Saturday, February 12, 2011

Not Everyone Can Home School Successfully

There, I said it.

I should have been saying that all along. Instead, as a home school advocate who loves the opportunities for sharing life and learning with my own children, I have often declared that anyone with good reading comprehension can home school.

I was wrong.

I submit my list of reasons people should NOT home school:

If the teacher is depressed, he/she should NOT home school.

If you wind up depressed, send the kids to public or private school, take some time for yourself, and everyone will be happier. See a doctor, try medication, and find some counseling. If you are a 'fully committed, convicted Christian family', then by all means seek out some secular counseling. Get some balance in your life.

If you are truly sealed by the promised Holy Spirit, you have nothing to fear from seeking secular counsel. IF a counselor gives you advice you feel contradicts the Bible, reject that advice. Counselors do not have mind control powers; they can't brainwash you or anything.

On the other hand, if you are reading your Bible and studying God's Word everyday, or were before you got depressed, and you wound up unhappy and fatigued, then obviously you need more than Bible doctrine to recover your joy in living.

If you are sick with a fever, and prayer doesn't heal you, I hope you are smart enough to see a doctor. If the doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection, I hope you are smart enough to take antibiotics. Your brain is an organ of your physical body, and if it is stressed you will be depressed- physical fact. Get help for your physical body. It is not a sin to admit you are a biological creature, it's a fact. It is not a sin to take medications when something is amiss with your body, it is wisdom. Anti-depressants work most of the time.

Don't try to home school if you are weaning off of anti-depressants, and NEVER go off of them cold turkey.

If you think it's time to wean off, do it during the summer or put the kids in school for the semester. Walk in wisdom.

If the teacher is not enthusiastically excited personally about teaching, he/she should NOT home school.

Home schooling is a serious full-time undertaking. You wouldn't go to a job you hated for no pay every day. Don't home school for no pay everyday just because someone else convinced you that you "should". A reluctant, resentful teacher could put a child off of learning permanently. And don't kid yourself that you could hide your unhappiness about it forever, either. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Your students/children will know you don't like teaching/learning, and it will crush their own love for learning. Don't do it.

One should never home school because of someone else's convictions.

This is the flip side of the above adage, but well worth repeating. Too many moms have met someone like me, who loves home schooling and gushes enthusiastically about how great it is, and have tried home schooling only to wind up hating it. If you meet someone who is loving home schooling, and you "catch the bug" from them, don't immediately pull your children out of school.

Take the energy from that enthusiasm and channel it into research. Look at curriculum, read books all across the home schooling spectrum: from unschooling to classical education, eclectic to strictly religious. Go to conventions with your bulls*** detector set on sensitive. Look at home school teens and try talking to them. Seek out home school graduates and talk to them. Keep your eyes wide open.

Romans 14 says that every person should make up his/her own mind about disputable matters, like method of education and family style, and that we should each be fully convinced in OUR OWN minds. Make up your own mind, don't let someone else's enthusiasm or dogmatic demands make up your mind for you.

If you can't afford to purchase quality materials and helps, the little extras, or spend the gas money to get out of the house and into the real world on a regular basis, don't home school.

Experiential real world exposure is one of the great advantages of home schooling. You are free to get out and go places while other students are locked in a classroom all day. But if you can't take advantage of that freedom, then let your kids go places on the school system's dime. A few rushed, large-group field trips are not really adequate for a great education, but they are much preferable to none.

I used to say that you didn't need a lot of money to home school, but that is only partly true. You do need some money to home school adequately, and a nice surplus to home school well. I know I will really anger some people of limited means who are telling themselves that isolating their children in their country homes IS real world experiential learning, as opposed to isolating children in classrooms at the public school.

To those people, I say: Stop kidding yourselves. Most of the school year in one particular building is stifling and repetitive. It is just as stifling and repetitive if it is the family home rather than a school classroom. At least in school a student has a greater stimulation from other students interests and talents.

If you can't read fluently, use and understand good grammar for the official language of the country you reside in, and if you are not comfortably competent at math through the level you intend to home school, don't home school.

This seems self-explanatory enough. You can hire tutors in real life or on-line for higher math, but you must be able to give your students a sound mathematical foundation to build on for that to work. Ditto with reading and writing (for Americans) proper English. You can't teach what you don't know. If a child can read fluently, with good comprehension, they can learn almost anything they want to learn for the rest of their lives. The same goes with basic math. If a child can understand numbers and how they relate to real life and why we use basic math symbols to calculate and can do that well, they have a great foundation to learn higher math if they want/need to do so later.

But, if they can't read fluently, forget learning content while they are still decoding phonics. And if they don't understand that multiplication is merely a shortcut for adding the same number to itself a certain number of times, forget algebra, much less calculus. Do not discount the importance of these skills.

Finally, though there are probably other really good reasons NOT to home school, I must say this to all home school enthusiasts:

If your belief system is more important than your children's mental, physical, spiritual and social health, you should not home school.

If unschooling, Charlotte Mason, raising your children Ezzo's way or Waldorf's way, or any other philosophy of education or child rearing is your true cause, you should reconsider home schooling.

I have met unschooled children who were content and learning happily, and I have met unschooled children who were very unhappy and resentful that everyone else their age could read and they couldn't. Many students thrive with a Charlotte Mason education, but if you have a child who hates to draw and itches like crazy when they are out in nature, those nature sketches will be a nightmare. Always put your students needs above your educational/pedagogical theories. If you can't do that, don't home school.

Okay, well that's probably enough feathers ruffled for quite some time. I won't be checking comments right away, as I have a boat-load of studying to do. If I don't respond right away it doesn't mean I won't dialogue with you eventually, so be patient.

Peace and good will, SS


  1. Delurking to say YES!!! Please, keep telling people this. Sadly your post applies to my family, my mother is deeply depressed, she is sick and tired of homeschooling but won't give it up because as you say her beliefs are the most important thing. She won't seek medical help because she believes depression is a spiritual problem but won't admit that's what she has, because that would be admitting she has a sin problem! I feel so bad for my youngest sister, she is bearing the brunt of this as the rest of us fled home as soon as possible. I can only pray for God's grace for my family. Sorry for delurking on such a downer note, this whole situation breaks my heart. I wish there was some way to help my mother but if she won't admit there is a problem (and from what I've read the longer one goes with untreated depression the harder it is to think logically)there is so little I can do.

    1. I'm sorry, but I couldn't allow your statements to go unchallenged. Many homeschooling parents suffer from depression because of the isolation that is involved. This doesn't necessarily mean that your mother has a clinical depression problem. Most women are not willing to stay at home with their children, let alone educate them, because, truth be told, they just aren't willing to make sacrifices for them. They want their careers and the extras that come with an additional paycheck. I've been homeschooling for over 20 years now. Home schooling becomes depressing for mothers (or fathers) when the children make it difficult for them. If children would do the work that is expected of them, this would make it much easier for everyone. Instead of criticizing your poor mother who sacrificed everything in order to preserve you, you might want to examine yourself to see what you might have done to make home schooling such a depressing situation for her. I'm sorry to be so critical, but there it is. My suggestion to you is to have children, put them in the public school, and then you'll find out the hard way why your mother sacrificed everything in order to educate you at home. Some people have to learn the hard way, I guess. You have the audacity to speak of "fleeing" from home. If you and your other siblings cannot be grateful to your mother for what she has done, then it is your blessed mother who has been liberated, not you.

    2. I'm sorry, but I can't allow YOUR statements to go unchallenged.


      You are overlooking a critical piece of the puzzle here in your shaming soliloquy: mom isn't the only one sacrificing here.

      These children are actually sacrificing their childhoods to ease mommy's fears and stroke mommy's ego! And they don't have a choice in the matter!

      You are not "liberating" your children, you are dominating them. You are not helping them to navigate society one day as successful adults, you are screwing them out of happiness and an education.

      As a home school mom, I am appalled at your comment! Get professional help, and get outside of your home school cloister, and regain your grip on reality. Clearly you are not providing a healthy learning environment for your children nor a happy, joy-filled home.

      If you are a Christian, double shame on you. You claim here that your children's cooperation with your demands is the foundation of joy in your life? So that whole fruit of the Spirit, abide in Me and you shall bear much fruit stuff in the Bible is a lie?

      No, it's not. You are abiding in your own works and religiosity, not in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repent, or lose your family, because all that shaming and blaming of a depressed home school mom has only one outcome- the complete loss of all you hoped to build. You must wake up now!

  2. Lewis and Sandra, thanks for the kudos!

    Delurking Anon,

    I think it would be really helpful to share this post with your sister, if at all possible.

    As a child who grew up under the duress of living with a parent who had an unacknowledged mental illness, I can tell you that having a witness to your suffering is critical to your ability to heal and grow later, as an adult.

    Seriously, it would makes a world of difference to your sister, even though it will not extricate her from the bad situation she is in right now. Let her know that although you are powerless to help her, you do see what is happening and you think it is WRONG. Tell her that she deserves better and that it sucks eggs that she is stuck at home with a depressed and unhappy person all day long.

    I know that if your mom finds out you sent her this link, it will piss her off. But I hope you will risk it for your sister's sake. Or find some other way to tell her that you recognize her life sucks right now and encourage her to hang on until she's eighteen because it can get better then.

    I feel great compassion for her. The only way my own childhood could have sucked worst is if my mom had been a SAHM instead of a career woman. It is unthinkable to imagine what my life would have been like if she had home schooled. *shudder*

  3. Thank you for this post! I'm being successfully treated for depression/ptsd. We tried to homeschool our son in first grade. It was a disaster. He's in public school this year and doesn't like it. He wants to homeschool so he can stay home with mommy. I know that wouldn't be healthy for him or me. Thank you for your affirmation and encouragement! There are so many people out there willing to condemn instead. You're super cool. :)

  4. Thank you so much for the advice, I have been telling her things along that line and am relieved to hear that it may be helpful to her, words seem so inadaquate. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. I WISH I had read this a few years ago BEFORE I home-schooled my children. It was a year of hell and all brought on by my lack of money for private school and all those fears of my past in putting them in a public school. God has since set me free and my children are happy and thriving in their environments. I could not have stated your points any better. I'm living testimony to them. I keep saying many of these things to my home-schooling friends. Sadly when you are entrenched in legalism and surrounded by only like-minded people, you are not open to truth. THANK YOU!

  6. Been missing your voice in the blog world.
    Hope everything is okay.

  7. Keep spreading the word, everyone! I still stand by every bit of it. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. =)

  8. See, this is a lot of what I was trying to say on my blog last week! I was raised thinking that homeschooling is this perfect panacea, and it's not. It's like a lot of other things - it can be used well, and it can be abused. So yes!

  9. Feel free to link it if you want, Libs.

  10. Thank you for this blog entry! I homeschooled for over 15 years because dh thought it was a Very Good Idea. On top of that, our two kids have had special needs.

    In spite of being in a homeschool co-op and enrolling the kids in activities, homeschooling was an experience of unremitting loneliness. I tried to do my best for the kids and tried to gear myself up, but as you mentioned, a chronically depressed mother is NOT good for the children.

    Our son is in college and working (and much happier) and our daughter is in a special needs program in public high school. AND (!!!) --- our kids have been exposed to many fine Christians in those venues.

    I am working full time, and although I still deal with depression, it's not the debilitating, hopeless and suicidal black hole I was in for many years.

    Please keep on saying what you're saying. Homeschooling can be great, but it should be a choice, and NOT imposed on a mother who, for whatever reason, does not want to homeschool.

    Thank you!!

    1. I have had depression since age 15. My first 8 years of homeschooling went OK in spite of depressed days. I had a great support group and we did lots of field trips. We moved about 5 years ago and everything has spiraled. I never found a place of connection, just clicky groups. Plus bouncing around from group to group did not help. I am severely depressed and do not enjoy teaching my youngest. We but heads all the time. My 3rd child is now chronically ill and cannot go to school. My oldest is graduating and my 2nd, a sophomore, is very independent. After reading this, I wonder if I should put my youngest in school full time. We did that last year and he loved it. This would give me more time to focus on myself and my sick daughter. I write this from my bed at 10:30 am.

    2. Forgot to say, he is in a co-op school where he attends 2 days per week and the teacher assigns all the homework. It is those three days at home where we struggle. The move destroyed me and my support network and the kids network of friends.

    3. Forgot to mention.He is in a co-op where is in school all day for 2 days a week. It is the three days at home that are a challenge. Would like advise. I'm in counseling and doing neuro feedback.

    4. By all means, allow yourself some time and freedom for YOU. You will be happier, your kids will be happier, everyone will be happier!

      Please do take care of yourself. You are as deserving of kindness and respect as any other person on the planet. When you do good to yourself, you will be at your best for your family.

      I am rooting for you. Please let me know how it works out. <3

  11. As an adult child who was homeschooled by parents who tried, but DID NOT have this article to read when they started homeschooling my brother and I- I can only say, " Where were you when we needed you?" This is the BEST article I've ever seen on the subject and you've somehow ended up still unbiased in your articulation. After having to undergo years of psychotherapy, anti-depressants, complete lack of desire to be a mother, and watch my brilliant brother have his life ripped away from not having any "street smarts" when it comes to real life....I can only say, for the love of God, listen to this writer!!!!Think about your kids FIRST and not what other people are telling you is a good idea or it might have worked for them. Losing your sense of self and your ability to think logically are the two reasons why I personally believe homeschooling should be outlawed unless you have a sickness or mental illness that keeps you from being able to attend school. This writer is speaking the truth and now from the other side... I can only do what I know to be right by asking everyone out there to print this out and study it as a guide of how to make this decision correctly. Thanks, Writer!

  12. I love you. Thank you so much for putting my frustrations with homeschoolers around me into words. <3

  13. Thanks, Lauren King. The kind words are very much appreciated.

  14. Thank you! I have been homeschooling my Kindergarten daughter for exactly 1 month. We are involved in a bi-weekly co-op, and she takes 4 extracurricular activities each week including gymnastics, soccer, art history, and theater. I take the kids on 2-3 field trips per week. Still, in comparison to my childhood she lacks friendships! She does not have the opportunity to navigate the nuance of choosing a friend, developing the friendship, maintaining it, or disengaging from the friendship if it is unhealthy or unwanted by either party. The reason is because she does not see the *same* kids on a regular basis. All the meetups have TONS of kids and she loves to play with them-- but guess what-- they all live in opposite directions of our house. It would take a LOT of driving to maintain those friendships. I was so excited and sold on homeschooling, but a few days ago I decided against it. I found a wonderful private school and we are going to downsize (move) in order to free up cash flow in order to prioritize her education. She also has a younger brother (3) who gets very little time with me because my daughter gets all the attention & money for outside activities. Meanwhile, I am also feeling lonely and isolated which is not good for my mental health at all. So yeah, we are changing directions and I feel great about our decision to send our kids to private school.

    1. This article is simply great
      i was searching for something like this.. i want to homeschool my children but deep down i know, it isn't our way, i have general anxiety disorder + am clinically depressed
      my therapist had really wide eyes when i tried discussing with her about homeschooling.. so i'm not happy with my children going to a pvt. school but i'm quite okay with it... and i know they are happy as well