The backgrounds of individuals choosing to homeschool are more varied than ever before. The demographic data from homeschooling families over the past decade indicate that a more diverse collection of parents are choosing to homeschool. Variance in income level, family size, employment status (both inside and outside the home), debt, outside commitments, and parental education level are just a few of the many factors that create unique circumstances that must be addressed as families decide to homeschool.
Making the decision to homeschool often impacts multiple areas of a family’s life. Prior to the arrival of our first beloved daughter, both my husband and I worked professional jobs averaging close to 60 – 80 hours per week and had accumulated the associated student loan debt that often accompanies advanced degrees. There are families that are able to homeschool while continuing to work full time, but neither my husband nor I felt that with our current work schedules we would be able to devote the time necessary to teach our children, especially during the youngest years. Raising the issue of homeschooling to my husband and extended family also meant initiating conversations regarding career changes and a significant income decrease.
Communicating to others that you are choosing to homeschool can be daunting. My husband actually surprised me with his positive and supportive response to my desire to stay home and homeschool our children. I came armed to the discussion with statistics about academic performance from homeschoolers versus public schools in the area, data on the cost of local private schools, and a few testimonials from local homeschoolers. I need not have worried as my husband too had concerns regarding how to best academically prepare our children and was very open to my choosing to stay at home and care for them. I am very much aware that not all spouses are in agreement about the decision to homeschool and I am grateful that my husband and I are on the same page.
Despite a great deal of advancement and increased acceptance of homeschoolers in many communities, there are still many individuals who are concerned that the choice to homeschool is odd or inappropriate. Making the decision to share your choice to homeschool with extended family and friends can be intimidating due to fear of judgment or censure. While there is no question that our family cares deeply for our children, there were a fair number of concerns raised regarding our choice to homeschool. Specifically, there were fears that our children might not have the opportunity to learn how to socialize with their peers, be able to handle conflict on their own, successfully take standardized tests, or learn how to learn in a competitive classroom environment. Most of our close friends have been strongly supportive of homeschooling, especially those employed with the public school system; however, they too raised concerns regarding the amount of time and energy needed to provide a quality education for children within the home.
Choosing when to have the conversation about homeschooling is also different for many people. My husband and I discussed the possibility of homeschooling before our eldest was even born. There are several conversations about homeschooling with extended family that will likely wait until our first is of age to start kindergarten. A dear friend of ours didn’t even start discussing homeschooling until one of her children was experiencing difficulty within her current schooling environment.
An unexpected result of having the initial conversations with family and friends regarding homeschooling was that in most of the discussions, more questions were raised than answered. Specifics regarding type of curriculum, timing of the initial phases of formal education, and reporting systems to evaluate progress are still topics we are exploring. Our biggest challenge remains staying objective during these conversations with friends and family so that we may benefit from their input, rather than simply debate the pluses and minuses of homeschooling for the general population. It is my sincerest hope that as we continue to develop our plans and discuss them with those closest to us that we can remain open to their ideas and input, resulting in the implementation of the best possible schooling situation for our children and our family.
What has your experience been with sharing the news that your family is choosing to homeschool?