To say that everyone’s school year was turned on its head this year is an understatement. Suddenly, parents were ALL at home schooling their kids. No one really had much of a choice. But come fall, there will be several options reopened. And as parents, we all want to be a little more prepared. To aid you in your quest to understand some of your home schooling options this post is one mom’s honest look about the pros and cons of homeschooling.
One Mom’s Honest Look at the Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
This post will help you to understand what schooling at home is. We will cover the different types available to you as options and the pros and cons of each type. While I am very favorable on the homeschooling option, this post is not to try to convince you to homeschool. I simply want YOU as the parent, to have the best information possible. You can decide if homeschooling is the right choice for your family.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. I did receive product in return for my honest review. If you purchase through a link The Reluctant Cowgirl will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, used toward keeping this blog going. I only recommend products I appreciate and trust. Read all my disclosure here.
We homeschool. But we have also have had kids in public school. I work with families that public school and use virtual school programs. And during my growing up years I went to public school, a private German school, a Christian school, and a private all girl Catholic school. I was even homeschooled 2 years. So I probably have a broader school experience than most.
What is the difference between Homeschooling and Distance Learning?
Since the term homeschooling is often used to mean many things, I first want to explain what each term typically refers to. And as if it wasn’t confusing enough before March 2020, now we have several more new terms such as e learning and distance learning!
What is Virtual School?
Virtual school may also be called distance learning, e learning, online school or virtual learning. There are several big things to know about virtual learning.
- Virtual school is connected to an outside school. Your student is learning under the umbrella of a public school or private school.
- Guidance. Virtual school offers you the protection and the guidance of the school.
- Curriculum chosen. A curriculum is already chosen for your student.
- Teacher help. Help is typically offered to your student through a teacher via email or an online platform.
- Set Hours. Your student must abide by set regulations such as logging on at a certain time of day or a certain amount of hours.
- Graded. Students will receive feedback and grades. If something is not completed or done correctly they will be told. There may be a delay of several days depending on the virtual school.
- Streamlined with public schools. Most online schools schools meet the typical public school guidelines. This can make it easier to transition out of public school to virtual school and then back to public school.
- Financial reimbursement. Students are given the curriculum and equipment needed (laptop) to do school as they would if they were going to the traditional brick and mortar school.
- Sports and activities. Some virtual schools are connected directly with your local public school. This makes participating in sports and activities accessible. Other virtual schools may be connected with the state. They do offer local groups to connect with other students in the same program.
- Broad range of curriculum. From parents, I have heard that virtual schools connected with public school can run the gamut between overly easy and too hard. I have even had parents tell me that one school year was vastly harder than the next year. It can be reassuring to have the curriculum chosen. However, this also means that parent and child must work with the teaching style of the chosen curriculum and can’t deviate from it.
- Parent Involvement needed. While virtual school is school directed, a parent’s input and direction is greatly needed. Some parents inaccurately think that virtual school can kind of be set on auto pilot. But students may need help with an exercise and will absolutely need accountability to stay on track. Sometimes kids will choose to not log on and do school at all if not held to a schedule or checked by a parent.
- Virtual school choice. Parents can decide on WHICH virtual school they will choose. Some parents prefer to go with their local school district as they know the school and teacher help is more local. Other parents prefer to choose a state or private virtual school as they then have more of a choice on the curriculum used. Do a lot of research on what school/ platform you choose as this can makes a BIG difference.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is where children are primarily taught at home. Parents submit paperwork to the state or their local superintendent excusing their student from the local school. Parents have full range of choice on hours and curriculum.
- Parent withdraws student. Homeschooling is initiated with the parents withdrawing their kids from the local school and submitting paperwork to local superintendent. A basic overview of the school year and curriculum used is typically submitted to the local district or state.
- Choose curriculum. Parents are in charge of choosing curriculum for the school year. Parents can also choose a variety of topics and levels dependent on their child’s ability and interest.
- Flexible hours. Homeschooling is flexible and families choose a schedule that works best for them. State requires that parents meet a certain amount of hours.
- No financial help. Homeschool families do not receive any financial aid in most states. There have been attempts in certain states to gain vouchers to help with the costs of educational expenses. But personally, I have never received financial aid for homeschool materials. Homeschool students can now receive some tuition help if their student takes college classes, while in high school, in some states.
- Connect with local homeschool groups. Most counties have local homeschool groups that get together for support, activities, co op classes, and field trips.
- Complete parent involvement. Homeschooling is a full-time activity and requires parents to be present at home. Most homeschool families are one income families. Some parents work opposite hours or one parent is the primary teacher and works part-time hours outside the home.
- Track grades and submit test scores. Parents track grades and submit an achievement test score or an assessment once a year.
- Religious freedom. Many homeschool families homeschool for the freedom to incorporate their beliefs into the curriculum. There does seem to be a rise in homeschool families that are non-Christian, and homeschool for other reasons.
- Sport and activities. Laws different state by state. Some states now protects a student’s right to play sports at their local school whether they are homeschooled or not. Homeschool families often join local private school teams. Or they may create their own team with other homschoolers.
What is a Homeschool Co-Op?
Many local homeschool groups create co-ops. A co-op is where families come together to share and learn together. For example our local co-op has around 75 families. We come together once a week during the school year and children can choose from a variety of classes.
This gives families an opportunity to be together. And it also allows parents to pay a teacher parent gifted in certain subjects, like Chemistry or writing, to teach their student.
Our children have taken lots of co-op classes. Sometimes they are taking a required high school class like Biology or government. Other times classes are more creative extensions such as theater, art or cake decorating.
Each homeschool co-op varies! Some co-ops require that a parent help or teach a class each period. While other co-ops are more flexible and allows parents to teach classes only if they have an interest.
Homeschool Meets Private School Option
Some co-ops meet 2 or 3 days a week. All the student’s works is assigned, and the rest of the week at home students work on their assigned work. It is a bit like homeschool meets private school. These are a great option for some families. However, these co-ops can be almost the same cost as some private schools!
Is Homeschooling Right for Your Family?
In the United States, parents put a lot of effort into their children’s education. Education is often seen as the direct link to a child’s success and future happiness. So debates around public school versus homeschooling can be VERY heated. We all want to feel like we are making the right choice.
Many want to debate the question is public school better than homeschooling or is homeschooling better than public. But perhaps the better question to ask, “Is homeschooling the right choice for my child or my family?”
So let’s explore some of the pros and cons of homeschooling so you can decide if you want to choose to homeschool.
Pros of Homeschooling
We will start with the benefits of teaching your children at home.
More Time Spent with Your Children
Teaching at home allows you more time together as a family. For some moms this may or may not be a benefit:) But teaching your children at home does provide more opportunity to have time together.
You have time to be together more, work with your child on reinforcing positive behaviors and getting to know your kids. And this usually extends to grandparent relationships. Kids have a bit more time to develop deeper relationships with their grandparents.
Ability to Choose Your Curriculum
When you teach at home you have a lot more flexibility to choose your own curriculum. As mentioned above, the route you take when teaching your children at home will greatly determine the flexibility.
But it is wonderful to be able to have a unit study or choose a science curriculum focused all on space if your kid loves everything space. And you can make a tough subject for your student more bearable if you can add in something your student does enjoy. For example did you know that parents have created curriculum with Mindcraft as an element.
And as the teacher, parents can also choose a curriculum style that works for both their student and them. There are some amazing curriculum choices. I would totally flounder if I had to teach using a super detailed curriculum. I appreciate guidelines, but I also want some creativity and fun projects. Each family can choose what works for them! Learning is so much more enjoyable.
Opportunity to Go at Your Student’s Pace
If you have children you know what I mean when I say that rarely is your child completely at their grade level in all subjects. Sometimes they are more advanced in one subject while they may struggle in another.
Homeschooling allows you the opportunity to advance your child in certain subjects while giving them extra attention in another. And the beautiful thing is that children feel less aware of their slower pace subjects. Parents can just keep encouraging children to make strides without their child feeling like they are lacking when compared to other kids their age.
Most kids “catch up” naturally when given a little more time and attention.
Cultivate a Love of Learning
Learning together is so wonderful! Unless maybe if it’s Algebra…lol. With homeschooling, less time is spent on test scores and more time can be spent on learning for learning’s sake. Children have the freedom to focus on topics that interest them, deep diving into them. This learning extends beyond school hours!
I have so richly enjoyed reading together with my kids, discussing great literature or studying history. Every year, I learn something new, even if I have studied that subject or period in history before.
And I appreciate that through homeschooling, our kids continue to enjoy learning. Education is seen as a positive even as they get older.
Less Drama and Bullying Free Zone
Many parents I have worked with decided to try homeschooling for a year or two to give their kids an opportunity to learn without the distraction of drama and bullying.
Homeschooling is not meant as a way to isolate kids from real world problems, but can give kids an opportunity to grow and mature. Thus kids who perhaps think or act differently are given a little space to develop who they are. Then they can head out to conquer the world in the special way only they can, more confident in themselves!
Freedom to Teach Your Values
One of the big reasons that families choose to homeschool is for the freedom to integrate their values into the curriculum. With homeschooling you can discuss a wider variety of beliefs about science, religion and history. As a family you can discuss your beliefs and also the beliefs of many other people around the world.
It is a holistic approach where you have the freedom to examine the cause and effect of various world beliefs.
The Cons of Homeschooling
There are definitely some struggles when it comes to homeschooling. In the case of Covid-19, most parents felt overwhelmed to suddenly be teaching kids at home. And teachers were scrambling to come up with a workable plan. Some of that confusion and isolation is not there during typical homeschooling. But there are still some struggles.
Homeschooling is Hard Work
Homeschooling is a lot of work. While much of homeschooling can be fun, learning together, it is still hard. There are days where you are off or your kids don’t want to do school. There are times when you and your kids don’t understand the curriculum.
By the end of the school year, you are ready for summer break as much if not more than your kids!
If you have a challenging child, it is tough. With homeschooling you have the opportunity to keep working with your child til you find a system that works to the benefit of your child. But some days are really hard.
Some new homeschoolers try to shoestring homeschooling, using only the books a friend gave them. This can lead to additional frustrations. Make it a little easier by making sure you have a curriculum that fits you and your students learning style. Budgeting for quality curriculum is worth the extra bit!!
Homeschooling is Financially Hard
Most homeschool families are not swimming in the dough:) As mentioned, most families are a one income family as one parent’s typical job is teaching at home. Books, computers, and school programs are not covered if you are homeschooling. If you are using a virtual school program through your local school or state you will receive compensation.
Here are some typical homeschool costs to consider:
- Curriculum costs which can be a couple hundred to a $1000 per child. This depends on how much you buy new or how fancy a program you wan to use. Homeschool families are typically more than happy to help a newcomer by inundating a newbie out with any extra materials they don’t use or are done using. And you can find used curriculum online.
- School materials such as notebooks, paper, laptops will need to be purchased.
- Co-op fees or Homeschool group fees. If you want to join a homeschool group or co-op (which I highly suggest) then there will be some fees involved. Our local fees are around $30 for the homeschool group. For the co-op it costs around $120 for classes for one student. And it they do a sport or theater it may be double that. Some parents can manage the cost by teaching classes at the co-op.
- Legal defense. Every year we join Home School Legal Defense Association. Best $120! If you get a strange letter from the school district or a nosy neighbor calls a social worker on your family, HSLDA steps in. It is reassuring to know that HSLDA will step in to defend your family.
Homeschoolers are Stereotyped
Despite children being taught at home for thousands of years, people still have so many stereotypes about homeschooling. And while some people are just curious others feel the need to comment on your choice of schooling.
So you have to be prepared for disparaging comments on how you are “not qualified” or your kids are going to be “unsocialized.” Its not fun. But you can’t fix everyone’s perception. And just remember they didn’t ask your opinion if they should put their kids in public school, so in some sense other’s opinions don’t truly matter.
Just be prepared to have your reasons for homeschooling in case you need to have a conversation with those who truly matter such as grandparents or good family friends.
Homeschooling is a Big Responsibility
When you take on homeschooling, you take on a HUGE responsibility for your student’s education. That responsibility can feel mentally and emotionally overwhelming. You constantly think that you could be doing more.
On the flip side it is amazing when you see your kid finally start to enjoy reading. You realize you helped make that happen. Or your kid takes off in an area about which you don’t know much. But you were the one that encouraged that learning and helped them find materials or books to learn on the subject.
It is scary but rewarding!
Homeschooling is a Time Sacrifice
There is no way around it. Homeschooling is a sacrifice. Now, sending kids to the public school still takes time. You have to get your kids to and from school, keep up with school assignments and help with homework. I know first hand public school can be a challenge keeping up with everything and the teacher’s expectations.
But there is something about the day in and day out routine of doing school at home every day. It is a huge time sacrifice, especially on mom (or whoever the primary teacher is). I don’t regret any of the time I have sacrificed. But homeschooling definitely takes a commitment.
It’s Hard to Mimic the Classroom Competition
As I wrote above, I went to an all girl Catholic college preparatory school for high school. My high school was so hard that it made college a breeze. It is a struggle to mimic that level of rigorous education during the high school years.
Now, I have seen some homeschool moms manage it due to the studies they took on with their kid’s education and their teaching style. Other parent’s have involved their children in a more accelerated co-op program where the expectations are very high.
We decided to teach half of high school at home, and the other half our son went to a local community college. This provided more of a challenge for which he was ready. And he was able to graduate high school and receive his associates at the same time! Community college was a good transition from homeschool to university life.
All that to say that you need to be aware of when your student is ready for the next challenge!
Deciding to Homeschool? More Questions?
As our readers take a look at their options for schooling in the fall, some are considering homeschooling. We discussed over on Facebook (join us over here on FB) what some of their concerns were about homeschooling. Here are a few of those questions!
How Do You Find Time to Homeschool?
As you have probably already seen, unlike public schooling, homeschooling does not have to take 7-8 hours. Most homeschool moms set aside mornings for homeschooling. You have to treat it like a job. School is what you do in the mornings and early afternoon.
Here are a few tips to get it all done.
- Find the optimal time of day to complete the hardest subject. Kids can complete most of the schoolwork on their own with some explaining. But for those harder subjects choose a time of day that works well for you and your students.
- Have a time each day when you come together to answer questions, check work and explain anything. This can cut down on your kid not completing work or constantly interrupting you when you are trying to get other things done.
- Assign your older students to help the younger students. One beauty of homeschooling is that rather than being “unsocialized” most homeschoolers are used to helping and working with others. If you have a variety of ages you may have an older child help a younger one practice reading or do math drills.
- Cover certain topics together. If you are homeschooling you can choose to do history, science or Bible together. Some curriculum are made to work with multi-ages.
- Everyone needs to help around the house. The house gets messy with everyone home. So kids need to all pitch in with cleaning, laundry, tidying and cooking.
- Make wise use of the mornings before everyone is up. And institute some “quiet time” around or after lunch where everyone is quietly doing something.
- Step down from some other responsibilities. If you are homeschooling you have a big job. You may need to change your expectations on other things.
- Dad and grandparents can help. Utilize other family resources for additional school help or getting kids to afternoon activities.
How Do You Find the Best Curriculum?
There is nothing like going to a homeschool convention or homeschool book fair. You can see everything and hear from the creators. Conventions and fairs are my favorite way to choose curriculum.
Talk with other homeschool moms. Ask them what they like about the curriculum they are using. Ask other moms what their teaching style is. Join a Facebook group for homeschool moms and ask questions.
Consider how you learn!! Just because another mom loves it doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- My Father’s World (my favorite!)
- Apologia Science
- Math U See
- Teaching Textbooks Math
- Rainbow Resource (Curriculum Source)
- Cathy Duffy’s Review (she does a top 102 curriculum review which I have used)
How Do You Teach a Subject You Don’t Do Know?
It certainly does help if you enjoy learning yourself! But I have taught my children topics I didn’t know a ton about by choosing curriculum that is set up to be used at home. For example, with math, I choose a curriculum that is a good match for my student AND me. And then I sit with them every day and watch the lesson with them. That way I can “help” as needed.
The homeschool movement is vast. There is tons of curriculum to choose from that are either to help parents that don’t know that subject well. Or the curriculum is written to engage a disinterested or struggling learner. Chances are if you are struggling, another parent has already faced the same problem and developed a program to overcome the problem!!
I have also used co-op classes, online programs and grandparents to teach various subjects. My kids have taken writing lessons, music lesson, and Chemistry lessons from others.
If you truly want to teach at home there is a way! And parents have the most motivation to find that path!
One Mom’s Honest Look at the Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
Should you homeschool? That is only a choice you and your spouse can answer together. Homeschooling is a big decision. And as there is a lot of sacrifice and time involved, it is a very personal decision.
One more thing to keep in mind. Just because you decide to homeschool for a few years or not homeschool now doesn’t mean you can’t review this idea in another year or two. Thankfully, school choice means we have the freedom to review often. We can choose what makes the most sense for our family and the season we are in currently!
Comments? You are welcome to drop your questions and comments below. Keep it nice and based on actual experience:)