Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

To Homeschool Or Not to Homeschool - Now THAT is A Question

By Chris Bradshaw

Most homeschoolers I know readily admit that homeschooling is not for everyone. But is it for your family? If you are trying to decide whether homeschooling is right for you, read on. I remember well the stress of trying to make the "right" decision several years ago. The choices seemed so life shaping for both my children and me. And they are! It's really worth doing your homework to figure it out as well as you can. I hope the following approach might be helpful.

I think about this as a learning process where we examine the internal and the external sides of the question. In the internal, we look into our hearts, examine our values, and search our souls regarding who we are and what we dream of for our children and for our family. During the external, we read, visit and talk to people; gathering data to learn what our choices are so that we can find the best match to our internal side.

Internal Soul-Searching

  1. Yourself.  Why are you considering educating your child outside the public school? What are your concerns? What environment do you feel best addresses these concerns? How do you think people learn best? Do you basically enjoy being with your children? What kind of relationship do you have now with your child? What type of relationships do you want to nourish within your family? How do you feel about facilitating your children,s learning? Are you willing to be kind to yourself and your child when things don't go as you expected? How much time are you willing to devote?

  2. Your child.  Which qualities of your child makes you believe she will flourish better in one setting over another? What are her strongest learning styles? What environment will best support these?

  3. The whole family.  How do other members of the family feel about the different educational options available? Are financial resources a concern? What about time resources? Are there other children involved who might be affected by this decision? Are you and your spouse/partner relatively aligned in your thinking or do you need to do some values work together? Coming to a decision mutually regarding the basic educational path for your children is critical to its success.

External Data Gathering

This part is easier though cumbersome. Fortunately, our schooling options are many. Researching them (public school, alternative public schools, private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling with its many options; R-4 affidavit, Independent Study Program, or Correspondence Schooling) is critical to making an informed choice. Spend your time on the ones that philosophically suit you the best.

  1. Read. 

    The reading list I've offered is geared toward exploring homeschooling. Read...

    1. John Holt's Learning All The Time and Teach Your Own for an educational philosophy,

    2. David Guterson's Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense for a heartfelt, whole family approach,

    3. Mary Griffith's The Homeschooling Handbook for a brass tacks resource guide and look at the range of homeschooling options, and

    4. Homefires: The Journal of Homeschooling for an in-depth overview of what kind of resources are available for homeschoolers in terms of ideas, classes, support, and field trips.

  2. Visit Schools & Homeschool Support Groups.

    • Whatever kinds of schools you are considering spend time in a classroom. Talk to the teachers and administrators about their methods. Notice their style. Discuss philosophy. Read their recommendations regarding the philosophy of the programs that appeal to you. How do you feel in their presence? How would your child feel? Most schools have introductory nights for prospective parents between January and March and welcome individual parent inquiries and observation anytime of year.

    • Visit homeschooling support groups such as park days, independent study program sites, coordinators and resource teachers. Most homeschoolers will wholeheartedly engage in a discussion of their experience if you make clear your questions and concerns. Several organizations (including Homefires) offer "Introduction to Homeschooling" presentations where they cover the basic philosophies, methods, and legal options and open the floor to questions.

There is no particular order to follow in addressing these concerns but rather it is like a stew. Add all the information together in your brain and heart and let it simmer. The best solution for your family will plump up like a fat tasty dumpling! Our family revisits the educational options question annually, and we refine our schedule often -- to create the best life we can. Happy questioning!

* Chris Bradshaw homeschools her two children, Ben and Mariah.