5 Unnecessary Homeschool Ingredients
I used to be one of “those” people. I admit it. I thought I had to have the perfect homeschool recipe in order to produce the perfect homeschool experience and the perfect homeschool students who would make the perfect homeschool grades, be perfectly behaved, make perfect scores on college entrance tests, and become perfect adults with perfect lives. It was ALL up to me, and it would be ALL my fault if something went wrong and the recipe didn’t turn out right.
It didn’t help that well-meaning friends, relatives, and (to be honest) even perfect strangers (See what I did there?) made sure I knew it was okay for me to homeschool because I have a teaching degree. The pressure was on. I was equipped and qualified and ready to homeschool my kiddos! I knew everything I needed to know. I had the right training. I had the teaching experience. I had the motivation. I had the curriculum, and I knew how to use it!
But over my 23 years of homeschooling, I learned some important lessons. I learned that there are 5 unnecessary homeschool ingredients that I thought were so important when I began homeschooling 23 years ago, yet that turned out not to be the case. So I’d like to share with you these 5 unnecessary things. If you have these ingredients in your pantry, that’s great! Use them! If you don’t, though, your homeschool and your children can still be just as successful as the homeschools of those who do have them.
Ingredient #1: Patience
I’m sure (if you’ve homeschooled for more than 5 minutes or if you’ve ever mentioned that you homeschool/are considering homeschooling) you’ve heard other moms say something like this: “Oh, I could never homeschool! I just don’t have the patience!”
It’s funny that these same moms evidently believe that every teacher on the face of the planet somehow has a miraculous amount of patience because…well…they teach lots of children all day, so they must have loads of extra patience, right?!
And yet, these same moms (the ones who assume that teachers must have much more patience than they do) have the patience to deal with their children when they’re sick, when they have homework to do, when they need to be chauffeured 47 places for all kinds of activities and commitments, and so on. No, they may not always be thrilled about everything that’s going on. They may not always feel relaxed and cheerful. But the truth is most of us really do have the patience to do what’s important to us. It’s more about how much each activity or commitment means to us.
The truth is that being a homeschooling mom doesn’t mean that I have one more ounce of patience than other moms. In fact, I often feel like I have far less! But homeschooling is important to me and to my family. It’s something I choose to do and want to do for many reasons. Therefore, I manage to be as patient as I need to be to make it happen. And you can too.
To read an article that busts the myth of “I don’t have the patience to homeschool,” click this link.
NOTE: Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. If you choose not to homeschool, that is definitely your right. My point, though, is that homeschoolers don’t have a miraculous degree of patience any more than anyone else, so don’t make your choice about whether or not to homeschool based on whether or not you think you have the patience.
Ingredient #2: A Teaching Degree
Here’s another ingredient that’s just not necessary for a successful homeschool or well-educated children. Yes, it does seem like a teaching degree would be helpful to a homeschooling mom, but studies have shown that the level of education of a homeschooling parent makes almost no difference at all in the educational outcome for the homeschooled student! It seems that the most important things a homeschooling parent needs are…children to teach and a willingness to teach those children!
To be honest, the success of homeschooling parents in general probably has a lot to do with the desire to do a good job teaching one’s own children and a desire for those children to do well, learn a lot, and be successful. Yes, it’s true that there are homeschooling parents here and there who don’t really teach their children much, but that’s not generally the case. (The same is true of the occasional public or private school student who has teachers who don’t teach much, but that’s not generally discussed.)
Another important bit of information to understand is that homeschooled children, regardless of the education level of the parents, generally score 15 to 30 percentile points higher that public school students on standardized academic achievement tests. And homeschoolers are typically above average on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. (So we’re really not such weird, unsocialized homeschoolers after all!)
If you want to see the actual research facts on homeschooling, you can do that at this study on the National Home Education Research Institute’s website.
Ingredient #3: Expensive Curriculum
The first few years I homeschooled, I spent a lot (and I mean a LOT) on curriculum each year. And now there is even more curriculum available than there was all those years ago! It can be extremely hard to narrow down curriculum choices, and it can be extremely easy to overspend. After all, don’t our kids need all kinds of expensive curriculum if we want them to learn a lot?
The answer is no. It’s not necessary. If there’s an expensive curriculum that you and your children absolutely love and can afford, go for it! There’s nothing wrong with buying expensive curriculum if it’s curriculum you truly love and that works well for your family. If you choose not to spend a lot of money on curriculum, though, it’s just as possible to do a great job teaching your kiddos! Check out this list of all kinds of free curriculum on Only Passionate Curiosity. In fact, you’ll find new printable freebies once or twice a week on Only Passionate Curiosity. You’ll also find information for activities, science experiments, games, and other activities for free. (If you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get an email letting you know when new printables and freebies are published so you can download them while they’re still free.)
And thankfully there is lots of reasonably-priced curriculum available to buy, too. You may have to look around a little to find what suits your family, but it’s worth taking the time! It took me several years to find curriculum that my kids and I all loved, but it was worth taking the time and even trying out some curriculums that didn’t work well for us. (We learn from our mistakes, right?) And used curriculum can be sold or donated to a family that can’t afford curriculum.
Many curriculum companies will give you free sample lessons too, and those can make it much easier to narrow down your curriculum-buying options. And if that’s not possible, you may know homeschooling friends or family members who can let you borrow curriculum or at least meet to look through their curriculum before you buy.
Ingredient #4: The Approval of Family and Friends
Yes, it is wonderful if your friends and family members approve of your decision to homeschool! I wish all of us had that advantage! The truth is, though, that many of us don’t have that. (Or at least we didn’t have it in the beginning.) Does that mean you should give up on your decision to homeschool? Not at all!
I have a close family member who adamantly disapproved of my decision to homeschool and tried to talk me out of it many times over the first 10 years or so that I homeschooled. That same family eventually came to me and admitted that she wished she’d been more supportive all those years and that she can now see that I made the best decision for my family. In fact, she even admitted that she wished she’d made the decision to homeschool her own children after some serious struggles with her kids in middle school and high school.
I do have to stop here and say that it is my personal belief that both parents should agree on whether or not to homeschool. If one or the other wants to homeschool but they don’t both agree, the parents’ relationship will suffer, and that’s not good. I wrote an article on Hip Homeschool Moms that addresses this topic. The article was directed toward women whose husbands don’t want them to homeschool, but the information is relevant to others, too. It also includes links to research that you may find interesting and helpful when discussing homeschooling with friends and relatives.
NOTE: Keep in mind that you do not owe your friends and family (with the exception of a situation between yourself and the other parent of your children) an explanation for why you’ve chosen to homeschool. You also are not duty bound to convince them that you’re doing the right thing or to get them to agree with your decision. If someone wants to have a respectful conversation with you and is truly interested in your decision to homeschool, by all means, have a conversation! But if someone is being rude or hurtful or is causing you stress, you can choose to disregard that person’s opinion and not discuss it with him or her.
Ingredient #5: A Dedicated Schoolroom
I get questions from lots and lots of moms who want to homeschool but who don’t have a room to dedicate to “doing school.” If you want a dedicated school room and have an extra room you can use for that purpose, that’s great! If you don’t, though, that’s perfectly fine too. In fact, I now have two homeschool graduates and only one homeschooler left at home, and I’ve never had a dedicated room for homeschooling.
While there are advantages to having a dedicated homeschool room, there are some disadvantages too. One advantage is having a place to store books and supplies where they won’t be in the way or strewn all over the house. It also might be nice for the kids to have a quiet place to do their work without having to constantly clean off the table or the counter so school work can be done there.
Some disadvantages, though, are that it’s harder to prepare meals and carry on with daily activities if you’re in a separate room, and your kids may feel bored and restricted by doing school in the same room day after day.
My kids really enjoyed doing their work in various places inside and outside of the house. They enjoyed doing school on the couch, at the island in the kitchen, or even outside on the porch or in the yard. And I felt like it more accurately reflected my belief that teaching and learning can happen anywhere–not just in a classroom.
If you love the idea of having your own homeschool room and would like some ideas and inspiration, take a look at these articles:
- Real Homeschool Classroom Ideas
- What Kind of Homeschool Room Fits Your Family?
- Turn Your Garage into a Homeschool Room
If you’d like to read an article by a veteran homeschool mom and author about why she’s never had a dedicated school room, take a look at this article:
Bonus Ingredient #6: Knowledge of All Subjects
After publishing this article, I realized there’s one more ingredient many people think is necessary for a successful homeschool that I should add to my list. That ingredient is knowledge of all subjects. It is simply not necessary for a parent/teacher to know how to teach every subject. Thankfully, there are lots of options available to homeschoolers!
Preschool, Kindergarten, and Lower Elementary Grades
For lower grades (including preschool, kindergarten, and the first few years of elementary school), many parents feel comfortable teaching all of the subjects that are necessary. Teaching a child to read can be a little scary for some parents, but there are lots of reading curriculums that walk the parent step-by-step through the process. It’s also important to keep in mind that most young children really only need to learn to read, practice real-life math skills, and explore the world by playing and reading lots of good books! School doesn’t have to be super-formal, sit-at-your-desk-for-hours exercise each day. For some ideas for how to homeschool your preschool or kindergarten-age child, you may want to check out the articles listed below.
- 5 Tips for Establishing Tot School
- What Is Tot School (and How Can I Do It at Home)?
- What do Do for Homeschool Kindergarten
All Ages and Grade Levels
For parents who want or need a little more guidance, there are online homeschool programs, co-ops, and curriculums that are scripted so the parent/teacher knows exactly what and how to teach. (NOTE: Don’t confuse public-school-at-home programs with homeschool programs. If you want to know why we don’t love public-school-at-home programs, read this article.)
If you want your child to use the computer for all of his or her homeschool work, you can do that! If you want your child to do a combination of parent-taught and classes on the computer, you can do that. If you want to do a co-op (where you meet with other homeschoolers on a regular basis), those may be available in your area. Or if you want to do only parent-taught classes, those are definitely do-able!
Not a math expert? Have your child to online math classes and do parent-taught classes for the other subjects? Want your older child to get some public speaking experience? Join a speech class or co-op–or start one of your own! Love science and want to allow other homeschoolers to benefit from your knowledge and expertise? Start a homeschool science class in your area!
In other words, there’s no need to worry that you don’t have the knowledge or expertise you need for teaching your children. The main thing you need is the desire to homeschool. Read the articles below if you need a little encouragement!
- 3 Ways You Are Uniquely Qualified to Teach Your Kids
- Am I Qualified to Homeschool My Kids?
- Are You Worried About Homeschooling High School?
The Perfect Homeschool Recipe
So what is the perfect homeschool recipe? It’s whatever works for you and your children! So throw these ingredients in the pot or skip them if you don’t have them or don’t want to include them! The most important thing to remember is that your homeschool is yours! It should fit your children and you–not your friends or neighbors or relatives. If you’d like a little bit of homeschool inspiration for striving to make your homeschool work for you instead of striving for perfection, I hope you’ll get some encouragement from the two articles listed below.
What unnecessary ingredients would you include? Please add to the list by commenting below!
Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 31 years ago, and they live in the South. They have three adult children. Hannah, age 27, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 25, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 19, was the last homeschool graduate. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow a garden every summer with limited success. (But she's learning!)