If you had asked me four years ago (when my daughter was a preschooler) whether I would be homeschooling, I would have laughed at your hilarious joke. I was in a full-time, five-day-a-week career and thrilled about the prospect of public kindergarten on the horizon to both help defray the (enormous!) costs of childcare and give my bright and energetic girl some more structure and challenge in her life.
I had absolutely no intention of homeschooling and didn’t know anyone who was homeschooling. It had never even crossed my mind.
Now, here we are. Here are ten things I’ve learned through this surprising, amazing, and unexpected journey.
1. Homeschooling is growing.
It’ll come as no surprise that people are exploring the many educational options available, but homeschooling often isn’t talked about in the same way that private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools. However, homeschooling is growing across the United States, and there are about 3.5 million children being homeschooled—more than there are in charter schools!
2. Secular homeschooling is growing fastest.
I also learned that the fastest-growing segment of the homeschooling community is secular homeschoolers, a fact that goes against the typical stereotype of homeschooling. Many people are choosing homeschooling because of the costs of private education, difficulties finding a good traditional classroom fit, and the special academic/emotional needs of their individual children.
3. St. Louis is a great place to homeschool!
Since starting this journey about two years ago, I have met so many great homeschooling families in the area. There is a thriving homeschool community here, and many of our institutions and museums offer homeschool experiences including the Zoo, History Museum, and Art Museum.
4. Being on the off-schedule is awesome!
By far one of the best perks of homeschooling has been getting to explore some of the great places St. Louis has to offer when they’re practically empty. The City Museum is amazing at noon on a Wednesday during the school year.
5. There are plenty of chances to socialize.
The first thing people ask when they find out I’m homeschooling is “but what about socialization?” I’ll admit, I asked myself this question, too. I joined the St. Louis Homeschool Network, and my daughter has made friends with other homeschoolers. We have co-op classes that give our kids the chance to learn and play together. We also take advantage of classes both free (from the St. Louis Public Library and many community groups) and paid (COCA, YMCA, Rollercade).
6. Homeschool doesn’t have to look like school.
When I first started homeschooling, I was in a panic trying to figure out how to mimic the 8-3, Monday through Friday schedule of traditional school. Then I realized that it didn’t have to look like that. We school year-round, seven days a week. This lets us take breaks whenever we want or need them. We also do school any time of day and any place we want: in our pajamas in bed in the morning, reading aloud at the dinner table, taking math games to the park in the afternoon.
7. You don’t have to do it alone!
There are tons and tons of resources out there for homeschoolers. If you want, you can find complete curricula available either online or in print textbooks, taking all the guesswork out of what to teach. You can also mix and match, creating your own lessons for the stuff you like and letting someone else fill in the gaps. Homeschoolers also use a combination of tutors, drop-in programs, and online classes. Many homeschoolers (myself included) use some kind of daycare, which allows us to work and homeschool at the same time.
8. It’s kind of amazing.
I ended up homeschooling because I was out of options. I came to it in desperation and frustration. There really wasn’t a plan for the future, and I was taking it one day at a time. Since then, though, I’ve seen my child really blossom in both skills and confidence. I’ve been able to set up educational experiences that are hands-on. My child can explore her interests and work at her own pace—whether that means speeding up or slowing down. I’m an educator by training and profession. Seeing what truly individualized education can look like has been an inspiration and a joy.