I don't believe there has been a better time to homeschool than now. In the face of a pandemic and political unrest, there are new reasons to homeschool your children this year. As a psychologist and a homeschooling mother of six with more than two decades of experience, I wanted to begin a series for new and prospective homeschoolers. The first episode in this series is about why you and I should homeschool this year in particular. If you have friends who are considering homeschooling, I would appreciate if you would share this episode with them.
Before we dive into the topic, I want to share news about Grammar Galaxy, the elementary language arts curriculum I developed specifically for homeschoolers. It's fast, easy, and fun story-based learning that kids beg to do. I just released Blue Star, the volume for 6th graders or those who have completed Red Star. Prices are marked down 20% now through August 6th. Try a complete sample of it for free at GrammarGalaxyBooks.com/Samples.
The first reason I believe you should homeschool this year is if you are called. As a Christian homeschooler, I see that calling as coming from the Lord. That's how it came for me. Certainly you could homeschool because of circumstances or intending to homeschool for the short-term. But a year can be a surprisingly long time. So, you may need a calling to finish the year.
I had a family member who homeschooled and a friend who intended to when the Lord placed this odd calling in my mind: You should homeschool. That calling was as surprising for me as Moses's was for him. I am a clinical psychologist by training and I assumed that when I sent my three children to school that I would resume working, writing, and speaking–things which I knew the Lord had called me to.
This new calling on my life was insistent, however, and I picked up a book on homeschooling the next time I was at the Christian bookstore. I was impressed by what I read but had no interest in homeschooling. I thought I could nullify the calling by telling my super social husband that I had this thought about homeschooling. To my disbelief, he thought it was a great idea.
I was still so resistant to the idea that I took a trip with a friend to consider the calling further. When I returned from the trip, I still did not understand how I could fulfill my original calling as writer and speaker at the same time as I took up the new call as a homeschooling mom. If you're paying attention, you should be smiling now. I am able to fulfill my first calling because of the second. I decided that if God had given me these two callings, it was His responsibility to work them out. I decided to do a trial run in homeschooling my preschooler. That did not go anywhere as smoothly as I anticipated. But the Lord wouldn't leave me alone. He made big changes in me to allow me not only to continue homeschooling but to have more children.
If you have been called by God to homeschool this year, he won't leave you alone either. I encourage you to pray and read and discuss the matter with your spouse. While I encourage you to give homeschooling a year, you are not locked into it if it does not work.
The second reason you should homeschool this year, after being called, is freedom. I hear from many people in the middle of COVID-based restrictions that they miss their freedom. Certainly the response to the virus has made us more aware of the freedoms we take for granted. However, homeschooling in a normal year is an experience of true freedom.
If homeschooling is completely new to you, you won't understand that homeschooling advocates have been working over the decades to ensure that we can't be forced to use a particular curriculum with teachings that run counter to what we believe. Homeschoolers also can't be forced to use a timeline for learning that doesn't fit their kids. It's common for homeschoolers to have a child doing language arts above grade level, science at grade level, and math below grade level, for example. In a traditional school, teachers and students may loathe the curriculum they're using, but they're locked into using it. For the most part, you will be able to change curriculum any time you like. In fact, you even have the freedom of using no formal curriculum at all.
If you want to enjoy this freedom of homeschooling, your first step is to determine the laws of your state. I encourage you to visit HSLDA.org, that is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. I encourage you to join it now. As more and more families exercise their constitutional right to home educate, there will be resistance. HSLDA provides legal defense for any challenges others make to the your right to homeschool. Determine what restrictions there are for homeschooling in your state, and then contact a local homeschool support group leader. This person will be able to tell you how to interpret your state's law in practical terms.
Freedom is one of the most important reasons to homeschool this year in particular. If you aren't comfortable with your school's response to COVID-19, homeschooling, and not just online school, will provide you with that freedom.
The third reason you should homeschool this year is to reclaim your time. When your child attends an outside school, you are beholden to the schedule that the school gives you. Your daily, weekly, and vacation schedules are at the mercy of the school. When you homeschool, you can vacation when you want. Our family has taken family trips in May before the rest of the world is out of school. The rates are lower and the crowds are smaller. You also have freedom of schedule in your day. Are you and your kids night owls? You have the freedom to stay up late, sleep in, and start school at a time when everyone is well rested. You can skip school for a field trip, a birthday, or even a mental health day.
In traditional schools, activities like field trips and special events are also out of your control. These are planned with no input from you. Having your child in a traditional school is also time-consuming. You may have to take your child to school and pick him or her up from activities. You may be asked to help out in the classroom or with special events. There are parent-teacher conferences, numerous forms to complete, and let's not forget the dreaded homework. In the time that it takes many parents to help with homework in the evening, you could home educate your child.
I asked homeschoolers who follow my Psychowith6 page on Facebook if they thought homeschooling took their time or gave them more time. The vast majority said that it gave them more time. Even as a mother of six, I agree. I cannot imagine having six children in different schools, especially private schools that requir numerous drop-offs and pickups–not to mention the school events that would have quickly filled my calendar. Homeschooling can free up both your and your child's time.
I want to issue a disclaimer here, though, that is very important. If you think that homeschooling means putting your child in front of a computer all day with no input or participation from you, homeschooling will not work. This is why so many children hate the online learning that is being used by public schools during the COVID-19 outbreak. You should not expect to be able to work a full-time job and spend no time teaching your children yourself. Even if you could motivate your child to learn at home without requiring any of your time, you will not enjoy the other benefits of homeschooling I'm going to describe next.
The fourth reason to homeschool this year is to provide your child with an excellent education. When I read A Field Guide to Homeschooling by Christine Field, I was impressed by the data that showed homeschooled children outperform both public and private school students on standardized tests. I should not have been surprised by this, however, because there is no more successful model of education than one-on-one teaching. In fact, schools recognize the power of individual instruction and have been attempting to use technology to provide it in the classroom. While there are most likely gains being made as a result, I don't believe that they will be able to match the effectiveness of homeschooling. Kids want human teachers who praise and correct them.
As I've already mentioned, homeschoolers can choose quality curriculum that fits their child's learning style and the family's lifestyle. If your child hates reading science texts but loves doing experiments, there's a curriculum for that. Have a child who's an auditory learner? Many curriculum providers like me provide audio versions of their materials. Is there a subject you didn't learn or understand when you were in school? Use homeschooling as an opportunity to learn alongside your kids. One of the greatest blessings for me has been learning world history, a subject I never studied, with my children.
Homeschooling also allows us to provide our kids with an excellent cultural education. IQ tests are based, in large part, on cultural knowledge. In fact they have been criticized for this as poor children do not have the same opportunities for cultural experiences that wealthier children do. However, what this tells me is that being exposed to a variety of books and materials and experiences will make your child smarter. As a homeschooler, you can provide a rich cultural education to your child without the serious problems associated with large field trips. I have witnessed the difference between public, private, and homeschool field trips many times. In traditional school field trips, the children are talking and shoving one another and cannot possibly hear what the field trip leader is saying. In most homeschooled field trips, the children are not only listening but asking excellent questions of the leader.
Homeschooling allows you to provide a quality education that you've curated.
#5 Mental Health
If a better education weren't enough motivation for me to homeschool, Christine Field offered me another reason that had a big impact on me: Homeschooled children have the highest self-esteem of any group of children. As a victim of childhood bullying with resulting insecurities, the idea that my kids could feel good about themselves was exciting to me. In fact, my children are evidence of the truth that homeschooling increases self-esteem. My oldest son went to public high school his last two years and experienced high school bullying. It wasn't severe, but my son was able to manage it because he was confident. Instead of thinking there was something wrong with him, he recognized there was something wrong with the kids' behavior.
Whether you would characterize your attitude toward COVID-19 as very worried or not worried at all, you can provide your child with a mentally safe environment. I am very concerned about the impact of new regulations on children who suffer from anxiety is great. Anxious children being exposed to anxious teachers and administrators, who have avoidance as their top priority, is likely to lead to serious mental health problems. What I know from treating anxious children is that avoidance is the worst thing for anxiety. I encourage you to listen to the podcast I did called Help for Anxious Homeschoolers if your child suffers from anxiety. Children need confident adults around them in order to overcome anxiety. In a situation where the adults share that anxiety, we have a real problem.
Of course if your child would not attend class in person at a public school, you may think mental health is not a concern. But on the contrary. Children have had their lives turned upside down with the removal of social activities. And contrary to popular opinion, homeschoolers are not asocial. When I first began homeschooling, my local support group sent out a 75-page, single-spaced newsletter of opportunities for socializing. Children do need to be with other people, primarily family. But homeschooled children can also connect with neighbors, church members, and other homeschoolers. During normal times, homeschoolers can participate in sports and activities that other schoolchildren do. But at this time, socializing has become limited to such a point that especially gregarious children will be suffering. The loss of beloved activities and time with friends can lead to depression.
If you choose to homeschool this year, you may have to do some work the way I did as a new homeschoolers to build connections with other homeschoolers. These are people who feel comfortable getting together with another family or to to play sports, do experiments, or go on field trips. In fact, these small, in-home co-ops were my children's favorite part of homeschooling and mine. We built incredible friendships as a result of them and I encourage you to pursue them this year.
The sixth reason, but by no means the least reason, you should homeschool this year is relationships. The most valuable outcome of homeschooling for me is not that I've had a students in college and kids who've earned scholarships. It's the relationship that my husband and I have with our kids and they have with one another.
Even though socializing is important, peer dependency is to be avoided. When your child always prefers to be with school friends rather than with you or siblings, you have peer dependency. This means that what peers have to say about life will be valued more highly than what you have to say. I'm not suggesting that homeschooled kids never have a high opinion of what peers say. It's a normal aspect of young adulthood. But the depth of the dependency and even rebellion can be mitigated by spending more time with your child.
I would not trade the time our family has spent together for anything – certainly not my business. In order to enjoy these close relationships, you may have to work on child discipline. I know I did. I just did two episodes on child discipline lies and an interview on sibling conflict that you will want to listen to. When you have trained your children to respect and obey you in general (and not perfectly), you can begin to enjoy them as people and love participating in their education. I desire that many families would know the joy my husband and I have known in our relationships with our children. Homeschooling them has been a big part of that.
I've given you six reasons to consider homeschooling this year, but I have many more. If you feel called, long for freedom, more time, a quality education, your kids' mental health, and strong relationships, I hope you'll consider it. If you have questions, please contact me at psychowith6 at gmail.com. I'm happy to help.
Join me next time as I discuss establishing time boundaries as a new homeschooler.
Have a happy homeschool week!