This summer, at family gatherings, while sitting by the pool, at the beach, or perhaps during that after-dinner stroll through the neighborhood, some parents will be preoccupied with thoughts of school. They’re contemplating a big decision—whether or not to homeschool.
For some, it would mean their child’s first experience with school. For others, it would entail pulling their kids out of their current school for what they hope is a better experience.
Perhaps one of these parents is you.
It’s a big decision. Homeschooling, though it can take on different forms, is a significant commitment.
There have been copious books written on the subject, and the volume of online resources at a potential homeschooler’s fingertips is mind-blowing. That’s all fantastic, but no amount of research quite compares to hearing from those who have taken the leap to homeschool.
I reached out to some homeschoolers and asked them to share their experiences and insights.
Joanna Lodin is the founder of Fearless Homeschooling, which offers advice to homeschooling families, and just finished her final year teaching her three sons. Author Stacey Greene has tried a number of homeschooling methods over the years. Olivia Angelescu, an online launch strategist from Brussels, has been homeschooling her two children, ages 8 and 3, this past year. Jessica Haggard is an author and blogger. Karen M. Ricks and her family have been “worldschooling” for the last 18 months. Worldschooling is a combination of homeschool and travel in which the travel itself is the main source of education (she blogs at ourkitchenclassroom.com). Another world traveler and blogger, Behan Gifford, has been sailing around the globe with her husband and three children since 2008. They call what they’re doing “boatschooling.” I also heard from a former homeschool student. Laurelei Litke was homeschooled from preschool through fifth grade. She graduated from Sam Houston State University and now works in marketing for HealthLabs.com.
The Epoch Times: What do you wish you had known before embarking on your homeschooling journey?
Joanna Lodin: That children will learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. The learner is always in charge and their learning cannot be coerced.
Olivia Angelescu: I wish I had known that there would be days when I would just want to give up. I knew not everything would be perfect, but I didn’t expect to have days when I felt like a complete failure! This came as a shock to me, after idealizing a little bit this whole homeschooling thing.
Stacey Greene: I did a few years where I chose and purchased the curriculum and what they were going to learn. I loved this, as I had one child obsessed with bats and other small creatures. We made lessons about animals including math lessons with questions using numbers of mosquitoes that a bat eats and silly things like that, to keep her engaged. There is a true freedom in picking and choosing what you would like to expose your child to, and for many people of faith, it is a wonderful way to teach your faith outside of your temple or church!
Jessica Haggard: Homeschooling is a process. It takes trial and error and an honest look at what you are doing in order to find the right way for your family and lifestyle. You’re in it for the long-term and will be defining your approach as you go.
Karen M. Ricks: In the last year and a half, our family has lived and learned in eight different countries on four continents. We currently reside in Tirana, Albania. Before we embarked on our worldschooling adventures, I wish we had known how much fun and freedom we would enjoy! We probably would have done it sooner.
Behan Gifford: I wish I’d been able to internalize that it will be OK. There’s a tremendous stress on parents— we worry that we aren’t going to be ‘good enough.’ Really, any parent that cares enough to take on ownership of their kids’ education usually has to try to mess it up.
Laurelei Litke: I spent a lot of my younger years being afraid that homeschooling was going to make me uncool. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what the trends were, or that I wouldn’t understand the experiences or references of other children. I wish that I could go back and tell myself not to worry about any of that so much. When I look back on that time in my life, I don’t think about being out of the loop or uncool, instead I think about how special it was that I learned how to read sitting right across from my little sister, and the intimacy that came from the foundation of my entire education being built for me within the four walls of my home.
The Epoch Times: What is the best part of homeschooling?
Ms. Lodin: You learn how [your children] learn best, what their interests are and how to make the day rich with teachable moments. You also realize that they learn much more from what you do than any book or lesson you present to them. When you model curiosity and engagement with the world, the learning takes care of itself.
Ms. Haggard: The best part about homeschooling is spending time with my children, being there with them as they grow and learn together.
Ms. Gifford: The gift of time with our children, to see them make connections and reach new understandings, and share that excitement and enthusiasm with them—it’s priceless. These years will go too fast.
Ms. Angelescu: The best part about homeschooling is that you can lead your kids towards the discovery of their passions early on in their life so that they can start focusing on this…This will allow them to live a passionate and meaningful life as adults, when other people their age will wonder what to do with their lives.
Ms. Ricks: The best part of homeschooling and worldschooling is that our family’s education is completely customized to our interests and learning styles. We have the opportunity to explore history, culture, geography, languages, and so much more at our own personal pace and in our own time.
Ms. Litke: The absolute best part about homeschool: my childhood was not standardized. Yes, I took a standardized state test once a year, and yes I always received commended results, but my path to that test was very different than the students in the public school system. I was taught to learn material inside and out before moving on to the next chapter. Understanding the concept and theory before doing the practice problems, is a luxury brought on by individualized classroom time. Because I learned to process information differently than the general public, I feel that I naturally have an out-of-the-box approach to life, which has held useful throughout my career.
The Epoch Times: What is the biggest challenge?
Ms. Lodin: Being with your children all the time can be the best part about homeschooling but also its most challenging aspect. It can be exhausting and tedious, which makes it impossible to be fully consistent with your goal to be an enthusiastic and organized role model. But there is learning in that experience, too. They are learning from us at every waking moment what matters and how to be an adult in the world.
Ms. Angelescu: As a parent homeschooling your kids, you will frequently ask yourself, especially in your first years, if you are doing the right thing, if what you are teaching them is enough, if you’re using the best possible learning resources for your kids. Time management and general organization can also be challenging. Your whole lifestyle will change so you need to plan ahead and be flexible to adjust to this.
Ms. Gifford: Finding a place of confidence, especially as a new homeschooler. It’s terrifying to be responsible for your kids’ education! As parents, we want the best for our children. In our culture, it’s education that determines much of their future opportunity. To say ‘I’ll own that!’ is daunting! When you pack your kids off to an institution for someone else to take care of, that fear factor isn’t the same.
Ms. Ricks: For us, the biggest challenge of homeschooling as we travel full-time is finding a balance between activities we enjoy doing all the time and experiences that we can only do in a specific location. While we tend to travel very slowly (at least one month in each country, up to as long as six months), there’s always more to see and do and learn.
Ms. Greene: The biggest drawback of homeschooling would be the financial drain of one parent not working.
Ms. Litke: I’m happy that I went into the public school system when I did. However, I think the biggest challenge, was the transition. Before public school, I had a very social life with Girl Scouts (a great resource), softball, homeschool groups, and neighborhood friends. For some reason, when I first entered into the public school system, I became shy and it was difficult for me to speak up when I didn’t understand what was being taught. I saw students around me understanding, and instead of taking the time to learn, I tried the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach. Eventually, I learned that speaking up and asking questions did not make me dumb, it made me smarter.