Most families choose to homeschool over concerns about issues such as school safety, academic standards, and government mandates, but there are some additional, perhaps less obvious benefits, to homeschooling including some things you could just never do in a brick and mortar school.
1. Work one-on-one
We have three kids but they each get one-on-one attention every day when we are homeschooling. Most teachers at brick and mortar schools make a special effort to give as much individual attention as they can, but it is unrealistic to achieve daily one-on-one time. As a homeschooler, your child can have your undivided attention whenever necessary.
2. Allow the kids to eat, drink or listen to music
Admittedly, there are brick and mortar classrooms which allow for these kinds of perks at least occasionally, but not typically. If math is an especially challenging subject for your student, perhaps you allow them to make their favorite hot drink when it comes time for math. If you ask them to manage some independent learning time while you work with one of the other kids, that could be a good time to allow them to play some approved background music. The ability to individualize is one of the great benefits of homeschool and it comes in a variety of forms.
3. Choose your calendar
As the director of your school, you choose which days of the week to go to school, if and when there will be holiday breaks and whether you will school year-round or take a summer break. You may find you get much higher quality effort from your student when they take Wednesdays completely off. Does someone at your house have a non-traditional work schedule? Who says you have to school on the same days every week? Spring break might need to be seventeen days so you can complete some hands-on learning opportunities in Grand Canyon National Park. You know your family and what you mean to accomplish. The schedule is yours to control.
4. Choose your environment
You may find there are days you are sick of the same four walls. No problem. You are homeschooling. We have had a class at local parks, cafés, a friend’s house, and hotel rooms. Your school travels at will. You can sense when a change of scenery might improve the effort. Perhaps after a solid week of work, you decide to reward your kids with outside school or completing some science over scones. It is totally up to you.
5. Take as long as you need, but not longer
Your student determines the pace of learning at your school. If your student needs to spend three weeks on a concept that takes other students three days, that is ok. If your student can complete a math lesson in fifteen minutes, why take fifty? We often complete the year’s curriculum at different times in the spring. History work may be done, but four more weeks of math may also be in order.
6. Spontaneous field trips.
Yes, your brick and mortar school will have field trips, but yours can occur at a whim. You can take advantage of community events or museums. You could attend a session of the state legislature based on the schedule of bills being debated. We have enjoyed some pretty small crowds on some of our field trips based on being able to go out in the middle of the week or off-season.
7. Avoid “the clothes” conundrum.
Getting dressed for school is a quintessential morning struggle. Not so with homeschooling. Thankfully, you can avoid having to help your teenager keep up with the latest trends in fashion. There will be no discovering at 6:15 AM your clean pile doesn’t include the requisite khakis to meet the uniform code. The dress code is up to you.
8. Change the curriculum as necessary
You might get three months into Singapore math and realize it just is not for you and your math student. Financial considerations and any unique state requirements aside, you do have nearly infinite flexibility when it comes to making sure you have the right approach to a subject. Homeschooling continues to grow at such a rapid rate, there are also lots of buy/sell/swap opportunities online for curriculum as well.
9. Leave room for a break or a breakdown
Being a student involves a wide range of emotions. There will inevitably be times when the challenge gets the best of us or we just need to walk away for a few minutes. As the parent, you generally know when it is time to push through and when breaking for lunch or a walk will refresh the opportunity. No one at the brick and mortar school down the street is going to be able to accommodate that kind of flexibility.
10. Decide what time of day to learn
Do you ever worry your kids are not getting enough sleep? Do you find your own productivity takes a dive after lunch? Your child may be twice the student in the afternoon compared to the morning. You may be twice the teacher after that 10:00 AM cup of coffee. Take advantage. We often try to tackle new concepts when we are at our best and allow for more independent learning time or review when we are not quite at our best.
These opportunities might not be the driving force behind your decision to homeschool, but you will likely find this flexibility enhances learning in several ways. Enjoy being masters of your domain.
Nathan Manley is a certified teacher and coach with a master’s degree in education. He has taught multiple subjects, every age group, and from Jamaica to California. Between his three children, his family has experience with public school, private school, charter schools, hybrid programs, and full-time homeschool. He aspires to be half the teacher his homeschooling wife has become.