So You Think You’re Not Smart Enough to Homeschool?

Suppose your child wants a special cake for her birthday. What will you do? A few moms may be practiced in the fine art of baking the perfect cake from scratch, combining flour, sugar, and eggs in the correct proportions to rise to delicious heights without falling. Some moms will grab a boxed mix, whip it up, and top the resulting cake with ready-made frosting and colorful sprinkles. Other moms will simply stop by their favorite bakery and purchase a completed cake. In each case, the problem has been solved, and the birthday will be celebrated.

The same strategy can be applied to teaching in a homeschool setting. You can research topics yourself, much like looking for recipes in a cookbook or online or asking friends to share their favorites. You can collect a few do-it-yourself elements and put together your own curriculum, as with the mom who used the cake mix, canned frosting, and instant decorations. Or you can purchase an assortment of courses fully prepared by someone else, as in the case of the bakery cake.

I have met many people whose reaction to homeschooling is “You would have to be smart to do that!” Knowing what really goes on behind the scenes in homeschooling, my thought is “What is smart?” How intelligent does a person have to be to homeschool successfully? I do not have to know all the answers in order to be a good teacher, I just have to know where or how to find the answers. I do not have to be able to do something myself in order to be able to teach about it.

In my past educational experiences, I have had art instructors who effectively taught me about DaVinci and Rembrandt, but who could not duplicate the works of those masters themselves. I had English instructors who taught me about Shakespeare and Longfellow, but who had never written comparable works. I had history teachers who had done nothing memorable themselves and geography teachers who had never traveled the globe. My science teachers had made no remarkable scientific discoveries, and yet they were able to pass on accurate scientific knowledge. These successful instructors all relied to some degree on the resources and experiences of others.

A successful homeschool teacher is one who is able to impart the material to his or her students. The source of the material is not relevant if no one is able to learn from it. There are homeschool students whose curricula cost hundreds of dollars and students whose books are borrowed for free from the public library, and both learn equally well. There are homeschool teachers who write every page of their own lessons and teachers who read word-for-word from purchased, scripted manuals, and the students of both learn equally well.

If I had waited to begin homeschooling until I felt confident enough in my own knowledge and abilities that I could answer any question my students might ask, well, I would still be studying. In reality, I learned right along with my students. If I became hopelessly confused on some topic, the resources and experiences of others were nearby in the form of other homeschoolers, reference books, internet websites, or packaged lessons. When we encountered an unfamiliar word, we consulted the dictionary together. When we stumbled over a math problem, we worked it out together. When we were stumped by a reference to an exotic location, we leafed through the atlas or did a quick “Google” search together. The bonds created through learning together taught my students more than just new information. My students saw first-hand that learning can be an enjoyable and profitable, life-long process.

If you are intrigued by homeschooling, but feel you may not be smart enough, I encourage you to give it a try. You can supplement your knowledge through the materials you choose, increasing your teaching staff from one (just you) to dozens or even hundreds of experienced and qualified tutors (the authors whose works you consult).

If you currently use pre-packaged curriculum and would like to try your hand at creating a lesson on your own, go ahead and give it a try. There is no Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book that states you must always continue using the same method with which you started. If you currently are writing all of your own lessons, but find yourself so overwhelmed by recent developments in life that you would really like to try an all-in-one package, go ahead and give it a try. There is no Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book that states you must always continue using the same method with which you started. That non-existent Official Omnipotent Homeschooling Rule Book also does not prevent you from switching back to your original choices if you find you really prefer them. Variety is the spice of life, and flexibility is the blessing of homeschooling. Take a break, take a chance, and watch the learning continue.

If you are able to create your own lessons out of thin air, God bless you. If you prefer to use pre-prepared lessons purchased from an experienced publisher, God bless you, too. Guilt-Free Homeschooling frees you from the competition for Most Original Lesson Plan and allows you to use the method that works best for you and for your students. How smart do you have to be to be able to homeschool? Just smart enough to use what works.


  1. Well said! And though I could have given the same answer a million times over if others had asked me how smart one needs to be to home school their children… today was the day I needed to hear it. Thank you for this message. I was home taught, and my education has served me well; and yet it is so easy to second guess ourselves and worry that we will not be enough for our children. We need to remember that public school teachers are just people, just like we are; and we are capable, too. :)

  2. I have a soon to be second grader and a soon to be preschooler and a special needs 2 year old. My oldest is currently in public school. Even thought the school seems ok and family oriented i just do not like how things are taught its entirely too confusing and my daughter gets picked on by other kids and the teacher likes to instill her own parenting skills and tells my children lies. like ice will make you short forever, is an example. i want to homeschool my children I desperately want to. I am terrified I am ignorant like really dumb. i mean i am no algebra genius or a chemistry guru. so what do i do what if my kid is this smart and i believe she is how will i teach her this stuff. what if i fail her. i don’t want to fail her but i also don’t want the outside world to be so much of an influence on her so much, it awful how people treat each other in public school. its like i keep telling myself is this how kids raise their kids to act its horrible. Even when my kid is getting picked on she never retaliates, she often plays by herself. Its like i have to fix everything they do to her everyday when she comes home. its like she is going to have an anxiety attack just from first grade. What do i do?

  3. Moni, the toughest thing you have to be able to handle *right now* is 2nd grade. Even 3rd graders don’t do algebra or chemistry yet. ;-) Your concerns are no different from every other mom’s concerns — we all wonder if we’ve got what it takes. And we do. And you do, too. If your child doesn’t understand a lesson at home, you can take as much time as needed to work through it together. If your child understands a lesson quickly and easily, you can move on as soon as he’s ready. At home, you can pick the curriculum, you can choose the assignments, you can make the rules. Go through the indexes for this blog and read everything that catches your eye — you’ll find the encouragement you need. (((HUGS)))

  4. Wow…all of this information is really good. I’m also thinking of home schooling my two sons, one is 2 years old and the other one is 3 years old. I took booth to early start pre-school, on the 3rd day – both got extremely sick with the cold/flu and 5 days straight with fever. I was told that this was going to be this way for a couple of years more, there is no way I can do this for a couple of more years. The reason why I put both of my sons in early start is because I want them to socialize and interact with other children. How can I give them the interaction and to socialize with other children if the are going to be at home?

  5. Marcia,
    My kids started out in public school, and I must say that the reduction in illnesses after we began homeschooling was an amazing and wonderful surprise. Check out my article, “Social Skills — What Should I Teach My Preschooler?” (go to the Titles Index) for more great ideas that will give your children the advantages of social interaction, even if *group* interaction isn’t available. You can still arrange play dates with other moms and their children, whether in homes, at parks, at indoor playgrounds, or other venues. My kids had neighborhood friends, church friends, and cousins to play with from time to time. Sometimes it does take a little more effort to make arrangements for playmates that it does to drop the kiddies off at school, but the positives definitely outrank the negatives, in my opinion.

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