Benefits from homeschooling

I took this picture when I was in New York City, in the middle of the week, at a totally cool place called Make Meaning. They have cakes that are ready-made, and they have totally cool things for decorating the cakes, including a spin-art setup, where the cake is on the spinner instead of the piece of paper, and you paint the cake as it spins.

I took the photo because I knew it was a special moment. It was a moment that I knew I could only have because we were homeschooling. And I thought I'd need pictures like this to remind me when I have doubts about homeschooling.

I thought the photo would remind me of the educational benefits of being outside the classroom. But the photo is much more than that.

Peter Gray, at Psychology Today, polled homeschool families, and he published a summary of what parents say the benefits are to their homeschooling.

I am struck by the four benefits that parents mentioned most frequently:

1. Learning advantages for the child

2. Emotional and social advantages for the child

3. Family closeness

4. Family freedom from the schooling schedule

I didn't realize, until I read this list, that the real benefits for me are numbers three and four.

I come from a family where everyone is in the 90th percentile for IQ. We simply take IQ for granted. I'm also in a family full of Aspergers, so I'm convinced that you are either born with good social skills or you're not.  Consequently, those first two points in the list don't mean much to my family personally.

What really makes me happy about homeschooling is the family closeness, and the freedom to be the family we want to be. We travel too often for kids who are in school. We eat breakfast together as a family two hours after most kids have climbed onto the school bus. We decorate cakes. Five at a time. And that is so much more fun than sending the kids to school.

The thing is, you have to want that. I don't think all parents want the freedom to be a family all day long. I think it's scary to parents. It's new to most parents. So it's easy to see why homeschooling is so difficult for people to imagine for themselves when the benefits from homeschooling are not benefits parents believe they need.

The biggest surprise to me so far is how much I enjoy being with my kids all day. But, if I am being honest, I'd have to also confess that as big a surprise to me is that I can write while I'm waiting for the paint on the cake to dry. If you asked me before I tried homeschooling, I'd have told you I'd go nuts without the kids in school because I wouldn't have time to write.

Posted in Extended classroom
28 comments on “Benefits from homeschooling
  1. Colin says:

    Have you blogged anywhere yet on transitioning from homeschooling to college? I know you have said plenty on the merits (or lack thereof) of going to college, but *given *your homeschooled child wants to attend college (say to be a doctor or lawyer or where a bachelor's is 100% required) then what, if anything, does that change and when? Graduating high school is an easy, mostly predictable demarcation of when the start to prepare (e.g., SAT/ACT) but where is that demarcation when homeschooling? I realize you have not personally reached this point, but surely you have an opinion.

  2. Monica says:

    Couldn't have said it better myself! A great post!

  3. karelys. says:

    I think homeschooling is something that needs defending with examples and pictures and positiveness all around because we've been brainwashed into thinking that school is the way to go. Anything different is too weird, dangerous, alternative.

    I am pretty sure that before school was a thing people who were able to educate their children never had to defend homeschool. It was the way it was and it was good.

    I've been reading Seth Godin's manifesto. He starts setting up the reader to think of the need to revolutionize the education system. Once you are convinced, or see how the school system was formed there's not much of a need to defend homeschooling.

    It just seems to crazy not to do it.

    After reading yesterdays post on activism I wonder how can I homeschool and still be an activist for change in the education system?

    • Jennifer says:

      Homeschooling could be your most powerful/influential activist work.

      In my conservative, rural, economically-depressed area, a few schools are offering home-school enrollment. Do you think this would happen due to a file of strongly-worded letters or because of enough walk-a-thons?

      I don't think so. It's money. They're losing it, they don't want to lose anymore, so they're making changes to accommodate people who have the power to leave what they don't like.

      http://home4goodmichigan.blogspot.com/2012/02/assumptions-challenged-darwin-and.html

  4. Lisa says:

    The usual line to me as a homeschooler is "I don't know how you do it," with the assumption that it's just too much–too much responsibility, too much time with the kids, too much work. And while yes, it's a lot of those things, the flip side is the freedom. The freedom! Freedom from someone else setting the schedule, freedom from the latest fashions and trends, freedom from helping my kids with homework that I can't make heads or tails of, freedom to set an alarm clock or never set one again, freedom from fundraisers and forms, freedom to come and go as we please, freedom to read as long as we want to, to get up and pee when we want to, to eat when we want to, freedom to work super hard one day and take an easy day the next, freedom to run outside when it's sunny, to stare out the window when it rains, freedom to talk and discuss and deliberate the important things of life.

    Oh, sure, we have days where we really don't like one another and wonder what we've got ourselves into, but for the most part, it's such a relaxing and rewarding way to live.

    • MoniqueWS says:

      Absolutely Lisa! I also hear how the parents and kids will kill each other or make each other crazy. I let families know that when you do not spend the majority of your time together TRANSITIONING you have time and space to be relaxed and calm and fall in love with one another as a family again.

  5. Zellie says:

    You're underestimating the importance of learning (1). What and how they learn will shape them and affect the rest of their lives. That's significant for people with high IQs as much as anyone else.

  6. MoniqueWS says:

    I want to point out Peter Gray is researching and writing on unschooling. The article in Psychology Today is about the benefits of unschooling. I want to make this distinction because some folks (doing what works for their family) re-create school at home. This is VERY different from unschooling (and what I think you are doing with your boys).

    We homeschool for reasons 2, 3, and 4. I believe number 1 happens with every child in any situation unless it has been *beaten/shamed/bored* out of them. Oh and my own personal reason is … I don;t want to get up at o-dark thirty to get them off to school.

  7. helen says:

    I feel like you've been spending a lot of time talking about how great homeschooling is in NY and CA but what is your day to day life in WI? Sounds like everyone wanders out of bed late and plays video games all day. I had a boyfriend like that once. Come home from a day at work (that was inspiring and I loved) and there he was, eating cheerios on the sofa watching tv. Oy. Depressing.

    PS, my kids have been to Make Meaning (a place I pretty much hate) during the week and we don't homeschool so your statement that it was a moment that you could only have because you were homeschooling is not accurate.

  8. Mark W. says:

    Thanks for the link to Peter Gray's blog and the post. Very interesting and I liked what he said about being able to include quotations from enthusiastic homeschooling families in his post. It's something he can't do in "the more formal academic article". He made it clear the report is not a random sample of all unschoolers and other limitations were noted. I like how his methodology and analysis was clearly laid out.
    So, to your point, the benefits (#3 and #4) which you and your family cherish while unschooling. Is this something a school could test for? I don't think so.

  9. Kimberly says:

    Hi Penelope!

    I LOVE the homeschooling component of your blog. I don't have children yet but my husband and I hope to unschool them when we do (in part because of what I've read in your blog).

    Part of me wonders if it's odd or unwise to plan on unschooling our unborn kids before even knowing who they'll be and what needs they'll have.

    I know that your youngest son is a very social boy and that you once questioned if homeschooling would hold him back in that area. How is that going? I look forward to any future posts on that topic.

    Thanks again for your inspiring posts!

    • penelopetrunk says:

      Increasingly I'm realizing that boys — especially social ones — want to run and play. That's what social is to them. Not sitting in a classroom and following directions There's a reason that girls do so much better in grade school than boys: Boys want to run around and rough house with their friends.

      So when I look at how much time my very social son has with friends now, and how much he would have if he were in school, it's clear that he has more running around and playing time outside of school. School is not set up for socializing with friends.

      School is set up to keep kids orderly and not talking out of turn. Do you know what boys look like when they play? Disorderly and talking out of turn. That's how you know boys don't socialize in grade school. There would be chaos.

      Penelope

      • Kimberly says:

        Makes sense!

        Hmm…now I'm curious about the benefits of homeschooling young girls. My guess is that it would do well for their confidence, self-worth, self-esteem, etc.

        (I remember being fine with my particular brand of weird…and then all of the sudden I went to school and met boys who intimidated me and girls who seemed far superior in every category.)

        • penelopetrunk says:

          Now that I have two grade-school age boys, it's clear to me that the boys are a very immature compared to the girls. A lot is written about this — how the format of school caters to the strengths of girls, not boys.

          But you could take that one step further and say the idea of asking girls to put up with the boys being lower performers for all of grade school is absurd. Why should the girls sit through all of that?

          The girls should just go off on their own, without the boys, and read earlier and do math better and all the other things that study after study shows would be true for girls if the boys would stop dominating the classroom with their inability to conform to school structures.

          Penelope

          • Kimberly says:

            Mmm, really interesting. My immediate assumption was an emotional benefit for girls but I can definitely see the academic/ intellectual benefit as well. A friend who attended an all girls school mentioned a similar point (although obviously there were some challenges that came along with that set-up as well).

        • Jennifer says:

          Re: girls. I have a grade school girl. She's the ambitious, creative one at our house. When she was still in school, she had chronic belly aches and had lost her effervescent personality in the classroom. Those belly aches have never returned (except for the flu — which we never got this year!).

          Here are a couple examples of her thriving:

          http://home4goodmichigan.blogspot.com/2011/07/getting-down-to-business.html

          and…

          http://home4goodmichigan.blogspot.com/2011/06/summer-comes-early.html

  10. Joy says:

    I have been enjoying your blog, especially homeschooling blog.

    This is the first comment.

    I absolutely agree with you. The freedom, the learning, fun and happiness are unbeatable.

    Right now we are on our second portion of around the world trip. We started from Europe last year, back to U.S., now we are heading to South Pacific, Asia and Europe.

    Kids have learned a lot. There is no comparison with school environment. We visited the best private school in the city we live. It was all very impressive until I realized that my kids would spend a year of their life in the same classroom with the same kids and teachers. Yes, the campus was very impressive…but that was for the whole 15 years…really for one grade it was just the same classroom.

    Now the whole world is their "classroom".

    With the last three years' intensive learning on my part, I have realized the limit of my own belief, creativity and willingness would be quite substantial limit on my children. So I work hard to remove those limits I have developed when I grew up.

    Indeed, unschooling life is very rich, fun, and inspiring.

    BTW, my son (who was 5) had spent day and night time on minecraft non-stop for six months. He has learned a ton from it: math, pattern, architecture design, problem solving, computer skills…

    Now he plays very little video games. He has so many more other interests to explore.

    Kids are truly amazing when they are in their natural habitat.

    • Kimberly says:

      Joy, that sounds wonderful! I can only imagine the wealth of information your children learn from so much traveling.

      I'm beginning to wonder how the careers (and income) of parents influence homeschooling. Let's say a parent can't afford to travel the world due to her job, or can't afford private lessons due to her budget. Of course, there are always ways to get access to free or low-cost activities and services. (And this kind of search/ brainstorm might even be a rewarding challenge for kids and parents to do together.) I just wonder what this process looks like for people.

      • MoniqueWS says:

        Kimberly:

        This is part of the homeschooling journey for us. If a child wants to learn about something or do something we are not very knowledgeable or proficient at we dig around to figure out who is and can help us. This has led to some super fantastic learning for all of us!

  11. Joy says:

    Kimberly;

    Homeschooling or unschooling families are from all walks of life.

    The people I have met are very creative and resourceful

  12. Jill in a Box says:

    Penelope,

    You have helped me so much – with my blog, my career, and by recommending the book Raising Happiness. I am now teetering on the edge of deciding to homeschool, and I think you might be the person to make me take the risk and do it. Maybe it will fail. Maybe I will find I don't like it at all, or even more importantly that my kids don't like it. We can always change our minds. A friend homeschools and I am inspired by his example. My main worry is how much it will compromise my career. I often worry about ending up poor and not being able to get a job.

  13. Jane L says:

    Penelope

    I stumbled upon your blog while looking for somthing to convince me that I am doing the right thing. In January, out of the blue, I decided to homeschool my kids. Starting in the August. They will complete this school year (preschool montessori) and all day summer camp and start at home for kindergarten in August.

    One problem. I have a full time, high paying job that I plan to quit some time this summer. Our current lifestyle REQUIRES both mine and my husband's salary. My solution is to sell the McMansion (in this crazy market), start using coupons and shopping grocery store specials (before January, I didnt even know groceries went on sale!), eat in, and basically cut WAY back on everything. I am prepared to do this for my children.

    I know that I can provide the kids with a better education than the public school. And I think spending $45-50K total a year for elite private schools is a total waste of money, that would require me to be away from the kids even more in order to work more to pay the tab. They are already away from me 50+ hours a week. This is NOT a life for children. I am determined to make the sacrifice.

    I have a good husband as he is (reluctantly) going along with the whole thing. He says we both did just fine in public school so he doesnt see anything wrong with it, per se. He thrived in school. I hated every. Minute. Of it. He sees the logic and benefit in what I am doing but he is most concerned about the lifestyle change.

    I have started a business that I can work from home so that I can bring in some income as my husband is older and is concerned that if something happens to him, I will have lost my earning power by coming out of the workforce full time. Hopefully it will be making money by August. :)

    So, all this is to say, THANK YOU for your blog. It helps to reassure me but I am TERRIFIED about the loss of income, I tell you. TERRIFIED that I am not making the right decision for my family.

    Incidentally, to speak to some of your other theories, my husband is a baby boomer, I am GenX and my kids are Gen Z.

    • Jennifer says:

      You are making *such* a shift–some aspect of your working life must have weighed heavily to "give up" so much and adopt the opposite lifestyle to support your values. I cannot identify with giving up so much as I never got off the ground with working full time. I have been cobbling together a part-time income for ten years (only homeschooling 15 months) and want to extend a virtual hand (or salute, if you prefer).

      • Jane L says:

        Jennifer

        You are very perceptive. I have been a corporate attorney for almost 20 years. I never liked it, got out of it a couple of times, but always found my way back because it pays the bills. I also married late and had kids even later after dealing with the fertility issues that women of a certain age deal with. So now that I have these precious babies, I just can't see myself sacrificing their childhood for an unfulfilling job. Plus at my age, I will have better opportunities peddling my expertise as a consultant than I will if I stay with my current employer. At 42 I recognize that as far as corporate America is concerned, I'm on cruise control if I remain an employee.

  14. KJ says:

    I am also curious about the transition to college from homeschooling. Not how kids will DO in college but just how to GET into college when you were homeschooled. Don't most colleges just care about your class rank?

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