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.