The Burden of Homeschool Parents

I’m not a parent, but as an early-graduate home-school alumnus, and one who did a lot of teaching to my younger siblings, I think that I can be afforded some room for an opinion. I was thinking the other day about graduating and how it felt then versus how it feels now.

Honestly, I was not ready to graduate when I did. But I thought I was, at the time, when I was 15. I believed my mom when she said she’d taught me everything I needed to know school-wise and was prepared for the world beyond high school. In my (and my mom’s) defense, I did end up graduating with 30-some high school credits, but we opted out of higher math (and by extension, higher science like Chemistry 2, which was replaced with basic nutrition and physical education dvd courses) – my fault, because I couldn’t find anyone to teach me algebra in a way I understood. My parents didn’t have the time (too many other people to school), and my grandfather, who has a math degree, was just way above my comprehension level on the subject.

This lead to years later (i.e. now) my feeling inadequate when it comes to math, higher education, and simple SAT tests. Last year, I took the SAT’s, and naturally (for me) did well on verbal/writing/reading sections, and scored just above the minimum in math. There were things on the test I’d never even seen in high school – because I never got that far, and went for consumer math instead (give me fractions any day).

When I was in high-school I was relieved to have a basic life-math that I understood taking place of algebra, which was a constant thorn in my side and the cause of many tears and frustration.  But…..that wasn’t what was best for me. I didn’t know that. My frustrated mother didn’t have time, and was just as happy as I was to find a substitute that I could do by myself like the rest of my subjects.

Aside from that I feel like I got a pretty decent (tailored) education. I think something that many home-school parents don’t consider is that their children trust them implicitly, beyond their public/private/charter schooled counterparts. Not only do we trust them to take care of us, love us, and provide for us, but we trust them to know what’s best for us and what we need academically. We trust them to give us a *better* education than the system, because, at least, that’s the message preached in the homeschool community.

However, “the education system” that home-schoolers avoid have more teachers, assigned to specific subjects that they know about/have degrees in. The students there have the responsibility to learn – much like home-schooled students. The difference is, the parents have the job of all the different teachers, yet often without the education. In the name of “tailored” education often leave parts of education that seem “unnecessary” out of their child’s curriculum, even skipping basic things (like algebra). Home-schooled kids learn what their parents teach them, and other subjects that are left out, they’re none the wiser about. Until they get older.

It’s a sad feeling when you realize the people you thought were giving you “the best education” ended up leaving you feeling inadequate and behind because they failed to teach you something necessary – whether that be math, spelling, language, or even basic sex education (evil of evils) because you didn’t seem to “get it” and they were trying to prepare you for <insert choice path here>.

I’m not against tailored education at all, however, I don’t think that other, necessary, subjects can/should be eliminated in the name of “you’re going to be a wife/mother you don’t need algebra” or “you don’t need to learn a language you’re going into trade” essentially, in the name of “I don’t think it’s necessary”. School standards are there for a reason whether we agree with them or not. The beauty of home-schooling is not in all that you can leave out, but all that you can let in, and the flexibility of tutoring to specific learning styles.   The appeal of homeschooling is not “graduate your kid at 16 regardless so s/he can help with the rest of your clan” but that it’s not a one-size-fits-all standard that we hear so much about in schools.

I feel like parents get caught up in the idea that they can choose what their kids know that they miss the heavy burden that lays on their shoulders – the burden to do as good, or better, than the dozens of teachers in school every day. These parents, or in most cases, one parent, has a huge responsibility to their child’s education when they decide to take it on themselves. Especially if they live in a place without, or opt out of home-school groups or co-ops that provide opportunities for kids to learn things their parents may be lacking in from another parent who’s strong in the subject. Admittedly, home-school curriculums have been getting better with DVD/computer courses and labs for various subjects (how I got through biology without a lab, and prepped for the SAT) and those are helpful, but don’t take the place of learning from other real-life people.

I guess, if I were to mention one thing that might help….I’d say try to prepare your child to get into an ivy league, like Harvard, MIT, or some such, regardless of if they’ll go or not, but meet those educational standards. Then add whatever your child is interested in to their education – be it the arts, electronics and engineering, computer programming, or what have you. Allow them opportunities to learn about what they’re interested in without neglecting staples like spelling, language arts, higher maths and sciences, history, and even foreign language.  Also, teach your child to their learning style – I learned best with a group, and my best high-school experiences were in our co-op with other parent teacher’s who’d grade my work and were strong in their subjects. Some of my siblings prefer one-on-one mom time and learn better that way.

The other thing I want to say, is don’t be ashamed to find a class or teacher, or even send your child to a school if you aren’t equipped to teach how or what they need to be taught. I know most home-school parents and philosopher’s disagree, because the school system is the “big bad”, but honestly, you’re a parent and you need to do what’s right by your kid, even if that means you can’t teach them at home.

There’s no shame in that – I dare say that’s better parenting than people who home-school regardless of the fact that they aren’t able to meet their kid’s educational needs simply because they’re so scared of “the system”.


3 responses to “The Burden of Homeschool Parents”

  1. Amy Avatar

    Hi Kieryn, I’m a longtime reader and was formerly homeschooled as well. You might be interested in the book Unequal Childhoods, which documents a sociological study about parents of different races and economic groups. One thing that the researcher talks about is that wealthier parents (who almost always have college degrees) see teachers and school administrators as peers, and they parent their kids to see them as future peers as well. So they are able to deftly navigate the education system and push for additional tutoring, classroom requirements, supplemental learning, etc. Their children observe this and learn to advocate for themselves, too. Meanwhile poorer and/or less-educated parents view teachers and school admin as positions of authority, and so they are less able to effectively advocate for their kids. As parents, they emphasize things like obedience and respect for authority, so their kids carry on that attitude themselves. I don’t know your parents’ backgrounds but I wonder if some of that socioeconomic standing comes into play with how they were “afraid” or maybe intimidated by the school system.

  2. Elizabeth Avatar

    Well said! This is SO important. Doing what is best for THAT CHILD is the key here.

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