Homeschooling... a Great Start to Awkward ConversationAs 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

Homeschooling... a Great Start to Awkward Conversation - The benefits of homeschoolingI’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:

Flexibility

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.

 

One-on-one

Homeschooling... a Great Start to Awkward Conversation -The benefits of homeschoolingHave 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!

 

Safety

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

Social problems

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!

Homeschooling... a Great Start to Awkward Conversation - Social problems
I loved that our daughter became friends with a girl who doesn’t speak any 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.”

Funny, right?

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.

 

Structure

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.

 

It’s different

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!

 

Our situation

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.

Homeschooling... a Great Start to Awkward Conversation - Our situation
Look how beautiful this is in Boquete – schooling isn’t stopping us from moving here!

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!!

— Jim

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Homeschooling… a Great Start to Awkward Conversation

21 thoughts on “Homeschooling… a Great Start to Awkward Conversation

  • May 29, 2018 at 7:51 am
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    This is a great post. We don’t homeschool but after meeting a lot of folks who do, I think homeschooling is surrounded more about fallacies you debunk much like online dating was maybe 15 years ago. 15 years ago, if you were dating “online” (ie. meeting people online) then you were considered weird. Today, it’s common and not even worth mentioning.

    Sometimes homeschooling is the best option for a family, so you have to go with what is best even if it’s still mired in these fallacies.

    Reply
    • May 29, 2018 at 3:56 pm
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      Thanks, Jim – I’m actually looking forward to the whole experience. It’s possible we’ll hate or our daughter will, but this will be a great opportunity to find out what it’s really all about.

      Great comparison to the online dating scene… now if I could just convince Mrs. R2R that it’s Ok for me to go on these sites! 😉

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 29, 2018 at 10:49 am
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    One question I have always wondered about for home schoolers is how do you handle senior high school courses that may be more advanced than the home school teacher’s own education? In my case my wife is very bright but she never had to take the kind of math I had in my high school senior year or that my kids all took in public school because she did not major in a technical field in college and went to a tiny rural high school that didn’t teach advanced courses. Do you have to understand calculus to teach it?

    Reply
    • May 29, 2018 at 3:57 pm
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      Great question, Steveark! I don’t know the answer, but maybe someone else will chime in. My guess is that you’d be learning right along with your kids in that case.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 29, 2018 at 2:57 pm
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    Jim, I enjoyed your banter on the recent Countdown To FI Podcast about homeschooling. Had to laugh at the “the only weird homeschooled kids are those with weird parents”. Also, the comment about your daughter saying YOU had to teach her since her and Mom would fight. Love it!

    I think homeschooling has become a much more mainstream alternative than in days past, and applaud you in giving it a go for your first year in Panama. We all know she’s going to crush it. After all, she’s already a better writer than her Dad! Good luck, this’ll be fun to watch!

    Reply
    • May 29, 2018 at 4:00 pm
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      Haha, it would be a Wrestlemania event if Mrs. R2R were to teach our daughter. They get along great most of the time, but that would be a perfect storm of impatience on both sides that would probably not end that well. 😉

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 29, 2018 at 5:58 pm
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    I butt heads with my son too much to homeschool. That being said today’s day and age I see the value as other venues exist for socialization. 30 years ago I think we all remember he awkward homeschooler that showed up at you name an event and didn’t fare well. These days there are so many opportunities to socialize it’s less of an issue.

    Reply
    • May 29, 2018 at 9:26 pm
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      Your comment made me think of how much technology has changed the socialization aspect. Most kids sit there and talk to each other over their phones nowadays – even when they’re sitting right next to each other! I would bet that same technology makes it easier for homeschooled kids to socialize with other kids (homeschool or not).

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 30, 2018 at 8:39 am
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    I was homeschooled the whole way growing up. It’s definitely more mainstream now! I agree with the fallacies you debunked. If you want your kid to be social…they can be! I think parents need to be good parents to do well at homeschooling, and mine and most others were. But there are those… 🙂 I actually chose to keep homeschooling to get through HS faster. I didn’t love the drama that went along with HS and a group of us went on Fridays to the home of a lady who had several degrees and was much more qualified to teach chemistry/biology/etc than my mom felt comfortable with. I also took concurrent courses at a local community college which was great, because then my college degree cost less as well! Frugal win! =) It was nice to have such a flexible schedule and go on family trips when it wasn’t tourist season. I could study faster and get through schooling quicker than it would take most public/private school kids. It was very conducive to family. And that’s what I liked most. =)

    Reply
    • May 30, 2018 at 1:40 pm
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      This is actually great info, Mrs. Pocketchange! I like that you touched on going to someone else who was better qualified to teach some of the advanced topics… I wasn’t really sure how that would work so that’s really helpful. It sounds like you had a good experience with homeschooling overall.

      I love hearing firsthand info on this subject! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with everyone!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 30, 2018 at 9:25 am
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    Nice article, Jim! We’ve also considered home schooling – not as an all-the-time thing but as an alternative to give us flexibility in between schooling (either in US or internationally). I love the flexibility and the connection you get with your kid. And I agree that a lot of the success depends on the parents themselves. Our kids went to schools in Ecuador, but we also did a lot of learning at home with them to supplement (yeah KhanAcademy!).

    In particular, I think the socialization argument that comes up most often is ludicrous. What did kids do for the 100,000 to 200,000 years of human history before institutional schooling started 100-120 years ago? Hmmm. And I could easily argue the other side that schooling is BAD for socialization. Kids are learning their social habits, customs, beliefs, etc by absorbing bad habits from socially immature friends. We evolved to learn from adults. Spending a lot of time around adults AND kids is a good thing, and home schooling is a great way to do that.

    We had friends in Cuenca who home schooled and their kids are amazing. They spend 4-5 hours each afternoon on a swim team with other local kids to connect with people their age. And they travel each year as a family to a cabin in Washington for skiiing and other fun trips. Plus, because they’re international they hire expat tutors to supplement the high school level. They’re getting graduate school level people to teach their kids for like $10-12/hour!

    For those who FIRE with kids home schooling is definitely a tool to keep in mind. I look forward to exchanging ideas about it.

    Reply
    • May 30, 2018 at 1:52 pm
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      I’m so glad you commented, Chad! I actually had started a whole paragraph about you on this (free marketing plug!), but then I did more digging and found out you guys did regular school in Ecuador so you got nixed… sorry, brotha! 😛

      This is great to hear about the friends you made in Cuenca – sounds like they’re going to be some well-rounded smart adults!

      Man, I’m looking forward to picking your brain on a bunch of stuff at FinCon… hope you like beer!!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 30, 2018 at 4:23 pm
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    Ha, No worries on the nix. Thanks for thinking of me!

    And I love good conversation and beer, so we’re good to go at FinCon:) I’m actually getting there early for the Success Incubator just to get a couple more days in!

    Reply
  • May 31, 2018 at 10:14 am
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    We’ll try homeschooling for a year before our son is done with grade school. We’ll travel for a year. I think we can do it for a year, but not much longer than that. I need time apart from my kid. Also, I think it’ll be very difficult for me. I need personal time to blog, fix stuff, and run errands. When our son is home, I never get anything done. That might change with more structure.

    Reply
    • May 31, 2018 at 12:16 pm
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      I always love your honesty, Joe. It seems like it would be exactly the same for my wife and daughter – they need time apart as well.

      I have a coworker who had twins a handful of years ago and I remember him stressing a little mid about the madness of those first couple of years. I told him that once they get older though, it’ll be much easier because they can entertain each other, which turned out to be the case.

      You can I don’t have that luxury – when you have only one, you’re their playtime friend full-time for a number of years and that can really suck up all your time! 😉

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 31, 2018 at 12:59 pm
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    I’m not a personal fan of homeschooling because traditional school is very good here and it’s free. And free babysitting for 7+ hours per day! 🙂 Us parents get a nice break in the middle of the day then we see our kids again in the afternoons, all weekend, and all summer.

    The lack of flexibility is certainly a “con” – we’re forced to travel during summers plus a bit at Christmas and spring break. We still sneak in 2-3 months of international travel most years so I think we’re managing okay. 🙂 I think maintaining an actual homeschool curriculum for 3 kids that are years apart would be a chore while on the road.

    Of course I’m fine with anyone teaching and raising their kids however they want. As for outcomes, I’ve seen plenty of kids do well, sometimes very well, with homeschooling. And I’ve seen some where I silently think to myself “yeah, they would be a lot better off in public school”. Though I could be wrong – none have graduated and gone into the workforce that I know about.

    Reply
    • May 31, 2018 at 3:57 pm
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      Haha, I’m going to reference those last two sentences as true statistics when the subject of homeschooling comes up! 😉

      I was for someone with a different viewpoint to chime in so I’m glad it was you! Totally with you on the break during the day – I picture the house suddenly becoming eerily quiet once all the kids head out the door for school! 🙂

      I’m pretty excited to see how goes for us. I could be writing a follow-up post in a few years saying, “Don’t homeschool if you like your life!” if things don’t end well.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • May 31, 2018 at 5:03 pm
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    Hi Jim,
    We home educate our youngest two children – who are 9, because they didn’t seem to get on at school so well. I’ve written a couple of blogposts myself on home education (I’d love your views on my posts if you have time to take a look) and I’ve also been compiling a list of free educational websites and apps that you might find useful http://fiukmoney.co.uk/fire-the-teacher-become-the-teacher-free-educational-websites/. There are some amazing subscription websites, too, with fantastic discounts for home educators, but I’d go with the free ones first and see if they suit your daughter’s learning style. I’ve seen so many posts on home ed social media pages where a parent has gone crazy buying tons of resources, only to find their child learns best in an unstructured style and the resources sit unused. I know I started out pretty formal with the boys before I realised that (as you said) replicating school at home is simply not necessary, as home school is so much more efficient. There’s more time for everything so there’s no stress or pressure to achieve. If the boys are too tired to learn we leave it for another time. These days we’re mostly unstructured, with the boys learning about what they want to know, which makes it more memorable because it comes directly from their interest and not a prescribed curriculum. They might do formal qualifications in future years or they might not. I honestly think that education is changing, certainly in the UK, with the huge explosion in online courses, etc. As adults we rarely look things up in books anymore with the information available on the internet …and children do exactly the same. They’re pretty sharp at spotting fake news and clickbait, too!
    Socialisation is always the question that comes up when I tell people we home educate, but in my experience the local HE community is huge (and growing!) despite us living in a semi-rural area, and the internet helps us make connections and find out about events. In fact, a big problem is trying to find time for all the amazing HE activities that are going on locally!
    I think my best advice to you is to give it a go and see how it works for you… And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll try something else. Like you said it’s probably going to be a big adjustment ‘with a lot of stumbling and figuring things out’ – which is what we do as parents every day, in any case, right?

    I envy your not-so-future freedom and the opportunity to world-school your daughter. I really wish Mr Fu and I had discovered home education and FI years ago!
    Enjoy!
    Mrs Fu

    Reply
    • June 1, 2018 at 2:01 pm
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      Thank you very much for sharing your experience with this, Mrs Fu Mon Chu! Very cool to hear that one of the issues you have is actually trying to find time for all the local activities for the kids. Our situation is more or less pushing us to need to do the homeschooling for at least a year, but I’m excited to see how it goes!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • June 1, 2018 at 12:33 pm
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    While I’ve met many individuals that were homeschooled (and they turned out fine), I don’t think it’s for us.

    After spending all day with the kids I usually need a break. And then add in the stress of trying to educate them? I might lose my mind!

    Maybe that’s just my kids though! 😉

    Reply
    • June 1, 2018 at 2:54 pm
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      Haha, I’ve seen photos on your site – I doubt those cute kiddos could ever cause you to lose your mind!

      — Jim

      Reply

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