Although homeschooling generally produces socialised individuals who go on to become productive members of our society, home schools provide an environment in which parents can easily frustrate and create problems fortheir children. Homeschooling is not a panacea to the problems in school. Rather homeschooling allows parents to get away from school problems. But if parents are themselves are a problem, home schools can be petri dishes where parent's ideas or abusive behaviors flourish.
If these same parents were to send their children to school, the effect of their behavior would be diluted, yet still present (in addition, children would have to deal with the problems schools present, which are many!). Therefore, the problems listed below are not perhaps inherent problems with homeschooling, but things to look out, knowing how sinful we (parents) are. Knowing about these problems means it's easier to avoid them.
Some of these problems include:
loneliness (which is tied to a lack of socialisation)
lack of motivation
parent stress from a lack of a break
homeschooling becoming school at home
However, just like a drug can have a long list of adverse effects, not every drawback will happen in every homeschooling family. (My own family experienced none of these, although I occasionally observed these issues in other homeschooling families).
Importantly, homeschooling is an individual family experience. What one family sees as a disadvantage, others families may not. One family's experience might not be the other family’s experience. For those who seek after the Lord, most issues raised can be avoided with diligent prayer, mentoring and consultation with other homeschooling.
Sometimes homeschoolers become lonely and isolated if they are not given enough social interaction during their educational years. Some parents are lazy, while others fear all influence from the outside world; at times, isolation happens as a byproduct of rural living where socialisation experiences are difficult to come by. Some of these situations are not avoidable, while others are avoidable:
Lazy homeschooling parents fail to care for their children in a loving manner and fail to socialise them as a result of callousness as to their children's needs. This creates resentment in children and tension between parents and children.
Fearful homeschooling parents fail to socialise their children due to an unhealthy fear about the influences of those they might not agree with. For many parents like this, their fears manifest themselves when they fail to let their children come in contact with any non-Christian people (even under a parents watchful eye). Other homeschooling parents are 'stricter' and restrict their children from contact with even Christian children whom they consider as 'not quite up to par' for their children to socialise with.
Rural homeschooling parents have a reduced capacity to access socialisation. Often this lack of access is not from lack of trying. Some parents simply live in the middle of nowhere and find socialisation opportunities difficult.
Most homeschooling parents realise child loneliness and lack of socialisation are key arguments against homeschooling. Therefore, it seems that most of these homeschooling parents strenuously make sure these situations don't occur in thier home schools. They do this by involving their children in extra-familial events and opportunities which offer children a great opportunity to socialise.
Christian homeschooling parents, Susan and William admitted their homeschooled children got a little bored along the way. However, these parents revealed their children got plenty of opportunities to make friends with other children in church, homeschooling groups and extra-curricular activities. In the long run, their children certainly didn't get lonely:
"We made a point of networking with homeschoolers so we could meet [the socialising] need for other kids in the homeschooling group. So we were always organising things like plays, soccer games or outings to museums. Our son got involved in Scouts and I went with him. And our daughter got involved in Brownies. We also went camping and canoeing on weekends a lot."
Most homeschooling parents don’t let their children get lonely. But for some parents (often parents who want to shield their children from everything in life) homeschooling can be detrimental. In these cases, homeschooling can be detrimental to the child. Indeed, we have to be careful about the statement ‘homeschooling is good,’ because homeschooling is just an educational vector and doesn't lead to a good Christian education on its own.
If a parents views are good, the home school will be good. But if parents views are dangerous and warped, the home school may easily become dangerous and warped. Because the views of homeschooling parents are magnified onto their children, if the parents views are distorted then the children will often adopt similar views. Will commented on this trend, saying bluntly, ‘If the worldview is screwy homeschooling can be weird.’
School withdrawal is a phenomenon I've noticed among children who have recently left school and begun homeschooling. School withdrawals manifest themselves in higher degrees of loneliness than is felt by the normal, adapted homeschooler. As schoolchildren leave their social circles and make new friends in homeschooling circles, withdrawals from school may be present and initially manifest themselves in more loneliness than usual.
School withdrawals appear to be evident in children taken out of school for short periods of time (that is, a year or two). This higher degree of loneliness in homeschoolers, who spend time in and out of school repeatedly, may be likened to a couple that goes through many breakups. Every time the couple breaks up they experience heartbreak. Similarly homeschoolers who have had the opportunity to make friends at school, will experience heartbreak every time they disengage from their closest school friends.
Pulling these children out of school makes a child pine over the school and those much-valued friendships they left behind. Even if these new homeschoolers are integrated into homeschooling groups, expecting these children to make good social friends in a short period can be expecting too much. Christine, who went to school for most of her life, was homeschooled for a year while her family traveled around the country. She talked about her painful school withdrawals, saying, “Because we moved around a lot I didn’t have long term friends or a stable peer group. There were times I wished I was around for friends birthdays. I wanted friends my own age to play with.”
Having long-term friendships is important for children. As a parent, it’s wise to give your children the opportunity to make relationships with other children in the social groups they see most often, like a church or weekly tutoring groups. Homeschooled children who maintain friendships with other homeschoolers in their local groups have an opportunity to gain lifelong friends. Camille, a homeschool graduate, spoke fondly about her homeschooling experience, saying, “We always had plenty of opportunities to socialise during extracurricular activities such as swimming classes, musical ensembles, youth group and so on.” Bonny, another homeschool graduate, said, “There were plenty of opportunities to socialise with other homeschoolers and at church.”
Homeschooling critics sometimes argue that schoolteachers provide a motivating influence over homework, which students often lack at home. This is only true for home schools that lack motivated parents who can't be bothered pushing their children (like they would probably be required to outside of school hours when they are helping their children with their homework.)
Critics are correct on this issue, I believe. Some students lack a motivating influence because they have lazy or naive parents who care about other things more than their child's education. I recently heard of one homeschool in which the mother failed to check her children's maths homework. This homeschooling graduate had a negative view of homeschooling as a result and felt her and her siblings grew up with an insufficient educational background as a result.
Because the homeschooling parents take the place of the teacher in the home, they’re the ones that provide the motivation. I believe a parent has a better chance of motivating their students as they’re able to praise or discipline her children while constantly keeping an eye on them. At school, children must wait until the teacher has time to respond to them. We see this in Jesse's account. Jesse is a homeschool graduate who struggled with motivation at times. He remembered his homeschool years with a grin and said motivation was a non-issue because, “We always had Mum breathing down our neck.”
While some students might thrive on a free curriculum (or find the reward of a free afternoon motivating), others study because they’re bookworms and love learning. Motivation is often dependent on a student’s character. Homeschool parents, Steven and Barbara, echoed homeschooling research on the issue of motivation and said, “Homeschoolers are often highly motivated. If parents find out what their children want to do early, they can do it. They don’t have that pressure which tells them to think a certain way or do things a certain way.”
If motivation does become an issue, finding out what the student’s interests or motivations are often solves the problem. With a student-led curriculum, motivation problems can disappear quickly.
Parents Have No Break
With children constantly around the house, parents sometimes suffer tiredness. It can be difficult to get a break from children without appearing to be rude. Kerry, a homeschooling mother who enjoyed her homeschooling time with her children, said, “I did not have a personal break to do the things I wanted to do, without cutting them off.” If parents have no contacts, such as family or friends, to help with babysitting, over-tiredness can result. A loving family or husband can be the key to preventing exhaustion in this situation. One homeschooling mother, said, “The best gift my husband has given me this week has been taking the kids on an excursion for a few hours. It gave me the opportunity to relax and have a bit of time to myself.”
Homeschooling Becoming School at Home
Kids may get bored when homeschooling is school at home
Home is unlike school because school is where rows of chairs are set up and children spend their day mostly writing on paper or listening to the teacher. They fill eight hours like this. This doesn’t happen at home. Instead, children are able to study in positions that suit them best. Whether it’s on a chair at the kitchen table or the carpet in the living room – home is where children can be truly accommodated. At home, flexibility is possible and can be encouraged.
Homeschooling should be more about raising competent, caring and happy children. Education is important, but, as much as anything, education is a vector to accomplish the former goals. Jane Austen, a famous author and keen observer of human nature had one of her characters talk about homeschooling from a daughters perspective. Her appraisal of the type of education employed in the home sounds painful:
You think me foolish to call instruction a torment, but if you had been as much used as myself to hear poor little children first learning their letters and then learning to spell, if you had ever seen how stupid they can be for a whole morning together and how tired my poor mother is at the end of it, as I am in the habit of seeing almost every day of my life at home, you would allow that to torment and to instruct might sometimes be used as synonymous words.[Northanger Abby]
Homeschooling should not be synonymous with torture! If done right, parents and children can avoid burnout. If done wrong, both parties will suffer. An excellent book every parent new to homeschooling should read is Dorothy and Raymond Moore’s The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook. The book is a Christian gem. It tells parents homeschooling pitfalls to avoid and teaches a stress-free method of home education. The Moores draw on the results of studies they have completed and relate stories about late start education theory (that is, the Moores say children should start formal education at 8-12 years).
Parentified daughters suffer themselves
Parentified daughters are daughters who are put into parent roles by parents. When parents get tired, they sometimes recruit daughters to fill the mothers role. These (usually) older daughters become more than casual babysitters. A mother will inappropriately rely and depend on her daughters to give her mental and emotional support. This role-reversal is incredibly damaging to the daughter and can have many adverse effects on the daughter’s self-esteem, confidence and self-worth.’ Mothers rely on these parentified daughters to fulfill the mother's needs. The daughter's own developmental needs become secondary to the fulfillment of the mother’s needs. The daughter's developmental delay's as a result of parentification, are not easily fixed later in life. Bethany, a writer on parentified daughters, explains what a parentified daughter is:
A daughter is being exploited when her mother gives her adult roles, such as surrogate spouse, best friend or therapist. When a daughter is asked to be an emotional prop for her mother, she is unable to rely on her mother enough to get her own developmental needs met…expressing your own needs may mean rejection or abuse from the mother.
Parentified daughters are more common in large homeschooling families. A son or daughter like this is called a ‘parentified child’, but more often daughters are recruited to this position more than sons.
While helping younger children in the family can be a blessing for older children, placing a daily burden on daughters where daughters are expected to shoulder a mother's burden, makes parentified daughters into second mothers. This burden is not right. As 2 Cor 12:14 says, "Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." [Source] The following account is from a book, Quivering Daughters, in which the author, Hillary McFarland, lived in a patriarchal household. She was one of the oldest daughters in the family, and often took on her mother’s roles, in the wake of her own mother. It illustrates how frustrating this situation can be for a young girl:
I tried not to be embarrassed when Dad and I took the youngest to the store to give Mom a break and people gushed over ―our baby. I tried not to feel tired when baby after baby was placed into my arms, or ashamed when they tried to nurse or lift my shirt or grope me because I felt like Mom to them— even as young as eleven or twelve, thanks to fullness inherited from my grandmother. I tried not to be embarrassed because I loved them. I wanted to help. I wanted to lay down my life daily for God, to take up my cross—and could not understand the growing heartache and depression.[Source] In the end, parentified children are robbed of their childhood and experience emotional hardship. Their only choices are to submit or rebel. And often the second comes after many years of submission and developmental delay – after the parentified child has spent their childhood being noticed for what they do, rather than who they are before God.