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Jay Pike

Let's Debunk 8 Common Myths about Homeschooling

If there's one thing to take away from a discussion of homeschool myths, it's that homeschooling is flexible, adaptable, and much less mysterious than some may have previously assumed.

According to a Real Clear Opinion Poll, 15% of the 2,122 families surveyed said they plan to homeschool their children in the fall of 2020. The trend continues to grow.

When it comes to kids learning at home in the fall, it’s reasonable to feel confused about what things are true about homeschooling, and what things are little more than rumor.

As the number of homeschooled students in the US continues to climb, we’re collectively learning things that challenge the most common misunderstandings about at-home education. Homeschool, for many, is a flexible and responsive approach to educating their kids. The assumptions we may have heard - like “homeschoolers don’t learn the same things,” and “only parents can teach in a homeschool environment,” - don’t hold much water upon close inspection.

As it would seem, the root of most of the misconceptions we outline below is something many of us, previous to school closures, probably shared: a lack of information about homeschooling.

In order to help you make an informed decision about what’s best for your own kids, let’s set the record straight by discussing the most common myths about homeschooling.

MYTH 1: Homeschooled Kids Don’t Learn the Same Stuff

DEBUNKED: Most homeschool programs are specific when it comes to curricula, learning milestones, and other important details. In lots of cases, these are nearly identical to those in place in public schools. In many traditional homeschool programs, families mirror the structure of a classroom setting (read: they buy curricula, textbooks, exams, and sometimes schedules).

Each kid is different, though, and the real flexibility of homeschool lies in providing an uber-personalized approach to teaching that is centered on the individual student.

It also means that the goal of homeschooling (remote learning, pods, whatever you call it) is not about utilizing what is generally felt appropriate for every student; it’s focused directly on the needs of one’s own children.

The kind of personalized learning you’ll encounter in most forms of home schooling is shown to improve learning because it allows a curriculum - any curriculum - to be delivered in a way that aligns with how a student currently learns best.

MYTH 2: All Homeschool Families are Alike

DEBUNKED: Consider this: are all families with kids in public school alike?

Homeschool families are diverse. Homeschool homes exist in all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. There are working homeschoolers, unschoolers, single parents, and adoptive families. Some choose to homeschool because they sail the Caribbean full-time. There are military families, religious families, even families with some of their kids in public school and others being homeschooled. There are families living abroad, blended families, former teachers who now teach their own kids, and families who live in remote or rural areas.

And now, there are families considering homeschool because sending their children back to the classroom in the fall feels unsafe.

Each family’s reasons for choosing to educate their kids at home, of course, are just as unique. The most important similarity between homeschool families is this: they want what’s best for their kids.

MYTH 3 Homeschooling is Homeschooling is Homeschooling…

DEBUNKED: There are hundreds of ways to teach kids at home. Some are structured, with curricula, syllabi, and all the associated material of a public school classroom; many provide concrete approaches with built-in flexibility; others could be described more as guideposts along the path of their kids’ education, wherever it turns.

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of terms - school at home, textbook-oriented, classical homeschooling, blended learning, homeschool pods, relaxed homeschooling, virtual school, unit studies, Waldorf, Montessori, Moore Formula, Charlotte Mason, unschooling…the list goes on.

Just like the families that utilize them, each homeschool method is a little different. Homeschooling families most often classify themselves according to the method or approach they use, and it’s a good idea to check out all the options available to your family if school at-home is a reality this fall.

MYTH 4: Homeschooling Is Only For Religious or Faith-Based Families

DEBUNKED: A total misnomer. A survey conducted every four years, the National Household Education Survey (NHES), by the U.S Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), reveals the highest-rated reason families choose to homeschool: school safety.

Religious or faith-based education certainly can involve homeschooling, but it’s just not a primary reason most US families teach their kids at home. Most homeschool families are secular.

MYTH 5: Colleges Don’t Approve of Homeschooling

DEBUNKED: Homeschoolers in the US have a higher rate of attending college than any other group of children: 66.7%. Compared to a rate of 57.5% of traditional public school children, it’s difficult to understand why this myth persists.

Some top-tier colleges like Dartmouth, Yale, and UC Berkeley actually seek out homeschooled students. What’s more - they accept them at a higher rate than “traditionally” educated students.

MYTH 6: Parents Aren’t Qualified To Teach

DEBUNKED: Every parent has anxiety about their child’s education. Who hasn’t worried that they won’t be a good teacher? We don’t often think about it, but the knowledge parents passed to children throughout their whole life is significant. It extends far past the ability to read, write, add, subtract, or take a test. Children learn a near-infinite number of things from their parents (and families), including behavior, empathy, how to speak, how to walk, how to reason, how to learn, and more.

While it’s certainly true that many parents are not trained, licensed educators, the fact is – most parents are more than qualified to teach their own children. They just need the same things their kids do: support, goals, and structure.

And in most cases, a license or formal training isn’t even necessary.

6 Things To Do If You’re Planning to Homeschool

Most states require that homeschooling parents have high school diplomas or GEDs. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, but aren’t convinced you’ve got the qualifications, here are 6 things most homeschooling parents will need to do:

  1. Check homeschooling requirements and current laws for your state
  2. Review the parental qualifications to homeschool for your area or district
  3. File necessary paperwork
  4. Understand what curricula or homeschool approach works for your kid(s)
  5. Talk to your student about how they learn best
  6. De-school

MYTH 7: To Homeschool, Parents Have to Stay At Home

DEBUNKED: Just as there are tons of “types” of homeschool families, parents who homeschool don’t all fall into one, neat category. This misconception is easy to understand - after all, homeschooling is a huge responsibility, requiring both lots of time and tons of concerted effort. Who else but stay-at-home parents could handle it?

The truth is, of course, that not every homeschool parent stays at home. While every family that chooses at-home education will have to surmount their own unique challenges, those who are considering some version of homeschool-while-working should understand that, yes, it can be done! Plenty of parents work full-time, part-time, even run their own business while homeschooling, and find the experience rewarding.

“Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode…and then I realize how fortunate I am,” writes long-time homeschooler Joan Concilio of Unschool Rules.

The key is managing a flexible schedule, and remaining adaptive. “Their school day and your work day do not have to mirror each other exactly,” says author of How to Work and Homeschool, Pamela Price.

So how do the parents who work full-time and homeschool do it? Self-discipline, patience, cooperation, and a carefully chosen method of homeschooling that fits their family’s needs.

MYTH 8: Only Parents Can Teach Homeschooled Students

DEBUNKED: Approaches to homeschool like distance Learning, eLearning, and hired homeschooling all depend primarily on the instruction and guidance of teachers, tutors, and other qualified educators.

In a number of homeschool households, tutors supplement parental teaching in a number of ways:

  • Subject expertise
  • Social interaction outside the family
  • Objective instruction kids are used to
  • Schedule planning, and structure for education

The Truth About Homeschooling

Over the last few decades, homeschooling in the US has changed dramatically. From a small movement composed of mostly “unschoolers” to a present population of close to 1.69 million students, it’s growth has introduced new possibilities for families everywhere. Even despite this evolution, Americans still subscribe to some common misconceptions about homeschool and the families who choose it.

If there’s one thing to take away from a discussion of homeschool myths, it’s that homeschooling is flexible, adaptable, and much less mysterious than some might have previously assumed.

Every approach to teaching at home offers its own opportunities for kids to continue learning, as well as nurture their own strengths and interests. Homeschooling, in the end, isn’t much different than public school. As parents, the well-being and development of your students is paramount. Homeschooling has the chance to create a whole new world of learning opportunities, but like most big endeavors, comes with added responsibility and the need for cooperation. That’s why it’s important to take into account the truth about homeschooling.