Sometimes I worry that I’m not teaching my kids enough. Like when they can’t identify Brazil’s flag or when they seem to have bad animal skills, or people skills, or math skills. 

So I keep a list of research that people send me – research that reminds me that even if I’m a terrible homeschool parent, the kids will still have a better experience than if I had sent them to school. Today I’m sharing the list with you, for those days when you also question everything you are doing with your kids in homeschool.

You’re making your kids healthy adults.
Did you know that you can train kids’ tastebuds to be poorly behaved? All you need to do is give them access to unlimited salt. The same goes with sugar. I was reading this in Time magazine thinking, “What kid has unlimited access to this stuff?” Then I realized, “Oh yeah. In school.” School kids choose what they eat. They can pour on extra salt or sugar and trade for more as well. So if you just take away the salt shaker, you can train your kids to be healthier than kids who went to school.

You’re building their network.
Did you know that athletes do better in the workplace than anyone else?  That’s because work isn’t about good grades and IQ, it’s about leadership, teamwork, and diligence –all traits of a star athlete. So it’s no big surprise that top athletes are homeschooling; school doesn’t teach the skills that are in highest demand for an athlete. The bonus for the rest of the homeschool community is the network of homeschoolers isn’t going to be all math geeks and artistic types.

You’re building self-control.
Since school is like a prison system, kids don’t learn self-regulation. Staring with the youngest school kids. This is what a Danish study shows. The study doesn’t use the term prison system, of course, but this is a post to boost your spirits, so language is important.

The truth is that kids keep quiet in school because of fear, whereas kids at home sit quietly when they are engage in whatever they chose to do. True self-control is something you teach yourself. It’s not external. Even for a four-year-old.

You’re teaching grit.
Grit is a fashionable idea right now. First it was emotional intelligence (something you don’t learn in school) and now it’s grit, which is another thing you cannot learn in school. The reason you can’t learn grit in school is that no sane person perseveres when something is difficult and they don’t care about it. Part of grit is self-determined. And since school doesn’t really allow for much to be self-determined, it doesn’t do grit. Fortunately, you do—if you let your kids choose what they learn.

You’re giving them the gift of the do-over.
Rich kids do better than poor kids because rich kids can fail and then try again. If you’re poor, your one wrong move could be a permanent failure. The Washington Post cites this, more than any other schooling issue, as the cause of our increasingly stagnant class system.

I’m very familiar with the benefits of a do-over. I failed a lot of courses in high school, enough that my parents had to give money to a university so I would be admitted. Then I didn’t graduate in time— I was one course short—so my grandma paid for me to take the course at a local college.

The great thing about homeschooling is there is no linear path to pave with money. There is no list of failures and recoveries. There is only the search for engaging material and the daily challenge of meeting one’s own expectations.

Homeschooling is a do-over every day, and, come to think of it, maybe as homeschoolers we are not only doing great things for our kids, but we’re also creating real opportunities to close gap between rich and poor in this country.

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11 replies
  1. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    All I have to go on is how my boys’ school runs, and I don’t see what you are describing WRT food. Rural school, 25% free & reduced lunch.

    At lunch the kids choose between two entrée options, pizza, salad, ham sandwich, hamburger, veggie burger, tacos, hot dog, quesadilla, etc. Then there are a rotating bunch of sides which are all pretty healthy, mostly fruit or raw veggies, thanks Michelle Obama. ;) There are no salt or sugar shakers available, no trading of food is allowed whatsoever because of allergies.

    Where I do see a crazy making amount of sugar is in the parent provided snacks. In early elementary one parent provides snacks for the whole class once a month. Day after day it is intensely food colored, sugary snacks. I send in apple slices and hard cheese slices which costs probably $12 for a classroom. Sugar snacks are cheap and parents send in as cheap of snacks as they can.

    • Michele
      Michele says:

      Full disclosure: I’m a homeschool parent myself so I don’t have a child in school. I can’t imagine a salt shaker or sugar shaker in a school cafeteria setting but I am sure there is plenty of both ingredients in the processed food choices you’ve mentioned.

      And yes, I see lots of it coming from home – my nephew, for example, or from sports or camps my son has participated in. When I was a kid, soccer snacks were oranges or apple slices. These days it’s Welch’s “fruit” snacks, packages of cookies or crackers, washed down by “juice” drinks.

      Maybe the connection could have been that homeschooled kids might have more access to a wide variety of foods as refrigeration and food prep isn’t as much of a problem.

  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “That’s because work isn’t about good grades and IQ, it’s about leadership, teamwork, and diligence LH –all traits of a star athlete.”

    LH – are you missing a ink?

    Also, national school choice week for this year ends today as it runs from 1/24 – 1/30/16. A web site by the same name proclaims – “The goal of National School Choice Week (NSCW) is to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.” School choice has a long ways to go in this country when viewed from a prism of practicality. Why do they call it school in the first place? How about National Educational Choice Week? Here’s something else – there should be no Dept. of Education in the federal government. Each State and locality is very capable of regulating education to the degree that the people in each State believe is necessary. Also the facilities and resources of public schools should be more accessible to homeschoolers if they so desire. Homeschoolers do pay taxes. So you may ask why am I bringing all this up in this post? It’s because of the sentence quoted above from this post which mentions “leadership, teamwork, and diligence”. Maybe there will be more homeschoolers in the future with these qualities and more to make education a better experience with more choices for children.

  3. Carol Therrien
    Carol Therrien says:

    Dear Penelope,
    I’m located north in Montreal, Canada. Having the choice to Homeschool or use private and public system is very subjective. A choice that we make as individuals I guess. There is success and failure in each. Over the years in my family I have seen both. At the end of the day I feel we have done our job properly if our children are able to do these things: Be CONSISTENT in whatever path you choose- meaning getting up in the morning and being committed to what you said you would do. Not being a BURDEN to the family or society. These two things seem rather simple as I have talked endless about them with a good friend of mine. We all have black sheep in our families and the worst thing that we do is enable them because they are the weakest link. I encourage my girls to choose something, a path to start with. But there has to be a starting line or otherwise there’s no direction and that means trouble. Thanks Carol

  4. Robyn D
    Robyn D says:

    Homeschooling also teaches children to think outside the box. Ideally, to observe and understand that just because something is popular, doesn’t make it right. Parents are also in a position to foster better tolerance, as homeschooled siblings and peers may all be at different levels and stages in the learning process, regardless of age, race, sex, or religion.

  5. jessica
    jessica says:

    The article about athletes took me by surprise. Mainly, due to the fact that it lists the area I grew up in and the schools they talk about are top notch, yet still not enough.
    Are homeschooling athletes the next top athletes then?

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      It’s not a matter of the schools not being enough, rather of being too much. If these kids are looking to be professional athletes, the time they can find after school and before studying isn’t enough for practice. Better they get a full nights sleep every night, focus on the sport when they’re at their best, and for several hours a day, and pencil-whip the school requirements when it isn’t inconvenient.

      It’s efficient. It makes sense they would be the next top athletes. Of course, that their form of dropping out is legitimated under homeschooling doesn’t mean they’ll have anything to do with any other homeschoolers. You won’t be seeing them in your science class or at the park day.

  6. GiGi
    GiGi says:

    I have a list like that I thought I’d share.

    1. All the questions answered (well, nearly) because they are at home and are “permitted” to communicate all day, they keep asking the questions and getting answers 24/7. How different will they be compared to school kids who simply logistically will have to suppress some, ask later, forget or potentially get into a habit of not asking?
    2. Ample sleep, healthy food, less or no stress etc. Ditto to comments above.
    3. Getting our two cents, A LOT MORE re politics, history, life, struggles… that I think are invaluable and timely, judging by the questions they’re asking. Not to mention the range of topics they’re exposed to. (actually not just family, but many more people around us)
    4. Living in an unstructured, free-flowing, but proactive (with all the projects we’re doing), and do-over permissions, and no rules except the important ones like respect, freedom etc. Should work in their favor in life. Actually, from time to time they love doing school workbooks just to relax from all the decision making they have to do on a daily basis.

    Please share your lists, this conversation makes us stronger and kids more confident.

  7. Amy - ENTP
    Amy - ENTP says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Have you thought about creating a personality type test geared toward kids? Maybe different ones based on age range? I’ve found your Quistic test for adults to be so helpful in personal and work scenarios.

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