As soon as you mention the idea of homeschooling, people get uncomfortable.
Some shut down, go silent, and give you a stare that quietly says, “I’ll keep listening, but you’re now officially crazy in my book.”
Others quickly object. They might say, “That’ll cause all kinds of social problems for your kid!” or maybe “That’ll be too much work!” or some other wonderful expression of disapproval.
Personally, I don’t have the same feelings. Although it’s still not really mainstream, a lot of folks are starting to realize that homeschooling does have its place.
We’re not homeschooling our daughter… yet.
However, if I was FIRE (financially independent / retire early) when my daughter was younger, I would have loved to go down the homeschooling route from the start.
Call me crazy, but I think there are a lot of benefits to homeschooling that you can’t get from a regular school.
The benefits of homeschooling
I’m definitely not an expert in homeschooling and won’t pretend to be. Although the idea has always intrigued me, we’ve never had the availability to try it.
However, from folks I’ve talked to and the reading I’ve done on the subject, it seems there are some definite benefits to homeschooling over traditional schooling.
Here are a few that I understand:
This is kind of a gimme. Obviously, if you’re bound to a physical building, you’re bound to the rules and proximity of that building.
But if you’re homeschooling, you have a lot more flexibility. First of all, you can teach your kids from wherever you decide to live or even on a vacation.
Maybe you decide to travel across the country (or world). Not being tied down to a physical building provides an opportunity to provide an education in one area one month and another the next.
You can also run your “school” hours on whatever days and times make the most sense for you.
Monday through Friday early morning until late afternoon doesn’t have to be a set schedule. Imagine being able to do fun things with your kids during the week when everyone’s at school or work. Then you could focus some of your time on the curriculum during weekends when the crowds are all out and about.
Moreover, this doesn’t have to be your schedule every week – just when it makes sense for you.
Just the right speed
Speaking of time, homeschooling can actually take a lot less time than traditional schooling.
Why? Because you’re teaching just your kid. That means you can teach at a speed that works for him or her. You can breeze through the subjects that your child is good at and spend more time working on the areas where more help is needed.
In other words, you gain efficiency by your child learning at a speed that’s optimal for him or her.
That could mean less time necessary on the required curriculum. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop teaching there – it just means you’re done with the official stuff they need to learn.
Have you ever had your kid come home not understanding something they were taught in school? That sucks as you try to familiarize yourself with what was taught and figure out what’s going on… and that’s assuming they tell you they didn’t understand something in the first place.
But that’s the nature of a school – teachers always have several students to teach. It’s true that some schools have a smaller ratio of kids to teachers than others do, but it’s always going to be a one-to-many relationship.
That works most of the time, but it’s not as streamlined as it could be in a one-on-one relationship.
When you’re teaching your own kid, you have the ability to stop and focus on problem areas that your child needs more help with. That means their education has the potential to be more effective than it could be otherwise.
Field trips and culture
Sure, most schools have field trips but imagine how much more you could do with homeschooling. You could take your kids on even more trips to different places and have the chance to teach them on a more informal basis.
If you’re in a different region of the world, you also have an opportunity to actually get out more during the day and immerse your kids in the local culture. This can be a tremendous opportunity that most kids will never have a chance to experience!
I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one – these school shootings are getting to be too common of an occurrence. It’s crushing and it really seems that nothing is being done to even try to remedy the problem.
I know the odds of something like this happening in my daughter’s school are small, but I struggle with it regardless. And unfortunately, there’s really nothing you can do to protect them. I get that you can’t shelter ’em forever, but that doesn’t mean it can’t scare the #$%^ out of me either.
Homeschooling cons and fallacies
As soon as folks hear the word “homeschooling”, the first thought they tend to have is that the kid’s going to have social problems. They figure that if the kid isn’t in a traditional school, they’ll never get to hang out with other kids.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, we all just hung out with everyone on the street. It didn’t matter what school the kids went to or even what grade they were in – we all just played and had fun.
I’m already seeing the same thing with our daughter. She hangs out with kids on our street that don’t go to her school or that she doesn’t regularly see at school. In other words, school isn’t the only place to talk and play with other kids.
Additionally, when we were in Nueva Gorgona for vacation in Panama, my daughter made friends with a bunch of other kids. Here’s a picture of her hanging out with a girl who didn’t even speak a lick of English!
In other words, I don’t think school isn’t the only place to meet and hang out with friends. Nevertheless, I think that it depends on the child. If a child is pretty extroverted, I’m guessing they’d have an easier time adjusting socially than an introverted kid might.
They’ll turn out to be just a little off…
For some reason, the general consensus seems to be that if you homeschool your kids they’re going to be slightly off-kilter – just a little weird.
However, if you dig a little deeper and start talking to people more about the subject, you’ll likely hear something like, “… well, I do have a friend who homeschooled their kids and they seemed to turn out fine. They’re very smart, polite, and outgoing.”
Personally, I think what it comes down to is that those oddball kids that have been homeschooled are just the result of them being children of oddball parents. Most parents are reasonably normal (not sure which category we’ll fit into!) and homeschooling their kids seems to work out just fine or even better than fine.
If you think about it, there are plenty of screw-loose kids in the schools as well. Coincidentally, their goofiness tends to stem from how they were raised.
One of the arguments that you hear about homeschooling is that the schools are structured better for education. The schools have been doing this for years and years and have proven methods with a solid track record.
I don’t know if that’s a completely valid argument, but I think that’s a fair point. For a parent who just decides to start homeschooling their kid, it’s probably going to be a big adjustment with a lot of stumbling and figuring things out.
Depending on the parent, this could work out just fine or it could be a struggle for the whole journey. The good news though is that the resources to make this a little less painful are becoming more popular.
It’s become much easier to find a solid curriculum to follow and tools to use. Additionally, there are a lot of useful Facebook groups out there for homeschooling parents to help each other out.
Going the homeschool route is going to be different. This one’s just a fact and anyone would find it hard to argue with that.
If your child wants to participate in sports, they’re probably not going to be able to play on the public school sports teams. But that doesn’t mean they can’t play at all – they can still play in recreational or amateur leagues.
Hanging out with friends won’t be at school, it’ll be at home, playgrounds, or elsewhere. Just think – less possibility for bullying and peer pressure! Nevertheless, it’s also going to involve some more effort from you to help your kids get out there and make more friends.
There’s probably not going to be any homework for your kid – they’re likely just going to do the work during the regular day.
Here’s another big one – homeschooling means a lot of time spent between a parent and kid. You need to have a good relationship and understanding to make this work successfully!
Although I would have preferred to start homeschooling my daughter when she was young, that wasn’t really an option at the time.
Like many families, we needed a dual income to afford all the crap in our lives. I wish we had realized what a waste that was earlier on.
Regardless, we got ourselves on track and we’re set to retire in 2019. We’re also moving to Panama in 2020.
We’re super excited about the new adventure, but with that move comes a number of fun nuances. This is particularly true because we have a daughter in the mix.
Just because we can technically retire, doesn’t mean she’s able to as well. We’re still parents and need to ensure our daughter’s continued education.
So that leaves a couple of choices in Panama – we can send out daughter to an international school down there or we can homeschool her.
Our daughter is actually looking forward to going to school there. This surprised me quite a bit. I’m not sure if that means she’s actually excited about actually going to school or that she’s that scared of me teaching her.
Fortunately, it’s not an “either-or” situation.
In fact, that first year will be a little interesting for us. With the visitation rights to the country, we can only stay for 180 days at a time before we need to leave for at least 30 days to start the timer over again.
To add to the fun, our U.S. driver’s licenses are only good for 90 days at a time.
We’re not planning to apply for our Visas for probably a year. The reason is that it’s an expensive process to do so – it will run thousands for an attorney to ensure everything is done correctly.
I have no problem with the cost as we’re planning for it. However, I want to make sure we’re happy there before we make the decision to drop the money to become permanent residents.
That said, going to school is not going to make a lot of sense for our daughter for that first year if we have to pull her out for a month at a time here and there.
Because of that, we’re planning to homeschool her for at least our first year there.
As I said, this isn’t something we’ve ever done before, but I am looking forward to it.
Overall, I don’t think homeschooling is the answer for everyone. However, I do think it has its merits and definitely isn’t as shunned as it used to be. I’m excited to be able to try it for at least a year in Panama and think it will work well for our daughter.
What are your thoughts on homeschooling? Bat-#$%^ crazy or a viable alternative for educating children?
Thanks for reading!!