approach. If my child isn't getting something, I look for other ways to explain it. My mother helped me have a thirst for knowledge like you wouldn't believe. Because of this, I think I have something so many in public school will never have. All of that is squished out. I can see your pain in the post. I've felt it too. I'm not commenting to criticize, but to say. I've been there. I've seen the dark side of the moon and shuddered. But also to say, it's okay. Homeschooling is scary. Reaching the end and saying now what, is very scary. I've seen my mother do it. She was able to get a job. Just so you know. I don't think homeschooling made her less employable but more so. She is the most brilliant woman I know.

I'm not sure if this will help, but just felt like I needed to say something. I hope it helped.

(If a lot of this was satirical, I'm sorry, because that goes right over my head)

Susan Williams

Thursday 12th of January 2017

Dear Alexia,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, and your perspective. Your words mean a great deal, and of course, it's certainly my hope that it's the love my kids will remember.


Monday 29th of June 2015

I am a Freshman at highschool. In middleschool, I had a VERY hard time. Starting in 4th grade, I needed special math help, but they finally pulled me out for special classes in the middle of my eigth grade year. I hated being pulled out, but i hated being the stupidest one in my class, being made fun when i go up to the board. In sixth grade i had serious issues with a teacher. My mom talked to the principle and he didnt want to do anything about it except run me through tests and end up not even helping. I got that teacher again in eigth grade. Thats when I got high anxiety. She screamed at me and my head started shaking and things turned grey, it was SO embarrasing.