Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
If you have homeschooled for any length of time or were homeschooled yourself, you may find that you have some unpopular homeschool opinions. Opinions that don’t align with the dominant school of thought are often discouraged from the public discourse. And of course, the problem is, people end up feeling alienated when their experience doesn’t line up with the ideal.
A quick introduction before I share my unpopular opinions. My name is Sarah. My husband and I have 9 kids ages 5 to 20. We were foster parents for 8 years and adopted 3 children during that time. We have homeschooled for 15 years and have used public, private and hybrid options along with a variety of homeschool options as well. I was homeschooled for several years…almost 40 years ago during my own school years and know others that were homeschooled as well. I was the director of homeschool co-op for 6 years and regularly consult with families who homeschool as well as formerly homeschooled students.
I absolutely love homeschooling and the unique opportunities that it has given to us as a family. But over the years of our own homeschooling journey, (and my own time homeschooling), I have met MANY people who chose to stop homeschooling, wished they could homeschool, hated homeschooling, liked homeschooling for the younger years and much more.
But also during that time I have run into controlling or dogmatic language in the homeschool community that leads to isolation, shame and quiet struggle.
The opinions below are my own. You will find that I say “may” a lot. That is because a large part of the struggle with homeschooling is the dogma that exists. Instead of it being a space for people to debate and engage on topics of education, it is often a space where “certain” topics can not be discussed. Of course, this is not always the case, but for someone who is struggling with homeschooling, that can feel very isolating and lonely.
10 Unpopular Homeschool Opinions
1. Homeschooling May Limit Opportunities For Some Kids
For many kids, school puts more opportunities under one roof than they have at home. The home environment for everyone is not equal. People do not have equal amounts of resources…time, education or parental involvement.
That means that some families do choose to homeschool but may have very limited finances or limited time to be involved in their child’s education. The child is HOME but they may or may not be learning much. Some students are inherently self-motivated and will dig in and learn from limited resources. But others do not.
Imagine a musically inclined child with no access to learning about any kind of music.
What about a physically active child who has no one to play with in a positive way.
What about a child who love math but has a parent who doesn’t understand it. Will their education be limited? Maybe
Of course homeschooled kids take music lessons and participate in sports and take lessons…but when they do, it requires a parent who is INVOLVED and has some disposable income. Very few interest-based activities are 100% free.
To blindly ignore the fact that these situations exist allows homeschoolers with ideal situations to continue to perpetuate the idea that homeschoolers have all the same opportunities as everyone else. The reality is…some do…and some don’t.
2. Homeschooling May Lead to a Poverty Mindset
My second unpopular homeschool opinion is that something about this lifestyle may lead to a poverty mindset.
Homeschooling itself may not directly lead to a poverty mindset, but the circumstances around homeschooling do. In many cases, homeschool families are single-income families. We all know that people live on wildly different amounts of money. Homeschool families reportedly spend $700 to $1800 per year per child.
If a family has limited finances, they may not have that much to spend. I know…because I was there. I have a large family and when opportunities came up that seem out of reach, the first words to slip out of my mouth were, “No…we can’t do that. We can’t afford it.” “We can’t afford it.” It seems innocent enough. But heard over and over through a child’s life as opportunities slip by, it can become a reminder that other people get to do cool things…but they do not.
They know they can’t afford it because they are homeschooled and their mom (or whoever) is choosing to stay home. So homeschooling becomes synonymous with lack.
Don’t get me wrong…you can do an amazing job homeschooling on limited finances. But sometimes the “we can’t afford it” mindset actually prevents creative thinking that might bring in extra income to allow for more opportunities.
In our case, we have a very average income. My husband is an RN. I stay home.
I used to say we couldn’t afford lots of things. But then we decided those words don’t belong to us…because we never wanted our kids to feel like growing up in a large family meant they couldn’t have amazing opportunities.
Ways We Have Paid for Amazing Opportunities
- Scholarships – Many opportunities have a least partial scholarships available.
- Jobs – All our kids get jobs around age 14. Here is why I think its good for teens to have a job.
- Tax Returns – we often use part of the tax return to pay for unique camps or leadership opportunities that are not affordable in our regular budget
My Favorite Homeschool Books!
3. An Elitist Homeschool Attitude Alienates Potential Educational Allies
Because of my own educational background (public, private, homeschooled, early college, public and private universities), I tend to take a step back when a whole group of people declares passionately that their flavor of education is “the best” and that if anyone chooses another way, they will fail and their children will be corrupted.
Here is the problem. There is no perfect form of education because there are no perfect people. We are all different and while homeschooling may be perfect for some families, there are extreme cases where children are actually physically, emotionally and educationally neglected while being homeschooled. Of course that is not the norm (at least not in my circle) but isn’t unheard of either.
The reality is, when we speak dogmatically about educational choices, it tends to shut down the conversation. We could be building bridges with families and educators in other environments but when the homeschool movement uses elitist language, it leaves no room for engaging discussion in other fields of education.
Homeschooling has a lot to offer parents who can’t or don’t want to educate their kids at home. Homeschooling reminds parents that they are the ultimate authority over their children’s education. This can be very empowering to a parent struggling with their current education situation. Conversely, when homeschooling isn’t working, is can feel very isolating because the homeschool movement has been so dogmatic about its position on education.
4. Shaming Non-Homeschoolers Hurts Relationships
Whether we are talking to someone who can’t homeschool or doesn’t want to homeschool, shaming their choice will not build a trusting relationship. When we build relationships where people can freely exchange ideas, it builds trust and we have the opportunity to learn things from each other. We don’t have to agree at the end of the day, but oftentimes we may learn something new that broadens on perspective on a topic.
As someone who was homeschooled and who has homeschooled for 15 years, I can say for sure that I have seen many people pivot in their education choices. Some families who started their kids in school pivot to homeschooling…and some homeschoolers pivot to school. If you have spent years shaming school…and find that you suddenly need it or want to use it, it is much harder to build bridges with that new support system.
5. A Flexible Approach to Education Leads to Better Relationships
One thing I love about homeschooling is the way it empowers parents to understand their authority over their children’s education. As parents, we are the experts on our children. If we approach their education knowing that we are the authority…regardless of the location of their education, it can allow for different conversations to happen.
The hypocrisy of homeschooling comes when parents draw dogmatic lines in the sand on what “school-like” experience still qualifies as homeschooling. For example:
We all Agree …IT IS NOT HOMESCHOOLING if a child goes to school…
However…I want to focus on the degrees of separation in education…
- If a child does a co-op, is that really 100% homeschooling?
- What about a hybrid program…2 days a week..is that homeschooling?
- If a child takes a class or two at a public school…is it still homeschooling?
- If a child participates in school sports or band, is it still homeschooling?
- If a child goes to the career center, is it still homeschooling?
- What if they do early college and have all college professors, is it homeschooling?
- What if they participate in a co-op, do the career center and early college…is it still homeschooling (this is what my son did as a homeschooled senior)?
- I graduated from a public high school while only taking early college classes 25 years ago. There WAS NO DIFFERENCE between me and a homeschooled student at that point.
WHERE IS THE LINE? I would like to argue that truly homeschooling is about parents understanding their own authority. Yes, the state sees it differently. Yes there are logistics. Yes, there are laws.
But when you look at the experience of students in school…and many homeschoolers…especially in high school, calling one scenario public schooling and the other homeschooling does seem like word games in many situations.
6. Some people are harmed by their homeschool experience
I would say in most groups (not just homeschooling) it is unpopular to talk about the people harmed by a group or institution. Whether it is churches, businesses, or government agencies, people who are harmed are often disregarded.
I think this happens for a few reasons. First, sometimes the one harmed is partially at fault…and now they are playing the victim card. Second, the harmed population is very small and exists apart from education or institutions. (There are neglected public school kids and neglected homeschool kids… it’s a small percentage that is more correlated to income than education type). Third, leaders are busy leading. They don’t have time to sit down and talk to the marginalized. Fourth…dealing with angry people is messy so sometimes it’s easier to ignore them.
I hang out with people who feel harmed by their homeschool experience. I know people personally who became angry adults partially because of their homeschooled background.
As someone who was homeschooled, knows people harmed by their experience, and has homeschooled for many years, I am always aware that I need wisdom when it comes to raising each child. Each one is unique. As a parent, my goal is not only to educate them but also to help them find their voice.
In order to do that, they need to be able to talk about what matters to them…and it needs to be heard. At the end of the day, I want to have good relationships with my kids when they leave my house and that starts while they are living we me.
7. Struggling homeschool parents may feel pressured to continue even when their schooling is unhealthy
There are times when a homeschool environment may become unhealthy. Maybe mom is exhausted and just can’t do what she used to do to educate the kids. Maybe the kids are being asked to learn on their own but don’t have the tools to really understand. Maybe there is a lot of anger at home. Maybe finances are really tight and mom needs to go to work. There are an endless number of reasons it might feel like too much.
When that happens, parents who are part of a community with a lot of pressure to homeschool may feel like stopping would be sinful or bring shame from their community. Even though the home life is not good, they might feel they must continue out of obligation.
If this is you and you need someone to connect with, send me a message. It can be hard to walk alone when you are really struggling with a hard decision.
8. Allowing teens to talk about & potentially choose other education options can lead to healthy discussions
Like I mentioned in a previous point, during the teen years, it can be a fine line between what is considered “going to school” and homeschooling. It can be very empowering for a teen to be allowed to voice their opinions, especially on sensitive topics where there is likely to be disagreement.
Encouraging teens to think, research and actively participate in planning their education in high school is really just a precursor to what needs to happen for them to launch as successful adults.
Often times the process of researching can reveal other options no one knew about that are a much better fit. Allowing teens to discuss “off the table” options is what leads to research and even better conversations.
9. Homeschooling Should Not Be Done at Any Expense
I do not believe homeschooling should be done at any expense. The homeschool world is rift with stories of families choosing homeschooling over extreme financial difficulty, their marriage, opportunities, and friendships. Every home and homeschool is different.
There are some homeschool leaders who will say that you should homeschool at any cost. I used to buy into that thinking until the Lord made it very clear I should send my son to a private school and He would pay the bill. Honestly, until I had reached a place of complete surrender on my kid’s education was He even able to talk to me about this.
As a follower of Jesus, one of the first prayers I prayed after my first son was born was, “Dear God, please don’t let us mess this up.” Only He knows the future and the plans He has for our children. Homeschooling can become an idol just like any other thing or idea. When we hold it closer than anything else, it can prevent us from receiving wisdom for our situation.
10. Homeschoolers Can Be VERY Judgmental
The homeschool movement has been built by men and women who have fought for educational freedom. Many of them have sacrificed huge amounts of time and convenience to ensure that we are able to continue educating this way in America. I’m sure it is very difficult to fight for something so valuable and have people disregard the sacrifice.
However, in the homeschool movement where people have worked so long and hard, there can be a lot of judgment when parents are trying to figure out the best option for their family. In some homeschool groups, if a parent asks a question about school, they are shut down. If someone answers a question and mentions school, the post is deleted. There are constant reminders in some groups that this is a place ONLY for homeschool questions.
I think this is a missed opportunity because homeschool advocates have a wealth of knowledge earned over MANY years and newbies don’t have any. How can they learn when people are constantly shutting down the conversation? Also, each family takes a unique education journey, and feeling supported as they figure things out should be a goal.
Of course not all homeschoolers are judgmental. Many are more than willing to share what they have learned about other opportunities, but once you have experienced the judgment, it is hard to forget!
11. Homeschooling Can Be EXHAUSTING for moms and dads.
Homeschooling is a 24/7 job. You don’t do school 24 hours a day but your children and their needs are in your space 24 hours a day. That can be exhausting. I feel like this is often minimized in the homeschool community. Sure there are things you can do to give yourself a break. But when that isn’t enough, it’s hard to know where to get support.
I have observed many homeschoolers leaning into paid drop-off programs simply to get a break. There is no shame in that. I use those too. But I have had many conversations with moms who don’t feel the personal freedom to use those programs. They feel like they will miss their child’s childhood…or that they SHOULD be with their kids 24/7. Or it might simply be their finances…they don’t have the money to pay for a break…or a support system to help them out.
When someone begins homeschooling, it should not be sugar-coated how exhausting it can be.
It can be exhausting to have a new baby and toddlers. It can be exhausting to have teens that are not motivated. It can be exhausting if your house is a disaster…or if you need to serve and clean up 3 meals a day!
12. Homeschooling Can Not Be Done Well For FREE…Long Term
I’m sure there will be people that disagree on this, but I would argue that homeschooling really cannot be done for free long term. It is of course possible to do the early grades with library books. Some people argue that they can just print worksheets or use notebooks…but that stuff isn’t free. (Have you priced ink and paper lately?)
Planning to homeschool with the FREE mindset really does a disservice to homeschooling in my opinion. A budget, even a small one, allows a family to choose resources that fit them best. If you homeschool for free, you wait until someone gives you something that works…or hope you find something at the library. This is difficult for things like Math and handwriting. And science experiments will be very limited if FREE is the goal.
Many homeschool moms are superwomen when it comes to frugal spending…but trying to homeschool for free can be very time consuming. Even if you don’t spend a dime…your time is worth a LOT.
The biggest surprise of my homeschool journey came when my kids hit the teen years. EVERYTHING cost so much. Their textbooks cost money…and their classes and activities. Learning Physics on your own is very difficult….or upper level math. With no budget, the resources available to teens would not prepare them well for the next season which truly is a disservice to them.
It is wise to set a budget for homeschooling…even if you prefer to be very frugal…so that you have money set aside when opportunities or needs come along. For many years, I supplemented our budget by selling on Ebay and Amazon…this can be a great way to free up some income in the budget.
13. The End of Homeschooling Often Means a Loss of Identity
As someone who has homeschooled for a long time, I have watched an interesting pattern as people’s homeschool journey comes to an end. Those with an identity interwoven tightly with homeschooling, often struggle a bit when that journey comes to an end.
If you do your job well as a homeschool parent, eventually you won’t have that job anymore. Many women have set aside their own interests, education or employment to raise their kids and it can be a huge adjustment when homeschooling ends.
For me personally, I found that as most of my kids got older, I needed to start doing something just for me…to have a way to transition to more independence in the future. I don’t think its wrong that people have invested in homeschooling…but I have met many that wished they learned new skills while their kids were at home. I have met many who felt a little lost.
Let It Be OK to Say When Homeschooling Isn’t Working
One of the reasons I wrote this post is that when I had burnout a few years ago, I realized that I was operating in a way that tried to meet a bunch of unwritten rules and that there were a lot of forbidden topics around homeschooling. Well…maybe not forbidden…but no one was really talking about things and burnout happened because I didn’t really understand the beliefs that I was operating out of.
One of the greatest things we can do for other homeschool parents….and just for education in general…is to be honest about it when things aren’t working. That doesn’t mean quit homeschooling…just admit when adjustments are needed. Why? When we admit we need help, it allows others to support us. Our humility teaches our kids that is ok to ask for help and its ok to make changes. It shows our family that we care about them so much that we won’t just keep doing the things that don’t work…just to save face.