The real reason parents don’t homeschool

What’s the most common reason parents have for not homeschooling? They need two incomes. But I’m just not willing to believe that money holds back parents from homeschooling. Here’s why: Anyone has enough money to homeschool because there’s an intrinsic low-cost-of-living that works with homeschooling.

It’s not about high cost of housing

For example, you can move to a cheap neighborhood. There is no way you need two incomes to maintain a homeschool family because you can live in a very low-cost-of-living area because you will not be using the school district. It does not cost money to do what most kids want to do—which is play and hang out with their parents and their friends. Kids don’t need vacations from a life that is fun. People take vacations from life that is full of homework and waking up at 7am to catch a bus. So the big expenses in your life go away.

It’s not about affording to live near cultural opportunities

Also, parents live in a fantasy land, thinking they need to live near cultural opportunities for kids. If your kid is totally driven in one area and an expert and needs the best of the best, then absoltuely she should be homeschooled anyway.

For all other kids, having a smidgen of dance (track national tours of big dance troupes), hearing one orchestra (we have season tickets in Madison), going to one big city and seeing whatever museums are there (Indianapolis has the country’s number-one children’s museum) this is enough. Kids don’t need the 4000 dinaosaur bones in the Museum of Natural History. If the tradeoff for being near phenomenal cultural institutions is that kids spend eight hours a day in school because the parents have to pay to live there, then it’s not worth it.

It’s not about paying off debt

Debt can wait. Let’s say you’re paying off a lot of debt. We do not have debtor’s prison. So you can pay it off over 50 years, on one salary, and that would be fine. Or if you can’t pay it off over 50 years on one salary then get a reality check: you qualify for bankruptcy and you should take it. But when you say you need two incomes to pay off debt, do you know who is really paying off the debt? Your kids. Because they have to go to school so you can pay off debt. It’s not worth it.

People don’t homeschool because they’re scared they’ll be bored

The truth is that people don’t homeschool because they would rather go to work than be with kids all day. It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t? If you are good at work then you have engaging projects, interesting conversation, and an all-round stimulating environment. I like work better than being home with kids as well. And work is a thousand times easier for me.

But it’s not the best or the right choice. Because in exchange for two working parents getting really cool work environments, the kids have a dull existence at a school that does not cater to them nearly as well as work caters to parents who enjoy work. Here’s a revealing statistic: Working Mother found that moms would rather have a 20% pay increase than a year-long vacation. That 20% pay increase isn’t going to change anyone’s standard of living. Which means moms just like going to work.

But you have to weigh the fun of going to work vs the destruction of sending kids to school. Kids do not have enough control over their school life to make it better. But parents have total control over their home life. So they can stop working, rearrange things for homeschooling, and then figure out how to make homelife interesting for themselves, too.

There’s a reason that there are so few how-to-homeschool tips on this blog. Anyone can homeschool. Kids naturally learn stuff. It’s so well documented that it’s insulting to our intelligence to even argue this point. Kids are natural learners, which means the challenge of homeschooling is how to keep the parents who are home engaged and interested and fulfilled.

The real choice for most parents is do they choose to have their kids bored at school or do they choose to be bored themselves at home? And the real question is, which problem is more easily remedied?

That’s the big barrier to homeschooling for most parents, and that’s what this blog focuses on. See that photo of me doing needlepoint? I’ve been saving it for a year. I didn’t want you to see it. I have three startups under my belt, for god’s sake! What am I doing with needlepoint? But it’s a picture of me trying. It didn’t work. But I have spent the last year trying to figure out how to be fulfilled and engaged while I homeschool.

Some days I love being with my kids and some days I don’t. It’s a work in progress. But you don’t get to meet that challenge if you give up at the beginning and put your kids in school so you can have fun at work.

132 replies
  1. Taylor @ Wise Family Living
    Taylor @ Wise Family Living says:

    I love this Penelope. LOVE IT! You are exactly right. You said in another post that you had to make the choice to work when you could with your kids home all day. That really resonated with me. Homeschooling is about having choices.

  2. John
    John says:

    We home school and like it. Another big reason others don’t home school is they think their kids will end up weird (as many home schoolers from two decades ago were the weirdos). This stigma keeps many people that could otherwise do it, from even considering it in the first place.

  3. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    The whole “homeschooling makes weird kids” is weird to me. Different is a good thing if what your kids are different from is mindlessness.

    Kids are often boring because they are not on the same knowledge level that adults are and to have an honest, candid conversation with one requires a lot of explaining. And often kids don’t want long explanations so you are stuck in a rut unless your kid is an introvert / good listener.

    I think the cure for this is you gettting good at finding inspiring resources. It’s often not about learning how to do fun things with your kids; it’s about learning how to inspire yourself to learn to learn things with your kids.

    • T
      T says:

      Interesting thought about kids being boring to listen to- I think definitely it’s true for the spoon-fed, public schooled audience. Kids who only think about mindless television and ridiculous video games are boring, because the stuff their minds are filled with is utterly meaningless. However, I’ve been around a lot of homeschooled kids in addition to my own, and they are almost NEVER boring. They have very active minds and crave knowledge and action. It’s what kids were supposed to be, and I can’t say I’m ever bored being around them. Frustrated, certainly, but it’s never because they don’t provide stimulating interaction. In fact, most of the profound things I have discussed with them have been subjects initiated by them. No, it’s not exactly like talking to an adult. It’s more honest and gritty and usually covered in peanut butter. It takes getting used to, I won’t argue that, but it’s never boring.

      • LL
        LL says:

        So according to what you have written, homeschooling is the only and best way, public school is for poor people who don’t really care about their kids and even though you didn’t homeschool you are pretty sure it is the better way.

  4. Nonnie
    Nonnie says:

    This is definitely how I feel! I mean I don’t have kids yet, but the thought of staying home with some all day is utterly unappealing. I thought babysitting and sunday school teaching assistant were some of the worst jobs I ever had. Maybe it’s different when it’s your own kids.
    I get confused though. I worked so hard in school and in this early part of my career to be a good engineer. Should I give it up to raise kids and have them work hard at starting a career they will then give up in some strange cycle?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is an excellent area of conversation, Nonnie. Why do we raise kids telling them they have to have a big career and that’s what their education is for? That’s incredibly limiting in the way that raising daughters to be housewives is limiting.

      There is not one thing to grow up to be. There is not one, single goal for education. We need to show kids that education is for love of learning and curiosity and growing into the best version of our true selves. It’s not necessarily for a big career. And it’s not necessarily for one thing – we can do different things at different parts of our lives and honor our work in education.


      • Lisa
        Lisa says:

        You nailed it, Penelope. I’m struggling with this issue right now. I wanted to be a teacher since age 9 and was for 23 years. I got out because I could enjoy teaching and kids weren’t enjoying learning enough even while going rogue. It became a daily struggle.

        I pulled my youngest out of school because he was bored to tears. He’s loving homeschooling, but I’m struggling because I still want to teach, scratch that, to guide learning.

        Money is very tight and I’m trying to reason through how to make money, do right by my independent learning child, and somehow feel “accomplished”. This explanation above by you gives me “permission” to just be. I believe it. I’ve said it myself, but somehow hearing it and knowing it is taking me time to work through, but it’s a start.

        “There is not one thing to grow up to be. There is not one, single goal for education. We need to show kids that education is for love of learning and curiosity and growing into the best version of our true selves. It’s not necessarily for a big career. And it’s not necessarily for one thing – we can do different things at different parts of our lives and honor our work in education. ”

        Thank you.

        • LL
          LL says:

          Lisa, I love your heart for teaching. You have been given a teachers heart. There is a season for everything and right now you are at home with your kids making sure they get what is best for them. They will not be little forever. There may come a time when you are called to teach again. I hope you find peace in your decisions and whatever you decide, don’t feel guilty.

    • Gareth
      Gareth says:

      As a fellow who did give up a six-figure engineering job to stay at home with his kids, my answer would be that it’s also a strange cycle to work sixty hours a week at your job so you can pay for outsourced education for your kid so he can grow up to work sixty hours a week at his job. There’s more than one strange cycle out there.

      Look at it a different way: it’s about options. I was successful enough to have the option at this point to stay at home with my kids. I hope my kids will grow up to have options as well. I hope that both my son and my daughter will be able to work at a good job that they enjoy and that builds up savings, and that – when they so choose – they’ll also be able to stay at home with their kids.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Gareth, that’s such an eloquent way to explain things. The cycle is such a simple, stark way to present the problem.


    • Annie
      Annie says:

      I’m a little confused here. I worked hard for my degree and I love my job. Likewise for my husband. Unfortunately, we have massive student loan debt. If I don’t quit my job and stay home to homeschool my kids while my husband pays off my loans plus interest, I’m being selfish?
      My husband is a special education teacher, I’m a librarian – whose job is less important? How do we choose who stays home?
      Don’t get me wrong, my kids are smart and the quality of their future education is a huge concern of mine, but some families need the income.

      • LL
        LL says:

        don’t be confused. Some people think that just because they are doing something one way that everyone else has to do it that way. Homeschooling is a wonderful thing but many families have experienced successful public school careers for their children. I can say this because I homeschool some of my kids and send some of them. I go according to the needs of my children. I have a child with special needs and a child who craves social interaction. The child with special needs required the one on one and the child who learns through social interactions needs to be around other kids more than just a few times a week. Plus, she gets the amazing benefit of learning about other adult teachers and what they have to offer from their life experiences as opposed to my limited world view.

  5. Lisa @ SoTeaBeeZa
    Lisa @ SoTeaBeeZa says:

    Another reason I might add is fear. Many parents fear the education they provide won’t be as good as what a “regular” school will do for them. Lack of confidence, lack of knowledge, and a lack that homeschooling is really easier than they think.

    Boredom never really entered my mind as a possibility, so I’m glad you pointed it out.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      Yes that is my reason…

      And I might add because out 1st grader is SO BORED in school…(they tested her and she is in 3rd and 4th grade level but they won’t move her up). It has made me give homeschooling another serious look.

      • Ruth
        Ruth says:

        They can’t move her up, the differences between a 1st grader and a 4th grader are huge. Many schools just kill a child sprit and love of learning and kids can be so mean.

  6. Renee
    Renee says:

    I’m sorry, but this is terribly classist. I waited to homeschool my son until he was old enough to be home alone, unsupervised. Walking away from my job is not an option, no matter how great the benefits of homeschooling may be. We have 2 incomes, but they are 2 very modest incomes. We live in a low-income neighborhood in the midwest. We drive old, used cars that are paid for. We live very frugally, and we just barely get by paycheck to paycheck. Additionally, I cannot afford to give up my employer-provided health insurance. My son has mental health issues and without insurance his ability to receive regular treatment would be severely compromised.

    I understand your arguments may apply to many middle class families, particularly those in your target audience. But please don’t shame families who cannot give up one income. The option to stay home is a privilege, and it is simply not feasible for everyone at all income levels. To assume that parents who work full-time instead of homeschooling only do so because working is MORE FUN (?!) is just insulting and smacks of elitism.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’ll tell you why this really bothers me. Because when I quit working to stay home with my newborn baby, I had no way to make money from home. And my husband was out of work.

      So we lived off public assistance while I figured out what to do. I hired a babysitter to watch my son while I wrote for two hours a day to try to make money as a journalist and the babysitter quit because there was no food in the refrigerator and she thought we were crazy.

      Also, during that time, I had two special needs kids on public health insurance and we got through three operations that way. So it can be done. It was very scary and I hated it, but I did it because I wanted to be home with my kids.

      I am telling you this to let you know that you’re not the only person who has the problems you have. And your husband should get a job with health insurance. And you and your husband can do exactly what I did. First decide how you want your life to be and then start taking big risks to get it how you want it.


      • Renee
        Renee says:

        “Your husband should get a job with health insurance. And you and your husband can do exactly what I did. First decide how you want your life to be and then start taking big risks to get it how you want it.”

        That’s not very helpful. You assume an awful lot, such as the fact that I haven’t taken any big risks to live the way I want to live. You’re wrong. I’ve been on public assistance, when my son was born and I was a single parent (estranged father, no child support). I’ve taken plenty of risks in my life, enough to appreciate all that I have now and the privileges that brought me this far. I’ve never had a six figure income or a savings account, so I never grew accustomed to anything but frugal living.

        Since I began homeschooling I’ve joined several discussions groups and online communities, only to be turned off by the judgments and shaming of everyone else who still sends their child(ren) to school. I’m simply pointing out that it might be more effective to educate others about the benefits of homeschooling as well as the severe dysfunction of our education system without hurling judgments and demeaning commentary at the very folks you’d like to persuade.

        • Rachel
          Rachel says:

          I am so sorry Renee. I don’t even know the writer but I can tell you I didn’t agree with her post. I think she had some good points but I think her judgements got a lot wrong also.

          This is the 1st time I’ve come to her blog…and not sure I’d revisit based on this article and her insensitivity.
          And although the writer was just as insensitive in her response to you, I feel inclined to encourage you.

          I applaud you in doing what you need to do in order to keep your family knit together for what is best for each of you.

          There is NO ONE right way to raise a family, and don’t let someone bully you into feeling there is. There is no one right way to educate children, or even the same children in the same family. We all have different needs.

          Anyhow, just wanted to tell you to keep your chin up Renee and put a smile on your face to know you are doing what you need to do. :-)

        • Rebecca
          Rebecca says:

          Hi Renee

          I am an academic in a faculty of Education in Australia. I blog, weekly because I work and have a 19mo, about the education theory that supports homeschool. It’s not hard to find theoretical arguments for homeschool in the education literature. If that’s what you’re interested in, please look at my blog

          I hope that helps you find the justification you need. You can trust me, I’m an education expert (said with Australian sarcasm!).


        • L Marie
          L Marie says:

          I couldn’t have said it any better! This is a big reason why I don’t want to homeschool because of such self-righteous, judgmental attitudes that come from the homeschooling community. It’s so sad how people can be so mean and think that those who send their kids to public schools are so evil and unloving parents. I do have the privilege of staying home however, do not feel qualified to teach them their academics (barely got it the first time around!) that and also, would feel a lack of support when I see the ugliness on these sights. To tell you the truth, I’d probably not homeschool up to par in their eyes!

          • Tosha
            Tosha says:

            Why in the world would someone else’s opinion stop you from homeschooling your children?…ridiculous
            You’re right, you don’t need to.

      • Karen
        Karen says:

        I think you probably have a much higher risk tolerance than a lot of people. For many people, when they say “I’d love to ____, but I can’t afford it,” it really means they don’t want to change their lifestyle to do it. I’m guessing there are some people who wouldn’t homeschool, even if it meant the only adjustment they had to make is giving up cable television.

        I don’t quite know how you break through that. Much of it is about fear. Some of it is resistance to self-exploration. I don’t think people know what they’d do with themselves without some of things they think they “need” to have in order to live.

        • Rachel
          Rachel says:

          So true!

          I never returned to work after our 2nd child was born. We made huge sacrifices in order for me to be home with them.
          I have friends tell me all the time how lucky I am to get to stay home. Or how it must me nice for my husband to make so much $ for us to be able to live off of 1 income.
          My husband makes far less than lots of other people out there and way less than a 2 income family and we are not on any assistance. We are making it work, with the help of our Father in heaven.
          What I have found is the people who make these remarks,often are not willing to make the same lifestyle cuts we made in order to be where we are.
          And I am not talking about someone making minimum wage, I’m talking about people who make these comments are often times people who make more then my husband makes yet they still think they wouldn’t be able to survive on one income.

      • Heather
        Heather says:

        As a single parent, I find your attitude disgusting. I suppose I could follow your example and quit my job to homeschool. But what does THAT teach my child? That it’s better to live off the public dole, to expect other people to pay my way, to walk away from my obligations (debts), to use other people who are working for a living as stooges so I can live the way I choose? No, thank you.

        Instead, I choose to work at a job I don’t love, but that’s near my daughter’s school. I pay my (extremely minimal) bills, I have health insurance, I give to charity, I work in my daughter’s classromm. Would I love to be able to stay home and teach her, to be the one seeing the connections made? Absolutely. But not at the cost of our dignity and our self-reliance.

        Shame on you, Penelope, for thinking that your way is the only way, for assuming that we all have the same road and that your choices are the best choices for everyone. Shame on you for deciding to go on public assistance when one of you could have been working. Shame on you for making ME and everyone else reading your blog pay your way so you could live the way you WANTED to. Shame on you for encouraging others to file bankruptcy as a way to get out of debt so they can live the way they WANT to. Shame on you for teaching that to your children.

        • Gareth
          Gareth says:

          Sounds to me like you’re really more mad at yourself than you are at Penelope, Heather.

          Your choice to be a single parent means that some options are not available to your children. Nobody here is saying shame on you for bringing your children up in a “broken home,” as they would have in the seventies (trust me – I used to hate hearing that), but you going all off the rails on Penelope because your lifestyle choice means you can’t homeschool your children like she does says a lot more about you than it does about her.

          I’m sure there are lots of reasons why your baby daddy isn’t in the picture anymore, but it’s got nothing to do with Penelope. Trying to put your feelings of shame on her isn’t ultimately going to work. She’s not going to start feeling them, and you’re not going to stop.

          It’s a rough reality that homeschooling and single parenthood don’t mix well. But that’s one of many things that come with the package. Single parenthood is a rough life. I grew up that way, and I knew I didn’t want it for my own kids, for both financial and educational reasons.

          You young folks out there, listen up: if you want financial stability, get married and stay married. And remember: your choice of spouse is the most important decision you will ever make, so don’t do it hastily.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            I think the anger is directed at the “you must homeschool, and if you don’t it is because you are a failure” which figures intentionally or unintentionally very prominently in this post.

          • Heather
            Heather says:

            Gareth, thanks for your judgemental attitude. My child’s “baby daddy” was my husband. He passed away, leaving me as a single mother. Do you really think it was my choice? Not every single parent fits your stereotype.

            My anger is not directed at myself and my situation or my choices. I do fine, both financially and emotionally. There is no shame in being a widow and raising my child. My anger is directed at those who make me, through my taxes, pay for their choices. The choices to go on public assistance and/or to file bankruptcy, when the person is capable of getting a job or paying off debt, but it’s easier not to do so, those are shameful.

            Public assistance is an emergency measure. The desire to homeschool is not an emergecy. As a taxpayer, I support those who need a little help in times of emergency. But Penelope’s post suggests that I should support her choice to homeschool both emotionally (which I do) and financially (which I am forced to, unwillingly). She has taken advantage of the system, which means she has taken advantage of me. And you. We all pay taxes. Those taxes go to support, among many other things, public assistance recipients. Her choice to go on public assistance so she could homeschool means that she forced you to support her financially, just as she forced me to do so. That makes me angry. I find her choices, and her smug attitude about them, to be shameful. But she goes further than that. She suggests that others should follow her example. That’s definitely shameful.

          • Kim
            Kim says:

            I couldn’t agree more, Gareth. It’s about choices. Heather, there isn’t only one way to home school. Many single mothers have made it work on one income. What does it teach them? It teaches them that life doesn’t always work but they are the priority.

            I once heard a teen say that the mother simply left him with other family members who were abusive and suffered a lot in school because of it, often having nothing to eat. Why? Because the mom decided she wasn’t going to be a statistic and basically put her career before her kids. So even though it doesn’t make you look “lazy” who says kids don’t suffer?

            Just a hint, working mothers don’t always get the praise and admiration from their kids that they expect. This is why so many troubled kids come from single parent homes. My mother put work and her career before me and I suffered for it. I now resent it and would have traded all the vacations and summer trips for a bit of consistency at home.

            This isn’t a personal attack, I’m speaking from experience and while having the basic necessities is essential for children, there are more things that they will want and need than just the stuff they can accumulate. I would have traded it all.

            By the way, Gareth. I, too, am a single mother homeschooling and I can attest that because of an unstable family life growing up, I ended up falling into an unstable marriage. There were some things school wasn’t going to teach me that my parents should have been there to, instead of being busy working.

        • kristen
          kristen says:

          If this upsets you so maybe you should not read her blog…just a thought.
          And maybe I’ve misread it but nowhere did I read PT arguing that you should go on welfare in order to homeschool.
          She might, I wouldn’t put it past her – I think she may honestly believe that it is better for society as a whole if more people are on public assistance yet homeschooling. I think she might find articles which show that this would actually save taxes by reducing prison time, increasing their overall capacity to contribute, etc. But that is not what she said. She said she quit working to stay home with her newborn. Those studies have already been done – it’s beneficial to our society. So , gee, thanks Penelope.
          You kinda wreck this discussion when you go off the rails on your own and then other people follow. If you want to talk about the horrible abuses of people “gaming” our tax dollars there are a lot of blogs for you, just not this one.

          • Gareth
            Gareth says:

            Quite right, Kristen. I have followed Heather off the rails, and it shames me. There’s nothing like a summary rush to judgment based on partial information to inspire another summary rush to judgment based on partial information. For my part, I apologize to you all.

            As for the morality of Penelope going on public assistance so she could spend time at home with her two special needs children while she figured out a way to restart a rewarding career, I see absolutely no problem with that. My wife and I have paid more in federal income tax in the past decade than most people made in the first place, and an awful lot of that has undoubtedly been wasted. The part that went to helping PT get back on her feet and take care of her children wasn’t; the proof is in the pudding.

            I think this is just what public assistance should be there for. I believe the safety net is best used not as a hammock to take a nap in, but as a trampoline to bounce back up off. But, as you say, the argument about best use of public monies is best followed elsewhere on the web.

            Here it would be best to focus on PT’s point, which is that sometimes one must go to extremes in order to take the best care of one’s children. I frequently find myself disagreeing with PT, but in the matter of her dedication to her children’s well-being, I find her exemplary.

        • Kristen
          Kristen says:

          How is your paying for her to be on public assistance any different than her paying for your kids to go to school? I’d love if homeschooling families got a tax break and weren’t required to contribute towards the school district they aren’t using. If that happened, then we can talk about fair.

      • Crimson Wife
        Crimson Wife says:

        Wow, so you mooched off of those of us who actually do the responsible thing and work at real jobs for a living. This is why I firmly believe that in order to receive government assistance, a non-disabled adult should be required to work full-time, either at a private-sector job or if he/she can’t find one, community service. I have no problem giving hard-working folks a helping hand, but as the Bible says, “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”

        • Erika
          Erika says:

          Raising children IS work. It’s the most important job that anyone has. Maybe people should start looking at it as mooching off their own tax dollars. Most people have paid into it, so now they can reap the benefits.

    • Brooke Lorren
      Brooke Lorren says:

      Maybe you can’t, but I believe that most people can. My husband is in law school. For the past three years, we’ve been living off student loans and what little money that we could bring in. Right now, dh is earning $600 a month, and my business is bringing in about $150 a month. Throughout his time in law school, we lived off unemployment and student loans for a while; for the first semester of law school, we lived off of the money that remained from an insurance payment that we received after a house fire.

      Everybody’s circumstances are different, of course, but I don’t think you can say that homeschooling excuses are limited to the middle class. While I would probably call my outlook on life more of a middle/upper middle class one, financially, our income is currently below the poverty level. Sometimes there actually is a way, but it’s hard to see.

      I used to work in the Navy. I had two third class petty officers that worked for me that I couldn’t understand how they survived. One was a single guy that gave away $100 a month to charity; another was married with two baby twins, and his wife didn’t work. I didn’t know how they could make it. In the last years that my husband has been in college, I’ve been learning. It’s not easy, but in many cases, it’s possible. I’ve been amazed at how well sometimes God has been taking care of me and my family.

    • Priswell
      Priswell says:

      I tend to agree with you. It’s unfair to say that all parents could homeschool if they just tried hard enough, or cared enough. Sometimes it’s just not possible, and I’m a “retired” homeschooling parent that homeschooled from beginning to end. I was able to do what I did because my husband supported us, and I was extremely frugal.

      Homeschooling, under current circumstances is a sacrifice, because the world is built for public school and everyone else’s mind revolves around that. It’s a wonderful world with great dividends, but a sacrifice nevertheless.

    • gordana dragicevic
      gordana dragicevic says:

      “First decide how you want your life to be and then start taking big risks to get it how you want it.”
      Thanks so much Penelope for writing that. It kind of gets tiring listening to people all my life telling me i’m crazy for doing it :)

      To Renee – Penelope and Brooke are right. I must admit i chuckled at the idea of a family with two cars thinking they live frugally. Most families on the planet don’t and never will own cars.
      Having tried freegan lifestyle for a while a few years ago (successfully), i’ll never again be afraid of not having enough money. Very often people earning four times as much as i do now tell me they live very frugally and that there is no way around it. My income puts me below the poverty line and i’ve never received any public assistance, but i think i live well. I can even save. It is possible. Much of it has to do with perception and fear – or no fear. Thinking up new ideas and not comparing yourself to other people also helps :)
      None of us are saying you must do it. We are saying that there are ways to do it.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        But, do you know why they have two cars? Maybe they are taking care of elderly parents, or one of the cars is necessary for work travel – and a comparison between the US life and life in other countries does not hold. In many other countries you do not even need a car to get groceries – in the US many people without cars are unable to reach a decent grocery store without help from friends for near complete lack of public transportation.

        And risk taking is exactly that: risk taking. It can go awfully wrong. It worked for you, but it does not always – more often than not it does not work out. The high risk business someone started goes bonk, the great work from home programming gig died, and and and…. risk taking is personal, some have a lower threshold, others are happy to take a huge risk any day. Some work on building a stable life for their family, and hold self sufficiency as an important value of their life they want to instill in their children. The values of working hard, fulfilling your duties of putting food on the table for your family, paying for the stuff you buy without going into debt, are good values. Some might say they are out of date, but I personally don’t think so.

    • isa
      isa says:

      Absurd. I gave up my $80k plus a package of nearly $10k yearly benefits to be able to homeschool my 6 year old son. My husband and I have no medical insurance and we are paying my son’s insurance through the state. My husband makes 3 times less than what i make. I manage to pay my credit bills, have no car payments. My pastor at church says: “you have to be crazy to leave your child in the hands of strangers for 30 hours a day to be educated”. I could have thought of 20 different excuses for not homeschooling my child. It is all about fear. In my situation, i see being able to homeschool my child as labor of love. God entrusted me this child and it is my ministry to be able to rear him in the knowledge of Him. As a Christian parent, it is a great honor not only to teach my child, but to be able to evangelize him at the same time. Please have no fear. Find the courage you need in the teachings of the greatest teacher that ever lived, our Lord Jesus Christ. He will empower you.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      I completely agree with the idea that this is elitist. I am currently planning on homeschooling, but my future with my current job is shaky. My husband does not make a lot if money so we NEED my income. We’re upside down in our mortgage so can’t simply downsize or move to a cheaper area. BTW, we are in a relatively cheap area compared to all of our family and friends but we have a hell of a commute b/c of it. And no, my commuting costs will not decrease enough to make my income unnecessary. I drive an economical, old car, my husband does, too, we have our own garden, get most of our child’s clothes & toys from thrift shops, rarely buy new clothes for hubby and I, use the library a lot, we shop sales, don’t overbuy or waste food, do not eat out, do not have cable, netflix or a landline, have reasonable cell phone bills (no extras), do not go on vacations, do not spend a lot on gifts, used cloth diapers, use cloth towels vs paper towels 95% of the time, my child and I use cloth tp instead of paper for #1, I use cloth pads, etc., etc., etc. With my husband’s income, we would not qualify for government aid. Also, our only debt is for my husband ‘a used car and our house. It’s easy to say that saving money can help a situation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ENOUGH for EVERY situation.

  7. Gwen Nicodemus
    Gwen Nicodemus says:

    There’s no reason you should be bored homeschooling your kids.

    It’s good to give kids the example of constant learning, making your own curriculum, wanting to learn stuff, …

    How can you possibly be bored if you’re doing that for yourself.

    I mean, they suck a little time when they need help with stuff. But when they’re focused on their interests, I focus on mine.

    I can’t imagine being bored at home.

    I can imagine being bored at work though.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Saying home and learning with my kids is not fulfilling because I’ve been leading large teams for most of my life. I can kind of do that at home — leading kids, and the people my kids interact with, and the people who work for me right now. But leading a team from home is not the same experience as being with the team at an office.

      For someone who likes to sit by themselves and learn, then doing that is fulfilling with kids. For someone who learns through doing things with their kids, being home doing things would be fulfilling.

      The same way that being at an office is really compromising for some people. Being at home is really compromising for some people.

      That said, it doesn’t mean that people can’t do what is not comfortable for them. It means they have to work hard at making if okay for them.


  8. Satya
    Satya says:

    I need more examples of how you actually do the things you want to in a given day. For me homeschooling is not at all an income obstacle, since I’m already a SAHM. But I’m not going to lie, free babysitting sounds pretty awesome since they are small now and need so much. I desperately want school to rescue me and give me back a life, but not if the cost to my kids is too great.

    For those of us who haven’t reached a decision point yet, are the demands of homeschooling on your individuality as great as raising babies? Because if I had even two hours a day for myself it’d be a no-brainer to homeschool. But if I didn’t it would be a serious consideration.

    • Brooke Lorren
      Brooke Lorren says:

      When my kids aren’t actually doing school work, they spend a lot of time playing. Mine are 10 and 6, so that might be different than if they’re younger, but even when they were younger they played a lot together. My older one knows how to cook her own lunch, and even my little guy is learning how to make some foods on his own. So I do get time to myself (or to work on my business).

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      If money isn’t an issue and you only want two hours a day to yourself, hire a babysitter for two hours. I end up doing that sometimes. It works fine.

      There’s no rule that says you can’t hire a babysitter if you’re homeschooling. Snooty people will call it a tutor, or whatever. And it could be a tutor. It could be anything – just so you can get away for some part of each day.


    • Sarah M
      Sarah M says:

      Make a quiet time (or naptime or alone time) non-negotiable at some point in your day, every day.
      For the parents who do this (between 1-2.5 hours a day), I see them more relaxed, more patient, and developing their own interests. Parents who don’t do this are generally over-stressed, frazzled, and snappy with their kids more often than not.

      It’s non-negotiable in our house, and because my kids are older, it’s not even something that gets discussed…it’s always been a part of our lifestyle. My kids enjoy their times alone playing, reading books, or making things, or have the option to take a quick snooze, and I enjoy my 2.5 hours of doing my own thing, and getting some long-awaited Silence.

  9. Anita
    Anita says:

    Penelope, I agree the worst part of homeschooling is the boredom for me. Noah is 7. He loves being at home with me all day. Happy camper! But, me? Argh! I have started training for a marathon. The group of women I train with are awesome. I’m doing my best to get out and develope outside of being home all day but…. Yikes! I want out more often then I want to stay. But then, who said this was easy?

  10. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    Dropping work to homeschool was the biggest risk I’ve taken so far in my life. I’ve had to make massive changes in lifestyle because we’re now pretty much a zero income family, and it’s not without moments of sheer financial panic… but man are we having a blast!

    And my kids are learning how to survive on nothing, or maybe more importantly that you CAN survive on nothing. There’s a huge amount of freedom and confidence that comes from that. Freedom to try, freedom to fail. To make a career doing something that they love rather than something that will make them wealthy. Freedom to chase the things they really need, rather than the life being sold to them by schools and college and advertising. Freedom feels good.

    I don’t know why, but this post turned on so many lights for me about what you’re aiming for with this blog. I totally get that now, and it’s a really interesting and important way to look at homeschooling. Sorry it took me so long :)

  11. Jana
    Jana says:

    I wish I had a hired a babysitter like Penelope said. Just a couple hours a week would have made a big difference. I did hire someone to clean the house every other week. It didn’t really cost that much and it made life sooo much easier.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      Hiring a housecleaner, esp. if you pay a fair wage, could enable another homeschooler. I have been able to make this life work for two years due to flexible and good-paying parttime work that lets my kids tag along — cleaning for women who don’t have the time or ability to do it.

  12. karelys
    karelys says:

    I have problems prioritizing. I mean, sometimes everything seems a priority and nothing has a special priority but I have only so much time and x mound of work I want done so I can move on to xyz.

    I empty the dishwasher, go change a diaper, remember I have to sweep so I think I’ll be more peaceful if I wash dishes knowing floor is clean, then remember I gotta empty dryer.

    Then I am mad that cleaning takes up so much time and I want to do something of value and OMG! would you look at the time! I can’t believe this baby has to eat again!

    I suck at being a stay at home mom.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      For me, it’s been easier as my kids have become a little easier. Even though they are only 4 and almost 2, I find that I’m not as bored now that I can take them more places. I figure by the time they are school age, it will be slightly easier. I know parenting has challenges for every age, but for me, just being able to talk to them and do more makes it a lot more fun.

  13. Priswell
    Priswell says:

    There have been a lot of comments about fear of boredom for the mom (’cause it’s usually the mom that does the homeschooling), but honestly, I found that homeschooling gave me the opportunity to homeschool myself as well.

    Homeschooling taught me many new skills. For example, in the bits of free time I had while homeschooling, I learned how to use computers, build them, fix them and generally keep them going. I learned how to make soap and how to compost with earthworms. I was also able to indulge myself in reading many, many books.

    I wouldn’t have been able to follow my interests if we hadn’t homeschooled.

    • Sarah M
      Sarah M says:

      I so agree with you Priswell. I have never had more freedom to continue with my own interests than since homeschooling. The baby/toddler stage was different (still had that 3 hour naptime everyday, though), but now that my kids are older I am able to do a lot of my own things during the day.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      One realizes how much is forgotten (or was never learned) in homeschooling. What sold me on it, along with reading John Taylor Gatto and The Teenage Liberation Handbook, was recognizing how much better and more thoroughly I learned the topics explored on my own.
      I loved to cook and taught myself to bake with Mom’s red-checkered cookbook. I still love to cook. No one made me do it. It’s a good hobby as we all need to eat.
      I knew more about sharks and, later, Billy the Kid (BTK) than about anything school pushed.
      I used to stand in the aquarium at age 13 and spout shark factoids.
      I had a lengthy pen pal relationship with a published author of a BTK book and convinced my mom to drive to New Mexico so we could see the locations where things happened.
      I homeschooled myself and didn’t know it.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        But.. all kids have interests not correlated with school topics – school is the beginning and not the end of knowledge.

        • Jennifer
          Jennifer says:

          School was one long game, not an efficient education. I did well and learned a lot in art class, but was only allowed to be in for an hour a day. I would have stayed half the day. They wouldn’t let me. As for everything else, it was either too shallow–skimming over–or too deep–getting over my head and losing me. Those things I learned so much about were never introduced in school. I found them through movies and wanted to know “more.” So I went to the library. NOT the school library, either. They didn’t have “jack” there.

  14. kristen
    kristen says:

    Sometimes, I wonder more than just about the cycles cited above, I wonder about the point.
    Is the point to make my children into the best people they can be – the happiest, most well-adjusted, with the most suitable job/life/partner to their Myers Briggs type, etc.?
    Or is the point for me to be that person?
    And what if the two points are mutually exclusive?
    Granted I’m a card carrying Gen Xer who, as PT says, will go down in modern history as having the most neglected childhood. But…I like me. And my parents/husband/friends like me. But I wasn’t the center of my parents’ world. I was an accessory at best. This does not seem to be an uncommon situation throughout history. Our child-centered parenting seems to be relatively new and while GenY was coddled throughout their childhood (much to my generations’ disgust) is homeschooling really a way of making sure that Gen Z is even more spoiled?

  15. Jill
    Jill says:

    My friend posted your link on her facebook page. I am happy I came across this post. I think there is a huge misunderstanding on why some parents homeschool. Although you have some very good points this is not the reason for most people. Let me say first that I have many friends that homeschool. I support them. As for my husband and I we do not feel that homeschool is best for are family. Its not because I work because I don’t. Its not because I think it will be boring or that I can’t do it or I don’t love my kids enough. Its because we do not feel that is right for are family. I think being in school is very healthy for kids. I could go on and on on the reasons why we chose not to homeschool.I also could go on and on why I think homeschool is healthy. I love my kids, I am a good mom and they are my world. But just because I don’t homeschool doesn’t take away all those things. Also let me note I do not agree with going on public assistants to homeschool your kids! I could write a whole page on that one. Bottom line what is right for one family might not be right for another family. The judgment needs to be thrown out the window and making other moms feel shame for not doing what you do is not right.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      Oh Jill I so agree!!! With everything you said!

      I also think filing bankruptcy when you have the means to pay it off…even if it did take 50 years, is morally corrupt. It might be easier (and not to say there aren’t some valid reasons to file bankruptcy, but most filing is generally because it is just easier to do so than take responsibility and have some tenacity).
      To suggest to do so is unethical in my opinion.

      • Tara
        Tara says:

        I agree with Rachel and Jill. I think it is very irresponsible to file bankruptcy or go on public assistance unless you actually NEED to. Do YOU know who is really paying that debt?
        Also, some public assistance programs require that parents take classes or work a certain number of hours. That pretty much defeats your purpose of quitting your job to homeschool.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          If you think bankruptcy is morally corrupt then don’t do it. But it’s totally legal to do in the US. So maybe you should write to your congressional representative.

          We have high-risk lending in this country, so we have bankruptcy.

          Judging whether or not someone should declare bankruptcy is pretty tricky business. I think you’d be on higher moral ground complaining to the lenders than the debtors.


  16. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    An excellent article and one I think that a lot of people need to hear. I was just talking to a friend who is a new mom about how boredom
    is the hardest part. But I would also like to add that we personally have cut all these corners – and learning to cook and make our own laundry soap etc. – and are barely making it. It is hard to ignore the fact that I could be drawing a second income once they are old enough for public school. Just saying I understand that worry and temptation and its not always about thinking you need to pay to go to the zoo once a week. Parks and moms groups are our best friends :) for both $ and boredom

  17. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. Where to start? Well, the thing that bothers me the most is how judgmental your post is. Where’s the encouragement to find creative solutions to financial obstacles? Homeschoolers are known for them. Your suggestion to go into bankruptcy is telling your children they don’t have to honor their debts. Why not reference solutions that work that are responsible? Dave Ramsey is an excellent way to pay off debt quickly and efficiently. And your response to Renee was judgmental and insensitive and assuming much. I have never read your blog and probably won’t in the future. It’s hard to take that first step, it’s only harder when a homeschooling community is judging her instead of helping her down the road to discovering a way to make it happen in a positive light. I hope you will consider edification when you write in the future. A gentle answer turns away wrath.

  18. Shelly Smith
    Shelly Smith says:

    I am afraid my daughter won’t listen to me and do her work. I know I am smart enough even though my husband tries to make me feel like I can’t do it. I know I can. I just don’t want it to turn into a battle to get her to learn. Cause then it won’t be fun for her. I want to homeschool, but even when I try to get her to do simple things, she has melt downs.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      If you leave her alone, she’ll learn on her own. She’s not going to stare at the wall all day. She’s going to explore whatever she is curious about. And that’s what learning is. So give that a chance. See what she does. It’s normal for a kid to want to learn the way they want to learn. It’s abnormal for a kid to want to be told what to learn — the same way it would be abnormal for an adult to be told what to read. We love reading if we read what we want. Kids love learning if they learn what they want.


  19. Judy
    Judy says:

    Six months ago I left the practice of law after 17 years and am homeschooling my kids. We took an almost 50% hit in our household income and my husband’s job is somewhat unstable. However, all I can see are positive changes in my kids. They are slowly realizing that learning happens all the time and that its FUN. They “get” that learning doesn’t only happen while sitting in a classroom reading books. We have curricula that I hand picked for each subject but we do an incredible amount of hands on and real life supplementation. As an African American family, I can say that it is totally worth the sacrifice when considering the alternatives that are available in school, whether it be public or private.
    To some of the reasons for not homeschooling that I have heard, I have the following responses:
    1. My kids won’t listen to me or do anything that I tell them. All I can say to this is WOW, it sounds like you have a lot of family issues to work out, which could be addressed by spending more time with your kids homeschooling. That’s because homeschooling forces the parent to spend time every day focusing on the child. What kid wouldn’t want that?
    2. We can’t take the hit on our monthly income. Even my husband felt this way and, up until the day I put in my notice and then brought my stuff home from the office, he couldn’t belive I was going to leave my job. But guess what? We haven’t spiraled into bankruptcy and he finally admits seeing a vast improvement in our kids’ attitudes and aptitudes.
    3. I would be bored. I find that I am not bored at all. I allow the kids to run us down all kinds of rabbit holes as we do our work and explore our world. I am learning world history for the first time (I mean actually learning and not just memorizing facts for a test). I know every part of an airplane and how it works and how airplanes fly. I now understand the physics behind how simple machines work. The point is, homeschooling allows kids to be inquisitive and forces a parent to research and learn a tremendous amount of information just to keep up with the kids.
    By the way, my kids are 5 and 4. I think my 5 year old is gifted so the mental exercise in keeping up with him is actually more taxing at times than practicing the law.
    For those who are offended by Penelope’s judgements, yes, she is a lot more straightforward than the typical homeschool mom bloggers who will tell you to go and pray about your decision, but hey, its her job to be controversial. There is a lot of truth to what she says if you try not to take it personal.

    • Julie
      Julie says:

      I agree with homeschooling forcing you to solve parenting or parent-child relationship issues. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to spend this much time with my kids, which seems sort of weird to think about now.

      When they were in school there was so much time spent dealing with getting them there, picking them up, school activities and expectations. Then add in outside activities on top of it. It is like you are always late or hurrying or running to get somewhere. You don’t realize how stessful and unnatural that is to family life and relationships until it is all gone.

      • Gareth
        Gareth says:

        Don’t forget the worst effect of school on parent-child relationships: the homework.

        If school is like jail, you are one of the trusties. School doesn’t just bore and frustrate your children, it drafts you into the process of boring and frustrating your children.

        It’s very nice to clear the air of that, so you can both be on the same side again.

        • Julie
          Julie says:

          Yes, but when you are doing it, it is very hard to see that. It is very easy to have that be your normal because it is how life is for most people. That is how we all grew up. Very few people question it. After homeschooling for a while it becomes clear how bad it was to live that way. But if you try to explain that to people who still are, well, very few of them get it.

  20. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    I think PT makes some good points as well as some really bad judgements. I think homeschooling is totally possible for everyone who wants to do it. SAHM or SAHD are homeschooling and having their spouse bring in one income. Single parents while working are homeschooling and they have different childcare situations. Two income families are homeschooling as well.

    Too say that you can move into a cheap neighborhood in today’s market isn’t always easy neither is finding a job that is in that area or close enough to make it feasible. Also living via financial assistance just to be able to homeschool is that really a responsible way of living.

    I think the most important thing is to make sure that your child is thriving and that your relationship with your child and or spouse doesn’t pay the consequence for either choice. Whether that choice is to homeschool or to school children in a school setting. I think we need to let people decide what is best for their families.

    We have 4 children which we homeshool, my husband works FT and I work PT.

  21. Helen
    Helen says:

    My husband and I both work and our children are homeschooled. There are some jobs that are flexible enough, and pay enough, for the parents to work and the children to be homeschooled.

    We do not unschool, but I would think that unschooling would make work and homeschooling even easier.

    Penelope, it seems to me that you work too. Your blogs, your seminars — aren’t they work?

  22. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    I am always mildly amused when people say they don’t want to pay for the welfare of others through their taxes, and yet their taxes do in fact pay for government-funded day care disguised as public school. I read somewhere that public education costs over $10,000 PER KID PER YEAR!! So unless you pay over 10 grand in taxes each year, your child’s public education is indeed being paid for by someone else – and that doesn’t take into account that public ed

      • ina
        ina says:

        tanya, well said!! not only does taxpayers money get used on schools, its used to pay people working within the government, soldiers, doctors, firemen etc…so – many of us are living off the taxpayer! even those handing out welfare cheques are paid by taxpayers money. without taxpayers there would be lack of money to fund society.

        as for being bored, being scared of being stuck with your kids, how would THEY feel if they could see what mummy was writing? ive never once been bored or wished i could have a ‘break’. my first child was still born and tive never ever wished to have a break from my 2nd child who is now 7. enjoy each moment. enough said.

        • Jennifer C
          Jennifer C says:

          People who work for the government as teachers, law enforcement, civil servants and whatever work to provide a service and benefit to the public and they all pay taxes on their income and pay property taxes if they own homes or land. There is a collective benefit gained by educating tomorrow’s generation of adults. I believe in the social safety net but choosing to live in poverty and rely on public assistance or an elderly parent’s generosity, even a spouse’s paid labor when you could be using your educated brain to support your family financially is fundamentally selfish. I was home for awhile with my kids, the absolute happiest time for me personally as a parent. Happiest for me, me, me. But it isn’t just about me, is it?

  23. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I am not scared I will be bored — ok actually I’m a little scared of that – but what I am really scared of is being INSANE. Honestly… Spending 24/7 with my kids seems really scary and daunting. It’s just a LOT of time to spend together. Won’t we drive each other nuts?? Anyone have feedback on this? This is probably my #1 fear of homeschooling. We’ll always be… together.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      How old are your children?

      When mine were very small, they were demanding. Mom look at this, Mom let’s this-and-that. I took them on long jogging stroller walks just to get us out and manage my need for semi-silence.

      Now they are grade school age. We are together-but-separate. The more we are together, the less it feels intrusive. We “do school” a few hours a day. We learn how each other are best loved. My daughter makes mini videos and drawings. I look at them out of love for her. My son likes to talk deeply about social issues and YouTube videos and games. I listen out of love for him. My kids know what I love (Zen music & knitting & walks) and they let me have it because they love me.

      You learn one another so well.

      • Andrea
        Andrea says:

        They are 3 and 6 and yes, they are demanding. Yup lots of “Mom look at this, mom can I have, mom can you get, mom can we go, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…”

    • Julie
      Julie says:

      Insanity was my second biggest worry when we were thinking about homeschooling. We did it anyway and I am still mostly sane, as much as I was before anyway. We figured out how to be together because we had to do so. When my kids were in school the summers were long. I looked forward to school starting. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I enjoy time to myself of course, but homeschooling forced us to learn how to be together. And it is easier as they get older and are more independent. My teen pretty much does her own thing. She is very self directed. My seven year old still needs lots of attention, but she likes to go off and do her own thing too. I was much less of a problem than I anticipated before we started.

  24. Young Dad
    Young Dad says:

    Wow! There are so many emotions that go into parenting.

    I want the single parents out there to know how much I admire and appreciate them. I have the most wonderful wife in the world and it’s still hard for me to be a good dad. In a few years, we plan on homeschooling our kids and I feel so blessed to have my wife to do the teaching while I “bring the bacon.”

    Penelope, thank you for the good points you made about making sacrifices to homeschool kids. But of course, we all recognize that we can’t sacrifice something we don’t have. I wish everyone could have as great a spouse as I do, and I pray for those who don’t even though they probably deserve it.

  25. leora
    leora says:

    Penelope, I read unschooling blogs (especially yours!) all the time, I love John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, and I would theoretically love to unschool. But I know my own limitations. I’m an incorrigibly bad disciplinarian to a pair of wild boys who could really use a strong hand and who seem to respond positively when others apply it. This makes it very difficult to have a productive day with me as their main support, by anyone’s definition, as they waste many hours a day just rebelling against me–even if I don’t “engage” them.

    Here’s what my darling twins do when they are not in (their short, 3-hour) kindergarten. They fight, they break furniture and lamps and other household items, they beg to eat/eat *incessantly*, they steal food when I finally say “enough,” they break and render unusable any and every toy, no matter how beloved, etc. Their bar for what’s “fun” is super high (how? we didn’t spoil them, or deprive them) and they call me names when their every whim is not met, they throw lengthy tantrums daily about any unmet request, they sabotage even fun outings they themselves asked for by repeatedly unfastening their seatbelts, fighting, and so on–basically, they don’t run the show, but neither do I because of all the time wasted. It’s constant chaos. (That’s not to say they aren’t delightful too–silly, zany, adorable, loving, and full of exuberant boy energy–but still.)

    Also–if I’m honest–I’m not really intellectually curious, and so am not the best person to encourage a child’s intellectual growth even if I *could* get these children to settle down. Yes, I see them failing to–even–learn more than a few letters and numbers in school, despite being just shy of 6, and being given lots of personal attention by competent and personable teachers and aides. But could I do better? If I unschooled them, we would go to children’s museums and playgrounds all day, and essentially continue doing exactly what we did when they were of preschool age (not that they went to preschool! they were too much to handle–even in separate classes)–i.e. boys seek pleasure and fun, and mom moderates things to a basically rational range. Their interests and intellectual ability have seemed pretty constant for the past 2-3 (!!) years–the result of my “unschooling,” give-them-space philosophy at home? Maybe this is ok… but maybe the big unschooling secret is that parental modeling/good genes/etc. are the reason your kids can, say, play video games all day and still (as already seems obvious) grow into passionate, creative, successful adults–while mine, perhaps, cannot.

    • Jennifer C
      Jennifer C says:

      Your kids are highly spirited and you are outnumbered when you are home alone with them! They will respond to a lot of firm, loving structure, as you will see on shows like the Nanny. They are probably in full day first grade by now, if you have sent them. If they behave the way you describe with their teachers, expect at least one teacher to suggest an ADD/ADHD evaluation. Have an open mind about it if that happens. When you are with them, give them plenty of chances for fresh air and exercise and then when they have had a chance to expend some energy, insist on quiet time for reading or math practice. Post a schedule for snacks, homework, exercise, free play. If it happens the same way every day, when they beg and connive, just point to the schedule and say, not yet, dear. But soon.

  26. Julie
    Julie says:

    Maybe I just got lucky to have such enormously interesting kids, but I have never found this to be a problem. I was terrified before I had kids that I would find them as boring as I found most other people’s children. I planned to go back to work. After my first son was born, though, the thought of leaving him for 40+ hours every week seemed really stupid. It was clear he needed me, and I found him fascinating.

    Financially, I guess it’s been hard. My husband didn’t speak English very well when we moved here, and he didn’t really like being a stay-at-home parent, either, mostly because he has a very traditional concept of a father’s role in the family. My older son is almost 8 now, and we’ve only been above the official poverty line for about 2 years of his life. My kids’ only care about that because I am noticeably calmer and less fatigued than I was when we were really poor (I used to work online at nights, so it was a rare night that I slept more than a few hours).

    But I don’t get bored with my own kids. They are so naturally curious about everything that we do a lot of fun stuff that we all enjoy. We do a lot of science and art projects, play a lot of fun games, do a lot of hiking. I find that I get excited about things I would never have cared about before, just because they’re excited about it. I never used to really notice bugs or birds, but they love them, so we learn about them, and it is interesting.

    You talk a lot about encouraging curiosity and fostering lifelong learning, and I think this is probably at the root of the problem. If one’s own curiosity has waned, then kids seem boring because they want to know about things adults stopped being curious about a long time ago. I used to be one of these very jaded types, so easily bored or whatever. That was stupid. The world all around us is fascinating. Watching babies grow, if you really watch them and how they develop and gain language, is fascinating if you have much curiosity about the world at all. I’ve been overjoyed and very grateful that, through my kids, I’ve become so much more curious about everything than I was in early adulthood. When my older son used to ask questions about bugs, a subject I knew nothing about and didn’t care at all about, at first I found it boring. But as we read more books about them and learned more startling things about the insect world, we both grew more and more interested. It’s very easy in adult life to not care about bugs or earthworms, but if you let yourself remember your childish curiosity, their interests can be really interesting.

  27. Laura
    Laura says:

    That pretty much IS why we don’t homeschool and that’s ok. I think we are a better family for it. With 3 girls all close in age we all just need a little space, friends, life of our own. We are a very close family and there’s no one I’d rather do things with than my husband and children. But that breathing room during the day when they are in school, I believe, makes me a better mother. God has blessed us tremendously with an excellent Christian school nearby. So for now we that is what we do….maybe it’ll change someday. We take one year at a time.

  28. Alisha
    Alisha says:

    This was my first time viewing your blog and will be my last. I found your article lacked any merit. You offer no proof you simply make a claim and expect people to believe it. Secondly you seem to live in lala land where its better to move your family into the ghetto where they can get shot, robbed, raped, murdered, ect then put them in public school. And somehow in your mind that means that the parents just dont want to spent time with their child.

    • Danielle
      Danielle says:

      Hahahaha. I love how you have twisted her suggestion to move into a lower cost home into letting your kids get murdered and raped. I can find a nice trailer around here for like $300 a month including utilities. Now sure its not gonna be in the nice big city with a million sites and events and museums but it certainly is low cost! And yeah, its a trailer. That sucks. But thats her point. If its what people really really wanted they could make some sacrifices, take some risks and make homeschooling work– without the rape or the murder, thank you.

      Perhaps if more children were properly schooled, the internet would not run so rampant with the misreading and misinterpretation of commentary and its ugly consequence, the ill-thought out and hyperbolic response.

      (Of course insert caveat here–since I’ll get a dozen tearjerkers if I dont– that there will always be exceptions. Yes, I DO understand some people are in super extenuating, terrible situations that will prevent them from doing even something that they really truly want very badly to do– such as homeschooling. But these are outliers and a person in a truly insurmountable situation will be a very rare occurrence indeed.)

  29. marta
    marta says:

    I won’t go into the hs vs regular s debate. but i’d just like to point out that even if you don’t send your kids to school, you did choose to pay a teacher to teach your kid skateboarding! I mean, that is a skill children generally learn on their own, with their own ups and downs, all their curiosity and effort and grit… regardless of the academic, regular education they get… How come you chose such a “school” mindset approach?

  30. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I homeschool and LOVE it. I love being home. I love our community.

    The only reason (so far) that I’ve seen that we’d ever have to give up homeschooling is because even with my husband’s more than full-time job and my part-time jobs as an adjunct college teacher, we struggle financially to make things work.

    All day today I was stressed about having enough food for my growing kids.

    We don’t take vacations. We live in a low-income neighborhood. We live quite simply.

    I’m a fan of your blog and generally admire your opinions. But your assumptions here are really hard for me to take, because I feel like you must not understand financial hardship.

    Like I said, I hope to never stop homeschooling. That’s not the problem I’m having, The hard part for me is that you’re assuming you know what it’s like for people to struggle financially, and it sounds like you are talking about wealthy people, if you are talking about giving up vacations, etc.

  31. Molly W.
    Molly W. says:

    A very interesting read – but I feel that there is one big issue with your argument about debt, particularly your suggestion for filing bankruptcy if things are that bad. There’s a majority of two income families to whom bankruptcy would not help because the bulk of their debt comes from student loans, the majority of which are not dismissed with a bankruptcy claim. If they did file for bankruptcy they would find themselves with ruined credit (and there are many areas in the country where it is still cheaper to own than to rent if you are frugal enough and don’t have your eyes set on a McMansion – our college town is a prime example), the possibility of repo’ed possessions including home furnishing, cars and even sentimental family heirlooms and still not have rid themselves of the worst of their debt.

    Now, I will say that one area I think you leave out is that too many folks think that homeschooling needs to follow an 8-3 schedule like a regular school or that one parent needs to be the sole “teacher”. If you break out of that mentality there are more ways for a family to earn that money they might truly need while still homeschooling. Who’s to say your HS-ing can’t be on the weekends or in the late afternoon if that’s what could get a parent down from full time to part time. While this might be tricky for parents with young children, once a child is old enough to be left alone for a few hours (particularly in the junior high/high school years when more people should be considering homeschooling) it could really opening up more routes for a family to school the way that’s needed while still staying on top of their finances.

  32. Raven
    Raven says:

    I’m really not sure what country you’re living in; I’m assuming the U.S., but it seems like you’re on a different planet.

    I’m a homeschooling parent, and wanted to be from my daughter’s birth but couldn’t. Why? Because of money. Because I had to earn money so we could have a place to live. This article assumes too many things: 1) that all homeschoolers or people who want to homeschool are married and/or partnered, 2) that they own their home and the mortgage is paid off or the interest rate is low, and 3) that the partner making the primary income (not the one doing most of the day-to-day homeschooling) earns enough to afford shelter, food, clothing, utilities, and basic needs for at least two adults and one child.

    For me, it was never enough about living within walking distance to cultural centers. I can take a bus or drive to something I want my children to experience. But I do want to live in a place where there’s a bit of earth, not just concrete, where we can easily access whole, organic foods, and not just brightly colored packages of GMO corn in its myriad styles.

    When my daughter was born almost 13 years ago now, even with two incomes, we couldn’t make the rent. I spent most of my pregnancy eating pasta with a sauce I made myself. There was absolutely no way for us to homeschool in such a situation. When my partner left us when our daughter was 9 months old, I had even less, and believe me, government assistance didn’t afford us more than Walgreen’s pasta and a can of paste; I rented out tiny rooms in homes where the housemates were hostile to having a child (and sometimes a woman) in the house, but they were all I could afford on what I was given — often every check from the government to see us through until I got a new job went directly to our rent and NOTHING else. There wasn’t anything left after that.

    I’m pregnant with my second child, and while my current partner is struggling to make his mortgage on two software jobs because no one is paying him what he’s worth, I’m finally able to homeschool, and have been for the last four years, even the last year I was at university. We go to the library a lot (a short distance from our house) and a park not too far away. We visit friends in the city once a week, and when my mother was still alive, she’d buy us tickets to the opera as gifts for every holiday or birthday. My daughter and I find deals on camps, workshops, and other things that interest her. And until my mother’s passing, we’d go to visit her in Germany once every couple of years. It works, and I know we can manage with where we are now.

    But not everyone who wants to homeschool can be dismissed as being able to if they just change their priorities. It’s a highly narrow view of the world. Not everyone agrees that those “vacations” are unnecessary — I strongly believe, as do other homeschoolers, that seeing other parts of the country and other parts of the world are quite important to a well-rounded education. There are ways to manage it with budgeting and looking for good deals, but only if you already have enough of an income TO SAVE in the first place.

    Also, your comment about there no longer being debtors prisons? I suppose you haven’t been reading up on new legislation in Arkansas. The new law can land a renter in jail if their rent is even a day late, depending on the whims of the landlord in question. This law imprisoned over 1,200 renters in 2012 alone.

    Not everyone lives a comfy middle class, suburban life, and while there are many who might like to homeschool, don’t dismiss those who genuinely need to bring in that income, whether it’s a second income, or the only one.

  33. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Initially I didn’t homeschool my son because I didn’t enroll him in VPK and tried to homeschool him for that. I thought I would end up killing him-He was so stubborn and didn’t want to learn from me. Here’s how it went.
    ME:Nick what is this letter (pointing to B) Nick: U?… D?
    He just guessed and you could tell he was guessing.
    Enter any random person and ask him the same thing and he would get it right.
    I honestly thought he wouldn’t learn from me.
    After just one semester in KG (PS) and many, many… many behavior problems and with the encouragement of a couple homeschool families at my church we looked into homeschool a little deeper and realized that it really was the better choice for us as Christians and for our sons (to keep them from brainwashing by the govt).
    And guess what? He learns from me!! it is so much easier than I thought it would be. Now it’s only been a few months and every now and then I panic thinking I’m going to forget to teach him something important.. and then I take a deep breath a pray and realize that it’s going to be ok and if I”m teaching him about God, that’s all that matters.

  34. Melissa Gentile
    Melissa Gentile says:

    I find this article HIGHLY offensive.

    I’m not afraid I will be bored. I’m disabled with a special needs child and while one might think I’m in the minority of people who choose not to homeschool,there are a huge number of women in my Moms of Children with Sensory Processing Disorder group who have fibro or similar issues. Parents of kids with special needs are at a much higher risk for depression, stress induced headaches and exacerbations of pre-existing illnesses such as fibro, RA, MS, lupus and colitis.

    You live an extremely sheltered and blessedly healthy life if you feel the fear of being bored is the primary reason most parents don’t homeschool.

  35. carla
    carla says:

    The cat fights have been very entertaining here, LOL! Anyway, I am looking ofr an alternative for my son, who has trouble concentrating and really could benefit from a one-on-one situation. I have hired my 23 yo niece as atutor and that is helping, but she can only come twice aweek for a couple hours. I am scared senseless of leaving my well-paying career with health insurance because my husband is in sales, his income is not predictable and we have 3 other older kids who have other financial needs (college for one). How many hours do you have to devote to academics per day in order to successfully homeschool a 7th grader?

  36. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I am a SAHM who has made some sacrifices over the years to do so although not as many as other since my husband makes a good living. As much as I believe in my heart that children should be with their parent I can not support people walking away from debt they have incurred or living on public assistance (money other working people are paying) so anyone can be at home. If finances are that rough the choice to have children at that time should play into the equation and if you didn’t think ahead to that then you and unfortunately your child are going to have to pay the price for that. There is no reason I (or my husband) should have to pay for you to choose to stay home when we are making sacrifices so I can stay home because that is what we planned for. I understand there is divorce (being a child of divorce) and death but baring that you are responsible for your actions. I love that homeschooling is an option for most but it definitely isn’t an option for every single person out there even if it is what they really want. On that note I totally agree that when most people say they would love to do something but can’t afford it it usually means they don’t want to pay for it bc they would have to give up their current quality of life. Again I go back to “you choose to have children, they should come first now”.

  37. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Finally someone admits it! The two-income model isn’t even as glamorous as they make it seem because ditching your kids costs money whether it’s daycare, after-school care or summer camp.

    My parents bemoan about how it would have been impossible to stay home with me or even have more kids, Needless to say, they were not thrifty by any means.

    People love finding their identity in going to work. Work is a lot easier and more straight-forward than homeschooling. So, it’s no wonder people choose it.

    Also, people don’t really have much interest in their child’s education. Most people just want to see results or have something to boast about. My parents could have cared less about how I got my good grades, as long as I got them.

    As for the socialization part and worrying about kids being weird. If that were the case, kids who were weird in school would be taken out by concerning parents. But they never are!

    I find most school children mindless and weird. It’s normally the weird ones who succeed in life, anyways.

  38. Kerrie McLoughlin
    Kerrie McLoughlin says:

    I’m reading a book called Homeschooling: A Family’s Journey by the Millmans. So far they fell into homeschooling b/c the mom wanted to be home with all the kids and they were in a crappy neighborhood with crappy schools and had one income and it was in the early 90s when money was crap. We’ll see how it turns out!

  39. Kerrie McLoughlin
    Kerrie McLoughlin says:

    I love how you talk about parents making home life fulfilling for themselves, too. It’s true. I am never bored at home with the kids b/c I make sure that does not happen. If they are going nuts we leave the house for an adventure. If I am going nuts, maybe I will sit and read while they play at the park. Or take my laptop and do an editing job … for real money, which feels goooood. Scrapbooking isn’t going so hot anymore. Needlepoint!

  40. Josue
    Josue says:

    Penelope, Good blog post. Just discovered your site, so doing some catching up. I’m a homeschooling graduate and now a homeschooling dad.

    I wanted to mention the one thing I didn’t see you address is “culture”. By that I mean that we have a culture that doesn’t value children the way past generations have (or the way parents like you and I do). On top of that, the popularity of radio host Dave Ramsey tells me there are millions of people out there that just have no clue how to manage their finances. I agree with your thoughts on debt not being a good excuse, but to many folks, I think it’s more than just debt–it’s a lifestyle of financial “chaos” built up on top of a insecurity and cultural intimidation about “what will people think about you if you homeschool.”

    One other thing you didn’t mention and I’d love to read your thoughts on — the role of the father. With fatherhood and manhood under such cultural attack (…just watch a couple sitcoms), I know this has an impact on a mom’s ability to homeschool well.

  41. Karen
    Karen says:

    I am just wondering about homeschooling an only child. I have one little girl, not yet school age. I am a teacher. She is a very social little girl-loves to go out, very chatty with loads of different people. I prefer my own company, really, and her constant chatter drives me crazy (and I love it too!). I wonder what it would be like to homeschool her and if it could work for us. Any advice?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi, Karen. I can answer that. I have a very chatty, very social son. He hates being alone and he loves being the center of a group of people. I want to read and write all day. And talk on the phone for work. I have had to learn how to compromise for him. I talk with him a lot more than I would choose to. (My other son can sit next to me and read for hours – much easier for me.) I set up lots of playdates for my son even though the kids and their parents bug me — I mean, I’d rather just be alone reading and writing. I tell myself that to my son, showing love is being social, and so that’s what I have to do with him.

      The thing is, this doesn’t change if you send your kid to school. It’s not like showing love to an extraverted chatty social kid changes if you are not around. It just means you need to cram all that into four hours when they are home from school instead of having twelve hours a day to spread it out.


    • Shawna
      Shawna says:

      Yes you can do it. I am also a single mom of a little chatterbox darling diva girly girl. She talks my ear off every day and we have the most interesting talks –I find out who she really is. YET she gets to discover how it is to be introverted as well. Which is a nice thing for extraverts to learn early in life. I demand quiet time and she plays quietly with her dolls. IT is not hard—you can do anything you want—it just takes brainpower. I could sit all day reading reading reading. There is a reason you both are different–you will both learn from each other! I want to write a book on how an introverted parent can best raise an extroverted child. THey have different brains than we do. And vice versa. I have an extraverted friend with an introverted child. The four of us get along perfectly–I understand her child and can help and she talks the language of my child. We live and learn. Good luck and hope you home teach!!

  42. e
    e says:

    I wanted to homeschool. Badly in the best way. I had five children in 7 years (including a set of demanding twins). My husband wasn’t supportive of the scenario. I had no one else to help – no family nearby, and building a community in the midst of my situation would’ve taken more energy and time than I had. It was crucial I focus on the education needs of my two oldest at the time. Both were above average academic needs (I’m talking astronaut IQs, no joking or bragging here because truly, we’re talking about “special needs” students who receive very little attention in the public school exceptional needs department. The money goes towards the other end of the spectrum as those parents and support have lobbied heavily over the years for that control. Quite frankly, I find those special needs parents rude and selfish to think their children are the only ones deserving the right to meet their education potential annually.)

    One of my oldest was accepted into a public school program 30 minutes away from our home to have his needs met. The other was being totally ignored and wasting his first years of public school in a place where the lowest common denominator behaviorally and academically gets the most attention. . . the rest of the students are considered “fortunate” and ignored. I was at my wit’s end. . . HOURS in the car driving back and forth. Worry, worry, worry. I finally told my husband I was homeschooling the second child for his 3rd grade year. I did it all by myself, no co-op, no support (except financial) from my husband, etc. I just read as much as I could inbetween breastfeeding sessions and dealing with twins and a preschooler. Luckily, my homeschooled child was a self-motivated sort. I didn’t really have to teach him much at all, just a bit of guidance here and there. I just gave him material, leaning heavily on things his interests, and he learned. He taught himself to read, and quite well, by age 3, so I didn’t have to worry about him. I loved homeschooling.

    But I hated housekeeping during that time. My house became chaos, and I could not figure out how to balance all I had going on. By the end of the year, there were good things, but the worst things involved my health and household. . . and it just wasn’t healthy. Homeschooling was not to blame really. It was just one of many responsibilities I was wrapped up with, and I had to make priorities. My health was so bad, my hair was falling out. I couldn’t sleep at night from anxiety even though I was exhausted. I kept thinking, homeschooling was awesome (and it truly is) but would be even better if I could just go live in a cabin in the woods far away from society (and that includes church) that knocked at my door constantly asking for me to give my time, energy and efforts to them. Truth is, I still had one foot stuck in the public schools (with one child) while trying to adopt a homeschooling lifestyle. The most advantageous way to homeschool, I think, is to go all in. . . The whole family life, not just the individual’s lives, improves as it is not enslaved to someone else’s philosophies of living. The public school system is most definitely a way to order and control society. I feel so controlled by it.

    Sometimes, I think my own intensity made my life difficult during that time. But because I could not balance my life (especially with so many young children and no help), I had to find another situation for my older two children. I tried out that public school program for highly gifteds – and such a program is very rare in our country, and it sufficed in challenging my children. I had to make a choice based on what was best for my family at the time. I knew my children would be best served by homeschool, but I also knew my children would NOT be best served by a mother who had a nervous breakdown (I am not exaggerating).

    Homeschool? If I could, I would. But I truly was about to have a breakdown (if I wasn’t already).

    Is my life any better? In some ways. I have reclaimed my health after a couple of years. My home is still a wreck because now I spend my time driving as opposed to homeschooling and homekeeping. It’s not satisfying to have one’s life controlled by the public school. . . we get robo-calls at 8 pm or after, the flow of communication from them never stops, and they are so darn needy. They could care less that they are ruining our lives. Actually, I believe they are glad about this. In our area, the public schools are basically tools for “social justice” in the most perverted and enslaving ways. I will not venture to speak of the racial politics here.

    Homeschooling actually appealed to me because I knew I would NOT be bored and I would have richer moments alongside my children.

    My reason for homeschooling or not had to do with my life situation at that time and moment. . . I truly was about to have a nervous breakdown.

  43. Jennifer C
    Jennifer C says:

    You’re a good writer Penelope. I don’t homeschool because my own personal experiences in public school, while not without trials and difficulties, were ultimately good. My children enjoy their school and their needs are being met for the most part.
    I just want to say that for many people, it is a point of immense pride to work, even in jobs that are personally unfulfilling or tedious, in order to pay their own way in the world. Public assistance is the last resort taken in desperation, not a fundraising option. It is good that you are able to support your family with earned income and that your time on public assistance was temporary.
    Next, paying off debts is also a point of immense pride for many people. I agree that if a family is insolvent, bankruptcy is an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the family can maintain basic needs and seek a fresh start. However, student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Many long-term, low monthly payment plans do not forgive interest. Many of us do not have new refinancing options or loan forgiveness options available to us.
    Your position that homeschooling, like breastfeeding, is the right choice for all parents is utterly ridiculous. Breastfeeding is impossible for a mother who must take chemotherapy in order to survive and raise her children. And that is an example of many for whom breastfeeding is not the best possibility. A good mother feeds her children, and educates her children to the best of her ability given the hand dealt to her. There is no particular perfect method, only a thorough examination of the costs and benefits of any particular tactic. You are a little bit eccentric, and your children have special needs. That is why you homeschool. I don’t judge you for doing so, you clearly have risen to the challenges which you have been dealt in life. However, unless you have walked a mile in everyone else’s shoes you need not judge the rest of the world.

  44. Gemma
    Gemma says:

    Hi guys

    I have been homeschooling now for 6months, my son is 5 (6 on Boxing Day) I live in England by the way..I am a single parent and have no family as I was raised in various foster placements and hostels and my son is all I have. I am 28 years old. My sons family are very inconsistent seeing him only when I take him to see them..his dad leads a very busy lifestyle and barely sees or even speaks to him on the phone. I am doing evrything on my own..I love my son immensely but I have recently been feeling the pressure hence why I am commenting to you seemingly wise educated people in hope of reassurance. We recently moved house, I left my part time job in order to be closer to my sons family (for his sake) and the school I wanted to send him had no places so I arranged to go and visit the next nearest school, the area we have moved to is beautiful and has a reputation for excellent schools this is also why we moved here instead of directly in the town his family are from (it’s a dump) so we are closer but not too close. After visiting the next nearest and alternative school and discovering it was a 48 minute walk I decided that it wasn’t going to work out (mainly because my son gets tired very easily and is just not a naturally active sporty child) I applied for help with transport and was denied as the school was 0.1miles under the threshold for transport to be offered. I then discovered it was legal to homeschool (I had no idea) so I decided to do this thinking it would be temporary as I have put my son on the waiting list and until last week he was 2nd..he’s now been pushed down to third place. I feel i am perfectly capable of teaching my son and enjoy doing so, I have a degree with honours in education and children and family studies..after reading everybody’s helpful comments I feel even more encouraged to continue homeschooling..however financial reasons are causing me to constantly stress over homeschooling. There is no financial assistance at all in England for homeschooling parents..I am currently on sick pay (kindly given to me by my doctor as he thought it would be temporary) this expires on January the 13th. I doubt very much he will issue me another as he has been giving them me since July.If i am not in receipt of a benefit, housing benefit will not help pay my rent. I will have to survive solely on £60 pw child tax credit and £20 pw child benefit. My rent is £500 PCM. I am used to working and have done so since I was 16 I have no problem working, however my son loves me teaching him and our bond is unbreakAble because of this..i also know 100% he learns a lot more than he would at school. My second concern is he only gets to socialise with other children once a week (I take him to a street dance school) and I don’t socialise at life is devoted to him (I’m not moaning about that I chose to have him I will do whatever is necessary) but admittingly I am prone to depression..after reading your inspirational comments and Penelope, your blog to begin with, I feel I have the strength to continue with homeschooling and can see how positive it can be. But…how can I survive on £80gbp a week? And am I right in thinking that a 48 minute walk 4times a day is just too much for a 5year old to maintain? After speaking to a lady at my sons dance class last week I felt ashamed when she pointed out that she in fact knows people who do walk that distance to get to the same school and she was astonished to hear that I even homeschooled at all (perhaps even disgusted by the sound of it) it makes me question if I am in fact doing right by my son. And that is all I want ultimately that is all I’ve ever strived for since the moment he was born. Any suggestions?
    Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully the time to answer it too.

    • Fiona
      Fiona says:

      I can sympathise with your situation. Perhaps you could work 16 hours a week in order to qualify for housing benefit and then you could get a likeminded friend or family member to watch your son. The beauty of homeschooling is that it does not have to be done from 9 until 3 MtoF. You could work Mondays and Tuesdays and still homeschool him. It is unfortunate to not be able to be at home with him all the time , but this need not mean that he has to go to school. Some kids are not going to thrive in school and it is imperative that a parent can educate their child as they think fit, luckliy in the UK you can do this( you can also do part time school if the head teacher agrees)
      Good luck

  45. Batya Bender
    Batya Bender says:

    Thanks, Penelope, for weaving homeschooling into our culture. I homeschooled myself for 5 years. Along with homemaking, homeschooling was my career.
    Then my daughter wanted to go to junior high. The whole thing fell apart, as the younger siblings followed her to outside school.
    But…After 5 scary years, she married and, surprise, surprise, has homeschooled her children from the beginning, through numerous pregnancies and through almost constant financial stress.
    I would do it again, in an instant. Was it easy? No. But I have no regrets. Does she? I don’t think so, But you’ll have to ask her.
    If you are ever having one of “those” days, we’re here to encourage you.
    Thanks again,
    Batya, mother of Chana

  46. ray
    ray says:

    Couldn’t agree more. We’ve been homeschooling for more than 7 years now. And it’s more exciting than ever!

  47. Alice
    Alice says:

    I noticed the comment by the other engineer here and, wanted to also offer our story up. My husband and I are both engineers (me, after 7 years of struggle, him after 5, later in life – it was hell getting us through college, and I was his personal “coach” of sorts). Prior to having our child, we had just paid off our college debts and our wedding. I was going to continue working – I had a GREAT job after a recent inter-company transfer – I loved my boss, my coworkers, and I was just about to be promoted too. I remember for the first 5 months, thinking, while I worked and our mother in law came up to help “till daycare” which was supposed to be at 1 year old (we paid her though, of course) – that there was “no way” we could give up my income. My main thought was that we “had to be” in a certain school district, where we had recently purchased a lot with a home owner’s association that required a certain square footage of house. My husband and I both fantasized about how our children would play on that lot – it was idyllic, it bordered a forest preserve – it was just beautiful. I was going to work part-time, and I told myself it would be enough, that I was doing the responsible thing. 5 months down the line, after a vacation with my son, I broke down in my boss’s office and quit. I’ll admit it was, at the time, a knee-jerk emotional response. I honestly believed that we couldn’t make it on one income at the time; we had just purchased a minivan, we still had the lot, and even as I quit I thought “there’s no way we can make it” – such was my keeping up with the Jones’ attitude. With a lot of social (and even parental support, although they’re all waiting to see how long I am going to entertain this counter-cultural stance) – we drastically changed our goals (we were already living on one income): we sold the lot (thank God the developer bought it back), we watched our budget meticulously and only have about 1 1/2 years of payments on it, and we got a different lot in a worse school district, though still close to work. In all honesty, I’m worried about the house my Mom is helping us to build there, but, my husband’s father is a professional builder and, he says we should be able to keep it under 150K; we are aiming for 120K but, who knows if we achieve that. We’ve already agreed to sell the house if the mortgage becomes untenable. I’m not going to pretend like an engineering income is the average income; but it is something we worked for over half a decade towards – and if we can do it, then so can others (for now, while incomes are still livable). I have to admit it’s not always easy to think this is the best choice; I think of paying for what I hope will be our 3 kids college and I shiver – basically if they can’t get scholarships, we’re probably screwed unless they can get financial aid of some kind. It’s a tough tough choice – I feel like I am choosing between emotionally protecting them from bullying, giving them a maximal education opportunity, and selfishly enjoying every moment with them – and on the other hand playing Russian roulette with our retirement, financial robustness to disaster, and our ability to help finance their college and weddings, etc. Ultimately, for me though, even if my retirement goes to crap, I’d rather be taken out and summarily shot in old ages than thinking I had failed to give my kids the very best I could in their younger years. For me, as a person with an active mind, being at home is kind of socially depriving, although my little angel is here. Sometimes I wind up going on the internet a lot and then I hate myself for it. Sometimes though, I’m “all there” and I realize NO daycare can care this much for my kids. I would really like to return to work at some point but then I see what happens in public (and probably also private) schools in terms of bullying, cultural degradation, and just extremely suboptimal academic development and I think – no matter how insane it appears to everyone (people have asked me if I am insane to leave my job, given what a dream job it was) – it’s equally insane how poorly American schools perform, and how little they can offer my children. Case in point I was tutoring a girl from the BEST school district here – she’s a 6th grader – and I was the first person to tell her there are 100 cents in a dollar; this is a place where people pay “on average” at least 5K in taxes for the school. My Mom was asking me if that were “normal” – and I felt extremely uncomfortable. Another kid in that district – one in which the average housing values are 330K+ – overdosed on HEROIN. Apparently his doctor parents left him unattended while they vacationed in Mexico. Another parent told his son to regard the kid who killed himself as a “dumbass” – imagine the empathetic friends my children could find in such a district! A lot of the time I feel something close to rage thinking how crappy the schools are around here (and probably everywhere); I really feel if they didn’t do such an outstandingly bad job I wouldn’t be in this situation. But it’s not a bad situation to be in I guess, minus extreme financial anxiety. It’s just hard to think “this is the end of my independent life, forever.” But I owe this to my children. I ask myself if we are ready for the “worst” – and, I’m ready to have us all eat beans and lentils if that’s what it takes to safeguard my kids emotionally. Maybe that’s irresponsible? But the wounds my kids would get emotionally, physically, and the way they’d be paying for the scholastic lag – none of that can be “bought” back – not even with 80K+ a year. So poverty it is if it comes to that. At least I won’t be damning my kids to a lifetime of pain; I simply can’t risk that other people’s poorly raised kids won’t either hold mine back or hurt them in any way. That probably sounds crazy. I don’t care, it’s my kids!

  48. Sameena
    Sameena says:

    Dear Penelope,
    I have just returned from the US to the UK with my son and husband and realise, reading your blog, why I didn’t very much want to come back here. I do think that in the US, there is a clearer, more honest discussion of why homeschooling is the best choice for children. Alot of what I find here are the ‘it isn’t for everyone’ arguments. Like you (I think), I believe that anyone who loves their children deeply and thinks for more than a minute about the importance of their childhood, what they learn, what their values should be and what they need, would homeschool. Institutions cannot educate a child like a parent, nor give them what they need. I know this more clearly than ever now, after a week of school, having homeschooled all my son’s life. Could you bear with the following detail, because I really think I could use some sound advice to remind me of what I have just given up?

    We have been homeschooling our son from the beginning – he is now just 7 – mainly in New York. As I know you understand, and I don’t have to say, it has been a life- changing, joyous time – the best years of our family’s life. I was a business journalist at The Economist for a decade in Asia and the US and loved it – but not once in seven years (literally), have I ever wanted to exchange a second with my son for anytime back in the office or writing a piece. People assume I must have had a dull career to find so much happiness as a homeschooling mother – not so. Homeschooling has been happy because I know in my heart and soul that I was giving my son what he needed – and nothing else was more important to me. It felt right because it was right – only now do I realise how vital that was to our family. Homeschooling has been everything it should be – it has given us peace, freedom, the opportunity for academic rigour (my passions and background are in science and literature – our son and I read Othello, for example, then watch a little of the play, then go to the library for a lesson on Venice where it was set, then dive back into another Shakespeare with the same theme and so on. Teaching has been days and months of making connections in learning like this and having the time and liberty to explore them. I can think of no happier way to spend time than that.). We have had the freedom to explore interests without constraint (piano and fencing in our son’s case). Our son has grown up kind, generous, happy and relaxed. He has grown up not feeling mean, or stressed, or angry or jealous. We have avoided all the things we didn’t want for him – too much technology in our case and all the negative stuff that we thought happened at schools; competing about money and gadgets, anger from not seeing your parents enough and so on. Technology addiction is a soapbox cause of mine – our son can use but is not interested in computers – the message in our family is that they are useful for somethings but are often are more addictive than helpful. That is our belief and our findings – maybe a bias, but at least it is not the social and political biases of school teachers these days which result in false science and false learning – that I really do fear. Our son reads for pleasure at home and he is working several years above his age in maths and english. I never wanted to stop the homeschooling, however we decided (after taking exams in January at a UK school with a very high reputation where he did really well and got to interview, but just missed a place) that we should try a private school known for its success in exam preparation (we don’t feel ashamed of that – we wanted to see if what we were doing academically was ok and we were also curious about what happens in schools these days). We joined part way through the year (a few weeks ago) and, socially, it has been fine for our son. Though he prefers it at home, he is such a kind mature child that he has had no issues and the other children are responding very well to him.

    However there are two things that have shocked me to the core. First is the parenting that I see. In just three weeks at this school (which is posh and expensive and so attracts a certain kind of ambitious, cold parent perhaps), I have heard stories of parents giving their children pills to make them sleep (this from a child with a chemist father); I have seen parents barely look at their children at a social lunch – the children are at one end of the table and no adult talks to them or seems to want to. I have seen nannies making playdates with children of parents who ask me “oh you have homeschooled. I’d love some tips on how to make these kids focus”. I see parents talk about their children with less affection than their dogs, or who coo over every meaningless accolade the school bestows – and there are many of those – because they don’t know or care whether it has real meaning or whether the school even knows their child. Worst of all I see many parents who probably have never had an in depth conversation with their children. My husband and I went on a school trip recently and really talked to the other children – we saw no other parents do this and certainly no teachers. Which brings me to the other shock. Academically, the school gives nothing like our teaching – it is shoddy and chaotic and basically careless teaching compared to our teaching (this in a school that parents clamour to get into, with one of the top ratings in the UK in every inspection report ever done). Our son is working so far below his age. If it was just that, I could swallow it – we wanted him not to struggle academically at least a first. What is truly distressing is the chaos and inefficiency and lack of care that we see at the school; homework is set then not checked, it is given on random, easily lost pieces of paper and is all over the place, with misspellings, poor punctuation and very little thought. We have seen no workbooks (they simply are not given to the parents who clearly never check them anyway nor ask for them). We have always taught our son that whatever he does should have value and meaning – else why bother with it? This school – though gentle and nice – simply forgets what it has asked the children to do and often doesn’t follow up on work given. It seems to devalue learning. We know that alot of children in a classroom will not learn as efficiently as during homeschooling – but I didn’t expect unfocused teachers, little sense of purpose and a lack of importance given to school work. The main thing the school does is require parent-pleasing, cute uniforms, have its headmaster shake hands each morning with the children and encourage lots of ‘top man’ comments by the teachers (the same people supposed to stress and teach the use of adjectives, yet who can find few alternatives in their own vocabulary except stock phrases). I am worried that my son is reading and writing less than he ever did at home – reading is assigned as an exercise and the implication is that children have to make time for it like it is a lesson. In our house, reading is like breathing – we all do it without thinking. The noise is also an issue – there is very little real discipline and lots of shouting and calling out. I want children to be happy, but my view is that they crave boundaries and discipline and without it, lose respect for the teacher and the school. As I say, I know this school has a good reputation – its inspection reports are all ‘excellent’ in every aspect and parents seem to love it. But none of them have homeschooled. My feeling is that anyone who hasn’t homeschooled, cannot know what wonderful learning happens there and how different your expectations can be of what childhood is like and what can be achieved – including relaxation. My son can no longer run to the couch with a book when he wants to relax and have some time to himself – it is now 6 hours of constant activity and (unlike in my time) constant noise. He is taking it well enough, but I think the novelty may already be wearing off. He is a naturally quiet, focused boy and I fear this will change him or make his life difficult. I wonder if you or anyone you know has tried schooling and felt the same? Do you have any thoughts about our desire to return to homeschooling? I am a little (or alot if I am honest) afraid – institutions make everyone feel the need to follow rules and to feel guilty when they don’t. Even after just three weeks of school, I feel my grip on being the person primarily responsible for his education is slipping. I want to return to homeschooling at the end of this experiment (we will see it through until the next exams in January, but take him out for long periods – making excuses. It feels like a jailbreak – that itself is a heinous thing to have to feel. I would so love your thoughts. Thank you for reading this long message. Sameena

    • Fiona Moore
      Fiona Moore says:

      take him out of this place now! It will not take long for the disenfranchisement to take hold of the kids. I returned to the UK from NZ a few years ago, my boys had started off at a lovely Prep school in UK then State schools here in NZ( I was horrified at the private schools here, full of networking parents)and then on to a lovely homeschoolish private school for 25 gifted children and then when that closed we went UK in search of a nice school for dyslexia. We lasted 1 day in a snooty Prep school that on paper had all the right things but didn’t really understand children,not mine at least! That was that and we have homeschooled ever since. I thought homeschool was for hippies and Christians and I am ashamed of my narrow mind! I love being with my boys, talking to them watching then succeed at things, failure too! We decided we didn’t need mass State childcare , we binned the debt (as Penelope suggests)who cares?? I have happy children and the banks lost their bet on us! Fast forward to today and I know as a Mother trust those instincts, don’t think it will get better, these environments can be damaging to children as I am sure you know. English Prep schools are not what they are cracked up to be, it’s all about networking.

  49. Nicoline Becker
    Nicoline Becker says:

    I’ve considered home schooling. But I doubt if I would be a good enough teacher, because I did poorly at school.

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:


      It would probably mean you’d do a great job! School lets down a lot of people. Most people did not love every grade of formal schooling. My guess is because it couldn’t give them what THEY needed at the time. You could.

      Most teachers don’t have 4.0 grade averages either. Find someone who excels in an area and have them try to teach the concepts to a child- it’s really tough. I’m a much better math teacher because I finally learned math as an adult.

      Struggle = more understanding of a child’s struggle. Think about something you do easily. Now, try to teach it to a child. It’s tough to get it down to a simple level. Next, try to teach a child something you do poorly and you’ll understand their thinking much more.

      Nicholine, my guess is that you’d enjoy it a lot more than you imagine.

      • Nicoline Becker
        Nicoline Becker says:

        That is very encouraging. Thank you. I am going read some more on the blog and reconsider. (Homeschooling would afford our family flexibility that public school just can’t.)
        Now to convince my husband……

  50. Melissa R
    Melissa R says:

    Thank you for this post, I have worked from home for the same company part-time for the last 10 years and have just lost my job. My kids have been homeschooled the entire time (4 years now) and I have been struggling with staying home (and homeschooling) vs. going back to work (and putting the kids in school). Whenever I think of putting the kids in school it really makes me sick but we have a 5-figure debt that hangs over us like a big dark cloud. I don’t want to file for bankruptcy but I would rather do that than have strangers influence my kids; as well as enter them into common core and the data mining of their information. Big big exhale….

  51. Penelope hurts feelings
    Penelope hurts feelings says:

    “debt can wait” ? Please, tell that to the creditors I have so that I can stop paying my debts with no severe consequence.
    If you want to know why people don’t homeschool, I suggest speaking w/ someone who doesn’t, versus creating your own opinions and passing them as fact.
    I have wanted to homeschool for 3 years now. I have 4th grader, kindergardener, and pre-k-aged children. I work 40 hours a week and my husband does too. Together, we earn enough to pay all of our bills without welfare and have about $100 left a month. If I quit working, we would only be able to pay about half of our bills – rent is already on the cheap side at $800/month, reliable cars are $500/mo, food for a family of 5 plus a dog is $600/mo (sometimes $400 if I coupon really well), car insurance? $175/mo, health insurance, $….utilities.. electric, water.. internet (I am a college student online so I do need this and consider it in my student loans).. those come to about $300/m0.. Ok, so where am I to pull this extra money from? Not pay bills and let me credit drop, be evicted, not have health insurance, life insurance, retirement savings…. Homes schooling should only be done when the spouse working outside of the home can appropriately handle all expenses that a contributing member to society should! If you can do it without obama care, welfare, credit cards, etc… GO FOR IT. Otherwise, DONT FEEL BADLY that you can’t – be proud you are responsible.

    Also – the idea that we working moms don’t love our kids as much because we can’t or don’t stay home, is absurd and untrue. Our jobs are 100X harder than a SAHM because we do EVERYTHING SAHMs do, plus work outside of the home 8-10+ hours.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      Penelope mentioned debt…you here are listing expenses, expenses are not debt. The point is people, often make sacrifices to do what they believe is right. Some people even sacrifice (gasp) much of what you’ve listed here and $800 a month in “rent” is not cheap.

      The point is that working moms don’t do all that SAHMs do, themselves. Many SAHMs don’t use disposable diapers, make all of the meals from scratch, spend much of their time assisting their children with academia and spend time budgeting and finding ways to cut costs in every corner. Most working moms do not have the time nor the incentive because the money is there to outsource.

  52. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    As a support worker in a Canadian public school system, I find my own preference & recommendation is leaning more and more towards homeschooling after every year I work in the public school system. Although the system is becoming better at servicing the unique and individual talents and abilities of the kids, I find that ultimately what is really learned is how to live in North American society, and the basic skills necessary for that survival. All else, including learning beyond the basics is incidental, bonus and largely based on the values within the families of each student, not necessarily on the school system. The kids I work with most often come from low-income families, and/or are cognitively challenged, and it’s often clear that their families use the system as a care-giving service. They’re not really interested in spending time with their child(ren) teaching and/or expanding their own or their child’s awareness. They’re relieved to send their child to school as they chase their own plans, dreams, take a break, etc. Therefore, the public school system is really suited for families with low incomes to ensure their children get an education from the public school system. Because the parents really don’t care or have time to ensure that children are educated. If they do, that’s good. However, by sending the kids to school, it makes the parents look like they do, AND it’s the kids’ opportunity to learn what they can within that industrial-style learning environment.
    However, homeschooling kids get that small group instruction from someone they know well who has a long-term personal and emotional stake in the results.
    If I had it to do over again (raising my kids) I would homeschool them. I love my kids and they turned out great. But I think I could have achieved the results just as well as the school system did. And I would have been more satisfied homeschooling my own kids as my career never really gave me that much satisfaction. I believe I would have gotten more satisfaction from being with and teaching my own kids than from trying to have a career while my kids went to school. The ‘career’ would’ve been there after the career of offspring-teaching & raising was completed.

  53. tembi
    tembi says:

    RE “But you have to weigh the fun of going to work vs the destruction of sending kids to school.”

    My kids love school. They love the art room with it’s inventive mobiles hanging from the ceiling. They love the music room stuffed with instruments and especially the music teacher and the voices of all of their classmates coming together. That joyful noise. They love the library and the sweet librarian who gives them great suggestions because he remembers what they like (pigs and dragons!) It is not perfect but there is so much to enjoy and be surprised by. My son comes home and says, “Mom, did you know that Annie (who has speech and hearing problems) is really good at math?” and “Mom, did you know that Ms. Karla has a wife and not a husband?” They also like asking me about my work and hearing about my husbands job. We talk about the challenges we face together at the dinner table and help each other through tough stuff. Why are kind words so important? What is the best way to apologize? This post is so offensive to people for whom school is an integral part of their neighborhoods and lives. It insinuates that work is some sort of luxury and dismisses a 20% raise. That’s a car payment for me. That’s huge. We drive 10 year old cars and cross our fingers that the one with air conditioning keeps going. The damage that you believe school does to all children is a fantasy that serves your need to believe not that you are doing the right thing, but that you are one of the few and righteous doing the right thing while others just do what they want. And what resonates the most loudly here is actually your privilege, your need to generalize and judge. So wrongheaded.

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