Top 20 Snappy Comebacks for the Socialization Question

NOTE: Extreme sarcasm is present in these comments that have been gleaned from other homeschoolers, actually used ourselves, and/or are being held in reserve, awaiting the right moment. Our sincere thanks and admiration goes out to those intrepid souls whose remarks we have shamelessly borrowed.

So what do you do for socialization???

20. “Nothing. We just sit on the couch all day, staring at the wall.”

19. “I don’t believe in socialization.”

18. “With our large family, I usually say, ‘If you come down to breakfast in this house, you’re socializing!’”

17. “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it socializing my children!”

16. “Socialization? That is why I homeschool.”

15. “Socialization is the easy part. I just corner the kids in the bathroom every few days and steal their lunch money.”

14. “Oh, right, because (obviously) spending years with no one but her own family really hurt Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

13. “New studies show that, contrary to popular mythology… the average home-schooled child has no problem ‘socializing’ with other children… as long as he remembers to use smaller words and shorter sentences.” (From the Mallard Fillmore comic strip, 6/14/2005)

12. “The last thing I need is what you call socialization.”

11. “What you consider to be socialization is what Karl Marx endorsed as Communism.”

10. “We want our kids civilized, not socialized.”

9. “I’m not relying on the state to socialize my kids.”

8. “I prefer to have my kids learn to deal mostly with adults. The bullying you learn in middle school is only beneficial for bullying other middle schoolers.”

7. “What swear word do you think my kids don’t already know?”

6. “Are you worried about the quality of the education my children will get at home? Perhaps you should be more concerned about the type of education your children are getting in public school.”

5. “Well, I guess I can teach my kids how to swear, and my wife can make them wait in line for the bathroom.”

4. “You don’t go to school—how do you socialize?”

3. “You mean because we live in a cave, never go to a store, a restaurant, or a doctor’s office, never go to church, never visit friends or family, and basically avoid all contact with other human beings? How is it then that I’m talking to you?”

2. “Do you mean good socialization or bad socialization? Because it works both ways.”

1. “Do you mean, ‘Do I think my children are missing out on something by not being in public school?’ Yes, they are definitely missing out on some very important things. They are missing the explicit, X-rated vocabulary from the playground, bathrooms, school bus, and every other unsupervised moment; the sexual harassment in the lunchroom on hotdog day; and the physical, mental, and emotional abuse from the little extortionist in the next desk who used to beat my child for the correct answers whenever the teacher’s back was turned. My children do miss out on those things by not being in public school, and that is exactly why we are homeschooling!”

These responses can all be summed up by a conversation my son had with his driver’s education teacher, a high school track coach who had worked with both public-schooled and homeschooled students. The coach was concerned that homeschooled students were ahead in some areas and behind in others. Curious, my homeschooled son asked in which areas the homeschoolers were behind. “Socialization,” came the confident reply. Pressing still further, my son prompted the coach to explain exactly what the homeschoolers lacked. “My other students have been here for a long time, and they all know each other. When a homeschool student comes in for the first time, they don’t know anyone here.” My son’s emphatic response was, “When have you ever gone somewhere for the very first time and known anyone there? And how is that a lack of socialization?” He’s going to be a great homeschool Dad some day.

For more insight on the issue of Socialization, see these articles:
Socialization and Why You Don’t Need It (a.k.a. The Socialization Myth, Part 1)
The Socialization Myth, Part 2
The Myth of Age-Mates
The Socialization Code
Bullying

Top 10 Questions on Leaving Public School

These questions appear over and over in emails from parents who are considering homeschooling, regardless of the reasons. Here are the most frequent questions and our honest answers, in no specific order.

1.  How soon can I pull my child(ren) out? Now—if that’s what your gut is telling you to do. Tell the office you have a “family emergency” and take your child(ren) home. Then check Home School Legal Defense Association’s website (hslda.org) for your state’s legal requirements and get that in order. If you prefer to wait a few days, weeks, or months before removing your student(s), that’s your decision—but please understand that you can remove them immediately. After all, if you have a reason that prompts you to consider homeschooling as an option, then you do have enough reason to remove them immediately, and they will benefit more from being at home than they would benefit from a few more days to finish out a week, a month, or a semester.

2.  What curricula do I need? Start with nothing.
a) Begin by bonding with your child through shopping, movie-day, hanging out at the library, baking cookies, anything.
b) Explore an interest of your child’s through doing online research together, building a model, whatever. Follow every interesting bunny trail that comes along, because those paths are filled with great learning opportunities! (Someone decides which topics go into every textbook and how much each topic should cover—who says that your child’s bunny-trail interests are any less important or any less interconnected than the topics in a textbook? Bonus: your student will learn more and retain more from his bunny trails than from a textbook.)
c) Start slowly by using Google, Pinterest, or the library for one or two subjects and build your class load from there.
d) Allow each of these steps to progress as slowly or as quickly as needed. Your instincts will tell you when your student is ready to move on.

3.  Can I remove just one of my children from public school? You could, but what’s the point?
a) Teaching more than one child is actually less work than shuttling several students back and forth all day to various activities in multiple locations.
b) Sibling bonding is just as valuable as parent-child bonding (see #2a-b above).
c) Do your other children deserve the same learning opportunities and freedoms as the one you want to bring home?

4.  How do I teach several children at the same time? Any who can already read—can read.
a) Let older kids start the day with their favorite subjects that require the least help from you, allowing you to get a younger one started.
b) Kids don’t all have to be doing schoolwork at the same time. One can play with the toddler while another does math, then switch. For a time, my daughter got up early and did all her schoolwork from 6-10 in the morning, then worked on other projects throughout the day.
c) Let them assist each other when necessary, because Mom is not the only one capable of answering questions.
d) Problem-solving skills are developed through solving problems! I told my kids that if they got stuck they should try to figure it out themselves first, then ask their sibling for help or come find me at whatever chore I was doing. They were always proud to tell me what they had figured out on their own, and I was happy to praise them for it! Other options include phoning Grandma or asking Google—there are many ways to solve a problem.

5. How do I get the house cleaned and the laundry done?
a) Whose standards are you following? Sparkling clean houses with nothing out of place are owned by families who are never home.
b) Home Economics is a class we teach here. We used breaks between subjects as a way to get the wiggles out and get a few chores done. My kids were happy to carry their clean laundry upstairs and put it away because it meant a break from schoolwork. Unloading the dishwasher meant they could listen to the kitchen radio for the duration of that task. Taking out the trash could be followed by a few minutes on a swing. Breaks can be shortened or extended to fit the chore desired. Chores teach kids skills, responsibility, and independence—plus they break up the rest of the day while bringing real-world benefits.

6. Is it too soon/too late to pull my kids out? No.
a) Homeschooling has many more benefits than could possibly be gained from leaving them in longer. We began homeschooling when the school couldn’t cope with our child’s medical condition, but once she was home we found some serious academic deficiencies and other problems that we hadn’t realized existed. Don’t assume everything is fine at school, just because your child hasn’t complained.
b) A student at home can learn much more than a student in school, being free to move on at will instead of waiting for the entire class. A child who is motivated to learn can make incredible progress at home, making up for lost time and surging ahead in his chosen field of interest.

7. I’m thinking of homeschooling because [fill in the reason of your choice]. Is that a good enough reason? Yes, but you’ll also come up with several more good reasons as soon as you get started (see #6a above). My list of reasons for wanting to homeschool grew longer with every year that we homeschooled.

8. Can I teach my ADD/ADHD/ODD/ETC student without special training? Professional credentials don’t outweigh parental instincts. Moms and dads know their child and their child’s needs better than any professional ever will. A more accurate acronym-label for your child may actually be MIISE (More Interested In Something Else). Treat* your child for MIISE until that proves ineffective. Another syndrome common in the institutional classroom is TETL (Too Eager To Learn)—a phenomenon that classroom teachers find surprisingly difficult to manage while keeping to a schedule. Help your child follow his interests and coach him in learning to research the various aspects. Don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails and let topics run together in rapid succession. Genius flows easily across multiple ideas, and it’s the simpler mind that must limit itself to only one thought at a time. Forty-five minutes to an hour of following bunny trails will produce more significant learning than an entire day of planned lessons.

9. But what about friends? If they are a true friend, you won’t lose them. Homeschooling can be a great opportunity to ditch the troublesome relationships that needed to disappear anyway. In general, friends and acquaintances come from a variety of aspects in life: siblings, neighbors, cousins, church, clubs, sports, music lessons, friends of friends, etc. Today’s social media phenomenon provides an avenue for maintaining close contact with friends regardless of distance or schedules.

10. We can’t do sports, music, or other extra-curricular activities at home. Are those just out of the picture for homeschooling? No. There are numerous possibilities for private lessons and group participation that don’t involve public school:

  • You Tube, Netflix, Google, online instruction and/or tutorials
  • Homeschool curriculum for the desired skill
  • Private tutor or coach, who could range from an advanced student to a professional teacher for the desired skill
  • Homeschool co-op group offering team sports, band, etc.
  • Church-based or community-sponsored sports & recreational activities
  • Dual-enrollment with public or private school for specific activities

HSLDA has discouraged families from trying to “keep one foot in both worlds” through dual-enrolling for specific classes or activities. And I agree. When we left the government school system, we were ready to break all ties and not look back. Then a community-wide sports activity became available that was run through the schools but didn’t require dual-enrollment, and my kids were interested in participating. I inquired about whether this was strictly a school-sponsored group (no, it was funded by participants) and if homeschooled members of the community could be involved (they supposed so), and we went to their first session of the year and signed up. It seemed to be going well for the first few practices and even through the first public performance, but things quickly went downhill after that. We weren’t notified of subsequent exhibitions, and the group’s leader made it increasingly difficult for my kids to participate, to the point where we eventually felt it was in our best interests to withdraw from that group and focus our efforts in more homeschool-friendly areas.

Throughout our homeschooling career, we knew other homeschooling families whose students participated with private schools, public schools, community groups, church groups, or homeschool co-op groups for a variety of extra-curricular experiences. The opportunities can be found or created to suit the needs, but the bigger questions is why is it necessary? Discuss this as a family to determine your motivation, whether for music, sports, drama, foreign languages, artistic endeavors, or whatever. Are your students just looking for a place to hang out with friends, or are they genuinely interested in learning the skill? Are Mom and Dad trying to live their own lives over again through their children, or is this something the student truly desires for himself?

Yes, Harvard has been known to award scholarships to distinguished harpists, but is winning a 1-year scholarship to an Ivy League college the only reason for dedicating a minimum of ten years of one’s childhood to an instrument (especially if the child lacks the passion to maintain this as a life-long activity)? The price of the instrument(s), the cost of years of weekly lessons, and the time investment for enough daily practice to become such an accomplished player as to merit a prestigious scholarship could all have been applied toward another area that the student enjoyed and appreciated more than being able to say “But it got me into Harvard.” Were all those years of music lessons merely the foot-in-the-door for a college education leading to a non-music-related career goal? Was the motivation just to give Mom and Dad the bragging rights of “Our kid’s going to Harvard”? Could the time, energy, and resources have been better directed toward the student’s desired career path? Could the same amount of money have been invested in such a way as to return an amount equal to or greater than the scholarship itself?

The freedom and flexibility provided by homeschooling can be used to the student’s advantage in numerous, subtle ways, resulting in a focused interest, rather than a schedule filled with diverse activities that yield more social involvement than academic advancement. I would rather see a student pursue his interests as vocational preparation than devote his time to activities that merely serve to fill his calendar with a variety of time-consuming distractions.

For more info, check out these links:

Leaving Public School
*How to Adapt Lessons to Fit Your Student’s Interests and Make Learning Come Alive
Teach Your Students to Teach Themselves
Knowing How to Find the Answer Is the Same as Knowing the Answer
People LIVE in This House
Using Your Household Staff
Family Is Spelled T-E-A-M

Consider this one as the answer for the unofficial Question #11:
Homeschooling an Only Child

Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Began Homeschooling

Whether you are beginning homeschooling after removing your children from an institutional school or are starting by simply not sending your little ones to preschool or Kindergarten, I can offer you some valuable been-there-done-that advice. File this under “If we’d only known…”

10.       The “classroom model” is counter-productive to learning.
Seating students in tidy rows of individual desks is only beneficial if the teacher needs to maintain control over a crowd of students by herself. Ditto for periodic testing. Double ditto for asking permission to speak or to use the bathroom. Let them do science in the backyard; let them draw while lying on the floor; let them read in the treehouse; let them compare prices and quantities as math while grocery shopping. Demanding attention, waiting for silence in the room, waiting for all eyes forward, waiting in line—all are dehumanizing tactics meant for crowd control or to break the spirit of the individuals. These methods are used with new recruits in the military—and in prison. Exploration is the birthplace of genius, but when was the last time anyone turned loose a classroom full of students to randomly discover their hidden genius?

9.         Schedules are made for faculties, not families.
Who in their right mind would put constraints on learning? What parent would tell their child “No, I’m sorry, Sweetie, but I can’t let you learn any more today”? Schools insist that learning must take place between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday, September through May—and then they are disappointed that the students’ skills diminish over summer break. Homeschooling parents can sneak in “stealth” lessons on trees or flowers or bugs during a family picnic. Homeschoolers can browse an antique store during a weekend outing and turn it into an impromptu history lesson. Homeschooling students can help Dad change the oil or re-grout the bathtub or trim an elderly neighbor’s bushes… and get credit for learning valuable lessons at the same time. Learning opportunities abound every moment and every day. Never stop learning, and never stop looking for the “teachable moments.”

8.         Reading and lecturing alone are insufficient teaching methods.
Textbook directions and diagrams only went so far in helping my kids learn. I soon found myself drawing different diagrams (if only bigger or more colorful), explaining concepts in multiple ways, or using borrowed game pieces as manipulatives to illustrate concepts. We did lessons outdoors; we did lessons on the floor; we used board games as lessons; we used videos as lessons. We acted things out; we made up rhymes; we used sign language to help us remember things. We added bright colors; we built models; we made flashcards; we invented games to help in practicing new skills. I had my kids teach difficult concepts back to me to be sure they understood them correctly. We used every possible method we could think of for illustrating and demonstrating lessons—and it worked. It worked very well.

7.         Every homeschool is different. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Each family will need to use the methods and materials that fit their own children’s needs. It’s supposed to work that way; it has to work that way; that is why we are homeschooling in the first place. It is beneficial to share with others what has or has not worked and why, but each family needs to run that input through their own filter. Trying to mimic what others have done is a trap destined for failure. Borrow their idea, if you really like it, but adapt it to your own family’s tastes. If it works well, continue to adapt it and keep changing it as your needs change. If it doesn’t work well, either make enough changes that it will work or toss it back and try something else. You have your own preferences, you have your own values—build your homeschool around those, and ignore the Homeschooling Joneses. Two (or more) families can use identical materials, but still use enough variations in supplemental activities that their lessons will look nothing alike.

6.         Students need academic success to build their self-confidence.
I didn’t realize that my (former public school) kids would need to see that they were capable of learning on their own… without the collective input of two dozen other kids backing them up. They needed to learn that they could move on to the next concept as soon as they had mastered this one. They also needed to learn that I would not push them to move on until they had mastered each concept, whereas classrooms move on with as little as one correct answer and, at most, one-third of the room understanding. Most of our first year of homeschooling was spent in learning how to learn and learning that they could learn. Once they had acquired confidence in their own abilities, things progressed much more quickly and much more smoothly.

5.         The price of the materials has nothing to do with the amount of knowledge your students will gain.
We found used materials at book swaps and garage sales. We used hand-me-down materials from relatives and found great learning games and toys at thrift stores and flea markets. We made our own cheap versions of fancy educational gadgets from cereal boxes and tape and glue. I even made up my own lessons when I couldn’t find suitable materials to purchase. Purchases of popular, highly recommended, expensive materials often turned out not to be a good fit for us. We often learned more from the inexpensive items than we did from the pricey ones. Shiny boxes and high price tags do not automatically equal success.

4.         Fit the materials to your students’ preferences and expectations.
My daughter’s former school did not have enough books, and they treated workbooks like textbooks, requiring every student to copy lessons into personal notebooks. One thing my daughter reallyreallyreally wanted from homeschooling was to have her very own personal workbooks that she could write in and decorate with gold star stickers. Done: I ordered a workbook. One thing my daughter reallyreallyreally didn’t ever want to see again was a red pencil mark on her papers. Done: I used bright orange and lime green and sky blue colored pencils to correct her work. Problems solved. Focus on the learning.

Find out what your kids expect homeschooling to be like. Find out what they do want and what they don’t want. Ditto for yourself and your spouse. Homeschooling should not be about one parent’s dream to play school with desks in a row and maps on the walls (although desks and maps are wonderful learning tools, they should not be the primary focus); homeschooling should be a learning adventure for the whole family. It’s okay to keep some parts of the school model, if what your family really wants and needs is that consistency. It’s okay to scrap all preconceived ideas and start over from scratch, if what your family really wants and needs is an Opposite Day educational experience. It’s also okay to use this method for this student and that method for that student, if that is what they really want and need.

3.         Finding gaps in foundational skills is proof of academic success. (just fix ’em before moving on)
I was under the mistaken assumption that I could just begin teaching where the school had left off. I was also naive enough to think that the public school teachers had made sure my kids had understood everything… correctly. I was wrong on both counts. We had been homeschooling for only a few weeks when we hit our first educational pothole. The math book expected my child to work with fractions, and my child was horribly confused about fractions and what to do with them. I ordered some workbooks that focused solely on fraction math and put the regular math lessons on hold until my child was confident in handling fraction problems. These workbooks made fractions very simple to understand, but my child became incredibly angry and frustrated—but not at learning fractions—she understood those concepts very quickly, once they were explained adequately. Her anger and frustration came from seeing how simple fractions were to understand and remembering how difficult and complicated her teachers had told her fractions were.

We found materials to fill in each gap of missing knowledge, and then we moved on. Regular lessons in any given subject were suspended until that particular pothole was filled (the time varied from minutes to days to weeks), but once we could resume the lessons, the progress always came faster. We found numerous potholes during that first year, but by the end of that year, my children were learning with confidence and gaining ground rapidly. Every pothole proved to us that we were learning—if we hadn’t been making progress, we would never have discovered the potholes.

2.         Play is learning, and learning should be fun.
Children work diligently at playing, whether they are building sand castles, playing dress-up, or roller-blading on the driveway. Kids wear themselves out having fun, and they learn important lessons from their playtime. They learn that moist sand packs best; they learn that long skirts and high heels don’t combine well with stairs; they learn that balance is very important in skating as well as in life.

Do you remember being eager to get your driver’s license? Do you ever hate waiting for a new movie to come out after you’ve seen the trailer for it? Have you ever called a friend to tell them all about your latest accomplishment? That is the excitement of learning!

What you do in your leisure time is your version of fun, whether that means reading a book or watching TV or painting your toenails or fishing for The Big One. If it wasn’t fun, you would do something else with your leisure time. Now look at what your children do during their leisure time—and find a way to incorporate those methods into their lessons for some really motivated learners.

1.         Mom = Teacher = Mom (or Dad)
The first time Mom answers her student’s question, a miraculous transformation takes place: the student realizes that Mom knows stuff. Each answered question builds that reputation, and answering “I don’t know, but let’s try to find out together” increases the thirst for knowledge.

Parents have a unique advantage over traditional classroom teachers, in that parents can admit they don’t know all the answers. Homeschooling parents can use a bunny-trail question as the next teachable moment without disrupting an entire room full of students or getting hopelessly off a pre-set schedule.

Parents have a dynamic relationship with their children that allows snuggling during particularly difficult lessons. Learning to read is a magical milestone that should be celebrated with hugs and kisses and shouting and dancing, not relegated to the far corner of the room and conducted in hushed voices. Parents know instinctively when their child can be encouraged to try one more time and when that same child will benefit most from taking a break. Parents see their children day and night, weekday and weekend, season after season, year after year, on good days and bad days, in sickness and in health. Parents know what their children want and what their children need—and they will move heaven and earth to provide for them

Teachers are motivated by a paycheck and a sense of duty; parents are motivated by love. When a random child acts out in a classroom, the teacher seeks to make the disruption stop, even to the point of removing that child; when a parent’s own child acts out at home, the parent seeks to determine the cause of the problem and remove the problem, not remove the child. No one can know any given child to a greater degree than that child’s parent, no one will love a child more than that child’s parent, and no one can be a better teacher for a child than that child’s parent.

 

As homeschoolers, the most important thing to focus on is learning. If something is getting in the way of the learning, it becomes a stumbling block and is probably not all that important. Do things in a different order, try another method, or set that material aside for a time and see what happens. Homeschooling should be about learning, not about following in someone else’s precisely spaced footsteps. We made the most significant progress when we focused on what we were learning and stopped worrying about how we were learning it. Focus on the learning, and watch it happen!

Outdated Excuses for Why You Could Never Homeschool

The following article was written by Jennifer Morrison Leonhard, a light-hearted homeschool graduate who believes life is what you make it. What she usually makes it is funny!

“I’m not smart enough to homeschool my kids.” A typical answer from me is that you do not need to have the encyclopedia memorized, and you do not have to be a former valedictorian — you can simply learn right along with your kids. You start with colors and shapes and letters and from there you grow one day at a time. Lessons are usually fully explained in their textbooks, so you can read along and learn it all just ten seconds before your student does! It is now 2011, and I could argue that yo’ momma and her smartphone could homeschool your kids. (Bet you weren’t expecting a good momma joke, were you?) You do not have to buy a single book or even own a library card anymore. Like the popular commercial says “There’s an app for that” — whatever it is that you want to know or do. Science? My phone can take my pulse through the camera! Or try Google Sky Map to learn the stars. Music? I have a drum kit on my touch phone, and I’ve never had so much fun with an instrument! Not to mention that Pandora allows me to experience a wide variety of music styles. Learning directions is no longer something you have to do with a laminated “placemat” map and crayon (yep, that’s how I learned when I was still in public school) — now you can use Google Maps on your phone. For teaching math there are applications to teach formulas, offer practice math problems, flash cards, and math games. You can get an application for reading ebooks, search random questions with your browser, and document your findings with a “notepad” application and your camera feature. My mom always told us that as long as we knew how and where to find information, there are very few situations in life that require you have everything memorized.

“I do not have the time to homeschool my kids.”
Yeah, you’re probably too busy telling them to stop texting, get off that computer, and put away that video game. Again, in an electronic age, if your biggest hurdle is getting them away from electronics, you can probably find ways to substitute actual learning into those same gadgets — gadgets that frequently fit into a pocket and go everywhere anyway. It really doesn’t require a lot of time to homeschool. Once you cut out standing in line for this and that, waiting for the other students to catch up, or waiting for everyone to be quiet, you can see that only a few hours of real learning time are necessary. Unschooling is currently popular, so if electronics aren’t something your family indulges in, you can simply learn from Life. You can’t exactly avoid Life, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned each day, with or without 21st century electronic assistance.

“I could not stand to spend that much time with my kids.” Fine, send them to their rooms, and then Facebook friend-request them, and message their lessons to them. No face to face contact needed. They can chat with you when they need individual help, and message back or post photos and videos of their work. You, in turn, can post back their grades using the “Comment” feature, or for pass/fail there is a “Like” button included. The “Like” button would also give you feedback from their peers and other parents if you felt that you needed an outside opinion on a subject in which you are not an expert. Your children can also use the privacy features offered on Facebook to prevent certain friends and family from seeing their schooling, if that option is preferred. The Facebook photo albums are also a handy way to maintain homeschooling records if your state requires a portfolio for legal reasons. There it is: photographic documentation, all neatly packaged, and no fear of fire, flood, or other natural disaster wiping it all out, such as you would have had in the age of paper records only. And it all stores much more neatly, too. For added security, you can back up your files on flash-drives or with Carbonite.

“Socialization.” Did I mention electronic devices? Smartphones? Facebook? I think I did. Oh, and if you prefer actual human contact, go outside. There are still a few people left out there who aren’t busy on Facebook or their smartphones. There may also be some out there that are probably still on their smartphones and Facebook, so please drive defensively.

Bottom 10 Worst Parts of Homeschooling

Seriously.

We all know that nothing could be as consistently rosy as the way magazine photo-spreads try to paint homeschooling or as unfailingly cheerful as the above-average homeschooler’s daily blog entries.

For those who are genuinely investigating homeschooling for their children’s education, I would be remiss if I did not caution you in advance about the uglier moments of homeschooling: the dark days that inevitably occur and that no one wants to confess. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes, so take this list to heart and prepare yourselves as much as possible to prevent these stumbling blocks from stopping you in your tracks.

10. Sibling warfare. It will happen, and it will happen when you least expect it and are least prepared for it. From making faces at each other to kicking under the table, from stealing pencils to full-on hurling books… or worse. It may be momentary or it could be an on-going problem. Even in the calmest of families, even in the most serene households, even between the best of friends-as-siblings. It’s a consequence of the day in, day out continuous routine that causes boredom, weariness, restlessness, and disillusionment. A closely related side-issue is whether or not students will cooperate with a parent-teacher and a mixed-ages homeschooling atmosphere, particularly if these students have previously attended “real” school.

Coping strategies: Take breaks as often as necessary to break the negative patterns before they gain a firm foothold and to refresh everyone’s heart, mind, and body. Use multiple study areas, if possible, giving your students enough physical separation to allow each one to focus on his own work. (Siblings as Best Friends offers a more in-depth look at conquering this trouble spot. Also be sure to check out Respect Must Be Earned, Disrespectful Kids, and Troublesome Students.) Chores can be interspersed with learning to provide quick exercise breaks while maintaining productivity. This can be extremely helpful for separating restless siblings — send one off to do a chore or two while the others continue to work at lessons. A strategically chosen task can make sitting down to a lesson much more attractive! And while we’re on the subject of chores…

9. Chores. Taking out the trash, cleaning the bathrooms, tidying the living areas. Feeding the dog, sweeping the floor, shoveling the front walk. Did you remember to do your job? Did you finish every step? Whose sock is that? Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher?

Coping strategies: Use reminder lists or charts to teach your children the responsibility of getting things done without prompting. Mom, you have more important things to do with your time than constantly reminding your children to do their jobs. My rule-of-thumb was to save my energies for the higher skilled jobs that only Mom could do, and get over my perfectionist tendencies relax my standards so that anyone else could do the lower skilled jobs. Use The Biblical Model of Discipleship to ensure each person knows how to do their chores, then walk away, and let them handle it. Tell yourself as often as necessary: it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be done.

8. Housework. Cook, clean, wash, iron. Meals, dishes, laundry, vacuuming. Buy the food, freeze the food, thaw the food, cook the food. Gather the dirty laundry, shuffle the loads through the laundry process, restock the cleaned laundry. When is there time to teach? Plan a lesson? I’m supposed to plan lessons???

Coping strategies: Lower your Suzy Perfect Homemaker standards enough to allow your family members to help with all of the daily work. Treat yourselves to quick, easy meals on paper plates when your schedule gets crazy. Spread out the responsibility for chores and share the duties (re-read #9 above). Lessons don’t need to be planned down to the tiniest, word-for-word details. Spontaneous lessons will often be the most memorable ones. (Using Your Household Staff contains practical tips for squeezing more out of your busy, busy day. A Day Without Lessons shows how education lurks in the most unlikely places.)

7. Clutter. Books, books, and more books. Workbooks, worksheets, test papers, and writing assignments. Textbooks, teacher’s manuals, reading books, reference books. (When you envisioned your ideal homeschooling set-up, you didn’t picture this extensive home library, did you?) Pencils, erasers, scissors, rulers, markers, crayons. Art supplies, craft supplies, math manipulatives, maps, charts, and posters. Where can you possibly put it all, and how will you find what you’ve got when you need it?

Coping strategies: We started with a “cigar” box for each student’s personal writing supplies (my pencils, etc.). We purchased build-it-yourself bookcases and storage cupboards as our needs (and budget) increased. We added a few inexpensive plastic multi-drawer units to help control the growing collection of arts-and-crafts supplies. Basically, you’ll want to adapt each year as your needs change. I found a week at the start of summer to be a good time for sorting out what we wanted to keep from the past year and a day or two at the end of summer to be a good time for re-evaluating our needs for the upcoming year. The kids and I worked together to sort and toss and discuss what we had all learned, then rearrange and make plans and get prepared and excited for what would come next. Working together was key for us: the kids often had great ideas to try in our small porch-turned-schoolroom. Plus, the longer we were away from the public school atmosphere, the less we felt the need to separate his things from her things, and the more we felt the community, teamwork, and sharing spirit of family. (See Homeschool Gadgets: An Investment in Your future or a Waste of Money? for a unique look at what you do or don’t need.)

6. More clutter. Salt dough castles, vinegar and baking soda volcanoes, and eggshell mosaics. Oatmeal and salt box drum sets, tin can telephones, and paper plate clocks. Butterfly and moth specimens, leaf and wildflower collections, and rock and mineral displays. The educational value is undeniable, but does it need to occupy the entire kitchen table?

Coping strategies: Remember that a photo can be kept in a much smaller space than the actual salt-dough castle took up (or stashed invisibly in a computer file). My children were much more willing to take apart their fantastic K’Nex creations once we had taken photos of them. Digital cameras were not a part of our early days of homeschooling; now they seem like must-have equipment! Above all else, remind yourselves that the learning is the most important part of education, not the meaningless handprint art, not the endless worksheets filled with twaddle, not the vapid writing assignments given solely for the purpose of creating time-consuming busywork. Some lessons are learned at the first reading or the first explanation, freeing both student and teacher to move on to the next thing with no further ado. (People LIVE in This House offers encouragement to those of us who do not live inside magazine pictures! I Give One Grade: 100%–But You Get to Keep Trying Until You Get It points out that learning is learning, no matter how long it takes.)

5. Most clutter. Mounds of clean socks and underwear that haven’t yet been sorted. Last season’s clothing that needs a place to live until the weather changes back again. Outgrown clothing and that nagging pile of mending.

Coping strategies: I used my own chores as times to wean my students off of my constant attention and teach them to teach themselves. You work on this lesson while I go sew these buttons back on your shirts, and I’ll come check on you when I’m done. Kids can learn to do most household chores and be able to help out when needed — remember, many hands lighten the load. As for storing out-of-season items, you may want to consider adding storage shelves in the basement or garage, or evaluating which things really need to be kept. Teaching my children to donate good, usable items to thrift shops created a habit they have continued as adults. (Teach Your Students to Teach Themselves will give them more confidence and independence in their own lessons and give you a bit more time for switching laundry, starting supper, or visiting the bathroom… alone!)

4. Desperation. There will come a day around February or March when every member of the family has coughed, hacked, and sniffled his or her way right out of your heart. And that may also have been accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Mother Teresa herself would have been ready to throw in the towel, if it meant she could escape your home’s infirmary to a peaceful oasis free of sticky dishes, stinky laundry, smelly diapers, and drippy noses, even for a mere eight hour shift of answering someone else’s telephone, shuffling someone else’s papers, and just plain dealing with someone else’s dilemmas.

Coping strategies: Calling off school for a few days or a week can give everyone a blessed relief as you all try to recuperate. Get your strength back before you try to pick up the books again. Even if the latest virus is not to blame for your collective malaise, a day or two away from lessons can perk up spirits. Do a little spring cleaning, indulge in some retail therapy, declare a family game day, or call for a video marathon – whatever it takes to clear your heads and jump-start the enjoyment again. (See Reschedule, Refocus, Regroup for tips on perking up your schedule. Sick Days, Snow Days, and Other Interruptions offers welcome relief from the nagging feeling that you can’t stay home from homeschooling.)

3. Regrets. I shouldn’t have yelled. I should have been there. I should have left earlier. I shouldn’t have grounded him. I should have done a better job. I really should go. I should have taken them a casserole. I should have called her. I didn’t do enough. I did too much.

Coping strategies: Remind yourself that no one is perfect, then Do the Best Job You Can and Pray for God to Clean Up the Rest. Giving yourself a few moments to think before you make each decision can really improve the quality of those decisions and help you on the way toward Living Your Life with No Regrets.

2. Isolation. The other side of the socialization coin has to be endless days of seeing no one but your own family members. Tempers will flare without warning, boredom will soar to new heights, and lessons that seemed relatively simple will go misunderstood for no apparent reason. You will find yourselves waiting eagerly for a glimpse of the letter carrier’s face, delightedly anticipating a trip to the grocery store, and chatting like a giddy madman with total strangers in check-out lanes, just because you are amazingly grateful for the sound of another human voice and a new face to gaze upon, if only for a few seconds.

Coping strategies: You may need some fresh lesson ideas. See 10 Ways to Improve a Lesson and Back to Homeschool with New Ideas. Or it may be time to recognize The Value of Supplemental Activities. If you are forcing yourselves into isolation because you think you are required to spend every school day from 8am to 3pm indoors with your noses in books, please read “Why Aren’t You in SCHOOL?”

And finally, the absolute worst, most discouraging facet to homeschooling—

1. Lack of guidance. Parents who remove their children from institutional schools will feel this more acutely than any others. How do I learn how to homeschool? What do my children already know? What do they not know? How can I tell the difference? Which math program is best? How well does he read? What about grammar? Should I teach history chronologically, geographically, or alphabetically?

Coping strategies: No one can (or should) give you a blanket summary of buy this program and it will fulfill all of your educational needs forever, since each of your children is different from the others, and they each have varied learning needs and academic interests which may change somewhat over time. Careful observation and good Mommy-instincts should tell you when a student is struggling to understand and when he is just plain bored and ready to move on because he already understands this material and it contains no challenge for him. Simple supplemental activities can adapt your present curriculum to your students’ learning styles, enabling each student to learn the lessons through his unique processing abilities. Answers to all other questions (well, many of them anyway) can be found here at Guilt-Free Homeschooling. Start with these articles:
So You Think You’re Not Smart Enough to Homeschool
Questions from a First-time Homeschooler
Surviving the First Year of Homeschooling After Leaving Public School
Curriculum Choices and Shoe Shopping, an Analogy
Meatball Education: Filling in the Potholes of Public School
Every Day Is a Learning Day, and Life Is Our Classroom
10 Ways to Ease into Homeschooling

Despite these downside aspects, homeschooling is absolutely the best thing you will ever do for your family! The intense contact of homeschooling will not just benefit your children, it can strengthen the entire family unit. Don’t let a few negative things keep you from trying the biggest positive of all, putting your children’s education on the right track.

Back to Homeschool with New Ideas

Back to School signs are everywhere. The stores are stocked with new boxes of crayons, new notebooks, and new backpacks. If you are not quite ready for the next semester to begin, it may be because you feel insufficiently prepared for it yourself. Where are the new school supplies for you — maybe some new coping skills, a new supply of encouragement, and a new box of ideas?

If you are a First-Time Homeschoolerand are beginning with a preschooler or Kindergartner, these articles contain the coping skills you need for this new task ahead of you.

For those of you who are Leaving Public Schoolto begin homeschooling, the following articles will give you a generous dose of encouragement.

Perhaps you have been teaching your own children for a while now, but feel that you are Stuck in a Homeschool Rut. Here are some fresh ideas to break the boredom and put a little life into your tedious routine.

Maybe you have just “hit the wall.” You’ve come to the end of yourself, and you don’t know where to turn next. You love the idea of homeschooling, but you just can’t find one more lesson inside yourself.

No matter what your homeschooling status, be assured that you are not alone. Guilt-Free Homeschooling is here to help you with a comforting hug, a large dose of encouragement, a bonus scoop of confidence, and answers to your questions. Let’s have a great year together!

Why Choose Homeschooling?

When the tomatoes at your local market are less than desirable, you may start looking elsewhere for your produce. No one intentionally shops for tomatoes that are unripe, hard, and green, or worse, bruised and blemished. If the supermarket produce is less than satisfactory, consumers may turn to a specialty grocer, the weekly farmer’s market, or start their own garden plot at home in the backyard or in a few pots on the patio or balcony.

A similar phenomenon is happening with education. Consumers (parents), who have become dissatisfied with the educational product of the mainstream schools, are turning to other means for their children’s academics, including the do-it-yourself method, homeschooling.

My husband and I turned to homeschooling because of health reasons: our daughter suffered from migraine headaches, and the school nurse didn’t believe us or our doctors. My daughter’s frequent absences were a problem with the school’s administration, although her grades never slipped, since I was able to tutor her at home and keep her on track with the rest of the students. Meanwhile, I had noticed that the classroom’s progress was not ideal. The teacher got important concepts wrong and was unable to teach critical math skills. This ineffectual teaching forced us to take matters into our own hands. Literally. I do not have a teaching degree, but I quickly realized that I could certainly do no worse than our local elementary school was already doing.

Our reasons for homeschooling are not unique. A survey of homeschooling families today would reveal many who are motivated by their children’s health concerns or special needs issues. Another, larger group would say they are dissatisfied with the quality of education provided by today’s schools, both public and private. Those parents who are re-teaching the material to their child every night, as I was, cannot help but see that they are already the primary educator of that child; they just have the worst time slot of the day in which to do it. Classroom size and the related student-to-teacher ratios, the disappearance of fine arts programs, and sex and violence in the schools are sub-topics of the “quality of education” issue.

A few more families would list flexibility as their primary reason for choosing homeschooling: students can pursue a variety of individual activities, while still maintaining their academic endeavors. Today’s homeschooled students may very well be tomorrow’s Olympic champions or symphony musicians, since the freedom of a homeschool schedule allows more time to focus on one’s passions. Childcare concerns, changes in the job market, and relocation of the family also depend on the flexibility of homeschooling to help families maintain stability during lifestyle changes.

Some families opt for homeschooling after the government schools have failed to meet their students’ needs. Some families are able to decide before preschool (or even sooner) that they want to keep their children at home for school. Some families homeschool for only a year or two, while others prefer home education from preschool through high school and even on into college-at-home. The duration is determined by the family’s preference, just as the methods and materials used are also each family’s choice.

I am often asked about the benefits of homeschooling, a difficult question simply because of the vast range of its answers. First and foremost, I see the improved relationship of the family as the chief benefit, even before any academic advantages are considered. Parents and children bond as teacher and students in a way that non-homeschooling families just cannot understand. The freedom and flexibility of the homeschooling schedule allow for spontaneous family activities, all of which have educational benefits, whether obvious (or intended) or not. That relaxed schedule is a tremendous boon to most families — the opportunity to do things in whatever order or method works best for each family and each student (which, incidentally, is the philosophy of Guilt-Free Homeschooling: homeschooling should be comfortable, relaxed, and fit your family’s lifestyle).

The one-on-one attention that homeschooling provides is far superior to any classroom. Even large families are able to provide individual attention to each student when he needs it, along with the training in independent learning, which prepares homeschooled students for handling college classes (and life in general) on their own. Parents of special needs students find that no teacher, no matter how well trained, can know the student or love the student as well as the parent can. The parent who has lived with the special needs child 24/7 since birth understands more and at a deeper level than a teacher who is hired to cover seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year.

Homeschooling is extremely popular with conservative Christian families, although it is practiced by families of every religious and political persuasion. Besides the reasons of academic excellence and personalization, homeschooling allows families to emphasize their own philosophies and worldviews. Government-mandated curricula are often based on evolutionary principles, which are diametrically opposed to Creationists’ beliefs. Homeschooling allows these families to use materials that support their beliefs, such as that life is sacred and a precious gift from God, the Creator. Government-funded schools do not allow prayer and do not teach the Bible, even as literature, although many anti-Christian religious philosophies and practices are now showing up in those same schools under the guise of “diversity.” Families for whom personal Christianity is the guiding force in their lives want to see their children educated with God-centered principles, a Creationist viewpoint, and a Biblical worldview. They will not accept submitting their children to antithetical teaching day in and day out.

Homeschooling is not a fad, although some people treat it as such. Public schools, sponsored by a government, are the “new kid on the block.” Personal tutoring had been the educational standard for centuries, until the time of the American Civil War, when it became fashionable to apply industrial methods to education by grouping local children together for academic efficiency. The homeschooling movement, in general, is providing a return to excellence and individuality in education, a return to a focus on the family as an institution in society, and a return to individual responsibility as a primary duty of citizenship. In this postmodern era, some old-fashioned homeschooling is just what this world needs.