If you’re considering homeschooling your child, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions. You’re excited, anxious and maybe a little scared too. It’s normal to feel this way. Believe me, we’ve all been there. I know that taking your child’s education into your own hands can feel like a monumental task.
The good news is that homeschooling really isn’t as frightening as it may seem. The even better news is that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to do it.
Here are 7 common fears about homeschooling and some reality checks that I hope will ease your mind.
Homeschool Fear #1: I’ll ruin my child.
Since you are considering the best educational option for your child, it’s already clear you have his or her best interests at heart. You need not be concerned about ruining him. The fact that you are even worried about this says you care enough to provide the best possible education experience for your child, and that is an important ingredient in home education. Of course, a little patience will go a long way. Though homeschooling can be wonderful, it’s normal to get frustrated from time to time. Planning ahead for ways to decompress and reenergize will go a long way toward making your homeschooling experience a good one for both you and your child.
Homeschool Fear #2: I won’t be able to teach my child.
Ok, let’s really think about this one in a “real-life” situation. You have been teaching your child since he was born—things like how to roll over and eat, be part of a family unit, communicate with you and others, behave in different social situation, keep himself safe (like staying away from a hot stove), tie his shoes, cross the street, and so on. You taught your child all of that (and more!) before you even considered calling yourself his teacher. Imagine what you can do once you decide to homeschool!
Homeschool Fear #3: I’m afraid I don’t know enough to teach my child. I’m not an expert in any academic subject.
Boy, the thought of needing to be an expert on everything is enough to give anyone, homeschooling parent or not, anxiety! The reality is that while everybody can teach some things, not everybody can teach everything.
You probably are an expert on things like the alphabet and basic arithmetic, but even if you weren’t, there’s a wealth of books, websites, DVDs, and audio tools you can use to teach everything from basic grammar to calculus. You can even find homeschooling tools that tell you step by step what to do with and say to your child to teach him, providing as much or as little help as you need. And don’t forget, you aren’t required to teach every subject yourself. Many homeschoolers get at least some of their instruction from co-ops, homeschool classes, and community colleges.
Homeschool Fear #4: I’m afraid homeschooling will be too expensive.
Homeschooling costs vary, and it’s entirely up to you what you spend. If you’re on a strict budget, the library can be your best friend. Your child does not have to learn from textbooks. He can just as easily learn about history topics from library books as from a traditional text. There’s also a wealth of free websites you can use to teach your child about just about everything under the sun. No Internet at home? Many libraries offer free Internet service. Homeschooling on a Shoestring—A Jam-Packed Guide offers an amazing amount of information about homeschooling for free or very little money, and A2Z Homeschool is a good place to start looking for free educational materials.
Homeschool Fear #5: My child will be too bored at home.
This is a kind of funny one because one of the first thing new homeschoolers notice is how educating children at home takes less time than it does in a classroom setting (we’ll get into that more in a later blog post). It’s natural to think “If it only takes 3 hours to homeschool my 6th grader, what we will do with the rest of the day?”
Let me reassure you, this really isn’t an issue. Once you’ve gained your footing in the homeschooling lifestyle, there will be many things to do! Field trips, homeschool groups, gym days, library trips! Oh, my!
Most homeschooling families find that they spend a lot of the “extra time” (and I use that phrase loosely) exploring topics that interest their children. Do volcanoes interest your child? Make one at home. Is your child interested in cooking? Carve out some time for him to join you in the kitchen. If your child is interested in extracurricular activities like sports or music lessons, go ahead and enroll him in those.
A word of caution, though. Keep in mind that overscheduling is never good for children, and allowing them to become bored can, at times, lead to good things. A bored child may use his imagination to create something, start a new hobby, or even come to you with a grand plan for something he wants to study or experience.
Homeschool Fear #6: My child won’t learn to socialize.
For quite some time, you’ve been teaching your child how to socialize, simply by interacting with you and other family members. Your family is a small community as it is. When you visit relatives or friends or make small talk with the cashier at the local grocery store, your child is getting further socialization experience. And homeschooling doesn’t mean your child won’t have friends. Encourage him to make friends with children in your neighborhood, take him to a park or local community center where other children play, or join a homeschooling or youth group.
Remember, too, that a classroom is an artificial type of social community. When your child is an adult, he will need to know how to interact with people of widely varied ages and backgrounds rather than a very narrow peer group. The beautiful truth about homeschoolers and socialization is that they are more prepared for socializing in the real world than their public school counter parts. Why? Because most homeschooling activities involve students across a variety of ages. It’s not uncommon to see high schoolers, middle schoolers and even younger ages, all working on a project together. Isn’t this what happens in the adult world too? Think about it? How many of your friends are the same age as you? Probably a few, but certainly not all of them.
Homeschool Fear #7: I don’t think I can homeschool and keep house.
You absolutely can teach your children and have a reasonably clean home! (Keeping a perfect house may be another story.) There are three keys to making this work:
- Get organized—Having a plan for when you do things makes a world of difference. For example, you might do a load of laundry every morning while breakfast is cooking and load the dishwasher every day after lunch. You may choose to sweep floors just before bed and designate certain days for vacuuming. Or, maybe it works better for your family to tackle everything in one day? It might take a little while to find your groove, but I promise you, being a homeschooler doesn’t mean you’ll end up featured on an episode of Hoarders.
- Get the kids involved—Your kids can, and probably should, do age-appropriate chores to help keep their home in good shape. The more they help you, the happier and more patient you’ll all be. Remember, there are chores that even a three-year old can do, and if you make it fun for the littlest set, they’ll be excited to pitch in.
- Let it go—There will be times your home will be a disaster. (Remember that volcano project we mentioned???) Do yourself a favor and let go of the idea of perfect housekeeping (unless you can afford maids). Remember that your children are only young once and seize this time to be with them. You can have a floor clean enough to eat off or a significant role in educating your children. Which one is more important?
Don’t let fear stop you from homeschooling your children. You don’t have to be a genius, perfectly organized, or wealthy to homeschool. All you really need to be is caring, committed, and up to a fantastic challenge.