Could It Work For You?
Although many more families are now teaching children at home, that doesn't mean it's easy or that everyone should try it, says Corinne Smith, Ph.D., professor of education at Syracuse University, in New York, and a Parents adviser. Homeschooling requires that one parent not work, or work fewer hours, which isn't financially feasible for many families. "It also means taking on two full-time roles?parent and teacher-which is a heavy responsibility," Dr. Smith says. "You have to know yourself. If you're disorganized and tend to have trouble keeping to a schedule, your child could end up falling behind and would be better off in a conventional school."
Dr. Smith, who runs a university clinic for children who aren't doing well academically, also cites concerns about home-taught students who have learning disabilities. Teaching a child who needs remedial education is difficult, and about one child in ten has some sort of special need, she says. (Federal law gives every child-including those who are taught at home-the right to an educational assessment and special-educational services.)
Kris Bordessa, a homeschooling mom of two boys in Placerville, California, says the two most frequent comments she hears are "How do you do it?" and "I couldn't possibly spend all day with my children-I'd go crazy." She always responds, "Well, if that's the case, clearly you shouldn't do it!"
Being adaptable is certainly important. "My house hasn't been clean since we started homeschooling seven years ago," Bordessa admits. She says it bothers her, but most of the time she can overlook it or tidy up enough to get by. "It also helps for parents to have a flexible perception of what learning means," says Christine Webb, of North Plains, Oregon, a board member of the National Home Education Network. "It's the overly perfectionist parents-who are rigidly organized and have a huge plan for every day-who tend to hit the wall," she says. "When the kids balk or the plan doesn't work, they think they've failed." Successful homeschoolers understand that there are many ways to master the same material.
Parents and educators used to say that the major drawback of homeschooling was that kids missed the opportunity to build social skills with other classmates. However, homeschooling organizations have found that parents go out of their way to make sure that their children spend lots of time with other kids and adults. In fact, being isolated and lonely seems to be more of a risk for homeschooling moms than their children. "If teacher-moms are going to succeed and be happy with their choice, they have to work not only on teaching but also on creating a support network," Webb says.