When you have a lot of kids close in age, it can seem like the most natural thing in the world to homeschool them…especially if you are already a stay at home mom and a former teacher. Every year before school starts, I contemplate homeschooling my children, and this year is no different.
I’ve published this blog before, but I edit it every year and republish it to go over my list of pros and cons once again. This year is no exception. I currently have five children. Ruby will be going into 3rd grade (the grade I taught) and Elliot will be going into 1st grade. At home I have Ophelia, who is 4 years old, Julian, who is 2 years old, and Jack, who is 5 months old. This summer has been VERY busy with everyone home and a new baby, so I’m leaning towards sending the older ones to school so that I can focus on the younger ones who have had a hard time sharing attention with a new baby, but it’s still a good thought experiment to conduct nonetheless.
Pros of Homeschooling:
1. I would get to be with all of my kids as much as possible. They grow up so fast, and I want to be there for as many of the moments as I can.
2. I would know exactly how they spend their days. Whenever I ask Ruby and Elliot about their days at school, it’s like pulling teeth. I have to go through each subject and each time of day just to try to elicit the smallest response.
3. I am totally qualified to do this! Not only did I teach for 8 years and get my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis on Linguistics, but I loved it as well! In my heart and soul, I am a teacher. Who better to teach than my own children?
4. I could make sure they learn everything right the first time. When Ruby was in 1st grade, I noticed that she made a few of her letters in a really backwards and random fashion, and I was sad that I wasn’t the one to teach her how to write her letters. With Elliot, I did a more structured “homeschool preschool” approach and was able to work with him side by side every day to write his letters. If I were to homeschool, I would be by their side for everything they learn.
5. They could work at their own pace without competing with others. Ruby really struggles with timed math facts tests. The concept of a timed test caused her a lot of anxiety, and she freezes up when looking at the sea of numbers. At home, we work on the concept of addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. and find patterns in the numbers instead of just drilling random facts. If she were at home, I would be able to work with her as long as she needed in the areas where she struggles, and zoom through the areas she’s good in.
6. I could differentiate every subject as needed. Ruby is a very advanced reader, but she still spends just as much time as all of the other kids learning about phonics. Sure, she may have chapter books for homework, but there is a lot of wasted time in her day where she is “learning” things that are way too easy. At home, I could make sure that all subjects were in the zone of proximal development for all of my children.
7. I could choose my own resources. I would be able to pick and choose whichever resources seem exciting to me, and whatever I thought would meet the specific needs of each of my children. I could also tailor instruction to meet whatever passions each of my children expressed.
8. They would maintain their innocence. Teachers can only see and control so much. There are lots of things that happen in the classroom and on the playground where children are exposed to things like bullying, inappropriate language, boyfriend/girlfriend drama and so much more. They will experience it all eventually, but helping them to maintain their innocence at a young age is a precious thing.
9. They wouldn’t feel as much pressure to conform. School is meant to create cookie cutter kids. They set the bar at average and help all children to comply. Having children ONLY interact with children of their exact age is not reminiscent of the real world, and school creates this feeling that anyone who is different stands out and can be potentially ostracized.
10. We could accomplish way more in a day than is possible at school. With 28 kids in a classroom of varying abilities, transition times, lunch time, two recesses, busy work, behavior management, and so on, how much actual learning takes place? I know from experience (both being homeschooled and being a teacher) that the amount of actual learning in a 7 hour school day could easily be done in 2 hours at home. That would allow me to get through all of the standards and skills with plenty of time for free exploration, imagination games, outside time, crafts, field trips, and more!
11. Their tanks would be full of love. When Ruby and Elliot home from school, decompress, do their homework, play with her siblings, and have some choice time, there is very little time that we actually get to spend with them. What would life be like with all five kids are in school? How would we ever be able to fill all of their tanks with love? If they were at home with me all day, however, I could parcel out special one on one time for each child throughout the day.
12. They would learn from each other. Yes, there are varying abilities in any classroom, but in a homeschool environment with siblings ranging in age, the younger ones can learn from the older ones and the older ones can learn from teaching the younger ones.
13. They would learn more about life. In a big family, children can learn how to take care of babies, cook meals, keep the house clean, and work together. They could see how I manage the house on a daily basis, and I could teach them valuable life skills that would serve them when they are independent and on their own.
14. I’m here anyways! I am going to be home anyways with Jack for the next five years, so why not throw a few more kids into the mix while I can!
15. We could stay up late and sleep in. Even during the summer, we try to keep the same bedtime because the little ones need it, but there are occasions where we want to stay up late. Letting the kids sleep in until they naturally awake is a precious thing to make sure they are getting all of the sleep they can without any alarms.
16. We could take vacations whenever we wanted. Instead of worrying about the school schedule, we would be able to make vacation time happen whenever we wanted.
17. My heart always tells me to homeschool. In my heart of hearts, I keep feeling like it is what I should do, but then the cons start percolating in my mind, and I just can’t seem to make that decision.
Cons of Homeschooling:
1. Public school provides a big social scene. Ruby and Elliot love recess most of all because of the huge social aspect. When at school, they get to be a part of a big group with PE, music, concerts, group activities, field trips, and more. Sure we could find homeschool groups to join, but most of them are based in religion, and that is not what we are looking for.
2. School has introduced new things. In kindergarten, Ruby really took off with writing more than I was ever able to do with her at home. In 1st grade, she learned about Pixie 4 in her computer class, started reading chapter books, and got excited about taking care of the Earth or whatever else they were learning about. Elliot struggled socially at the beginning of kindergarten (he has TONS of energy and very little impulse control), but made nice growth in his behavior by the end of the year among other things.
3. Getting to school is a huge motivation to kick off the day. During the summer, it’s a struggle to even convince the kids to get dressed (Are we going anywhere? Is anyone coming over?), but when we have to be out the door at a certain time for school, they get dressed, eat breakfast, and brush their teeth and hair in record time.
4. Would I have enough time for everyone? Ruby likes to do a lot of intricate projects that require a lot of help from me. In doing these projects with her, I’m not able to spend as much time with the younger kids who need me too. I’m just worried that if I were to homeschool, there just wouldn’t be enough of me to go around.
5. One day our kids will be out in the world, shouldn’t we prepare them for it? Being independent, being autonomous, being on their own, learning how the world works…these are all things that public schools help to teach our children. How young do children need to learn this, however, and/or do they?
6. What about the long winters? In Michigan, the winters are looooooooong. It starts getting cold in October and doesn’t really warm up until June, so for 9 months out of the year, the weather is inclement and it takes great effort to go outside. Often times, we long for a mall or children’s museum on the weekends just to let the kids stretch their legs. Going to school allows for some activity to break up the monotony of winter.
7. It would cost money that we don’t have. We are already pretty strapped financially with five kids and a single income. How would we be able to provide all of the necessary materials to teach them properly? I’ve always dreamed that the $4,500 that is allocated for each of my children to attend public school could be rerouted to me, and then OH MAN could I ever do things right…but in reality, the best things in life are free, and with the Internet, library, and my imagination, I could probably conjure up just about everything I need.
8. When I was homeschooled, I missed the social interaction and wanted to go back to public school. When I was a child, I was homeschooled starting in the middle of 2nd grade. I was bored at school and loved the idea of staying home every day. But then, starting in 6th grade, I started to get bored at home and longed for something more. My mom finally let me go back when I was in 8th grade, but let me tell you, 8th grade is no walk in the park. I felt like I was thrown to the wolves and experienced a lot of bullying, peer pressure, and very little academic growth. Would I have done better if I had been in the system all along or would it have been better for me to never go back? That is the question that I always have when I reflect on my childhood, and it makes me think that it has to be all or nothing.
9. What if they complain? What if I work really hard to get materials, books, and supplies, set up a routine, and get everything all into place only to have them whine and complain about it? I imagine that I would just keep going back to the drawing board until I got it right, but it could be frustrating.
10. What if they spend too much time in front of a screen? I would have a pretty set routine that wouldn’t allow for too much screen time (like we do over the summer), but what if I’m up late in the night with little ones, or feeling sick, or have too many things piling up?
11. The kids don’t want to be homeschooled. Elliot is my sweet loving guy who cries sometimes when he has to go to school because he’ll miss me, but when I talk to him about homeschool, he says that he would rather go to public school. He LOVES being around all of the kids and so does Ruby. They love belonging to a community and being a part of something structured.
I keep coming back to the idea of homeschooling because it seems like something I should want to do. But every year when I reflect on the idea, the cons seem to outweigh the pros. It’s probably because I always have a baby in my lap and so many little ones in diapers, and it makes me think that as they grow older and more independent, it could be the other way around.
We have actually decided to allow our children to go back to our local school (where they can ride the bus and thus save a 20 minute drive each way for drop off and pick up). We decided to switch schools originally (mid-year when Ruby was in kindergarten) because of test scores, resources, and community, but now that we’ve experienced both, we can see that there’s really not much of a difference.
In the end, I feel like I homeschool all of the time whether or not I actually do. Our home is full of learning stations and bright minds that inquire, create, discover, and explore over the summer, on weekends, after school, and on breaks from school. In this house, learning is something that we do all of the time and school can provide a break that will at the very least engage them in social norms and allow me the time to engage someone that I have to keep content more than anyone else…myself.