This is a guest post from Julie Dutra. She lives in Portugal with her toddler and husband. You can find more of her writing on her blog happymamahappybaby.net

School was an intensely lonely experience for me; I was at worst bullied and at best felt left out. By homeschooling my son I get to be the leader of the pack, not the outsider. I know, I know. I can’t expect my son to take on my interests and hobbies. But even if he chooses something I find mindnumbingly boring like boules or chess or even accounting, I get to be there with him: not his friends or teachers.

Can you spot the common theme? I just don’t want to be alone. Before my son was born I spent eight hours a day on my own with only my laptop for company. Staying at home with a needy newborn baby was an upgrade by comparison, so no wonder parenting came easy to me. If my son goes to school, I’ll just go right back to being alone again.

This is deeply unfair to my son. He needs friends his own age. He’s only two years old and I can already see how much he craves the company of his peers. But because of my past, my personality, and my feelings, I can’t bear the thought of sending him to kindergarten, even just to try it out for one day. What do I do if he likes it?

My reasons for homeschooling must be the worst reasons ever.  Writing this post has been a terrifying experience and I’m this close to registering my son for daycare this fall, if only to get him away from my needy, suffocating grasp. So I clutch at straws: at least there are parents (like Penelope) who suggest homeschooling is actually better for children. My husband, who is saner than me, is on board.

Ultimately, there’s no way I can know what’s right for my son: he might love school but he could equally hate it (as did my husband and my mom—there is a family precedent after all!). I can’t predict if he’ll be a loner or Mr. Popular, whether homeschooling will prepare him for the future or limit his career options. Whether he’ll find being around me suffocating or liberating.

The only thing I can know is what is right for me, and my hope that if homeschooling turns out to be wrong for my son, I’ll be astute enough to notice.

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24 replies
  1. Liat
    Liat says:

    Lovely honesty. You could try a part time class at this age. This age is the most flexible or mommy n me

  2. christy
    christy says:

    Make your own community. We’ve been part of building a community of homeschoolers (and we’re both introverts), where our highly-social 5-year-old daughter can play with other kids of various ages to her heart’s content. School is not the only way to give your child access to other children.

  3. Julia
    Julia says:

    I agree with the other two commenters about using resources to get outside and build community. This post gives the impression that you’re looking at it as all or nothing — either he goes away to school or you keep him suffocated under your wing at home. I don’t homeschool, but my understanding of homeschooling is that it’s best when it’s used as an opportunity to engage with the world and community in ways that are restricted by school. If you let your self-described “selfish” reasons WHY you homeschool guide HOW you homeschool, you might be setting up for a strong rebellion. If you think of it as providing a better way to meet his social interests, it seems like he’d be more agreeable to it.

  4. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    If you are playing and interacting with your son, there’s no reason he needs peers at this age. Most children at this age paly side by side not with each other anyway. Enjoy!

  5. Joni Jeffries
    Joni Jeffries says:

    I had a similar worry with my daughter when she was three. I ended up sending her to preschool so she could be with kids, which she desperately craved. It was wonderful for her and she made a very good friend. Now she’s 11 and has homeschooled since first grade. She is still very close to the friend she made in preschool, and I’ve found the balance between friends and home worked best when I allowed it to progress in stages. I consider one year at a time, opposed to thinking about what she’ll do next year or the year after. Whether school or homeschool, she is happiest when I make time for her to be with friends, both 1:1 and in groups. I’ve made our house a welcome place for neighborhood kids, cousins, and friends which has also supported independence in my children while keeping them close. My kids do some classes outside of the home, work at home with me, and host clubs at our house. This works for all of us (for now) and when it no longer works we’ll adapt. One step at a time :)

  6. GiGi
    GiGi says:

    I’ve only seen research on how bad it is for a child this age to be away from his mum.

    How wonderful it is for him to be with a mother that enjoys him so much! Unfortunately many mothers want to run away to work and have a break.

    • Julia
      Julia says:

      Absolutely! Nothing wrong with a person needing daily time away from a toddler. The research is actually mixed on this point, so take care with that sanctimommy line you’re toying with. Cheers!

  7. Elaine Martinez
    Elaine Martinez says:

    I am homeschool mama of 5 for two years now. Last year we became part of a homeschool group. We Love it, to stay in the group you need host 1 event for the year. Some parents do park days once a week, some like me set up field trips to zoos, newspapers, radio stations, orchards etc. If you loom into it you will find there are alot of groups in your a tree area. :)

  8. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Chess boring? Chess is a great game to learn and master. It forces you to look ahead at options available to you and your opponent and make good decisions if you’re to play well. The following is a quote from a grandmaster who teaches chess to kids in NYC – “I have had students come up to me later as grown adults to tell me about how chess has helped to transform their lives with their ability to think more critically, to process data more rapidly and to make better decisions,” he says.” The rest of the article is at https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/04/25/how-a-chess-grandmaster-uses-the-game-to-teach-life-skills/ .

  9. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    It’s amazing how opposite parents can be. I’m homeschooling because I’m convinced its best, but I constantly wonder how long I can hold off before I go crazy and decide to send my kid to school.

  10. A quasiphysicist
    A quasiphysicist says:

    Don’t we all go against the tide for selfish reasons and personal pains? Either in career, start-ups or education.

    I don’t have kids yet so I don’t know, but are there any parents who absolutely loved school and are homeschooling?

  11. Brad Cruise
    Brad Cruise says:

    Though, homeschooling is very important for kids but parents must come out of the circle of overly careful about kids. kids must have their own circle friends

  12. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Homeschooling does not prevent kids from making friends their own ages. While it is entirely possible that kids can go to school and not have any friends for a variety of reasons. My kids make friends based on mutual interests. Yeah, it’s harder to do it this way. Social opportunities are not gift-wrapped like they are at school, but there are no guarantees either way.

    At two years old, he isn’t missing out on anything in a school setting that you cannot find at a park or playdate.

  13. karelys
    karelys says:

    It’s very honest to state your own personal reasons rather than try to mask them with research and lofty ideals.

    If you were choosing school you’d be choosing after your own heart too. What school? what style? what philosophy?

    We choose with the home we buy.
    We choose with the application process.
    We choose with our personal clothing style (to attract certain friends and such.).

    It’s so radical to be honest. To be ugly honest, not cutesey honest.

    It’s so radical and so freeing.

    I don’t want to send my kid to school because I don’t want to be time constrained by school. When it comes to academics, art, socialization, physical play, etc. I am an ace at providing those opportunities. It’s more effort. It’s sooo much effort. He’s going to preschool for reasons that have nothing to do with academic stuff. He’s going for reasons that are more for me than for him because anything he can get out of going to preschool he’s already getting outside preschool. And I am fine with that as long as he draws enjoyment from it.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Alyssa tried out a very play-based/unschooling/Reggio Emilia preschool last spring. The nice thing with this environment is that they don’t have to stay all day like they would in a regular school environment. There was a garden, class pets, stations for experiments and arts, and lots of hands on activities as well as a massive outdoor play area with very intimidating play structures. She went twice a week for a few hours, and if she hadn’t kept coming home with various injuries, the last being a bloody lip and dirty wet clothes even though she had a change of clothes there (and it was picture day) we would have kept her there. Now we are trying a one day a week environment where there aren’t many ways for her to go crazy and hurt herself.

      You never know what it will be like unless you try it out, and at least he will have a frame of reference if he ends up not liking it. We have had several families we know let their kids try school and some only lasted one period, others a week, while others are still waiting to see if it’s worth withdrawing. I do think it is fair to allow kids to try it out assuming it is a good environment that will set the child up for success. I know other homeschool families that choose the worst schools to have their kids try so that they kid will want to go back home. Not my MO.

      We are happily still unschooling, while my oldest is taking half a dozen classes a la carte on a very part-time basis. It is more structured than we have ever been, but it is still on our timetable and entirely based on goals she has made for herself.

      • Julie Dutra
        Julie Dutra says:

        Your Reggio Emilia school sounds right up my street. Unfortunately there is no preschool in our immediate surroundings that I’d be happy for him to try out since they all feature too much indoor time for my liking.

    • Julie Dutra
      Julie Dutra says:

      Love this comment! I think it takes a lot of guts to admit you are sending your son to preschool more for yourself. To me that is a MUCH more valid reason than making up excuses about “socialisation” or “better learning”.

  14. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    It occurs to me how this post sounds similar to all the reasons I am not on Facebook. I don’t feel selfish about not being on Facebook.

  15. Julie Dutra
    Julie Dutra says:

    Thank you everyone for the supportive comments!
    I am working hard at building my own community and I have a lovely tribe of mamas who let us tag along when their kids come home from preschool and go to the park.
    I also realise that of course my son can make friends outside of preschool. My main concern is that I’m being blinded by my own wishes to homeschool and ignoring my sons needs and wants. Since he’s only 2 it’s easy to decide what we do every day but it’s going to be interesting once he realises all his friends go to school and he doesn’t.
    Guess only time will tell how that works out!

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