After months of sheltering-in-place, many parents are wondering whether it’s best to revert back to traditional schooling or continue homeschooling. We’ve been wondering the same thing.
Before we initially sent our son to preschool last year, we were torn. We couldn’t decide whether preschool was the best thing for our son or whether preschool was just an artificial construct created by society to enable parents to work more.
Given we both didn’t have day jobs, we felt a little bad sending our son to preschool. What were we going to do all day after 2.5 years of spending every moment with him? Preschool felt like we were outsourcing our parental duties. But oh yeah, we had baby #2 coming, so not entirely true.
Testing The Preschool Waters
While we were still deliberating, we got accepted into a great neighborhood preschool. So we decided to give it a go to at least see what it was all about. Besides, we had already paid over $1,000 in application fees and spent hours on the admissions process.
For almost six months, we dropped our boy off at around 9:30 am and picked him up before 5 pm. In the beginning, we wiped away our watery eyes each morning. But as weeks went by, we felt less guilty.
The seven hours off a day was a welcome break, especially for my wife who was going through her 3rd and 4th trimesters of pregnancy and recovery. I could also do more writing, play more tennis, and take more naps. All these things are great for health.
Now thanks to the pandemic, after more than five months of homeschooling our boy and taking care of our baby girl, I don’t think we’re sending him back, even if there is an effective vaccine. That said, we’re not sure.
Let’s go through some positives and negatives of homeschooling. I’m not sure one method of schooling is better than the other. But I do believe the best form of schooling is one that fits your child’s personality and your lifestyle.
In this post, I’ll try to convince you that homeschooling is the way to go if parents have the time and energy. I’d love for you to convince me otherwise!
The Positives Of Homeschooling
Let’s look at the positives of homeschooling. After I finished my first draft, I kept on coming back and adding more positives.
1) More quality time with your child.
Your children will grow up quick. Homeschooling enables you to spend more quality time with your child. I still remember bringing home my son from the hospital at 11:58pm like it was yesterday. His 3.5 years have flown by.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of older parents so far, and the majority of them have said that if they could rewind time, they wish they would have spent more time with their children growing up.
If I could slow down time, I would. But since we can’t, spending more time with a child is the next best thing. The average homeschooling parent could spend 2-3X more time with their child a day.
2) Teach at your own pace and provide better accommodations.
As teachers, we often must teach to the slowest student in the room. Leave no child behind as they say. If your child happens to be the slowest student, then the pace of teaching is wonderful. However, if your child is average, then he or she may get bored and not learn to his or her potential.
By homeschooling, you can tailor all aspects of education to your child’s needs. After all, parents know their child best. And the more time you spend time with your child, the more you’ll get to know them.
When our son was three years and five months old, we went to the ophthalmologist to check out his eyes. It was only seven months after his previous checkup, but we noticed he wasn’t able to see house addresses as clearly on our walks.
The opthalmologist said there was no need to dilate his eyes to check his prescription, since the normal cadence is once a year. However, my wife insisted, so the doctor acquiesced. Lo and behold, our son’s vision had changed by a significant two diopeters since his last visit.
When we homeschool, we can provide the best accommodations for our children to learn. If a child has a visual acuity issue, we can get books in larger font. If a child has difficulty paying attention for longer than 15 minutes, we can teach in 15-minute increments. Perhaps a child has an auditory issue. If so, we can speak up and not have to worry about a noisy large classroom.
There’s a reason why it costs much more for 1-on-1 tennis lessons than a group lesson. You can get much greater instruction 1-on-1.
3) Teach a more flexible curriculum.
Not only can we teach at a more appropriate pace when homeschooling, we can also teach our children things we find more useful. Of course, we will still teach the basics of reading, writing, math, and science. However, we can place more emphasis on certain subjects we find more important or that our children find more interesting than others.
For example, I think there should be more emphasis on developing communication skills. Communication skills include public speaking and writing. Expert communicators also dovetails well with being excellent in sales. These two skills are critical for getting ahead.
Conversely, perhaps there should be less emphasis on advanced math. Seriously, what’s the point of learning calculus unless you want to be a mathematician? Instead, it may be more beneficial to learn how to be an expert at using spreadsheets or a scientific calculator.
As a child gets older, you could also teach him or her practical skills like balancing a checkbook, reconciling a business cash flow statement, building a brand online, and analyzing a rental property for purchase.
You could dedicate an entire course on each of these subjects. Or you can spend half a year teaching AP chemistry when your kid doesn’t want to be a scientist or doctor.
A more flexible curriculum is more efficient. The more we can teach our children what they naturally enjoy, the better learners they become.
4) Save on the cost of attending private school.
If you planned to send your kid to preschool or private grade school, then homeschool will save you tuition expense minus the cost of homeschooling.
I’ve got to admit, it feels nice saving $1,950/month on preschool tuition while spending more time with my son. One could easily spend $500,000 in tuition between preschool through the 12th grade.
Further, if we home school until he is 18 in San Francisco, we won’t have to stress about going through the San Francisco public lottery school system. Social engineering may be good, but it’s not really working as families self-segregate.
5) No bullying.
Bullying is one of the things that bums me out the most about normal schooling. There is always going to be a bully at school who will pick on other kids for being smaller, less attractive, poorer, or having some type of disability.
During the few times I was picked on, I always fought back hard. It took a couple fist fights for kids to stop bullying me. But these bullies just started picking on someone else. You can see bullying happen all the time in the online world today.
Homeschooling eliminates your child from getting bullied, which is a big relief for most parents. At the same time, homeschooling reduces opportunities for your child to stick up for himself or herself. These difficult moments can make children stronger or break them.
After spending three years as a high school tennis teacher and over 11 years as a blogger, I’ve come to the conclusion that kids aren’t born bullies. Bullies are created because they are either neglected or abused by their parents and/or siblings. Therefore, the quality of the parents of your child’s classmates is important.
Perhaps one solution is to homeschool your child and teach them as much about listening, empathy, manners, kindness, and strategies for dealing with bullies for several years. Then send them to normal school and see how they fare.
6) Less peer pressure to do disappointing things.
Middle school seems to be the start of significant peer pressure to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and speak a certain way. Then perhaps this peer pressure really ramps up in high school.
If you homeschool your children, it should be easier to guard against sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s also hard to skip class if your child is homeschooled.
I was a troublemaker growing up. It was clear that so many of the bad things I did was partially due to hanging out with the wrong crowd. Looking back, I’m surprised some kids were able to concentrate on school with so many distractions.
If you were a difficult child, perhaps your own children will be difficult as well. Of course, doing bad things growing up doesn’t doom you to be a loser as an adult.
7) A stronger bond between siblings.
One of the things I wish was that my sister and I were closer. She’s four years older and we’ve never lived in the same city after high school.
When I was in middle school, she didn’t want to hang out with me. And when I was a freshman in high school, she was heading off to college. I’m sure if we were homeschooled, we would have a stronger bond today.
8) Create stronger bonds with other families.
The great thing about the pandemic is that there will naturally be more families who homeschool. Therefore, more families could create stronger relationships with other families in their neighborhood. Instead of avoiding our neighbors, we would welcome our neighbors.
It seems like we’ve gone from being friendly with our neighbors decades ago to being suspicious of our neighbors. When someone rings a doorbell, we wonder who the heck could it be?
How nice it would be to have a strong network of families to rely on for companionship and play time for kids. We plan to set up weekly playdates with a couple other families from our preschool.
9) Easier to take less crowded field trips.
One of the best things about early retirement is that my wife and I got to go to all the museums and parks in our cities during the middle of the week.
For example, we’d always go to the California Academy Of Sciences Museum on a Tuesday morning. Each time we went, it was as if we had the entire 40,000 square foot museum to ourselves!
At about 11am, two hours after we had arrived, busloads of kids from all over the Bay Area would jam pack the museum. As a result, it would often become difficult to see the attractions or hear the marine biologists speak.
When the temperature hits 80+, we have a family rule that we will always go to the beach. While at the beach, we’ll use the field trip to teach about wind, temperature, sea animals, shells, and more. There’s so much more flexibility with homeschooling.
10) The ability to travel throughout the year.
How amazing would it be to see the pyramids of Egypt instead of just read about them in a history text book? Instead of learning Mandarin in a classroom, it would be much better to learn Mandarin while living in Taiwan or China.
Traveling can make the entire homeschooling experience more fun for parents and kids. I personally can’t wait to take my family to see the world once they are both over five years old.
11) Less sickness.
Before my son went to preschool, I used to get sick once or twice a year for two weeks max. After my son went to preschool, I was sick for three months out of his six months of attendance. Not only did I get sick, my wife and daughter also got sick. It was terrible.
Although people say it’s good to get sick early and often to build your immune system, it felt like we were sick too often. My children are still getting exposed to bacteria and viruses at home and when we go out in the public. It’s just not to the point of overwhelming our immune systems.
When you’re sick, your quality of life goes way down. It’s also harder to work to make money. I would have been less against returning our son to preschool if I was only sick for two weeks during his six months of preschool attendance.
But, being sick for three months was way too much. It was also upsetting to see parents clearly drop off their sick kids to school sometimes because they needed the childcare more than they cared about other children getting sick.
Since we pulled our son out from preschool in mid-March 2020, none of us have gotten sick, knock on wood. Whenever I’m sick, I often think about how much I would give to feel healthy again.
With the flu season coming up this winter, I fear the combination of flu + COVID-19 may overwhelm the system and get my wife, daughter, and I sick again if we were to send him back to preschool.
Negatives Of Homeschooling
1) Your time and energy.
Without a doubt, the #1 negative of homeschooling is the amount of time and energy parents have to expend to teach their children.
If you have a day job, even if it’s a work from home job, it’s very difficult to allocate enough time to teach your children. Even if you could work during off hours, spending 3-5 hours homeschooling your children and then another 9+ hours working may be too much to handle.
Once shelter-in-place began, I began regularly waking up by 5am so I could write before my kids wake up between 7:30am – 8am. After spending just two hours with them, I was already exhausted. Therefore, my wife and I regularly trade off childcare duties to comfortably get through the day.
2) The misconception that your kids will grow up socially awkward.
The main stereotype I’ve heard about homeschooled kids is that they might end up socially awkward. After all, the less opportunities you have to interact with other children your own age and other adults, the less social practice you have.
However, think about how many socially awkward people there are who went to a traditional school! I’ve attended plenty of events over the past 20+ years and I always come across people who seem so uncomfortable.
With more kids homeschooling now, I don’t see an issue with developing good social skills and high emotional intelligence. Homeschooling pods and play dates should be enough to provide for sufficient social interaction. Meanwhile, parents will be more focused on teaching children proper manners.
3) May be harder to discipline.
Kids seem to act one way in front of teachers and another way at home. We noticed our son was an angel in preschool, always listening to his teacher’s instructions. He would nap every day as well.
Since he’s been home, he’s been much less disciplined. He also hardly naps anymore.
Therefore, traditional schooling may help tremendously with discipline and listening to authority. Kids tend to know how to manipulate their parents, whereas it’s harder to manipulate teachers. Further, parents can be pushovers and be too soft on the rules.
4) Lost wages.
Going from a dual-income household to a single-income household can be difficult, especially if expenses are also increasing. However, if one parent is already a stay-at-home parent, then the financial shock may not be as great. The challenge to homeschool may give that stay at home parent more purpose.
As healthcare and childcare costs increase, I fully admit I’ve been tempted to go back to work to at least defray these costs. Having one parent work and one parent be a full-time parent may be the best combination.
Understand Your State’s Homeschooling Regulations
It’s important to understand what your state’s requirements and regulations are for homeschooling. As with a lot of things, there’s a wide range in rules from one state to the next.
For example, some states like Oklahoma don’t require any type of reporting or assessments. Neither do they have any state mandated subjects.
Other states like New York require all of those things. Plus they have other requirements including submitting an IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan) every August with a list of your syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks, or plan of instruction.
Here’s a quick glance at the regulation levels by state put together by the HSDLA.
If You Can Homeschool, Perhaps You Must
The 3.5 years of my son’s life has gone by fast. In many ways, I wish I could rewind time and relive his younger years all over again. Life speed accelerates the older we get. Homeschooling allows parents to build stronger relationships with their children.
Obviously, if both parents have day jobs, homeschooling is impossible. However, if at least one spouse is a stay at home parent, then I think homeschooling is worth a shot.
If the time comes where both parents and child feel like traditional schooling is more appropriate, then families can make the transition. And if your child would rather homeschool, then that certainly can be arranged once again.
Perhaps the easiest way to answer whether it’s best to homeschool or not is whether or not you have 100% control of your time. Homeschooling is very tiring at first. However, over time, you build an endurance muscle and it may get easier.
A Homeschooling Plan
The more I think about it, the more I believe it is best to homeschool a child through middle school and then try out traditional schooling for high school if desired. This way, parents will have 14 years to instill in their children their core values. The more parents question the efficacy of traditional schooling, the more attractive homeschooling becomes.
With a solid foundation upon entering high school, perhaps children who are homeschooled will be less susceptible to peer pressure and more able to excel in school. The burst of social interaction for four before potentially attending college should be good enough.
Think about working in an office versus working from home. If you’ve been able to work from home during the pandemic, wouldn’t you prefer continuing to work from home for most days of the week? I’m sure a nice hybrid approach of 3-4 days a week at home and 1-2 days in the office would be ideal.
Homeschooling is like working from home. You still get to socialize with your friends. You just have more control over how you spend your time.
At the end of the day, because my wife and I can homeschool, we must. We can revisit the topic again if there is ever a vaccine. Perhaps by next year, we’ll be so exhausted that we can’t wait to enroll our son back in preschool.
Finally, perhaps there is a wonderful middle ground of enrolling your child in a traditional school that allows for homeschooling. Instead of having to go to school five days a week, perhaps in the future, students will only have to attend 2-3 days a week. For the other 2-3 days, parents can homeschool and help their children brush up on subject matters. This way, families get the best of both worlds!
Readers, what are your thoughts on homeschooling your children? Why not try homeschooling first and then traditional schooling once they’re a little older? Is preschool an artificial construct?
I’d really love for you to try and convince me why homeschooling for the initial years of a child’s life is a suboptimal choice.