Our greatest fear when homeschooling was that we weren’t stacking up.
Was our unorthodox tire swing physics comparable to 30 hours a week of dedicated, professionally-supervised studying?
What of Ivy-League boarding school funnels? Potential magnet opportunities? Missed social connections?
Am I stacking up? In attempting to do everything to help my child, am I hurting them? Am I condemning them to obsolescence in the face of their properly-schooled peers?
In 2012, Kathi Moreau, a Masters student at Northern Michigan University, wrote a somewhat comprehensive review of homeschooling history and success. Her Abstract partially reads: “…the level of success for homeschoolers is a good argument for this type of education.” One of her sources is a 2007 study that tested 185 former homeschoolers on self-esteem and found no difference versus their regularly-schooled peers and that the homeschooled students were less likely to have depression. The study’s authors concluded that neither result supported parents’ socialization worries.
These results are echoed in other literature. Homeschoolers perform 15-30 percentile points higher on state standardized tests than their publicly-schooled peers. They score slightly higher on the SAT and ACT. They are slightly less likely to drop out of college. They show no differences (or small advantages) in self-esteem and in any other measure of socialization ability. They perform more community service and are more likely to be involved in their church in their lifetime. (Here are my sources.)
The results are clear: Homeschooled students preform equally to, or better than, their regularly-schooled peers.
Why the worry?
- It’s not your curriculum, it’s you. (and that’s okay)
- You want to do the best for your child, the best for your family (why else would you have taken such a radical path?). Your doubts on homeschooling aren’t doubts of the practice or institution, but in your own ability to fulfill these goals.
- You want things out of homeschooling that it cannot give. Whether that is a professional chemistry lab, more externally-imposed structure, or that elusive sense of normalcy, you might actually be doing well, but you want something different.
- You want things out of life that it cannot give. You want your children to work harder, have more opportunities. You’re comparing them against those who have different skills, abilities, motivations, and presentations. Remember: the grass is always greener when you’re too far away to tell it’s plastic. Rest assured, if your grass has brown patches, it’s real grass. And it grows.
Homeschooling, foremost, is learning how to learn. Reassess your own goals and desires. Are they based upon your values? Sensible? What are our other paths? (Try to look for the smallest possible change; it is often enough.)
- You know there’s something actually wrong.
You’ve gone through the other options and you can tell—You’re not the homeschooler parent that you could be. And maybe, we are failing.
My family thought we were failing too. We didn’t know how our experiment would turn out, and we were terrified. What if I had just abolished my future?
You’re in the middle of it now, though. And you can’t always tell in the middle if you’re right. Maybe, against all odds, you are.
Or maybe it will just take a little troubleshooting. Ask yourself: How can you not just survive, but thrive? Your answer may be unconventional, but you’re already a homeschooler, what’s one more step?
Switch it up. Try another paradigm. Get some help from your most conscientious, least agreeable friend.
But what if it doesn’t work? What then?
You’re not always going to get it right. Maybe your student is abysmal at math and four years behind in reading.
Maybe it just isn’t working.
What I wish I had heard
You’re doing alright. It’s going to be enough.
I know, right now, it seems like everything—that you’re strange, that you’re different, that you just want to be normal, that you’re slacking on algebra and doubling up on Literature, but it’s not everything. And Literature is all you really need.
You’ll pick up everything else as you go along.
If you’re feeling isolated on this adventure, look to your friends; they’ll help you through it. Or pick up a hobby to find some more.
Yeah, there are problems in your life, but 30 classroom hours a week isn’t going to solve them (trust me, I’ve tried it; I know).
This is a learning opportunity for you (trite as that sounds). Because you’re going to come upon other times in your life when something’s going to go wrong, and you’re going to have to repair yourself.
And part of homeschooling is learning how to live.
Just spend ten minutes, just ten, and be really honest with yourself. You don’t have to do anything with what you find, just think of one or two things in your life that you really wish would go better (and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll know).
And one day, the phrase “I was homeschooled” won’t seem so funny, or as relevant.
Or it might be the most relevant thing there is, in a good way.
Maybe homeschooling isn’t for you, at least not right now. Go back into school for a year or two (it might be a little rough). Remember, if you work at it, even sitting in a classroom 30 hours a week, you can still learn what you need.
And we all become homeschoolers; you can homeschool for the rest of your life.
How did we actually do?
I finished college in 2.5 years, Honors Program, magna cum laude, doing projects with my professors, and completing a rocking thesis. (Though the highest math grade I got was a “B.”)
My sister has survived her freshman and sophomore years in Physics, has gotten one “A” in English, and is overall a much more rounded student than I.
And fear not—even if Harvard is still important to you, I know of a homeschooler from my church who was accepted.