I knew I needed to investigate homeschooling when…

The bus ride to school would be an hour each way, with kids up to five grades older than my sons. Unsupervised by anyone but the driver. So I decided to drive my kids to school.

School drop-off and pickup was so chaotic and time consuming that I hired someone to do it.

The principal sent me to the truancy officer for taking my son out of school once a week for cello lessons even though all the kids in Chicago-area schools who were doing this did not have any trouble with the principal.

I argued with the school administrators that my son’s Individualized Educational Plan was not being enforced even though it’s a legally binding agreement between me and the school district. I brought in a lawyer and the school agreed they were not enforcing. At the next school, I didn’t even need to bring in a lawyer before they agreed. No one cares if they are breaking the law in public schools. Because who has the money to sue the school district?

I requested that my son get tested before he entered first grade to see where his reading and math levels were. He tested at the end of third grade. The school said they could not accommodate him unless he skipped two grades. So they gave him counting worksheets even though he could multiply.

My son came home crying and asked if I could call the parents of two boys and ask them to stop making trouble because the class lost recess three days in a row because of the two boys.

These things kept adding up until I thought that there was no way that homeschooling could be worse than sending them to school. I didn’t choose homeschooling because I thought I’d be great at it. I chose to homeschool because school set the bar so low that there was no way I wouldn’t surpass it.

Now I’m hoping you guys will share the moments that made you think: “That’s it. We’re homeschooling!”

69 replies
  1. Elle Ibanez
    Elle Ibanez says:

    Wonderful post. Sad, but really touching. While my three are young, 3 and 4 with my newest addition at just 8 weeks, we are definitely homeschooling. Tbh, I never thought we would be THAT family. I have always had a job, my children have always been in child care. One day I looked at my husband and said, “These kids belong to us.” And we had a serious heart to heart about me quitting my job, cutting out a lot of things from our budget to accommodate this decision and I took the plunge. I don’t want to be sad that my kids are going to school and I don’t want to be the parent that gets excited when they leave, either. I like that our family is close and I love spending time with them. It’s exhausting and some times I wonder if. Made the right decision. My 4yo is being homeschooled this year. Our trial run. He can read, add and subtract, we go to the library 7x a week and read about animals and ancient civilizations for science and history. We are studying Latin and he enjoys it. Saturday mornings my kids wake up and beg me to do school. My 3yo can read a little, too, since she sits in on our lessons. I don’t think I would see the same excitement if my children went to PS. I don’t think they would experience the same type of immersion learning they are now. But most of all I love that I now know I am 110% able to teach my children. That has been really empowering. And I don’t think we will ever send them to ps.

    • Anna
      Anna says:

      This inspires me to homeschool. My son is 16 mths, and I could start experimenting with home pre-schooling. We already create a rich learning environment for him and he already talks in three word sentances, knows his colors and can count to five. How do you start homeschooling? Is there a curriculum or guide you’d recommend?

  2. Anita
    Anita says:

    Bullies that made my sons life hell until we changed schools across town.

    The moment when my oldest son experienced learning/school as something to survive. Rather than actually learning and finding his passion he was getting through the day in mind numbing creativity killing classrooms.


  3. Karen
    Karen says:

    When my oldest son was in grade 2, I was speaking with his teacher almost weekly about his “behavior” problems and I realized that she was describing to me a child that I did not know. The epiphany was that school was changing my child’s personality and not in a good way. The happy, curious child that I had shipped off to them 3 years previously had become depressed and anxious. It took a full year for him to recover from the experience. Homeschooling is hands down the best parenting decision I have ever made.

  4. Denys
    Denys says:

    When the gifted teacher wrote “Journel” on my seven year old’s writing journal and told her “journal” was the wrong way to spell it.

  5. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    I was pregnant, and our 7-year-old neighbor boys were talking about a kid bringing a knife to school and older kids selling drugs on the corner of the elementary school. And that was in a “good” neighborhood.

    • Tanya
      Tanya says:

      Homeschooling had already been in the back of my mind, but this knowledge pushed it to the forefront; and the more I researched about homeschooling, the more I knew I could never put my son in school.

  6. Denys
    Denys says:

    When after 6 meetings with the gifted teacher, special ed director, and classroom teacher, we still didn’t have an effective IEP. I was told “we’ve never had anyone like this and we don’t know what to do”.

    Bull shit.

    I’m looking at a school of 750 kids and talking with 3 adults with 80 years combined teaching experience and 2 master’s degrees each, and they can’t write an IEP? They just didn’t want to.

    Her reading IEP was “she can take as many books out of the library as she wishes and read them at her desk”.

    Her spelling IEP was “she can write the names of the capitals and states”.

    Her math IEP was “she can do extra practice worksheets on math facts to become faster”.

    And that’s when I realized school wasn’t about an education or even academics.

  7. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    First came 9/11 and then when two good friend of mine were looking into homeschooling I was there by default.

    And then a homeschool mom told us ,”I just wanted my kids back”.

    And I knew I had to do this. My younger son had been asking me to homeschool him since he was in K. And at 2nd grade, I figured I couldn’t ruin him with only 2 months left in the school year so I pulled him out.

    Public school wasn’t bad, my kids weren’t being bullied but our lives were consumed by school and homework. There was no “socialization” because who they didn’t have time to just play and get bored and be with other kids in unstructured activities.

    My older son joined us the following year. I got my kids back.
    And now they are both in college.

    No regrets here.

  8. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    We’ve always homeschooled and so I don’t have any public/private school story to share. I do, however, have the experience of seeing first-hand the way that homeschoolers relate to everyone, and how traditionally schooled kids relate to everyone. It’s a complete world of difference. Obviously, I’m generalizing the two groups and not every student will fall into these categories, but I noticed the homeschoolers could confidently and articulately talk to anyone older than them, and could also be kind and affectionate and play with kids younger than themselves. I never once saw exclusion for age, looks, or the insecurity that goes with most kids past 3rd grade. I was so impressed with them every time I observed them, or found out someone was homeschooled, that I told myself, “I want my kids to be like that.” They were self-assured and engaging.

    I don’t see that as much in traditionally schooled kids. They are more fearful of being the odd man out, for their entire school career. A kid can’t become passionate and speak confidently about something they’re interested in if they are living in fear of emotional (separation from the group) or physical (teasing/bullying) issues.

    • Sarah Fowler
      Sarah Fowler says:

      I don’t have kids yet, but I was homeschooled K-12 (I graduated college in 2008). Meeting homeschooled kids before I was even born was what convinced my parents. They were respectful, articulate, mature and responsible. Once my mom started talking to their parents, their philosophy of learning for a lifetime instead of learning to spit things back on a test was the final straw.

      She called a local homeschooling contact person the next week, and the woman said “I’m so glad you’re interested in this! How old is your child?” My mom replied “Uh… the baby is due in three months!”

      I have four younger siblings and we were all homeschooled our whole lives. After seeing friends’ schedules (and stupid rules) growing up, and stories I’ve heard from friends now, I can’t IMAGINE sending my kids to public (or even private) school.

    • Heather Bathon
      Heather Bathon says:

      “A kid can’t become passionate and speak confidently about something they’re interested in if they are living in fear of emotional (separation from the group) or physical (teasing/bullying) issues.”

      Sarah, that is beautifully put and exactly why I started homeschooling.

      That, and the PTA moms who freak me out.


  9. christy
    christy says:

    When my now-2.5-year-old was not yet born, I was questioning. Once she was here, I was sure that I didn’t want her to go to school (public or private; I did both growing up and they’re just different flavors of the same thing).

    My partner wasn’t as sure. Her dad is a retired maths professor, her mother a university librarian. I have teachers in my family, too (my mother, for instance).

    We moved to Connecticut just over a year ago. Then, last December, Newtown (less than an hour from us and part of the “Gold Coast” area of CT) was visited by a disturbed young man and nearly the entire first grade class was murdered.

    That was my partner’s moment. She was finally sure.

    Our little one will be homeschooled and kind of already is, given the library trips, the things we do together, and the classes my spouse takes her to.

    My job is not my passion, but my family is. So I will gladly continue in the work I’m doing so that my little one can be homeschooled by us.

  10. Lisa S.
    Lisa S. says:

    Last year, my 6th grade daughter came home everyday and complained that the class was so loud and out of control that she frequently could not hear/concentrate in class. She complained that the other students disrupted class so much that the entire class was often punished. She refused to join in with the other kid’s shenanigans which then turned her into the “outsider”, therefore she had no classroom friends. She frequently sat by herself during lunch and was not invited to work in groups. When I complained to the teachers, all they could do is sympathize with her and say to me that “there is a lot of drama in this class this year”. My daughter came home sad and miserable almost every day. I will always live with the guilt of keeping her in school for that entire year.

  11. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I always love hearing how people made the decision to homeschool to; it fascinates me.

    When my oldest daughter was ready for Kindergarten last year I enrolled her in one of the best private schools in our area. I went to private school and I figured I’d stick with what I knew; even though we could enroll her in the BEST public school district in our area AND get her into the BEST school in this district.

    Before Kindergarten; I had kept her home and taught her myself because I thought pre-school would be a waste of time and money and I wasn’t ready to send her away all day when I could easily be with her myself. At my home pre-school included learning to write her letters both Capital and Lower Case, learning to write her numbers to 100; writing her name neatly inside the lines of college ruled paper; and adding/subtracting to ten.

    When she started her first day of Kindergarten I was so proud. I had her in the cutest uniform and took tons of photos with her Littlest Petshop Pet backpack and did her hair really special. I drove 35 minutes in traffic on the freeway to get her there. I parked and walked her to her class and it was something I was really excited about. She would get her core classes, plus Spanish, music, art, P.E. and computers. This also meant that she would be in school from 8:20am till 3:00pm with an hour nap.

    Well, Punky Brewster (not her real name; but what she’s like) didn’t take naps any more. She was put in a table in between boys and had to move twice the first week to keep other boys from talking and because another girl kept bossing her around. Then she kept getting sick every other week and I had to keep her home. It’s easy to get excused absences when you are paying tuition to be there. But I was having to call in all the time. Then her personality started to change. She wasn’t happy and she started to get scared to go. I watched her on the playground once and she didn’t have any friends.

    I looked at her folders at the end of every week and didn’t see anything exceptional so stuffed it into a different folder at the house. Then I had the parent/teacher meeting and I learned what they were learning in Kindergarten; well she already learned all of that stuff two years earlier and according the the teacher had the best penmanship and artistic abilities she’d ever seen in a Kindergartner; twenty years as a teacher.

    Well, I already knew she was an artist, she’s totally a walking cliche. She dressed herself like Punky Brewster, so usually I am making suggestions for different outfit pairings.

    Anyway, after each tuition check I was writing and her only being there half the time I started thinking about homeschooling. Then I really started to look at her folder; the was drawing on every single worksheet. She would finish her assignments so quickly and have so much time while waiting for everyone else that she would draw on everything; puppies, my little ponies, birds, trees… drawing small little details with her pencil.

    So it was a culmination of things. I was capable of teaching her myself and when I had her tested she was several grade levels ahead. She was missing so much school from being sick all the time. She was an artist and needed time to be an artist. The kicker was when she was scared because a little boy talked about killing someone and taking their wallet. My husband was pissed and we were both on board for homeschooling. My husband has been the most supportive person; very encouraging and even helping when he can.

    Then the next year I was able to enroll back at the best school in the best school district; and I did. But then, she’d be in first grade. Well, she is several grade levels ahead and first grade would be like you said, doing worksheets when she’s ready to learn algebra. Then I did an IQ test and she was around 150… so my husband and I decided that there was no way she would thrive in traditional school.

    Having your blog has really helped me out, you don’t even know. Even though I’m religious; I am not homeschooling because of religious conviction and I unschool– mostly. I am homeschooling for strictly academic reasons; otherwise I’d have her at the best school in the best school district. In my area it’s not hard to find others who hs for the same reasons. Other reasons are school environment, bullies, etc. And I do have lots of friends who homeschool because of some religious conviction. I do things very differently than they do, but it’s nice to have the encouragement and play dates for the kids. Plus they know everybody in the area who offers classes and lessons and discounts for homeschoolers.

    Ok, so… ya. That’s my story. I’m doing pre-school with my 4 year old this year which i guess is really Kindergarten-First grade. And my first grader is doing 3rd/4th grade stuff. Only use curriculum for Math.

    I’m so glad to have this blog to be a part of.

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      hey yes…socialized,
      your comment is really inspiring. I have two babies and am religious but wont be hsing for religious reasons either. would u mind sharing with me how u approach it since u do mostly unschooling?

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Hi Jenn,

        Well, I didn’t start out unschooling. First I did school at home because I didn’t know any better. Then I found this blog and sold all my curriculum to people that wanted it.

        I still use curriculum for math; I love math and my husband is an engineer and we are just a math family. I also purchased the DragonBox app that tricks kids into learning algebra.

        Since my kids are so young their passions change a lot; I have spent their entire lives watching them and getting to know them; developing intimate parent/child relationships and have learned their individual learning styles and what makes them work. I use that to create things to teach them. So for my oldest she watches LOTS of documentaries on everything, science, geography, biology and she follows that up with a million questions and we look up the answers to her questions.

        She also loves computers so we are using a program called typing instructor to teach basic keyboarding. Once she masters that we’ll work on building a computer and maybe doing some programming.

        We have several art studios to choose from that take students and I have them take art lessons once a week.

        They also take piano lessons because they want to play the piano. My piano is angry at me.

        There are several businesses that offer homeschool classes so we look at what they offer and the kids choose what they want to take. This semester it’s Lego Engineering.

        We also work on reading; basically we go until she (Punky) doesn’t want to do anymore then we stop. I stop forcing once I get the wall from her and let her know we will work on it when she is ready; usually it’s the next day and she’s already mastered it in her head and I don’t have to teach the lesson.

        With my 4 year old… just worksheets, she can already do her upper and lower case before I even gave her worksheets, so the tracing just helps her with her Z and S. And with her we read Bob books and do some sight words. Just when she asks, I mean she’s 4 so I really don’t have to do anything with her; but if she asks… then I work with her. Lots of Legos and pencil sketching and piano.

        My 2 year old… well she learns how to climb out of her crib, how to open things… it’s a montessori world for her. LOL

        Again, none of this is forced. I don’t make lesson plans. Some days we do five math lessons and ten phonics lessons, and then some days we sit and watch a documentary. Unschooling is really whatever you make of it.

        Sorry if I wrote too much! :)

        • Jenn
          Jenn says:

          hey yes…

          thanks for such a thorough reply. it is really insightful because i feel as though i’ve gotten a glimpse inside your famil’s homeschooling life. i hope to homeschool one day but how it really “looks” is what i had a problem envisioning.

          i kinda think that i’ll end up being eclectic which is what you seem to be. your home educcation lifestyle seems so liberating.

          thanks again.

  12. tcmullinax
    tcmullinax says:

    My daughter went to PS until the middle of fourth grade. She had three hours of homework each night…I thought I could teach her everything she learned in a regular school day, in much less time.

    and…she completed her work early in the day, so from first grade on, the teachers would send her around to the other classrooms to “help teach the kids that weren’t picking it up” as quickly as she had. (Instead of letting her work on homework.)

    and…her school had the best test scores and was considered the highest-rated in the three counties we could have chosen from, yet nearly every printed communication from the principal down through the teachers had at least one typo, misspelling, or grammar error. (Including her “gifted” teacher.)

    and…a local church representative was allowed into my child’s classroom. He then showed the kids a shiny little red book with cool graphics that had bible verses in it, and advertisements for his church and the church members’ businesses. The children were told to “meet him out in the hall” if they wanted a book from him, for free. We are a very spiritual family with a strong belief in God-I am responsible for teaching this to my child how I see fit…not some stranger IN HER CLASSROOM!

    and…I missed her, and I knew that nobody cared about her learning the way her dad and I do. We are passionate about it-I build my life around it.

    So…I quit my fairly lucrative job as an interior designer to be able to give her what she needs…and I couldn’t be happier about that aspect of my life. All these hours we’ve spent together have been mostly magical.

    Now that she’ll be turning 13 in a couple of weeks-we know without a shadow of a doubt that we made a great decision. We are kicking ourselves for letting her go to PS for so many years-they really taught her to dislike learning and any bit of natural curiosity wasn’t encouraged.

  13. CB
    CB says:

    I pulled my oldest when I recognized that teachers and administrators put careers and politics above the needs of the children, that the school’s purpose is to indoctrinate not educate, and mainly because my child was deeply unhappy with her experiences at school on a regular basis. No regrets.

  14. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    Maybe not entirely on topic, but yesterday I was so dumbfounded I need to share and then think some more.
    I am a teacher, though I never really worked due to my own babies. I do some English Language Teaching for kids, just to keep me occupied.
    Yesterday I met my new students. 8-year-old twins. They were brainwashed into stupor. I could expect this level of reluctance to do anything from teenagers, but kids their age should be running around. I did manage to work a little with the boy, but the girl would not raise her head and I managed to fish out of her only a couple of words.
    They don’t drive a long way to school. They don’t have any SENs (I delude myself that the mother would tell me, because my own boy is disabled in a non-obvious way and I tell everybody).
    What must be happening inside of their school that it managed to lobotomize them in just two years? How on Earth am I supposed to make my lessons any fun if they just sit and stare in their notebooks? (OK, that one I can answer, after all I do have some practice)

    • Linda
      Linda says:

      Read the Common Core standards for grades K-2 and you’ll have your answer. Courtesy of Bill Gates and the US government.

      • Joanna
        Joanna says:

        We are not under Common Core. I live far away in Europe ;)
        I have met quite a few kids their age during teacher training and later, through ELT, so I thought I knew how modern kids bevahe. I have never seen any kid (even on Ritalin) this passive. They would usually have so much sitting and doing nothing during school hours that afterwards they would not stop running around even to eat.

  15. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    My school experience was abusive, although no one recognized it as such. If I’d been treated at home by my parents the way I was treated at school by other children, DSS would have taken me away from my family. But since it was school, and since it was other kids, no one recognized it as abuse; everyone treated it as “normal” or a “rite of passage.” I was able to vomit at will, because if you were vomiting, no one could say you weren’t sick, and you didn’t have to go to school. It gave me terrible stomach problems that no one could diagnose the cause of; I realized later that I could not tell them why I was having terrible stomach problems, or I would lose my one way to control my own life and avoid the abusive situation I was stuck in.

    On the days I did go to school, my mother had to lock me out of the house and tell me I couldn’t come back inside unless I went to school. I had no housekey to my own home in middle school for that reason.

    After I was grown, and out of that abusive environment for good, someone put the two words “Home” and “school” together in my hearing. It was like a revelation. I knew right then that my children would NEVER be in an abusive environment like I’d been trapped in, and they never have been.

  16. Aleksandra
    Aleksandra says:

    My oldest child attended Catholic kindergarten and there were a lot of problems at the school including inaccurate teaching and sex education. Another family and us decided that we had no other alternative than to homeschool and that we thought totally different than the parents, teachers, and administrators. As time went on and I heard NUMEROUS stories like those above, I knew this was my only choice. It has not been easy but it was always in the Almighty’s hands.

  17. Devildog Jim
    Devildog Jim says:

    When went through school as a Gifted LD (I believe the preferred euphamism now is twice exceptional) student.

    The “gifted and talented” teachers were just those with enough seniority to take the classes without as many disruptive kids. The administrators saw gifted and ld as opposite points on a spectrum, despite both the laws of the state and a private psychologist saying otherwise. I was bored out of my mind, unchallenged by any test, frustrated by the busywork, and still scoring far below my tested potential due to a combination of apathy, attitude, and dysgraphia. Teachers I had never met would be hostile towards me on the first day due to faculty lounge chatter. Naturally, this improved my attitude a great deal.

    Several of my classmates are now teachers in the same school system. They tell me that things have gotten worse since we went through. Fights used to be a weekly occurance. Now they happen daily. Drug use is rampant, and the gangs that sell them do so in broad daylight on school grounds. This isn’t some inner city hell, it’s the rich DC suburbs, one of the best public school systems in the country.

    Even if IQ and dysgraphia weren’t heritable, I would never subject my own children to that den of ineptitude and violence. My wife agrees, and she sailed through her private school education with no problems. Our children will be much better educated than we were, and probably have less lasting trauma.

  18. karelys
    karelys says:

    I started to read the career blog and then the homeschooling blog and then everything changed.

    I began to question everything that seemed to be “just the way it is” and figure out a way to get around it. When I realized that a lot of people are successful not because they do great at the system set before them but because they work either outside the system or break rules I realized I wanted to homeschool.

    I want my child (at the time I wasn’t even pregnant) to love learning, to get to his own conclusions, to focus on what he loves and not be held behind by the things that don’t hold his attention. I think the moment I began studying the history of the education system as is and realized that our school system was set to breed factory workers that’s when I realized that homeschooling/unschooling breeds entrepreneurship. And I want to fan the fire as much as possible.

    My whole life I’ve been trying so hard and just spinning my wheels. Either for lack of guidance or lack of knowledge and then being too tired to try anymore. I want to remove the hurdles for my child and helping be good at whatever he can be good at.

    I am tired of having to split life so much between work, school, personal life, love life, personal care, etc. Even if I never achieve it, I want Murphy to have the ability to blend as much as possible all those aspects so he can have a good life. I want him to be whole. And I am not about to let school rob him of that.

  19. Tilly
    Tilly says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog when I googled “deciding to homeschool”. My son just started kindergarten a few weeks ago at a public school 1/2 mile from our house. I have never been one to think that homeschooling is a good idea, until now!
    Since we live in Florida and its still hot and rainy every afternoon, I was driving to/from school and doing the car line. That was my first indicator that something is not right. We have since switched to “walker” status which is no better. 5 year olds are escorted out of the building and left on the sidewalk to fend for themselves. I make sure I’m there early to meet him when they come out. I was told today that I’m not supposed to wait by the building and the lady can only dismiss him down by the crossing guard (which it always mass chaos).

    I’ve been volunteering in the classroom once a week and while the teacher is very experienced, cares for the children and has good intentions, I believe her hands are tied by the school and/or district. They do nothing but math and reading comprehension worksheets all day, in preparation for the state tests they will take in THIRD grade! There are no science or social studies lessons being done thus far, because they are not on the state tests.

    There is really no fun or play going on at all, and this is only kindergarten.

    I’m at a loss of what to do. I don’t think my husband would be supportive of me homeschooling, but like you mentioned in the blog post, how could I do any worse ?

    • CB
      CB says:

      I know so many who have been in your shoes and can relate. Thoroughly educate yourself on compulsory schooling, and about an approach to raising your children that you feel passionate about. I doubt your husband will stand in the way once you are able to calmly and passionately articulate your reasoning and plans. Respectfully hear his concerns and give him space to have a say in the raising of his children. I do hope things go well for you and your family.

    • Brynn
      Brynn says:

      My husband is a public school teacher of at-risk/gang kids. In his mind public school saves people. It doesn’t save them all, but it rescues some of the really bad kids by getting them out. How could I argue with that? There was no argument with it, because it really didn’t need to be argued.

      I asked for one year. If after one year my husband was still sure that my son was not doing as well with homeschool as he would be in public school, then we could place our son in school. It didn’t take very long for my husband to see that it wasn’t worse, maybe not better, but definitely not worse.

      After 5 years, we are now at the point where he is in full favor of homeschooling (though probably still not able to admit it might be better). Since it was only kindergarten it actually worked in my favor. It was a grade level where merely knowing colors, letters and basic reading, numbers, shapes and basic math were the assessments. I could do that. You can do that. (If you can’t do that, then you probably aren’t a functioning citizen and from your comment, I can tell you are a functioning citizen.)

  20. mary kathryn
    mary kathryn says:

    My husband and I would sometimes end up teaching upper grades at private schools, and then the kids would attend there. But when we didn’t have those jobs, there was no way I was choosing the public system in some of the places we lived. And there was no way my girls were riding a bus. I had horrible middle/high school experiences, and that was in private schools, so I didn’t want my girls facing that. But, when I realized I could give them a better education, spend quality time with them, have more flexibility in our lives, and focus on what they loved … that the best choice by far.

  21. Betsy Tavit
    Betsy Tavit says:

    When my son’s fourth grade teacher, principal, and the assistant superintendent insisted that his Harry Potter reading “minutes” did not count towards his homework reading “minutes” because Harry Potter was above his reading level. I am still baffled and remain extremely grateful for our 2nd year of homeschooling.

  22. rachael
    rachael says:

    man o man penelope every time I read one of your articles I am convinced it was not an accident that I happened upon your Facebook page. I am however still in consideration mode just not able to see how I could do this homeschooling thing! But I will tell you there have been so many things happening at school it’s starting to erode my insecurity. I love how you said above basically how could I do any worse than that what they’re already doing! common core curriculum is in full swing at my sons schoolwith the math portion being rolled out first because I believe they perceive it to be the most innocuous. Later they can roll out the iris scans and the extremely inappropriate surveys asking about our religion and political affiliations later when we’ve all been zombied out. anyone here a year ago or more where I am today that is actually homeschooling their kids? What was the final straw that broke the camels back for you? Just curious.

  23. Linda
    Linda says:

    I pulled my son out of an “independent” school because the light was leaving his eyes in 3rd grade. One week into school the teacher started sending nasty notes that he was “falling behind” and “not following multi-step directions.” Not even any basic manners in the notes. A few days after I told her he’d had a major concussion in the school gym after school, she emailed me that his reading was at the same level as the previous year (not true). This was based on one short assessment.

    Then there was the homework load….6 basic skills worksheets every night plus study for weekly spelling test and daily multiplication facts test. He said they were getting worksheets in every class, even PE and music. So he had worksheets all day and then worksheets all evening. There was no time to actually READ a book, which is what he most needed academically, so his reading would become more fluent (which it now is).

    The homework coming home included many spelling and capitalization errors, as many as a half dozen errors on one page. Those errors were on assignments that I knew a previous teacher, who is now PRINCIPAL of the school, had originally developed. So the principal developed them and the newer teacher didn’t notice them. That really inspires confidence!

    The art teacher was telling Halloween horror stories during art class. My son was getting totally freaked out by it. The teacher said he would refrain from telling the stories for the remaining 2 class periods but then he didn’t!

    His personality shifted. I didn’t recognize him. He seemed terrified. I pulled him out in early December. There was a hard transition but now we are in the groove of homeschool and he wants to homeschool til high school.

  24. pls
    pls says:

    When I read John Taylor Gatto’s “Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why” in the September 2003 issue of Harper’s Magazine. First kid was two at the time and we avoided the real-life experiences many of you have shared above. Re-reading it now and, well, let’s just say I don’t think things haven’t gotten any better in the system.

  25. Joy
    Joy says:

    I was in college as an Elementary Education major doing my student observations (1987, 2nd year of college). I was already frustrated with the garbage we were learning — mostly how to control a large classroom, not how to inspire a love of learning — and when I observed the kids, I saw how much they hated school, and how much time the teacher spent wrangling the class instead of actually teaching.

    At the same time I read an article in Good Housekeeping called “Does Homeschooling Pass the Test?” Wonderful article, first time I’d heard of homeschooling. At the end of the semester I switched my major, and decided I would homeschool my future kids.

    Fast forward to my husband’s proposal to me. I told him that I would only marry him if we homeschooled. He’d never heard of that, but agreed to try it. Now we’ve been homeschooling for 14 years.

    I’ve relaxed more and more through the years and we are now “almost-unschoolers”! I say that because my kids are required to do a few subjects daily (math especially), but they do them at their own pace, pick their own reading material on the subjects, and have tons of free time to pursue their passions (fiction writing for one, art for the other).

  26. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    When the principal at our private school told my husband it was okay to lie to parents. We wanted to know why my son’s teacher was getting fired. At the time both my husband and I were tutoring kids at that school, we grabbed our son and never went back.

  27. Cristen H
    Cristen H says:

    Great post P. This may be the most influential one yet. My firstborn was still an infant when we’d found our dream home in Chicago. Not long after we settled in, the neighbors let me know that I was behind in getting ourselves well positioned to get into the “good” public schools, i.e. donations, political contributions, etc. I exclaimed in exasperation, “We are going to homeschool!”. I thought it was the only appropriate response to such utter ridiculousness. I’d never considered it before. The beauty of homeschooling is, once you let the idea in, it begins to make sense, more and more, the more you really think about it.
    My kids are now 6, 3 and 8 mos. We are enthusiastic unschoolers, in San Francisco. I have no reason to believe my kids are gifted. I have no list of things they do beyond their grade level. We are happy. All of us. We have fun. We figure out how to get each others’ needs met while we are all learning, playing, pushing edges, and building community. This life is fantastic. You can do it, just let the idea in, and see where it takes you.

  28. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    When my son, who was attending a Montessori school where they are supposed to get up and walk around, was told to sit in a desk by himself until he was able to behave well 5 days in a row. He was basically wandering around too much to make up for the lack of recess at his school. This happened two months before school let out for the summer. He never got out of that desk. Now why would you punish a kid who needed physical activity by making him sit in a desk all day? Secondly, the teacher complained to me that my son did great on things he liked to do but when she asked him to do things he didn’t want to do, he was miserable to deal with. Well, duh!

    • Linda
      Linda says:

      I thought the whole point of Montessori is to allow the child to choose their activities and allow them free movement in and even outside of the classroom.

  29. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    The straw that broke the camel’s back for me wasn’t when my son got the very same worksheets repeatedly. It wasn’t the marginally literate teachers notes. It wasn’t when he wanted to work on multiplication instead if addition in first grade. It wasn’t when he told me he read all the books in the classroom and it was boring to read them again. It wasn’t when I took him off the bus because the principal would do nothing to make it safe, and just lied every time something happened. It wasn’t, to my discredit, any of the times he came home crying or with missing, torn, or bloody clothing.

    It was when I was driving him to school and noticed he was drinking a lot of water there in the backseat. I asked him if he was nervous.

    “Yes, I’m nervous, Dad. I never know when they’re going to start hitting me.”

    There is no amount of screwing up I’m capable of that could match the trauma of school for my son.

    • Shanna
      Shanna says:

      That’s gonna stick with me. I am always amazed at what little children quietly and willingly do for parents/adults. With no recognition or credit for their suffering. You are so lucky you were jolted this way!

      1) Felt uncomfortable sending my child to K, like she would be chewed up and spit out at the end in a little cube shape and I would pick her up off the conveyor belt
      2) actually felt sick to my stomach when I had to declare her race on a big form
      3) she is an Art Person, who cares at school?
      4) It’s ridiculous to commit 10 hours a day even in 1st grade (alarms, bus, homework, lunches, fighting about homework)
      5) trying to act like a robot when I volunteered because of all the weird rules that go against common sense and take away personality
      6) the words “zero tolerance”, just teaching kids to stop thinking critically in any way and do what the rule says
      7) too many news stories of kids dying, hurt, bullied because an adult was CYA instead of using basic common sense and compassion
      8) I am ultimately responsible, I REALLY can’t complain if I willingly give my kid over to other adults/institutions and then struggle to control what happens

  30. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    At the midwife’s for a prenatal appointment with my first baby I overheard another mother say “homeschooling.” As soon as I heard that word a world opened up. People homeschool! I knew that is what I would do, just like I knew I would have a midwife the moment I heard the idea.

  31. Tilly
    Tilly says:

    I’m loving reading all of your comments. Thank you for your stories, ideas and inspiration. It’s given me a lot to ponder.

    I just dropped my boy off at school (walked), as I saw the car pool lane backed up way into the residential street, I just shook my head.

    I’m in the research phase right now. Our city isn’t huge but I think there is a fairly large homeschool population. I’m just hoping I can find a group that fits us since we aren’t religious or even very Christian.

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to approach that topic? I don’t mean to offend anyone who is doing this for religious reasons. Thanks!!

    • tcmullinax
      tcmullinax says:

      Hi Tilly,

      You don’t need a group. Home schoolers are very accepting of all people, religious or not. The way to meet like-minded people is to go to museums, etc. during the traditional school day hours. You’ll meet them at the park, the grocery store…they will be the ones that are having their kids using mental math to figure out which item is a better deal, or the ones whose child is weighing every bit of produce-just because they’re curious!

      I hope your husband will be receptive. Home school really is the best gift I’ve given to my husband and daughter.

  32. Heather
    Heather says:

    It took me a long time to get here. My oldest is a Senior this year, back at a public High School after 3-years in a Private School and the previous years of schooling in public schools. He was “easy” for the teachers because his worst behavior was talking too much because he was bored. That was considered not using his time wisely, even though his work was completed. He was ultimately bullied by a principle into admitting something he didn’t say, simply because someone (a girl) accused him of saying it – they had a zero tolerance policy on bullying that apparently didn’t apply to the principal.
    So, my next child was about to enter Kindergarten when my son was going to enter 9th grade. We decided to try a private school for them both. In all honesty, I loved it — it would have been perfect for me. And it was a pretty good fit for my son although he choose to not stay for his final year of High School. But it was not a good fit for my daughter. She would tell me most days that she did not have a good day. And she had so much homework! This was because she needed 1-on-1 attention…we did identify an issue with her eyes contributing to her issues. Looking ahead to 3rd grade, I saw 1-3 hours of homework a night, plus 2-nights going to vision therapy (2+hours including drive time), plus she takes a circus class and wanted to take karate. This was going to mean she had zero time to just be a kid. It was making me sick to think of.
    Sometime during the end of 2nd grade, I started reading your (Penelope) career blog and then found your homeschool blog. I love you but think you are a bit crazy at times…and you are successfully homeschooling your kids while working full time. It showed me that it can be done while working and re-enforced how bad regular schooling is. I also found a co-op that could help me if needed, which also gave me a bit of courage. That said, I am homeschooling my 3rd grade daughter this year while working full time for a corporation from home. I am using the co-op for art classes because my daughter loves art and I am ill-equipped in that area. We are not quite unschooling, but certainly not doing the ‘school at home’ that I had initially thought it would be.

  33. Gemma
    Gemma says:

    I was in year 11 (after year 12 is university here in Australia) and my English teacher set us the assignment of detailing how a specific children’s book was targeted at that young audience. She was hunting for things like bright pictures, rhythmic writing, simple word choices. But I was floored by the fact that the book was narrated by ‘we children’ but extolled the virtue of ‘he the individual.’ I thought this said something philosophical about Western Society, making the reader identify as part of a group and then making individuals seem first class and group members secondary. Children set up to fail right from picture book age.
    I went to the teacher bubbling with excitement and she would only respond to my musings by saying that these thoughts wouldn’t help me write the set assignment. I dropped out not long after. At the time I decided to never have children because I didn’t want them to suffer through that. I read The Teenage Liberation Handbook and knew that would make childhood unmiserable but it wasn’t till I met my husband and realised he would gladly support me as a stay at home mum that I accepted I could have kids without subjecting them to school.

  34. momofnine
    momofnine says:

    I have been homeschooling my kids for about 18 years. Its had ups and downs. The downs never even compete with the struggles one can have with traditional school situations. Our ahah moment to homeschool came about when I discovered how little actual time was spent “on task” in a traditional school situation. When my daughter was in first grade she spent about 2 1/2 hours of an eight hour school day on academics. This was at a private school. A large part of the remaining time was spent standing in line and waiting.I also hated getting the grumpy leftovers of my child’s life at the end of a long school day. I wanted to spend time with my children and not just rush them out the door and through the next meal. I wanted a more enriching life for them, for all of us.

    I just found your homeschool blog and I love it. Thank you!

  35. J-Madison
    J-Madison says:

    I knew I needed to investigate homeschooling when…my spouse and I became heartily and thoroughly sick of the school’s soft bigotry of low expectations (to borrow a phrase) for our daughter.

    As a girl with ADHD/Combined Type, she faced many of the issues that boys do. As a child of color…fill in the blanks.

    At our first IEP meeting, school administration told us that bringing her up to grade level (she was in 2nd grade and performing at 1st grade level) in a year would be “too broad a goal.”

    We hired a private tutor to work with our daughter over the summer break. Two hour sessions, twice a week, for six weeks. The following fall, she tested at grade level in each area the school assessed.

    There’s more, but you get the picture.

  36. Valentina
    Valentina says:

    I have become addicted to your blog. I know you, not in a weird, we met somewhere in our long- distant way, but in our point-of view. My son did kindergarten before I realized it was wasting his time, and mine! He begged me to homeschool because he had heard of my nieces doing it. I was lost. It was a whole world and perception of myself I was completely unaware of. I researched, we tried it over the summer, and never looked back. Well actually, I look back every time my house is a disaster and the kids are fighting and I have to make dinner, sigh. But it works for us and I will do anything for my kids. Thanks for your writing, maybe one day I can afford your webcasts or advice in general.

  37. K
    K says:

    I fell into it by accident because he missed the cutoff date for enrollment. “No problem,” I thought oh-so-casually. “I’ll homeschool him just for Kindergarten, and then use the school year to research the best school in the area and decide where to send him!”

    Naive person that I was! It was very eye-opening:

    Our state allows no school choice. There’s no open enrollment, no transfers, and charter schools have been outlawed. You go where you’re told, and if you don’t like it, you can pony up tuition ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 per kid per year for the private schools.

    Not only is that out of our price range (I don’t work, remember), but the lower-cost options are all uber-religious, and we’re simply not that religiously-oriented as a family.

    The assigned public schools are a wreck. The average scores on the state competency exams hover at the 35th percentile mark; we have a 50 percent graduation rate; the two biggest districts in the state lost accreditation and were taken over by the state. That year our county was ranked #1 in the nation for underage drinking, and our very school district ranked #1 in the nation for teen pregnancy. (Hmmm…correlation?)

    The more I talked to other parents, the more horrifying the school prospects became. “If I had it to do over again,” said a (ex) co-worker, “I wouldn’t touch the public schools around here with a ten-foot pole.”

    Other parents LOVED the schools. “It’s GREAT!” chirped the mother of the neighborhood monster. “Yeah, I just love his school! He NEVER gets in trouble there!” Never mind that was two grades behind in reading, she just didn’t ever get a phone call to come deal with her terror, so it was fine with her.

    In the meantime, I had a kindergartener on my hands who was loving learning math (“That’s a tessellation!” he says happily, pointing at the tiled floor of the mall. “Where did you learn that?” “Cyberchase.”) and enjoyed history and science…so, maybe I should homeschool for first grade, too?

    This is our sixth grade year now. He routinely interviews his friends in both private and public school and frequently says, “Please don’t send me to school, mom.” None of his friends encourage him to “go to real school.” They all tell him how LUCKY he is to be homeschooled.

    I didn’t have a rewarding experience in school until I hit college. Middle school was positively brutal; I was tripped, punched, spit at, isolated and once left naked in a locker room. The lessons I learned from public school had zero to do with academics.

  38. Katy
    Katy says:

    My son made A’s last year in 9th grade algebra but mostly because of the one on one work we do at home. This year in “common core” geometry we were told that they are going to reteach the algebra they learned last year according to these standards. What??? This doesn’t make sense and it is the last straw. I’m tired of my child being their experimental lab rat. This is his last week at public school.

  39. Janelle
    Janelle says:

    Homeschooling was a complete accident for me after walking into a school supply store and talking to the girl behind the counter. 22 years later I have 5 in college (5 degrees so far too – some are working on 2nd/3rd degrees), one who will start next fall and one to go (he just turned 14 yesterday). That last one just asked me a few minutes ago if he could go out in the back yard and run laps since he finished his school work earlier than expected today. He’s a runner like me, his mom. Do I need to list all the positives that come out of that one question one alone? All these years later I have no regrets that homeschooling was the best accident I ever ran into, hands down. None of my kids ever attended public school however they did play sport there once they reached high school age. It was a good combination that worked for us. However, it reminds me each time they went/go to practice that I would never send my kids to public school for education . . . This is from an African-American mom who statistics say my kids would have a horrible expectation and outcome from a public school education. I just said NO.

  40. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    The final straw came yesterday – I was volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten class and they were ‘learning’ ‘correct’ pencil grip. My sweet baby looked at me and said, ‘mama is this right?’ I thought, that’s it. Get her out now, before she learns that correctness comes from the nod of an authority when it really comes from within herself.

  41. Rachel B.
    Rachel B. says:

    I think this article, that I just read tonight, was the nail in the coffin today: http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/my-daughters-homework-is-killing-me/309514/?single_page=true

    This afternoon my 3 year old daughter came home from preschool with a painting of the ocean that she did. It had been sprinkled with salt, presumably to teach the concept that the water in the ocean is salt water. She looked exhausted today.

    The article above was posted to a Facebook group (I have to be on that crap for professional reasons, but occasionally there is intelligent communication) and I’m taking it as a sign. I’ve been on the fence, but no way am I doing that to my child.

    The other thing that happened today was we went to the park just before dinner. There was a school picnic happening unbeknownst to me and there were children of all ages there. And I did not like the behavior I saw, not at all. Older children pushing younger ones out of the way, or bullying their way through the play structures with a look in their eye that was so… mean. If this is what the parents and teachers consider good development, then no thank you.

  42. shelly
    shelly says:

    I decided to homeschool for so many reasons. These are the biggies: I got a letter about my children’s attendance because they had missed about 5 days of school, my kindergartner got an unexcused absence because I was 8 months pregnant and had to be unexpectedly put on a fetal monitor so I had no way to get her to school, there was a boy in my daughter’s 2nd grade class who was hitting the teacher and threw a desk on my daughter and the school wouldn’t do anything about it, and finally, when learning about authority figures the students were told that God couldn’t be listed. Phew!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Shelly, that’s a great story about he kindergarten absences. It’s amazing how completely unsupportive the school is of the family environment. Your comment is a great example.


    • Kristin
      Kristin says:

      I think that is so odd they were formally learning about authority figures in school. Isn’t that just something you just learn on your own? Why would they be wasting time in school learning that? That is just something that intuitively comes to humans through living. Makes me feel so much better about the time that I think we spend doing nothing.

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          I hope they successfully conveyed to the children that we have always been at war with eastasia.

          And PT, how about a recent comments widget?

  43. Karl
    Karl says:

    My son is bright, but probably has ADHD. He was only finishing a fourth of his work every day, because he missed the instructions. The rest of the day he mostly cried. He was literally finishing more work in the hour I helped him after work than six hours at school.

    Our nine year-old daughter has cerebral palsy, with the mental capacity of a three year-old. Her school would send her home early for the slightest thing, like her face looking a little red. My wife was spending 3 hours a day just getting ready for school, in the car, and otherwise dealing with the schools.

    We figured with the amount of time we were putting in, we may as well be doing it our own way, so after a particularly bad day with a substitute teacher, we filed the paperwork that night. It’s been a month and so far the kids are thriving, although we’re still finding our groove.

  44. Jeanice
    Jeanice says:

    My 8yo son started showing signs of depression…or complete boredom. One in-class volunteer experience after the next had me cringing at all the lost opportunities for learning I witnessed. It’s not that I’m a tiger mom who needs my kid to be the world’s best, it’s just that the greatest teacher can only do so much when in charge of twenty kids. As a volunteer, I was in charge of six students at a time, and even I could only manage one well. My focus was usually spent on the squeakiest wheel – the kid who couldn’t sit still, the polite child asking for help, or the one who was so incredibly frustrated with the learning process he/she was about to explode. I would see my own child out of the corner of my eye getting no help, quietly rocking back and forth in his chair, never the squeaky wheel. I often left my volunteer spots feeling defeated and exhausted. I began to feel that the classroom learning experience was a colossal waste of time. One day, after another tough hour in the classroom, I called my husband to talk me off the ledge. Together we decided in a matter of minutes that we would not be sending our child back to school, and would instead begin homeschooling him the following year.

  45. Liz Ness
    Liz Ness says:

    So many factors lead to our decision to home school our son. First, my husband and I worried about what seemed to be an obvious mismatch between school and Duncan’s learning style, self-confidence, and emotional health. Next, Duncan spent six hours a day in school and then his homework consumed another hour or more. He was exhausted and we were a bit concerned about his lack of time to just be a kid. (And, when did it come into Vogue to give second graders an hour-plus of homework a day, anyway?) Finally,—and ironically,—managing Duncan’s homework (as parents we were given guidance to the amount of homework per day, but had to decide what it would be, specifically) convinced me that we can do it.

    Our story is here: http://www.lizness.com/category/homeschooling/ourstory/

  46. K mommy
    K mommy says:

    After just 2 of the longest months of Kindergarten that was only 3 hour days for Bunny and myself I pulled her from PS. The breaking point was a lot of things. Bunny crying not to go to school or for me to leave her there alone after day 3 which I thought was separation anxiety at first. The never ending class chaos that after 1 month couldn’t been brushed off as adjustment phase. One entitled mother with her my kid is never the problem your kid must have started it attitude and told everyone so, her explosive kid who should have been kicked out during the 1st week for breaking the so called Zero tolerance policy after the bus fights then multiple times the brat punched or kick a kid in the head during school for “I don’t like___” reasons. There might be other issues I’m not sure there was a few other short fused kids. The mother seemed to only hang around just drag her kid away from the scene and trying to play it off each time also no help at the worksheet tables. Yes I said worksheet tables just doing worksheets sight words, math, writing and a rare drawing day. The weekly homework packets that gave only 2 weekdays to complete 5+ pages with 10 sight words. Then her mixed signals teacher who sounded sweet but with the body language that clearly said I don’t want your help because your kid isn’t a problem and you seem to be the type to demand action when you see the class more than once. I just stop asking and signed in with a oh too late smirk on my face saying well one more couldn’t hurt right? The teacher also pulled the guilt trip on the kids anytime one of them publicly declared anything negative about her or class.

    While Bunny isn’t gifted, she does pick up things quickly and knew being a good girl wasn’t gonna get her anywhere so she started acting out at school for attention and at home my guess venting her stress or revenge against us for sending her there. All the stress gave her tummy troubles, messed with her sleep cycle, and was slowing changed her personality. Which is starting to get better after a few months in a Charter based Homeschooling sort of close to a co-op. She meets for gardening club and Spanish at the Charter School campus. I chat with her adviser every 3 months update how she’s doing pick up packets of art Ideas and turn in some artwork and dictations on books I read to her. They hold field trips every month mainly to get the discounted group price, we drive there ourselves and are free to go at our own pace only request is no more than 5 pages of drawing on what she liked/saw to turn in so far I’m using Saxon Math and Zoo-phonics provided by the Charter School which she likes so far. Anything she is interested in or random thought we look up.

    So far she has never asked to be sent back to her old PS. But keeps checking that she doesn’t have to go back to PS even now.

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