Many families found themselves homeschooling for the first time ever when schools closed at the beginning of the pandemic. Virtual learning options were quickly enacted and parents suddenly found themselves homeschooling their children with no prior preparation. It can feel like a daunting task, especially if you aren’t prepared.
Even when schools eventually reopened, a number of families opted to continue homeschooling. U.S. homeschooling rates roughly doubled early in the pandemic and remain higher than pre-pandemic.
I know this topic isn’t something I cover here at Life With Dee but since I homeschooled my own kids I thought I might be able to offer some perspective and encouragement to those considering homeschooling.
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Homeschooling: Would We Do It Again?
Back when we homeschooled, starting in 1996, it wasn’t all that common. People were still navigating the legalities of it and honestly, most people thought it was weird.
Why We Decided to Homeschool…
When my son was six he told me after school one day that Abraham Lincoln had taught himself at home and since we had a lot of books and he now knew how to read he thought he’d like to follow in his hero’s footsteps. I laughed and thought it was cute but the concept of homeschooling wasn’t on my radar yet.
Several years later we found ourselves in a different situation. Due to severe health problems I was faced with giving up my job as a hospice nurse. One of the nurses I worked with homeschooled her kids and I started to think I might like to do so myself.
Both of our children were in the gifted program in public school. However, one was dyslexic and struggling with reading while the other was bored and losing interest in school. I felt they could both benefit from the sort of individualized learning that really isn’t possible in a classroom of 25-30 kids.
And most of all, I just wanted to spend more time with my children.
How We Homeschooled…
Our decision to homeschool came about in the middle of a spring semester. I gradually began scaling back my work hours, paying off small credit card balances and reworking a budget that would be cut in half when I quit. That also gave me several months to research homeschooling before we started in the fall.
I asked the people I knew who homeschooled locally for book suggestions but was surprised that no one really had any. I’m a researcher by nature so I couldn’t imagine not studying learning theories and related topics before making such a big decision. Fortunately we live in a town with a university so I obtained a community patron card for their library and began studying on my own.
I stumbled upon John Holt’s book, Teach Your Own, and immediately knew I had found my mentor.
I knew from the start that I didn’t want to recreate public school in my home. There would be no dedicated classroom with school desks and a rigid time schedule. That’s just not the way our family functions.
Still, we started with curriculum and some basic structure. Over the years we became “unschoolers”, though. I came to trust that my children would learn everything they needed to learn, on their own timetable. I set up our home life to encourage creativity, exploration, and curiosity.
We brought home stacks of books and educational videos from the library every week. We went on field trips. I read to them every single day until they graduated. We talked about everything. If they were interested in something we found a way to help them pursue it. There were oil painting lessons, tennis lessons, horseback riding lessons, soccer, piano lessons, violin lessons, science classes at the local university and much more.
We created a lifestyle of learning in our home and our children thrived.
Our Family’s Thoughts About Homeschooling…
Our “kids” are now in their 30s and both are very glad they were able to homeschool. They were in favor of it from the start and happy to continue through high school.
I loved those nine years of homeschooling. I’m grateful for the time I had with my kids and the role I was able to play in facilitating their learning. I’m proud of the fact they both absorbed the lesson that they can learn anything they are interested in. They know how to locate information and research any topic.
I also believe my two children have a closer bond to one another than they might have otherwise had. One of the things I appreciated about our local homeschool group was the lack of age segregation in most activities. They didn’t spend the bulk of their days in a group just their age but learned to interact with all ages. I loved the way older kids looked out for the younger ones and didn’t treat them with less respect. No one thought anything at all about including younger siblings on outings. Even though my two are 3 1/2 years apart they socialized with the same group of kids.
So, would we do it again? Absolutely. It was a truly enjoyable season for our family and I’m very grateful we were able to do so.
Is homeschooling the best decision for every family? No. There are any number of reasons it might not be the best choice for a family or even a particular child. But I do believe any family who truly wants to homeschool can learn to do it in a manner that works well for them.
If you are thinking about homeschooling but are feeling uneasy about it, I hope I’ve given you a bit of encouragement. If you have any questions I’d be happy to try to answer them. I’m no longer plugged into the homeschool world in terms of the legalities and specific requirements in each state but I can certainly offer my perspective on the day-to-day life of a homeschooling family and my thoughts on learning in general.
I found an essay I wrote many years ago and it’s still online:
Need help with home education? Check this out!
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Note: You may have seen the new documentary, Shiny Happy People which focuses on the Duggar family and IBLP/ATI, the religious homeschooling organization they were associated with. I have very strong opinions about Bill Gothard and his organization (IBLP/ATI) after seeing it in action among homeschool families I personally know. This blog isn’t the proper venue for the sharing of those thoughts, opinions and observations but I’m willing to do so privately if you’d like to contact me. However, I would like to make it very clear that the type of homeschooling portrayed in Shiny Happy People is NOT a fair representation of all homeschooling.
This post was originally published July 27, 2020. It has been updated and republished June 12, 2023.