Last time, we talked about the advantages of homeschooling. The positives far outweigh the negatives, but it doesn’t hurt to be realistic. The disadvantages are not insurmountable, but we do need to be aware that they exist.
1.) The discipline it requires for both parent and child — I was amused when one of my older daughter’s teenaged friends said she was trying to convince her mom to homeschool her, because she, too, wanted to sleep in until 10:00 in the morning and sit around in her pajamas all day. Um, we didn’t do that. We set the alarm, just like other folks, got ourselves together, spent time in prayer, and settled down to the books by 9:00 a.m. (well, most mornings).
Even if you and the kids do wear your pajamas all day, you should have some sort of schedule and try to stick to it. There will be days when the schedule goes down the tubes, but having one and managing to stay with it most days is important — because for most of us, school will never happen all by itself.
2.) The time it takes to prepare lessons — Unless your plan is to sit your child down in front of a computer all day and never take a peek at what he is being taught or whether goals are being reached, you will have to check out the teaching materials ahead of time and figure out where things are going — and if you even like where they’re going! If you don’t, the inevitable moment will come when Johnny suddenly hollers, “Mom, I don’t get this! Help meeeeee!” … and you won’t have a clue how to do it.
You will probably need more lesson planning/preparation time in the early grades, but the need never quite goes away, even in the high school years. How much time you spend on it will depend on what curriculum provider you go with and whether you use books, videos, or a combination of the two.
3.) Lack of some resources which are available in traditional school — Oh, how we struggled with trying to examine amoebas under our hobby store microscope! Be thankful if you can teach biology and chemistry via video. But still, it’s not quite the same as the hands-on science labs. If you want the real experience, it can be done at a lot of expense through science companies or hobby stores which cater to homeschool families. Or, you can send your child for a class or two to the local public school, if it doesn’t bother you to do that. (It would have bothered me plenty.)
We didn’t dissect stuff. I promised the girls, “We will never poke around on the insides of anything other than a mushroom or a bean seed, and you will not have smelly hands from touching critters preserved in formaldehyde.” We did all right, since neither of the girls opted for science-related careers.
If your child wants to play a musical instrument other than guitar or piano, that will be hard to accomplish in a homeschool setting — unless he can join a junior community orchestra or take part in a traditional school’s music program. It can be done if you want to. It just takes more effort.
As far as sports, you’re probably going to have to step outside your family circle to fully experience them. I remember my attempt to teach one of my daughters the art of playing basketball at the local park. I am not very coordinated. It wasn’t going well. Unfortunately, there was a guy there also shooting hoops. He stared at my pathetic attempts for quite a while. Then, deciding he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, he volunteered, “Here, lady, let me show your kid how!” It was my lesson in humility for the day. There is always the city recreation department or the YMCA, if it’s important to you to have your children involved in team sports.
4.) Loneliness — Some homeschooling experts will tell you it’s better for your children to do almost all their interacting with adults. They say that having your young ones playing with children from outside your home just introduces them to negative peer habits, and that they don’t really need other children anyway.
Yes, keeping your child away from peers as much as possible will cut down on bad habits learned and the pain that comes from awful things other kids say and do sometimes. We did that, to a point. But children quite naturally enjoy playing and talking with people their own age. That’s normal. It also seems to be a need in their lives.
If you have a good-sized family, loneliness for others their own age may not be a big problem for your children. (But they will still probably want friends outside of their brothers and sisters.) Smaller families have to work at it a little harder. Perhaps your church or a local homeschool support group will be a solution for you. Yes, be careful about who your kids spend time with, and keep your ears and eyes open to what they are doing, but don’t let them get too isolated.
All of the disadvantages mentioned do have solutions. But you have to make an effort to achieve them, rather than expecting them to magically happen. Don’t let the drawbacks discourage you; just be aware of them. And remind yourself often that the positives of homeschooling far outweigh the negatives.