We’ve all heard about the mommy wars: stay at home moms vs. working moms, attachment parenting vs. babywise, cosleeping vs. crying it out, and so on. Now we can add another to the list: homeschool vs. traditional school.
For years homeschool families have been on the defense – homeschooling was illegal in many places (and still is in many parts of the world), plus it carried the stigma of creating weird, awkward kids who either were hippies or religious zealots, either group probably wearing ill-fitting homemade sweaters and eating a lot of spelt cookies.
These days, homeschooling is become more accepted, but now the pendulum is swinging to the other extreme (as it often does), shaming parents who opt for traditional school instead. It reminds me of that famous article from TIME magazine asking “Are You Mom Enough?” Somehow parents who don’t homeschool are made to feel that they aren’t doing enough for their kids – as if caring for their child, working to finance their household, and keeping everyone fed and happy wasn’t doing enough. And I’ve also observed that parents that choose traditional school still devote a great deal of time to their child’s education: helping with homework, volunteering in the classroom, doing after school projects, helping their kids decompress from school, running their kids to extracurricular activities, etc.
When we first started homeschooling, I was still tentative about our choice. Would it work for us? What was I getting myself into? I sat down with the head of our local homeschooling charter school, and I remember distinctly her response to my doubts: It’s all about choosing what is right for your child and your family at a given time.
Will we be homeschooling throughout my children’s education? I don’t know. I don’t even know if we’ll be doing it for all of our children, since their personalities and needs are so different. My older son is blossoming in our homeschool, while my younger son is thriving in a traditional preschool.
And so I wanted to show some respect for families that choose traditional school for their children, because we are all making the hard choices about what is right for our children and our families at a given time. And that deserves respect.
Choosing Traditional School: Parents Share
I asked my friends who don’t homeschool about their decision to choose traditional school, and they have kindly allowed me to share their responses here, with some editing for space. Several themes emerged in their comments: practical concerns, the needs of the child, and the needs/abilities of the parents:
Maria from Bicultural Mama: Some families need to have two parents working to stay financially afloat. They don’t have a choice to homeschool, so let’s not shame them for having to financially support their families.
Terrie: I homeschooled my daughter for the first half of kindergarten and my son the last half of his senior year. We’re not homeschooling now, due to the incredible amount of care my husband requires that takes away from my WAHM activities. I STILL consider myself a homeschooler as I work with my daughter heavily after school and in the summer times, and teach her lifeskills that are needed but not taught in public school.
Carolyn: I am the sole bread winner, there is no other income. I’m lucky that my kids can “mainstream” and still be their own little persons. Yes, I’ve had teacher conferences and our thoughts on “where they should be” have differed but I have found overall positive outcomes. No matter whether you homeschool or not, it is still a village helping to raise your children. Most important is be a part of it.
Amy: I won’t pretend that we ever had to wrestle with the idea of homeschooling, because it isn’t a practical alternative for us. I have to work full-time. Still, I think that it is no small thing to have my daughter and son see me doing important work and sharing with them the struggles and significance of what I do.
Mary Grace from The Global Moms Show: I “want” to be a homeschooling family, but it just isn’t working out for us for the time being. We’ve chosen to send our first grader to the public school nearby this year, partly because he is so incredibly active and social and also because I have a one year old who is incredibly active as well, and because I have to work.
Needs of the child
Cindy: My kids would have less interaction with a wide cross-section of peers & cultures. They wouldn’t have as many opportunities to learn how to handle issues with peers, explore their own value systems, etc.
Christy of Thriving STEM: We homeschooled for one year. My child asked to go to public school and both my children love it. We see participation in our local public school as a way to better our community.
Amy: I like the idea that there are trained professionals with whom I could partner in their education. Their teachers, with their experience and perspective, have often helped me to discover something about my kids that I hadn’t appreciated on my own. They have come up with practical solutions to some behavioral issues that were incredibly effective and helped us in our routines at home as well.
Acknowledging that there are some children for whom this is not the case, I think that there can be great value in NOT having things personalized for you. Yes, my children have to do assignments that are not adapted to their learning style. Yes, they finish assignments before others. Yes, they think differently about a particular math concept than it is being explained to them. Yes, they will run into bullies… And they learn the valuable lesson of being flexible and figuring out how to handle those challenges, a practice version of the challenges they will experience in social interactions and the work environment throughout their lives.
Menucha from Moms and Crafters: I realized that my son was developing into a very social child, and he thrives in groups. We don’t have a strong homeschooling community here, and I felt he wouldn’t meet the social needs of his personality.
Giuliana of Washington, Dead Chef: I grew up in public schools myself, and I enjoyed being in big schools surrounded by tons of kids and forced to deal with a variety of teachers. I learned a lot from the good teachers as well as from the bad. I learned a lot when my parents were present and loving, and just as much when they were absent, and I had to figure out my own way to live my life and interpret the world around me. And now I am confident my children will thrive in the same rollercoaster of comfort and struggle.
And a note on the multicultural society that is so beautifully celebrated in this page: I believe that when we talk about multiculturalism, what we really value is the idea that different lifestyles and experiences can enrich our point of view and challenge our ideas in a way that can inspire us to make this world a little better. All voices are relevant, no matter the education they chose or just happened to receive.
Carrie of Crafty Moms Share: Having been a high school math teacher I do not feel I am qualified to truly teach my young daughter. She is also an only child and I did not think it would be beneficial for her to stay home with me. She is a very sensitive child and needs the social skills that being part of a class teaches her. We do not like the public school in our town due to many years of underfunding so we have decided to send her to private school and luckily live in an area with many good private schools to choose from.
Maria of The Tiger Tales: When my son began school I realised that way the he was being assessed didn’t seem to factor in his personality. It felt as though he was expected to fit into a preset box. When he didn’t fit in in certain areas his ability was being questioned. I began to see that aspects of homeschooling would benefit his overall development and show him the joy in learning and being more confident. However, he will remain in public school because he actually enjoys school. I think being in that setting will allow him to meet and interact with children from a variety of backgrounds, he will have more structure to his day (than if I put it together) and the time away will help him to be more independent and focused. It is my plan to support him at home by giving him a place to explore his interest. and tie it in with his learning.
Anika: I send mine to school because the teachers do a better job of educating them on certain topics than I could and they seem to learn better in a group environment.
Monica: We don’t home school and it has nothing to do with me and a whole lot to do with what a professional school can offer. We did a home school preschool and I find my kids feel more secure and do better at a school.
Jen: My son is in a charter Montessori and absolutely loves it. And the routine is great for both of us.
Kay of A Crafty Arab: For us, we need our children to learn how to interact with their peers: working on projects, learning how to read different body languages and getting into disagreements / learning how to resolve issues. While I can teach them this as a parent, that will not prepare them for the real world full of their own people in college or the work force.
Becky of Kid World Citizen: First, I absolutely LOVE our public schools where we live. It is 60% Asian/Middle Eastern, with the rest mixed from Africa, Latin America, Europe, and US born black, Latino, and Asian. Where we live, the homeschool groups are most often white. Because my kids are multicultural, school is a wonderful place to study with and make friends with people from around the world. I love that my Ethiopian son has had teachers and friends who reflect what he looks like.
My other son has dyslexia and other learning disabilities and I am thrilled that our school is using the Neuhaus curriculum with him (for which I am not certified). I am so appreciative of our specialists who have trained for years in reading and literacy. My little guy is in a bilingual preschool, which is *amazing* since I am not a native speaker- his whole class plays in Spanish and English and he’s building a wonderful language foundation. One of my daughters is in GT, and the amazing projects she gets to do are so beyond what I would be capable of providing her.
I know that incredible opportunities exist for homeschooling families too, but there aren’t enough hours in the day for me (personally) to be able to get each of my children to what helps them succeed academically and socio-emotionally and also balance my job and interests.
Bronwyn: We have a child who thrives best in a highly structured environment. Now I’m not Mrs Rigid Structure at the best of times, but what with our other commitments I struggle to provide a suitable environment for everyone at home. We find we’re all happier with him attending a traditional school for a chunk of his day. He can handle free play and flexibility for the remainder of his time.
Marcie: My oldest would never let me teach him at home. His personality dictates that someone other than me instruct him in school subjects.
Erin: We went from homeschooling to public school and back again. It was just what we needed at that time and we would go back to public school again in the event it was the best choice.
Varya of Creative World of Varya: While I love homeschooling, we are in a smaller town as expats with very limited social circle for our children. We also don’t have any activities for their age group during day time, and we can’t guarantee proper local language learning for them. I do not like local schools around here much, but we found a nice option for our children to study half a day in school and continue learning some other skills at home. I grew up in public system and I received great knowledge and mastered so many useful and helpful skills. I think that a lot depends on a classroom teacher who supervises kids and assists them in many ways. I think the way of education should be chosen based on one’s condition and according to the needs of the family and children. As a teacher and a mother, I have been on both sides of the fences and I can understand how both sides feel.
Sara of Sunshine Whispers: I live in an area with some of the best public schools in the nation. Like, our school district dominates that school report list every year. We moved specifically to this county to be in these schools. I am a huge advocate of public schooling, not because I think there is anything wrong with homeschooling, but honestly, because the entire concept was completely foreign to me until about 10 years ago (so, for me that is mid-30’s). I didn’t know a single person who homeschooled when I was growing up. I also went to public schools in a decent district and I think it worked out ok for me. Oh, and then there is that work thing. I am a professional working Mom and I really kind of like my 9-5 job. I don’t want to give that up to homeschool my daughter… and I think that it is a valid life choice to work outside the home. I also think it is a valid life choice to homeschool as well. I don’t think these decisions are a zero sum game. There are pros and cons with each decision and that is perfectly fine… because that is the way life is.
Tabitha of Meet Penny: When we stopped homeschooling, I felt like a defector. But once I saw how my children flourished under a rigid private school environment, I knew we had made the right decision.
Needs/Abilities of the parent
Menucha from Moms and Crafters: Basically, I was considering it because our other option is private school which is extremely expensive. Afterward I realized how badly I needed the break and how I wouldn’t manage my work from home, and give my son adequate attention, let alone homeschool.
Amanda from MarocMama: We send our kids to traditional schools because it keeps me sane. Everyone has their purpose and passion, teaching my kids isn’t my passion. While I love them and want to see them succeed I know I am a better parent and mom by sending them out of the house to school. They’re also able to learn things I couldn’t teach them like other languages, music etc.
Leena from Masala Baby Food: I simply wouldn’t even know HOW to teach them. I don’t know that I have the temperament and patience to teach young children, which wouldn’t be fair to them. Passion for the craft–that is key!
Allison: If I homeschooled I’d lose my sanity.
Rebekah of The Golden Gleam: I stopped homeschooling because I was losing myself. I have 4 kids all with differing special needs and teaching and parenting them requires a tremendous amount of resources – time, energy, wisdom, and money. I am just one person doing almost all of it, and I had nothing left over to give myself when I was homeschooling. I knew I needed to utilize the public school system to help educate my children because it would help me better person and mother to hand over some of the responsibility to the teachers. Sure there have been times when I know I did a better job educating my kids than the school system but it doesn’t have to be perfect to work. Good enough is okay too.
Brynn from Brynn in Brazil: My daughter’s only five and still in preschool in Brazil, but I know we will never because I would lose my mind. Neither my husband nor I have the temperament to teach young children. There is no way either one of us could spend all day at home teaching our daughter and still enjoy parenting when school time is over. I have family and friends who spent four to eight years at college learning how to be teachers. They studied the psychology and anatomy of the brain and how it learns at different ages, different types of learners, different types of pedagogy, in addition to the subject matter they would teach. Becoming a parent didn’t automatically make me a math or music teacher. I’m nowhere near qualified enough to teach my daughter all her subjects throughout her childhood.
Tracey: I think my college transcripts prove I have no business teaching anyone about math. Also, I am not sure it is appropriate for music class to consist of learning 80s sitcom theme songs, which is all I really have to offer my kid.
Hanna of HannaCheda.com: I wouldn’t choose to homeschool my kids because we both work full time outside the house and I wouldn’t like to give up my job: anyway, we wouldn’t even survive and pay bills with just one salary at home 😉 Also, I can’t imagine teaching to my kids stuff that I had always been weak at, like maths or physics. I prefer to leave the job to qualified teachers and simply learn through play with the boys in the evening.
Alexandra of Madh Mama: I do not homeschool because I can’t handle it. I know my limitations as a parent, and my daughter is better off at a school with a regular teacher and classmates. I am not a teacher and I cannot take on that role for my daughter. I enjoy the 4 hours that she’s in school so that I can concentrate on my own work.
Lenisha: At this point of my life, I’m not organized enough to home school. I’d be doing a disservice to my children. Also they love going to school and being with their peers. It provides a nice break for all of us.
Lisa of Glögger: Homeschooling requires more time, effort, and expertise than I have space for in my life.
Olga of Milk, Crafts, and Honesty: When my daughter was a baby, homeschooling seemed like the best idea ever. But now that she’s almost 4 all I dream of is for the summer to be over and her to be back in daycare. I love exploring the world with her, teaching her, and playing with her but I need my day, my space, not being touched, asked, and few hours a day when I am not responsible for her whole well-being and her future. I need to breathe.
And on her side – she loves being with other children and caretakers who enjoy playing with her for 8 hours a day. I really see that she thrives around her peers. Also, she’s already almost trilingual. School will reinforce her French, and German will start in few years. She’ll meet kids from literally all around the world. And being expats/immigrants in the country, I believe that going to a local school will help her integrate. Not every parent is a material for a homeschooling teacher, and not every child will thrive at home (I know I wouldn’t have, school was my paradise on many levels).
Did you chose homeschool or traditional school for your child? How did you make your decision?
From Life in the Circus: Homeschool Mom Sends Kids to Public School
From Fun-A-Day: Bring Respect into the Homeschool vs. Public School Debate
From Embark on the Journey: When They Want to Go to Public School
From Meet Penny: When Homeschool Isn’t Working
And don’t forget this wonderful video on The Mother ‘Hood, about how no matter what our differences, we are all parents first.