There are many reasons why we choose to educate our children the way we do. I have often had little debates within myself regarding this issue, and have considered that there are situations in which home education would not be the best option. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are the reasons about which I feel most strongly.
Reason #1: Abuse in the family, or abusive history
If parents are abusing their children, home education should not even be an option. When abusive parents “homeschool” children, there is generally no education going on. Most often, it is a means to control the children, keep them away from others who may be able to detect abuse, or just because the parent(s) need someone to abuse close at hand. In these cases, families must heal before home education could ever be a viable option. In cases where one parent is abusive, and the other would like to choose home education, it is best to remove the children (and yourself) from the abuser first.
In cases where a child is being abusive to the parent, perhaps a tutor would be a good go-between. Especially with children who have reactive attachment disorder, often it is better not to have the parent directly involved in their education, because it can be very damaging to the parent and other siblings. Other special needs children may do better in a setting with people who are trained to be more objective and do not have a deep emotional involvement with the child. This is especially true when a child is highly manipulative.
Sometimes, however, it is the public/private school environment that is causing a child to react with abusive behaviors at home. In this case, home education would be a perfect solution, as removing the child from an abusive bullying situation, for example, would solve the problem.
Another thing to consider is abusive history. If the primary educator has a history of serious abuse in his/her past, it may be best to choose another home education option until it is resolved. Often, survivors of abuse use about half their capacity just coping with putting the abuse out of the way of day to day living. In this instance, having children around almost 24 hours a day could be unhealthy. This does not mean the parent is a bad parent. Actually, taking care of our own mental health is one of the best gifts we can give our children. When we ignore these things, we run the risk of damaging our family relationships and hampering our own abilities to cope with an abusive history.
Happily, most survivors of abuse can get to a point where dealing with the abusive history no longer takes up their mental capacity, and are in a healthy position to home educate.
Reason #2: Lack of Confidence, Trust in Institutions or Groups, Rather Than Self
If the primary home educator lacks confidence in his/her abilities to educate children, then home education may end up not being the best option. Often, when a mother (because usually, it’s the mother who is the primary educator), lacks confidence, she seeks to find confidence through outside means. Seminars, support groups, and curriculum fairs become a huge facet of homeschooling, and often, to the point of distraction.
I have seen many, many women walk this path in which they rely on someone’s ideology or method completely, becoming so immersed in these methods that the actual day-to-day education is neglected. The mother is too busy going to seminars and support groups, researching curriculum, and answering emails and forum posts to actually do any real, hard core schooling. This is an absolute disaster for the entire family, because the mother is under a false sense of security that because she is doing all these things, she is doing her best and schooling, and the children are completely confused, because there is no consistent schedule or plan, nor is there enough attention given them.
In this case, often the mother is so married to certain ideas (and to the money she has spent on them), that even if she is trying to implement them with her children, if they don’t work, she refuses to be flexible with the individual child, because the idea has become ingrained as part of her self-worth.
In this case, the primary home educator needs to realize that he/she needs to find confidence from within, not from without. There is no seminar or support group or mentor that is going to pull you through in a home education setting. Sometimes they may help, but in the end, that strength and determination must come from the core of your being as a mother, not an outside source. Parents have been given a divine gift to access heaven to know and understand what is the best method of educating their children–not seminar presenters, authors of books, or mentors, no matter how knowledgeable.
I have often seen teachers become absolutely inspired by other influences, but it must be after the core confidence in the teacher’s own ability is strong and laid as a foundation. If you must gain some confidence through seminars and fairs, do it before you choose to home educate. Once the decision is made, the vast majority of your time should be spent in working and learning alongside the children, not perusing the latest curriculum catalog or attending time-consuming and costly seminars.
As a side note, I think it is unfortunate in our society that the industrial age has made things that are as simple as teaching a child to read something that has become so overcomplicated that the average parent often feels unqualified to do it. Teaching children without the aid of modern public education has been going on since Adam, and the vast majority didn’t need a doctorate to be successful at it.
I believe this often stems from the fact that once money and power are involved in simple things, those in power and with the money, in an effort to never let it go, determine to teach the masses that they are not smart enough, trained enough, or brilliant enough to be given the responsibility that was once solely theirs. (But that is just my opinion!)
Reason #3: Defining yourself as a “Homeschool Mom” can lead to not actually educating
Because of my web design abilities, I have been able to become intimately involved with some homeschool advocacy groups and their leadership. What I have found in some cases (and often, specifically within religious based groups), has surprised me.
In several instances, the “mom advocates” of homeschooling are far too busy advocating to be effective home educators. One well-known advocate has children she homeschooled (and she made a living advocating this cause), who were, in reality, neglected, felt shortchanged, and now are very much against home education as an option and would never think of doing that to their own children.
If you have a tendency toward advocating, and that is a primary part of your decision to home educate, perhaps it is not the best option for your children. Consider sending them to private/charter school so you can spend you daytime hours advocating for homeschool, because you cannot advocate full-time and teach full-time and parent full-time and do church things full-time and maintain a balance in your life. Something will give, and from what I have observed, it is usually the children who are neglected the most.
Reason #4: One spouse does not agree with home education
If both parents are not unified in educational goals for their children, it can be extremely difficult to pursue education at home. It is vital for the primary home educator to have support and to have the support person instill confidence in the home educator. Unlike public and private school teachers, the homeschool teacher does not get noticed for superior performance. There are no “Teacher Work Days” or “Teacher Appreciation Days,” and because home education is counter-cultural, the primary home educator must often fight feelings of inadequacy or insecurity. This is where the spouse can really make a difference.
Another reason it may not be the best choice if both parents are not unified is that, for example, in the case when mother thinks homeschooling is the answer and father is not sure, he may have insights into his wife and children that mother simply cannot see. It’s good to resolve these concerns before beginning any educational endeavor, and to realize that the opposing spouse may have excellent reasons for his/her feelings–feelings that need to be addressed.
Reason #5: You have a gut feeling, intuition, or answer from God or your Higher Power that it is not right for your child.
If you feel deeply that home education just doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t the best option for your family. Sometimes we don’t even understand why. But, it is important to follow that spark of divinity which is all of us…that will lead us to the best choices for our children, regardless of what is popular or trendy or what all of our friends are/aren’t doing.
Whatever reasons you have in your heart for choosing the type of education your children have, it is something that is your sacred responsibility, and deserving of respect from others. I hope that we can all respect each other for making the effort to choose, regardless of whether or not that choice is the same as our own!