Have you ever wondered what a kid who was homeschooled thinks that homeschoolers get wrong? I grew up being homeschooled, and I am homeschooling my own kids, here is what I think homeschoolers get wrong. In my opinion, there are 3 pillars of education that we have to get right and in balance or the whole building will come toppling over. It takes humility for a parent that wants to educate at home to humbly examine their own hearts for blind spots.
I’ve seen every one of these emphasized too much, and another emphasized too little. Damage was done in each scenario. I’m not saying this is a reason not to homeschool. I hope to warn you about the pitfalls of what homeschoolers get wrong, based on the experiences and biases of individual parents I’ve met.
The number one way I see parents over-emphasizing academia is by starting and driving their kids too young. Driving little ones who aren’t interested or ready to begin lessons that their brain hasn’t developed to accept yet. This brings a student to discouragement and adds additional years of homeschooling to a parent’s life. Lengthening the formal learning timeframe leads to burnout.
The second way this manifests is by focusing on achievement and grades rather than the child as a whole person. This ties a child’s worth to their performance which leads to discouragement and depression. Focusing on steps forward and the child doing their “best work” is a much better benchmark for a child’s educational growth.
While we don’t want to overemphasize academic achievement, as parents it gets just as dangerous to underemphasize it. I’ve seen homeschooled teenagers that couldn’t read 3rd level reading material because that actual instruction of children didn’t happen faithfully enough in the home. Mother was too busy with other things and left the child on his own for education. When left to themselves some kids rise to the occasion, but others flounder and fizzle out. Respecting each child enough to challenge them is part of what we sign up for when we decide to homeschool
Sure instilling our values into our children is important, but more important is teaching them to think for themselves and decide what their own values are. We want lasting fruit, not momentary rule following. Our children are never going to be cookie-cutter versions of us the parents. If we don’t allow our kids to push back and challenge us they will never be ready for a world that pushes on them and challenges them. We have to raise our kids to be competent adults not just obedient children.
Assuming our kids will soak up our values and guiding life principles is equally silly. Unless you explicitly and systematically teach your kids faith and character it won’t be developed as easily. I say as easily because we know the Holy Spirit can redeem every soul in spite of their exposure to beliefs. But we can make our kids’ lives easier by intentionally discipling them in faith. If you practically want to know how to do that check this post.
Kids being turned loose or never encouraged to do hard things end up living life in a downstream spin. They don’t get to decide for themselves what they want out of it. They have never been taught that they can choose their own path to some extent. That working hard for something feels really good when we can see our accomplishments. Slowly building them up to it is important, but kids can do incredible things and get the satisfaction of accomplishing the same as adults. It also makes free time more special when all time isn’t free play.
Doing all work with no joy in discovery and learning makes life a drudgery. We don’t need to put our kids into the rat race before they’ve even finished middle school. Take some lessons outside. Take a day off and learn something new at a museum. If they are crying because their hand hurts from writing take a break and play a game. The more fun learning is the more they develop habits for lifelong self-education. We have come to use some Charlotte Mason methods to help us keep this in balance.
I think socialization falls under this topic too. Many homeschool parents would like to brush it off as being unimportant, but having friendship, peers, and community is so important to emotional development and well-being. I was really lucky to have had an EXTREMELY extroverted mom who couldn’t stand to be without people, but I’ve heard stories of kids who only saw others once a week, and that kind of life can be very harmful to the long term well being of children. We have to look no further than the isolation statistics after lockdowns to find out how hard it is on humans.
What Homeschooler get wrong
Our kids are going to run into these problems in our homes whether we choose to homeschool or send them to school. Balance is part of a good family structure. The problem for homeschool parents is they have no one balancing out their natural tendencies. They have wholly taken on their child’s education. If they are aware of their child’s needs and are meeting those having a cohesive learning experience is such a gift, but if the parent is bringing people and voices on to make them more self-aware of their weaknesses they can end up creating harm by not exposing the child to balancing points of view! This is what I find homeschoolers get wrong often.
I would be curious to see if you have any pushback to these ideas? I am not above needing to be balanced out.
*None of these stories are a reflection of our own mothers or their parenting practices. Examples are general trends not from our own immediate families.