Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is it hard to homeschool?

Because I'm new to homeschooling I don't have much experience fielding questions from non-homeschoolers. Like this one I got the other day from a neighbor's sister. She said: "I heard you are homeschooling. Is it hard?"  My answer, the simple but perhaps not very helpful: "Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's not at all hard. We have really good (easy) days and really bad (hard) days, most are somewhere in between."

Not knowing where she was coming from I took the safe answer. Some people who ask questions are genuinely curious. Some are curious because they've considered it themselves. Some have already pre-judged you but want to see if you fit the mold. Some have given it no thought at all. Questions about homeschooling can be loaded with so much baggage that I usually stick to a quick answer and move on.

As I thought about this later I realized I could have said so much more. I mean, that in this question there are quite a few things the asker could have intended. For example:

Is it hard to get started - what kind of hoops do you have to go through to be allowed to homeschool?  
That depends on your state laws. I didn't find it difficult at all though the Homeschool Legal Defense Association* considers Massachusetts a "red state" meaning difficult or restrictive. A very basic education plan was all I needed. It can be tricky, you have to know your state laws. 
Is it hard to know you are teaching the right things?
Sort of. It's very daunting at first. But first you have to figure out what that means: the "right" things. There are books that can tell you what your child would most likely be learning in school and at what grade. Each state or district has their own set of standards that you can probably find online. But you do have to decide whether you even want to stick to the standards. I chose to homeschool in part because I want a less traditional education for my kids, so I feel it's appropriate to make my own way to a degree. What it comes down to is the realization that everyone has gaps in their learning. I try not to worry overly much about it, it's more important for me to know MY children. What are they capable of and what is developmentally appropriate for them. Take 10 kids from the same class and you'll find that they don't all have exactly the same knowledge. There will be things my second grader knows that your second grader doesn't know and vice versa. 
Is it hard to teach your own children?
Yes and no. I've discovered for us it's a different kind of relationship. At first EJ seemed unable to see me as a teacher—he questioned everything I told him and it made it very difficult to get anything done. After the first few weeks I think I was able to develop a sort of trust with him and now mostly it's good. I think that doing an hour of homework after school was more of a battle, harder, and more frustrating than doing 4-5 hours of school each day! Seriously! We have a routine now, but for us it's very important to stay flexible and be attuned to the boys when the day isn't going so well.
Is it hard having your school age kids home all day?
Some days it's impossible!  Today is hard. It's raining. I have a few things to get done this afternoon, but the boys are having trouble, we're all a tiny bit ill, and they are fighting a lot. Some days I just want to want to scream "why can't you just give me a break and get along!"  Other days its fun! Easy, breezy, beautiful! For me, it would be much harder to go to work all day and then come home and try to be there for my kids. No matter how you slice it, raising kids, while rewarding, is hard.
Is it hard to find playmates for your kids?
I'm convinced it's not possible to have a conversation about homeschooling without someone stating matter of fact that homeschooled kids are more isolated. Fortunately there is little evidence that this is true. Yes, it can be more work, but kids don't have to be isolated and most aren't. We are extremely fortunate that the house we rent is in an amazing neighborhood. The boys have an opportunity to play with other kids, outside, usually for two hours or more a day! That's WAY more social time than EJ (7) had when he was in school, and for JD (4.5) it opened up a whole new world. If we didn't have that, it would be harder, but there are homeschool groups (like playgroups), there are classes for homeschoolers, and of course they can take many of the same after school and summer classes that other kids take. This is a frustrating stereotype. Because for me, to believe that homeschooled kids are isolated requires an unspoken belief that homeschool parents don't value friendships and social interactions for their children. It's as if we do all this work to educate our children all the while not lifting a finger to foster their emotional wellbeing. 

I imagine there are more "is it hard..." questions embedded into that single question than I could ever think up on the fly. The truth is in my original answer. Yes and no. But I feel that I can't really adequately answer the question. Is it hard? Of course it is. But it's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Not easy, but not too hard.

*HSLDA is not an organization I am a member of, nor do I recommend. 


Danielle said...

Thanks for this post! This is my first year homeschooling my sons (6 and 7) and I share many of the same thoughts you have in your post.

Al's Girl said...

Wishing you much success in your homeschooling endeavor! <3

dawn said...

Danielle Thank you for the comment! I hope your homeschooling is going well!

dawn said...

M - It's going well so far :) Thanks for following me.

Dan said...

I was happy to discover your blog today. I was unable to find a contact link. I hope it's OK that I'm contacting you through a public comment. I've developed an educational program for Windows called SpellQuizzer that helps children learn their spelling and vocabulary words without the battle that parents often have getting them to sit down and write them out while the parents dictate to them. The parent enters the child's spelling words into the software making a sound recording of each word. Then the software helps the child practice his or her words. It really helped my children with their weekly spelling lists.

I would appreciate your reviewing SpellQuizzer in Life With Monsters. If you are interested in hosting a giveaway of a SpellQuizzer license I'd be happy to supply a free license to the winner. You can learn more about the program at There's a video demo you can watch at and a community site where SpellQuizzer users can share their spelling lists with one another ( Finally, there's a page targeted to homeschooling families at I'd be happy to send you a complimentary license for the software. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you very much!

Dan Hite
TedCo Software

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Contact me: Woodlandhomeschool at Gmail dot com