Homeschooling is far from uncommon. The U.S. Department of Education states that, between 2003 and 2012, the number of kids ages 5 to 17 who were taught at home rose 61.8 percent. The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) suggests that about 1.5 million students were homeschooled in 2007, and approximately three percent of the school-age population was homeschooled in the 2011–12 school year.
Getting an education at home is legal across the country and, in fact, 28 states even allow homeschooled students to participate in public school interscholastic sports. Likewise, more states are considering “Tim Tebow Laws” — named after the homeschooled NFL athlete — that would allow homeschoolers access to school sports.
So, why are there so many stigmas surrounding homeschooling? Contrary to popular belief, homeschooled students are still given homework, they’re still offered recess breaks, they are still taken on chaperoned field trips — and, perhaps the biggest stigma of all, they still socialize. We asked homeschooling mothers across the country what else they wish others understood about homeschooling. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Homeschooled kids are, shockingly, still kids.
While it’s evidently hard to believe that homeschooled kids are just like the rest of ’em, for many, the worst of their problems are pretty darn akin to those of kids in the school system: perhaps pimples at puberty, a crush they text too much, maybe even a big soccer game they lost because, yup, homeschooled kids can play sports, too.
“Often people ask me why we choose to homeschool — if there is something wrong with our kids (learning disabilities, social issues, etc.),” says Jacqueline Goldman of Hollywood, Florida. “I wish people knew that it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the child.”
2. Homeschooling is tough, but worrying about unsolicited opinions on one another’s parenting decisions and all of the concerns traditional school systems face can be even tougher.
Of course being both a parent and a teacher is no easy feat, but being a parent and teacher shrouded in others’ judgement is a heck of a lot harder.
Moreover, homeschooling your kid means you don’t have to worry about everything happening in the world that’s actually rather disconcerting. This includes the concern for bullying, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association — which we know is a growing problem. According to a recent survey of over 600,000 participants from 2005 to 2015, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, the overall rate of depression in the U.S. rose from 6.6 to 7.3 percent in those 10 years, and depression among adolescents ages 12 to 17 jumped from 8.7 to 12.7 percent.
Not only this, but adolescents diagnosed with clinical depression far outpaced any other age group. The researchers from Columbia University and the City University of New York reportedly noted that teens are at high risk for depression due to their generation’s increasing presence on social media, where they’re exposed to risk factors derived from the use of new technologies, such as cyber-bullying.
“People always tell me they’re afraid of me getting burned out homeschooling my child,” says Gina Baker of Salt Lake City, Utah. “Homeschooling my child is not what burns me out; it’s the rest of the world that burns me out. I actually enjoy homeschooling my child and do it because I feel it is what is best for him.”
3. Homeschooling parents waste no time cutting gum out of students’ hair, putting snot-rocketers in time-out, or stopping class because one kid is convincing the others to eat the acorns he’d collected at recess.
Homeschooling parents don’t have to deal with students strolling in late or the one bully who’s always stirring trouble. Their kids are already there, and some homeschooling parents would argue that they face far fewer distractions.
“Many of us put more hours of actual learning time into a day than kids receive in a school,” explains Katrina Gallagher, of Ringgold, Georgia. “The ability to better control our kids' environment (peer pressure and bullying), fit teaching methods to their needs, cut out much wasted time and busy work, and generally be the one(s) to see the 'light come on' are some of the reasons we homeschool our four children.”
4. Homeschooled kids go on, arguably, way cooler field trips.
For the globetrotting family, homeschooling their children might be the only feasible option. And that means their kids get to see the world, while many other students are merely reading about it.
“The one thing I want folks to know about homeschooling is that it is not only a viable alternative, but a preferred one, especially for busy families who love to [travel],” says owner of Hip Homeschool Moms Trish Corlew, who hails from the coast of North Carolina.
5. Homeschooling parents don’t all teach the same way.
Some teachers put movies on all day and kick their feet up at their desks. Others turn studying for vocabulary into flash card games. Others are super strict, boring, quirky, inattentive, supportive, engaged, negligent, considerate and so on. And, just like those teachers, no two homeschooling parents are the same.
“There are multiple options for homeschooling,” explains Tangela Walker-Craft of Lakeland, Florida. “Parents can create their own curriculum. They can purchase curriculum. Online curriculum is also an option. Online homeschool programs are available through private companies. However, many states offer online curriculum that mirrors what is being taught in schools at no charge. My daughter has been homeschooled all her life. I provided her curriculum until sixth grade. She's done online school for seventh through 10th grades. She has earned top scores on state standardized tests. She enjoys homeschooling because she can work at her own pace and is not stuck at school all day.”
6. Not all homeschooled kids are like the Duggars.
Contrary to popular belief, not all kids who stay home for their education do so for religious reasons. In fact, in 2008, the NCES discovered that only 36 percent of homeschooling families say that “the desire for religious or moral instruction” is their primary reason for their decision to home school. Other reasons parents choose to homeschool include mounting concerns surrounding the Common Core standards and special needs or gifted children not receiving the adequate attention they require.
“I homeschooled two through the end of sixth grade and one through the end of eight grade,” says Leslie Elia of Cleveland, Ohio. “The one thing people should know about the homeschooling community is that we all do it for different reasons. When we were thick into the homeschool groups, I had friends that homeschooled because they thought their children were not getting enough academic stimulation while another friend homeschooled because her child needed to work at a slower pace. We had friends that homeschooled so that their child could pursue their year-round sport four to six hours a day, while another traveled a lot and wanted their children to take their school with them while traveling. I chose to homeschool because I simply loved hanging around my kids more than the four or five hours after school and before bedtime. I started with no particular curriculum, then gravitated towards a Christian curriculum, then even did an online school for a few years. With one child I even did what is known in the field as unschooling for two years. The point is: These children learn despite our efforts or lack of efforts. My oldest is finishing law school now, my middle child (the unschooled one) is entering law school in the fall and my baby just started his undergraduate education. It all works out with love and patience.”
7. Homeschooled kids are not all wallflowers.
They’re not trapped in the house all day, devoid of basic human interaction. They’re the peoples’ people, too.
“People usually look at me funny when I say that my kids are homeschooled and then ask ‘can they adjust around other children?’” says Vicky Popat of Orlando, Florida. “The stigma of children not being able talk or be around other children on a daily basis is just not true. My kids have a homeschooling group that they belong to in our community and they converse with children that are older than them and younger, as well. In fact, I feel that they speak and hold conversations like adults. We also travel a lot so they get to see whatever we are learning about firsthand and are able to speak to mere strangers. When they are told how cute they look, they say thank you and also compliment the person.”
8. You can do it, too!
Homeschooling is a commitment, but if it’s right for your children, it’s worth the effort.
“[You] can do it!” says Khrys Vaughan of Maryland Heights, Missouri. “Homeschooling is often portrayed as being unnecessarily difficult causing parents to believe they are incapable of educating their own children. This is not to say that it cannot be challenging at times, but there are vast educational resources for parents to draw from. Besides physical books, there are online homeschool campuses, local co-ops, programs provided by science centers/museums/colleges, open courseware, etc. Parents have the freedom to cater curriculum to their child's needs and interests, and when their child has completed a subject, they can move on without having to wait for the next school year.”
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.