Homeschooling is a big responsibility that requires a substantial investment of time and effort. For some, it can provide a positive, child-centered educational experience that meets a child’s needs and furthers their interests. However, homeschooling is not for everyone: in some cases, homeschooling can go badly and be a painful experience, particularly when parents aren’t prepared for the day-to-day realities of homeschooling. As an organization founded and run by homeschool alumni, we’ve seen both experiences first-hand!
Homeschooling is not a magical cure-all or fail-safe way to achieve high performance. The research on homeschooling suggests that it does not, on average, raise students’ test scores—and that it does not work for all families (some studies have found that more than a third of homeschooling parents decide to stop homeschooling after the first year). We recommend homeschooling in cases where children are struggling in conventional schools, or in cases where parents want to provide their children with an alternative education experience and have the time and resources to throw themselves into creating a quality, child-centered learning experience.
How can you know whether homeschooling is right for you and your family? If you are considering homeschooling, there are a number of questions you should ask yourself. On this page, we will guide you through this process in an effort to inform your decision-making.
While children should be always involved in decisions about their education, this is especially true of the decision to homeschool. We do not recommend homeschooling a child who does not want to be homeschooled. Similarly, if a child who is currently being homeschooled would like to attend school, we recommend allowing them to do so. Individuals who were homeschooled as children and feel negatively about their experiences often talk about the things they missed out on that other children had access to, such as prom, or having different teachers for each subject. Homeschooling can be a fulfilling and positive educational option, but it also means giving up a lot of the “normal” childhood experience. This should not be forced on a child. Homeschooling works best when children are invested in it.
It is important to remember that your child is a separate person from you. Try not to push your ideas about education on your child if they are not interested. Are you interested in homeschooling because of your child, or because of your ideas about who you are, or want to be, as a person? Homeschooling should not be about ideology ,or about creating a perfect ideal that may or may not work for your child. Homeschooling should be about your child. And that means that their perspective matters—including their perspective on whether they want to be homeschooled.
If you are considering homeschooling because you feel your children’s public school is not serving their interests, make sure you consider all of your options before making your decision, including charter schools and private schools, or transferring your child to another public school in your area. There are also a variety of public-private partnerships such as virtual charter schools, hybrid learning options, and online public school programs that may be available (learn more about these here). If your child has never been enrolled in public school, you should seek a tour of your local public school. Learning about all of the options available to your child will not only help you decide whether homeschooling is your best option, it will also help you plan your next steps if you find that homeschooling does not work for you. Remember, homeschooling does not work for everyone! Knowing the options available to your child will help ensure that you have a backup plan.
When we talk to individuals who were homeschooled as children, those who speak positively of their experiences return again and again to their parents’ love of learning. In contrast, individuals who report negative homeschool experiences as children frequently state that their parent seemed to hate teaching, yelled at them or shamed them when they got problems wrong, or was incurious and gave up on subjects altogether when they did not understand them, crippling their education. If you homeschool, you will become your child’s teacher. This is true even if you enroll your child in an online program. You should only homeschool if you love learning, enjoy teaching your child, and are willing to put time and effort into the professional development necessary to become an effective teacher for your child.
Children who attend school have a variety of teachers over the years; having one teacher who does not spark their love of learning, or who does not seem to enjoy teaching, will not substantially affect their overall experience. When a child is homeschooled, their parent typically becomes their primary teacher, year in and year out. Parents should homeschool only if they do have a love of learning and an ability to patiently explain subjects and find answers. Parents who homeschool should be willing and able to engage in the professional development necessary to become an effective teacher for their child.
Children who are homeschooled should not be left at home alone and expected to complete their work without the help and support of a parent or caregiver. Older children should not be expected to supervise younger children’s education. We do not recommend homeschooling if there is not a parent at home full-time to supervise or work with the child. Even if you choose an online school program, a caregiver will need to be on hand to ensure that work is completed. While some parents find a way to work while homeschooling by staggering shifts or by working in off hours, it is important to remember that homeschooling is about more than just completing the bare minimum. There are no shortcuts in education. Successful homeschooling typically involves visits to the zoo and museums, creative projects completed as a family, and extracurriculars or time spent reading together as a family.
In most states, there are few legal safeguards in place to ensure that children who are homeschooled are making academic progress. This means that, as a homeschooling parent, you will be largely on your own, without someone to let you know if there is a problem, if your children have disabilities, or if a given educational approach is not working for them. Unless you enroll your child in a virtual public school, cyber charter, or homeschool umbrella program, you will also need to create a transcript and diploma for your child. Make sure you are comfortable bearing this responsibility yourself. Individuals who have negative homeschool experiences frequently point to lack of parental organization as a factor.
Children who are homeschooled are more dependent on their parents for facilitating their social lives than other children. While a child who attends school may see their friends at school, a child who is homeschooled will often only see their friends when their parents arrange a playdate or other get-together, or enroll them in a homeschool co-op. If you are introverted or gravitate toward social situations you are already familiar with, you should consider whether you are willing to go out of your comfort zone to ensure that your child is able to maintain or develop friendships with children whose families you may not know personally. Children who attend school can meet and make friends with children without their parent having to do anything at all; if you choose to homeschool, you will need to be more proactive and intentional in supporting your child’s social life.
Before you make your decision, take some time to learn about what is involved in homeschooling. For instance, some parents are surprised to learn that their state does supervise homeschooling or provide parents with verification that their children are on track; other parents are surprised to learn that the state does not provide curriculum. (Note that there are an increasing number of online public school and virtual charter school options for parents who want more guidance or support.) You can start by reading our Guides for Home Educators, which cover everything from curriculum to socialization. You can also read the stories in our Community Voices section to learn more about the factors that can cause homeschooling to fail, or read stories of Successful Homeschooling to learn what makes it go well.
Please note that we do not recommend homeschooling in cases where: