Skip to Content

Monday Q&A | The downsides of homeschooling

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

In the past, I’ve shared a photographic peek into our homeschooling days and I’ve also shared why I homeschool my kids. And a while back, someone (I forget exactly who!) left a comment or wrote an email asking what I think are the downsides of homeschooling, since I’ve posted about what I view as its advantages.

So, I thought I’d talk about that for today’s Q&A post.

First, I’d like to say that no educational method is perfect, and so the fact that I see any downsides to homeschooling doesn’t mean I think homeschooling is terrible. It just means that I’ve looked at the advantages and disadvantages of all the educational options, and I think the disadvantages of homeschooling are better for our family than the disadvantages of the other methods.

That was an awkward sentence, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.

Homeschooling is a lot of work for the parents, and typically, most of that work falls on the mom (though there are certainly some dads who homeschool full-time while the mom works outside the home.)

Sometimes, people looking in from the outside think, “Oh, wow! That must be luxurious to be able to stay home all week. I’d get so much done if I was a homeschooling mom.”

And I suppose that would be true were it not for the fact that homeschooling moms have to, um, homeschool. It would be awesome if I could spend my days getting caught up on stuff around here, but the fact is that school takes up a lot of the hours of my day.

While I am very convinced that homeschooling is the right choice for our family, I have no doubt that I’d have a lot more free time on my hands if I stayed home and sent them off to school.

And I will not lie…some days, homeschooling is really exhausting. But the advantages I see for my children keep me going when the going gets rough. It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not about me (so I remind myself!)

Homeschooling makes it a little hard to keep the house clean, because the heaviest mess-makers (the offspring) are home all.of.the.time. It’s sort of like shoveling snow in a constant snowstorm.

Homeschooling can be difficult for introverts, like myself, because again, there are people around all the time (which means I have to build some alone time into my days). It can also be a little tough for extroverts, but extroverted homeschooling moms can often remedy that by being involved with a homeschooling community.

Homeschooling is a lot of responsibility. Of course, parents of traditionally schooled children still need to be very involved in their children’s educations, but in a traditional school, you don’t have to be responsible for quite as much.

Homeschooling isn’t free. Of course, I do manage to do it pretty frugally, but it’s still more than $0 per kid. And if you count the loss of income from one parent staying home, the cost is more significant.

Homeschooling requires a lot of patience and self-discipline. Not everyone is well-equipped for the task, which is part of the reason I do not believe that homeschooling is a good fit for every family.

People ask homeschoolers about socialization approximately 289.5 times per year. That’s a joke, but seriously, people do question/criticize homeschooling because it’s different. Even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, some people will still insist on thinking that homeschooling turns out social misfits who cannot get into college, succeed in college, play sports, get a job, or be active in their communities.

Homeschooling could be hard for families with one child. Since there are four kids in our home, no one is ever really lacking for a playmate or companion, my kids have to learn to relate to other kids every day, and it’s kind of hard to be lonely. I could see where homeschool days with just one parent and one child could start to drag a bit, though, and I’d imagine that the parent of an only child would want to make a point of participating in a fair number of group activities.

Ok! That’s not an exhaustive list, and someone who is opposed to homeschooling could probably come up with a longer list. 😉 But those are the main difficulties I see with homeschooling.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss!


Joshua’s 365 post: I am addicted to editing software.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Monday 21st of September 2015

Though I have personally chosen to send my kids to public schools, I see major merits of home schooling. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Monday 28th of October 2013

We are thinking about homeschooling. I was told to find out the disadvantages but all the disadvantages I have found are more like advantages compared to the now situation. Great read, thank you!


Wednesday 10th of April 2013

Kristen, the more I read about homeschooling on your blog, the more I wish I could make the transition to homeschooling. I had a few questions. I know you have always homeschooled but do you know the steps one must take to switch a child out of public school into homeschool? Are there any legal requirements or yearly tests? Also, when the child reaches 16, would it be acceptable to go into a community college or something full time? The more I read about our public educational system in America, the more I see how it is failing. The region where I live I think they said about 75% of high school graduates need remedial classes in math and English. This makes me think that public school is a waste of time. I wish I knew where to start :(


Monday 8th of April 2013

I just wanted to throw my $0.02 in here. I was home schooled as a child. I was in a unique position because my 4 siblings were all 10+ years older than me, so I was pretty close to being an only child (it also made a gap between me and them because we have different dads). My siblings were all home schooled as well, though some for shorter periods than others. My mom (and for me my dad) gave us a choice (of course weighted on the parents' decision) of which we would like to do. Public or homeschooling. In junior high school, I wanted to try out public school, so the school nearby allowed me to join the last few weeks of the school year to see if I would want to go the following year. I went for a few weeks and hated it. I had grown up around adults and learned to be polite, kind, and gracious to people. Junior high had none of that. After that short enrollment, I went back to being home schooled until I was a junior in high school when I enrolled in classes at a community college to get my A.A. Now over 10 years later, I've got my B.A. and I'm living abroad (4 years in Japan!!). When I talk about education with the people around me, they are always shocked that I was home schooled. I actually used to be the anti-social, shy kid who couldn't talk to anyone. I even avoided eye-contact while speaking to someone and got nervous when someone approached me. I was the dork who wore black and people avoided, but now that's all behind me. I've been made a better person by my experiences. For my sister, she needed to go to public school in high school. It didn't work that way for me. I suppose this post isn't saying anything in particular, just giving an example of someone whose life greatly benefited from being home schooled. Now my husband and I are considering which we'd like to do for kids in the future. But it probably depends on each individual kid, our financial situation, my work situation, and a load of other factors. Sorry to take so much space, but thanks for the post!


Wednesday 27th of March 2013

Hi Kristen,

I appreciate and admire your ability to be so gracious in response to my post. You demonstrated a great effort to understand my point of view and maintain a respectful tone. I appreciate that!

I don't know if I would call my view "opposing," but I must admit I am sensitive to what I perceive as a superior attitude from many home school families. And I may have read some of that into your post when it wasn't there and I apologize for that. It is understandable that home school families are generally passionate about their choice to educate their children at home, otherwise, why would they devote themselves to the effort with so much of their time and for so many years? As I mentioned, I know numerous homeschool families (more than 50% of our church has home schooled kids and our church supports a co-op), and many of them have fabulous kids and are doing wonderful jobs raising them.

What I was trying to express (in an inartful way) was that there is an inevitable unspoken and possibly unconscious tension between homeschooling families and schooled families. As much as it's popular to say "I respect each family's choice" it probably isn't completely true.

The homeschool/school divide is not nearly as clear-cut or widespread, but it has some resemblance to and reminds me in some ways of the much talked about "mommy wars." As you probably know, a recent survey by More magazine revealed that 90% of women perceive that working women and stay-at-home moms have negative feelings toward the other. Some might dispute this finding, but in my experience I believe it to be true.

I believe if you were to get the truth out of committed stay-at-home moms (including me), most would say that what they are doing is the best for their kids, that they wouldn't be spending their life doing this work if it wasn't much more important to the long-term well being of their children than devoting themselves to a career. Conversely, if you gave truth serum to committed career women (not including moms who work out of financial necessity or part-time, but those who are very driven and oriented to their careers), many would say they find stay-at-home moms a throw-back to a time when women were stuck in subservient roles and had no other options, and present a poor role model for girls to aspire to. That's not what people really say, though. The politically correct language is "it's a choice and I respect everyone's choice." I guess that nugget of what I perceive to be true also with the school issue what I was digging for in my comments.

While you are correct that statistically homeschooled kids are a very small percentage of the overall U.S. population, I was referring to homeschooling's prevalence in the Evangelical Christian community, in which it is not only extremely widespread, but is large enought to have spawned its own mini industry, including cirriculum companies and numerous conferences all over the United States.

And finally, I'll respond to your correct comments about homeschooling kids doing better, on average, on standardized tests than the average public school student. I don't dispute that, but it is worth mentioning that there is a huge (and tragic) swath of this country that leaves high school barely literate (or never completes hight school). These young people are generally poor, urban and enter school with severe disadvantages that are only exacerbated by poorly run schools. So it doesn't seem to me to be a very strong argument for the virtues of the academics of homeschooling to compare it to the average American student's test scores. Maybe comparing similar demographics--parental education level and income, which has proven to be, unfortunately, the best predictor of student achievement--would be a fair comparison.

But truthfully, I don't want to get into comparisons, b/c I know that all the homeschooled kids have parents that care enough about their kids to even endeavor to educate them themselves. I was really just commenting about test-taking skills and that there is some value in that.

It is true that my observation about test aversion is anecdotal and I have no good argument to defend that point. I just have concerns about many families I know (including close relatives of mine who home school) who I believe may be shortchanging their kids by not exposing them to testing until an older age, which in a few kids has produced great anxiety around the testing process. It sounds like you are approaching this issue very sensibly. There is no question that my public schooled kids spend way too much time on standardized tests. It is a ridiculous waste of time. They only need a little exposure to it.

Thanks for responding to my comments. You set a good example in your blog in general of a loving Christian woman and your response to my critical comment was no exception.


Friday 6th of December 2013

I am glad I found this post. I am a teacher. I am a Christian. My son attends public school. The rest of my family homeschools. You can not imagine the number of snarky articles, laying claim to the superiority of homeschooling, I see in facebook posts of people that I love. It is very hurtful. I started researching today, trying to understand the perspective of my family members. On multiple ocassions, I have felt that my choices were not honored by my family members who select to homeschool. I know that many people do not homeschool for religious reasons, but many do. My challenge to the Christian homeschool community, especially those who blog, is to review their writing to be sure it reflects their faith. We are accountable for our words. Here, I think you have demonstrated good character with your words. However, more often than not, the post that I see are complaints about people not honoring the choice to homeschool that seek some sort of resolution by claiming it is the silver bullet of education. Oddly, those posts don't make me feel like my choices are honored.


Thursday 28th of March 2013

I'm sorry you've been hurt in the past by things homeschoolers have said! I think you're right in that it does have some similarities to the mommy wars. We who homeschool feel criticized by people who don't (Just recently, someone who knows I'm a homeschool graduate and that I homeschool my children told me that homeschooling was only a good choice when the family has a schedule that's very unusual or when a child has disabilities!) and people who don't homeschool feel criticized by people who do.

When I talk about education here, I try really, really hard to keep it positive and not negative because I really don't think negativity gets us anywhere helpful. If I make my point in an offensive way, no one will be receptive to what I say, and where's the sense in that?

I do sincerely and honestly believe that parental involvement is THE educational hill to die on, which is why I am not willing to die on hills about educational methods.

Generally when I share about homeschooling, I'm not trying to persuade the naysayers to believe that homeschooling is superior. Really, I'd be happy if people just acknowledged that it is just as legitimate a choice as other schooling methods.

In that vein, what I was trying to point out is that though the test score statistics do not necessarily say that homeschoolers are doing better than statistically comparable public schoolers, they do prove that homeschoolers can indeed do well at tests. Scoring in the 84th and higher percentiles is a sign of competent test taking skills. If homeschooling produced statistically significant numbers of children who could not take tests, that would be reflected in the study results.

Again, I am NOT saying homeschoolers are necessarily better at tests...I'm just trying to point out that I believe the evidence shows that they are not, as a whole, at a disadvantage at test time.

Anyhoo...whether we choose homeschool, public school, private school, or whatever, we are the ones who can really help our children excel, and if we remember that, we'll all have more common ground to share. :)


Thursday 28th of March 2013

And CP: Regarding test-taking skills. My 18 year-old took the LSAT's as a college senior. I do think that he was slightly disadvantaged at taking them since his exposure to standardized testing was close to nil. Nonetheless, he triumphed, and entered law school at age 19. Two years later, he's doing really well and may graduate early.


Thursday 28th of March 2013

I want to add this link because I think people misunderstand who is homeschooling and why. We are a 'mixed family' with advanced degrees in law and medicine, so this article caught my eye:

I started homeschooling in response to a crisis with my oldest child. After a few years of enrolling him in Montessori school, we decided to switch him to public school only to discover a major misalignment in curricula. We started out thinking we would homeschool for a year, and then put him in public school. What we discovered is we loved homeschooling. For me, it was an improvement over tons of driving, volunteering at the school, teach conferences, funding committees, etc. For a while, we were probably obnoxious converts, who gushed a bit too much. We finally settled down, and came to the conclusion that 'different strokes for different folks' was totally true when it came to educational decisions. I have seen successes and failures in both homeschooling and public school students.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.