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Monday Q&A | Homeschooling Questions

Today, I’m going to answer a few questions about homeschooling. Though I obviously feel that homeschooling is the best choice for us (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it!), please understand that as I answer these questions, I’m not trying to deride other forms of education.

Instead, I’m trying to defend homeschooling as a viable method of education.

A girl doing math work at a picnic table.

I have a question about homeschooling; coming from a non-homeschooling background. Even with an assortment of materials & resources, how do you feel confident that you know “enough” about a subject to teach your kids? I know that question can seem snotty, but I’m truly not trying to be. I have a BS & a MS in mathematics education & taught high school math for several years. So, from my perspective, I don’t think I could ever have a proper knowledge base in all the fields & sub-fields of English, math, science, social science, art, etc. to do a proper job of thoroughly educating my children. I’m not confident that I could do a better job than people who have made it their life’s work to study & teach a particular subject area.

I fully acknowledge, of course, that as a parent, I am my children’s number one teacher & have a bigger impact on my child’s life than anyone else. We do talk about & explore language & math & science & all those other things, but I don’t think I can replace well-qualified teachers.


This is certainly a common question about homeschooling, and I think probably the best way to answer it is to point to the success of homeschool graduates. Every study I’ve ever read on the topic has found that, at the very least, homeschooled students do as well as their traditionally-schooled peers, and oftentimes they do better.

So, I think this question is more theoretical than anything…though it might seem impossible, homeschooling parents are somehow managing to produce students who are at least as well-educated as traditionally-schooled students. I could give you lots of anecdotal evidence of this (for example, I was at the top of all my college classes, and my homeschooled siblings, relatives, and friends have had similar levels of success.), but studies have shown this to be true pretty much across the board.

In the early grades, the subject matter is really just not that complex. I’d imagine most parents are capable of teaching their children to read, to write, to do arithmetic, and so on. I’ve been homeschooling for 6 years now and I have yet to come across anything in my children’s curriculum that is remotely confusing to me.

Of course, as the children get older, the subjects get more difficult. However, I don’t necessarily think the parent needs to be an expert in every area in order to give their children a good education. A huge part of homeschooling is learning now to figure things out for yourself. For instance, when I got to high-school level math, my mom didn’t give me a math lecture every day. Instead, I read the book, figured out how to do the problems, and came to her only when I got stuck (at which point she would read the book and help me figure it out). Even now, that’s how Joshua and Lisey operate with much of their schoolwork. They’re 9 and 10, but they are already learning how to teach themselves.

Knowing how to read a book, process the instructions, and figure out what to do has served me so, so well in life. I’m hardly ever afraid to try to learn a new skill because I’m confident I can teach myself. I’ve never taken a single photography class, but I’ve learned a lot simply by reading about photography. No one ever taught me a thing about blogging or all the technical stuff involved with setting up or maintaining a website, but I’ve managed to figure it out just by reading.

If parents are too overwhelmed to tackle a tough subject without support, though, there are options. Some parents handle difficult subjects by utilizing a tutorial service or having their children take a class at a local community college. Sometimes homeschooling parent work together and swap skills (for example, a mom who is good at chemistry might work with a mom who is an excellent writer).

Without getting personal, does your child decide on going to public school or is it for educational reasons?(1 out of 4) Just a question…no judgments.

Zoe sitting at the table.

When I first read this question, I was a little confused, and then I realized that I wrote a confusing sentence in last week’s Q&A post! I mentioned that Sonia had started school in the fall and that I was now homeschooling 3 kids. Sonia started school, yes, but like my other kids, she’s doing school at home. And the reason I’m only homeschooling 3 kids is that Zoe hasn’t started any formal homeschooling yet.

We plan to homeschool all of our children for the foreseeable future and this will not be a decision that is left up to them, at least for now. We are very firmly convinced that this is what is best for our family and our children.

All that is sort of moot, though, because our children have absolutely, positively, NO desire to go to a traditional school. They love being at home, they love all the free time they have (because homeschooling is very efficient), and they love our flexible schedule. In fact, they are vehemently opposed to the idea of doing anything except homeschooling, and that’s exactly how I felt when I was a kid.

So, it’s not at all like we’re forcing them to be homeschooled…they are at least as sold on the idea as my husband and I are!

Do you think that your kids will be prepared for “life after” their k-12 education? (Not that public school does a great job of this – this is something that swirls in my head. I wonder if you wonder about it too.)


The amount of time I spend worrying about this is somewhere right around nil. I sometimes worry about other aspects of homeschooling (Am I doing enough to help them love learning? Am I making this knowledge practical and lively?), but I am absolutely confident that my children will be ready for life after high school.

Mostly, my confidence stems from seeing that my siblings and I have all been well-prepared, as have my homeschooled friends, relatives, and acquaintances. We’ve done well at college, in the workplace, in our churches, and in our neighborhoods.

Of course, there are some homeschoolers who are dorky and socially inept, and they probably aren’t going to do that well in real life. But, some people are just going to be dorky and socially inept no matter where they go to school (and kids who are that way will probably be much less miserable at home!), and anyone who’s been to school knows that socially inept people don’t only exist in homeschools.


As a footnote, I’d like to offer up this list of famous homeschooled people. Without formal, traditional education, these people were able to accomplish amazing things. While I know that traditionally schooled people have also accomplished amazing things, reading over this list gives me great confidence that homeschooling is not going to have a detrimental effect on my children. And more than that, I personally am quite confident that homeschooling is going to give them a solid education and will prepare them well for life after school.

If you’re interested, here’s some information on the studies that have been done on homeschoolers. If you’ve got any to add, do leave a link in the comments!

Eric Study

HSLDA’s list of studies

Statistics from the Ray Study on homeschoolers

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Friday 28th of October 2011

Your thoughts on homeschooling are interesting to me. In particular, the part about how homeschoolers have to figure things out on their own. That's a great skill to have! I was a TA/instructor for chemistry for a few years, and it was fascinating to me how many of my students seemed incapable of figuring out basic things on their own (I realize chemistry can be complicated, and I don't fault anyone for having difficulty with it, but a lot of students seemed to stop immediately when they got stuck. They wouldn't do an internet search or look in their book if they had a specific problem that seemed to get them difficulty). Independent learning is a great skill to have, and I am glad your children are learning to learn on their own.


Wednesday 13th of July 2011

My DH and I are thinking about homeschooling when we have children, and I am always surprised by the questions about how I will understand the material well enough to teach it. I think that if you did well in high school or even college that it should be easy enough to explain what needs to be explained and let them learn on their own, like you said. I mean, during college I have graded homework assignments for classes I have already taken (and other students tutor classes they did well in) you don't really seem to need a teaching degree to explain the questions they did wrong or where they are stuck. I suppose it really depends on the parent, but my DH and I are both fairly intelligent and like to read and learn - so if I didn't feel I knew enough about something to teach it, it seems that I could learn ahead of time with a book and the internet (or from asking my DH, as our academic strong points are in different areas).


Thursday 10th of June 2010

Jill S--

Regarding question 2: YES! There are scads of public and private scholarships out there-- especially academic scholarships-- that are largely untapped. I went to a community college, and there are a plethora of transfer scholarships as well (these cover the last 2 years of your bachelor's). The financial aid department of any college or university is usually more than willing to help students explore their scholarship options. The payoff for doing a little scholarship research is enormous.

As for question 3: There are a lot of options. Some homeschool families issue their own non-accredited diplomas (which is as legitimate as many Christian schools' diplomas). Some students take the GED, although there is a "high school dropout" stigma attached to that. I think the most common option is to just take the SAT. A high SAT score is much more impressive to colleges than whether a student has an accredited diploma. My personal experience was none of these. I attended community college as a high school student and earned my Associate's degree before I technically "graduated" high school. No state university even asked for my SAT score or high school diploma because I had a high GPA and an A.A. degree.

Your questions don't sound dumb! Kudos to you for doing research and educating yourself while your son is still young. There are many benefits to homeschooling, but one thing is certain-- its success or failure rides entirely on the parents' commitment and sacrifice. It's not an easy job and I'm so grateful to my mom for making my education a priority in her life. :-)

Jill S

Thursday 10th of June 2010

Okay, so I am a little late asking this but I have a couple of questions I am hoping someone can answer for me about homeschooling;

1. My son is 8 months old, at what point do I start getting ready for homeschooling and how do I even go about that?

2. Can children who are homeschooled still apply for scholarships for college?

3. When you are a homeschool graduate - do you get a GED or a diploma?

My questions might sound dumb but I honestly do not know much about homeschooling. (Maybe someone already answered this in the comment section but there were so many that I just skimmed some so I apologize in advance if someone already answered one of these).



Tuesday 8th of June 2010

I worked with college freshmen and see many of the challenges that students may face when transitioning from high school to college. (Most of the students I advise come from public high schools.) I also have a young son and often think about how we want to raise him to be successful in life. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I am approaching it with a more open mind.

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