Profile of the average homeschool parent

For the most part, my kids and I go through our days without seeing any homeschoolers. We wake up early, do chores and breakfast, and then the morning unfolds slowly, with video games and music practice, and me worrying about my work that I am going to try to do while I have the kids all day long. Then we do one or two activities, like horseback riding.

I imagined that we would be part of a community of homeschoolers, but the only community I have found, to be honest, is online, on this blog and other homeschooling blogs I read, like Lisa Nielsen's and Peter Gray's.

So I was really happy to hear that in some ways I am actually very typical of the profile of a homeschooling parent:

To be sure, I like that I can take my son horseback riding whenever he wants. And I like that it's prett quiet while we are there—I'm not one for big groups of homschoolers and neither is he. But I also like to know that I fit in. Somewhere. I like knowing that I am like the other homeschooling parents, at least statistically speaking. It's tiring to be an parenting iconoclast and school district-naysayer day after day.

 

Posted in Fitting in is good
30 comments on “Profile of the average homeschool parent
  1. Kristin says:

    I am always impressed by your ability to be an entrepreneur and homeschool at the same time. I have finally decided to quit my job as a geophysicist for an oil company and homeschool my kids instead. This is a done deal since we didn't renew our contract with their private school so it's too late to change our minds (which I'm glad about). I am also pregnant, due in June and my 5-year-old has type 1 diabetes (I also have an 8-year-old). One of the reasons I am doing this is so we can all be together more. However, I have the opportunity to work some from home on a flexible schedule if I want and thinking I may want to do that to keep my toes in it. Its interesting work. I'm not sure if that is too much, or if I could do it by hiring someone to help sometimes. Would you recommend keeping some work on the side, or is it better to go cold turkey and quit working altogether? I don't want to take time away from them, but is it good for them to be without me at times? And is it better for them to see me doing my own work?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      I think having part-time work is good for moms whether the moms are homeschooling or not. There is a lot of research about how women who have part-time work while they raise kids do the best — socially and emotionally – during and after their kids are grown up.

      This seems right to me. When I'm working full time (which, realistically, is about 60 hours a week) it's too much for me. When I'm working 40 hours it feels right – my life is interesting but not impossible.

      Penelope

      • Kristin says:

        Yes, but how do you work 40 hours AND still pay attention to your children? Are you on the phone or computer all day long? Do your kids mind? It sounds like you do a lot with them so I imagine not. Do you sleep? Do you have other hobbies besides work? I don't recall you ever mentioning any. You often say that your boys find it difficult to just do their thing while you do yours, so I am shocked you can get in 40 hours! I'm only asking because I'm trying to figure out how I will do it.

        • karelys says:

          I think it may be different working on your own schedule than someone else's. I work 40 hrs a week but my life has to wait outside the 8:30-5.

          There's not a whole lot of time.

          It's difficult to get things done when you work for yourself and raise a family, I bet. But I think it's different because most of the time you are doing what you're passionate about and get to decide "it's 7 am, time for breakfast. It's noon, time for snack with kids."

          I think she may get lots of things done via computer/phone while the kids are ridding horses, playing music or skateboarding.

          It's tough but you don't have a boss saying "you gotta forget about everyone else in this chunk of time."

        • Penelope Trunk says:

          I don't have hobbies. I think people look at my life and they don't know how I do it, but anyone could do it if you cut out everything that is not essential. Here are things I do:

          Homeschool
          Work
          Take care of my marriage/family/extended family
          Gym (usually)

          That's it. There is no time for anything else. I have not been to a movie in four years. I don't have a TV. I never go out to dinner. I don't do anything extra because there is no time. I rarely do anything social that is not related to something on the list above.

          I know it sounds extreme, but we all give up lots of things. Being really clear on what you give up ensures that you are clear on what you are choosing to have in your life.

          Penelope

  2. Yanik says:

    I've been homeschooling my 9 year old son for the last two years & I can totally relate… It's the most challenging and rewarding adventure I've ever been on. Needless to say, my business has taken a back seat, but I'm taking a different approach this year and I'm hoping to achieve the balance (and extra income) we need. @kristin, I think you just really have to follow your intuition and make sure you keep some time for things you love to do.

    Like you, Penenlope, I've realized that we don't really fit into traditional homeschooling or unschooling circles. Although we have lots of friends and we enjoy meeting up with our local group regularly (mostly for sports and socializing), my son and I call ourselves "homescooglers", not homeschoolers. Most of our learning is done online or with some form of technology, (PC, Mac, Ipad, Iphone, vide games etc.), but none of the families in our area embrace this type of learning.

    There's a really huge homsechooling/unschooling community on G+ and I'm hoping that we can start taking advantage of the hangout feature to find other kids who share common interests and learning styles. It would be great for the kids to collaborate on a project and master the teamwork skills they'll need going forward. Perhaps G+ would be a good fit for you too?

  3. Mark W. says:

    You may be interested in using your mobile phone to do some "social discovery". It's described here ( http://www.ny1.com/content/ny1_living/technology/157540/social-discovery-dominates-sxsw-conference?ap=1&Flash ) as "essentially adding GPS to social networking in order to make you friends". It could be used to announce that you homeschool. I'm not sure if I'd use it or not for whatever reason but I found the story to be interesting.

  4. karelys says:

    I am always fascinated by the root of our traditions that we hold on to so tightly.

    We've been sold into the idea of school so much that it's hard to do it differently; but the idea of school was to create workers. So if you want to raise self learners, entrepreneurs, explorers…then school is not the right fit huh?

    Maybe it's because I come from a different culture and I have to always decide if I am afraid of this or that because of my background, because it seems different, or if the fear is my friend. I need to question if I am doing it Mexican right or American right.

    All that.

    I just read Peter Gray's blog re the sleeping wars (kids not wanting to go to bed). I told my husband about it a bit. He refuses to let our kids sleep in our room/bed. I thought I was against it too.

    Until I read Peter's post and the comments. Cosleeping is so normal in other cultures that leaving babies alone in the dark seems cruel to those parents! I never even gave it second thoughts.

    I have come up with a hybrid way to try out when the baby comes. I still want to be able to have my own space, my own bedroom. But will it be worth it if I am not sleeping at all? If I am waking up several times per night?

    It's time to reconsider and question why we do lots of the things we do and why we think it's right; like letting kids cry it out. Am I going to drive myself nuts just because I am doing it the way it has been done for a few generations without questioning the reason for it?

    I am convinced I want to homeschool/unschool my kids. For that we are making choices that will open doors for that. But it's so scary to share with anyone outside these blogs because they IMMEDIATELY come up with reasons as for why it's a bad idea and it won't work out! :/

    Can't they say "well, let's explore it and workout the kinks!"

    Nope. They immediately want to shut down everything and they want me to pay for daycare and go to work and find job security working for someone else. Just like it's been done for decades. Makes me not even want to talk to those people.

    • Kristin says:

      I completely agree with re-evaluating the norms of parenting. I am teaching myself whenever my instinct is to say "no" to reconsider why I am saying that and if I can't find a good reason for "no" then I go ahead and say "yes." It is funny how we are so programmed for immediate responses that often are pointless. Regarding the way others respond to your homeschooling ideas, when I talk to people about it I get the same thing, but mostly it is something like "you are so brave" as if my kids are heathens and I am crazy to want to be around them. As if waking up early, working a stressful job, rushing to get them after school, yelling at them because they are fighting in the car, fighting traffic to get them to after school activities, rushing home and making dinner, then homework (more fighting), bath, bed, cleaning up (exhausted)…is any better!

    • Tim Chambers says:

      The American public school methodology is largely founded by John Dewey, a pragmatist, believing that education served to create a better society via an capable worker and an educated voter, trained to think (via approved curriculum) as the government deemed fit. An incredibly powerful tool to direct a society per the wishes of one worldview. Dangerously powerful, I think.

      Read an overview via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dewey

  5. Jennifer says:

    I've never felt elite as an entrepreneur because it's been cleaning houses since my oldest was a year old (ten years next month, EGAD!). I could not swallow working full time–as my mom *had to* because she was a single parent–but we couldn't make do with one income. I also freakishly love taking something messy and making it look good again, along with being "of service" to someone. I have expanded into teaching yoga and doing Thai bodywork since those early days, but all ventures are on me as to whether they fly or flop, and all permit me to work in my family life along with a paying life. Seems I'm in good company, even if I didn't do a tech start-up or invent anything.

    Thanks to those posting on alternate means to socialization. We're secularists steeped in a Christian-heavy, conservative county.

  6. redrock says:

    I am curious as to where the statement "school was created to make factory workers" comes from. Would it not be easier to use workers who are barely literate, as most people were before schools came to be? Anybody has a reference to an in depth study about this?

    • Kristin says:

      Maria Montessori wrote extensively on this. She felt schools were designed to keep the population in line so that they would grow up and do as they were told, including going to war. It seems reasonable to extend this idea to factory work, but I don't recall Montessori speaking about this specifically.

    • karelys says:

      Seth Godin delves into this extensively.

      If you look up Changing Education Paradigm (on TED) it's a great talk on how compulsory education got started after the industrial revolution and how we need to change the paradigm because times have changed and the requirements are different.

      It's super interesting and it makes much more sense.

      • redrock says:

        These are both great educators, but I was more looking for the historical analysis – might not have been very clear in my question. Both Montessori and Godin are analyzing in hindsight as to the effect school has in their opinion on kids. I am only wondering whether this argument is confusing cause and effect: wasn't the time of industrial revolution the first time in history where the overall prosperity and lifespan increased? Maybe this was also the first time we could afford to have kids go to school and learn material which is not immediately required to survive?

        I realize that there will be now arguments about the dehumanizing work in factories, which is absolutely true, but the industrial revolution was also the time of rapid changes in the life of nearly everybody and it built the foundation of our current life. Which some might argue is worse than it was a pre-industrial revolution, but for the majority of people toiling in the fields with an average life span of 30 years this is not true.

    • MoniqueWS says:

      You might get lots of information to answer your question here: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/

  7. Laura says:

    Re: Kristin — As someone who has worked from home with babies and toddlers for the past 13 years, the best advice I can offer is to have a very structured work from home schedule. For example, if you work every day from 8 to noon, that allows you to have paid childcare in your home during that time. As a freelancer, I could never do that. The work come in at any time during the day and sometimes evening hours. The result was that I had many last minute conference calls in my powder room with the baby screaming in the crib upstairs. The more structure you have built into your day, the easier it will be with a new baby and older children. My children are 3, 8 and 13 and they all need very different things from me because of the age span. Set yourself up for success with the right supports before your school and work life changes. It will make all the difference when you are going through the transition period.

  8. redrock says:

    so just to round out my question with a few numbers:
    industrial revolution is usually set to begin between 1750 (invention of the spinning Jenny) and 1775 (invention of the steam engine). However, compulsory schooling in New England, at least in many of the towns, began roughly around 1650, some apparently starting even earlier, which lead to very high literacy rates locally. In the Southern U.S. the division was clearly along social (and gender) lines, high literacy for upper class men, low for upper class women, very low for the rest. In Europe on the other hand, literacy somewhat lagged behind, and a rapid rise in literacy was seen in the 17th century mostly through the increase in the number of schools close to religious institutions. State support for education began in many countries only in the 18th century. I am not sure whether there is a clear cause-and-effect correlation between industrial revolution, the building of the first factories and such and the rise of schooling and compulsory schooling. Can we really neglect the influence of a more and more potent and well developed group of scientists and philosophers?

    I realize that this is carrying the general blog off topic, just wanted to follow up…

    • Mark W. says:

      I think you're right about "clear cause-and-effect correlation between industrial revolution, the building of the first factories and such and the rise of schooling and compulsory schooling". It's not that clear because there's other factors to consider such as religion and how schooling was employed. Even though we're using the same word – "schooling" – schooling looked different than it does today. It seems to me that the student/teacher ratio was smaller and the instruction was more practical and "hands-on". However I think there is a strong correlation between the industrial revolution/industrial age and schooling as it is today. I think each one fueled and fed off the other … and there's also the role of government to factor into the mix. Just some of my thoughts.

      • redrock says:

        absolutely, there are certainly multiple factors to take into account. After all the necessity for literacy only came about once printed material was more readily available, larger schools became feasible when transportation became less of a barrier, and our ideas as to what should be learned and known by everybody have certainly changes.

  9. World of Homeschool says:

    Penelope, please check out my blog. I am a teenager who is currently homeschooled, I am not in this for economic reasons. I do it to help fellow teens and children who are homeschooled, as well as parents. It would be an honor if you could see my blog. http://www.lifeofthehomeschooled.blogspot.com

    Take care, love your site by the way.

    • Yanik says:

      Congratulations on your blog! You bring an interesting perspective and I'm looking forward to hearing more of your ideas.

      • World of Homeschool says:

        Thank you very much! You are the first person to comment about my blog :D I promise to work hard on keeping your interest in my blog by posting new things each day!

        • Mark W. says:

          I also enjoyed reading your perspective of homeschooling. However I would advise to not make one of your blogging goals to publish every day for the sake of publishing every day. I think you run the risk of exhausting yourself and your readers with the sheer quantity of posts. I'm sure you have a lot of topics to cover but I would recommend focusing on the quality of the posts on a consistent basis (maybe two or three times a week) over an extended period of time. I think that's how you will be able to build a community around your blog. I think a successful blog is a serious commitment over a long period of time. The blog will require you to write, publish, and maintain it even when you don't feel like it or you have other things you'd like to do. I think Penelope would agree.

          • World of Homeschool says:

            I agree with you actually, I realized how exhausting it is to post daily, specially when you are really writing something with sense to help others. I'll follow your advice, I think its better three times a week.

    • Jennifer says:

      I read you blog but restrained from commenting on it. You would like to hear from teens, and I'm deep into my thirties!

      • World of Homeschool says:

        Im sorry I made it look that way, I would love to hear from anyone about anything concerning my blog or anything related to homeschool. It's an honor to have you reading my blog, and please do not restrain on commenting!

  10. Joanna says:

    I don't question the validity of your statistics re homeschooling; now
    The 'news' in that publication you cite are interesting:

    "How to disolve a cancer tumor in 40 seconds"
    "State confiscate newborn over vaccinations"

    I understand you are open-minded, and these are alternative views but, wow.

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