The traditional public, private and charter school education options don’t always work for every child or family. For some parents, the advantages of homeschooling beat out its brick-and-mortar alternatives.
When Christina Strickland and her family were living in Florida, her eldest daughter attended public school. She bussed out early in the morning to a school about 45 minutes away, and didn’t get home until quarter to 5 p.m.
“It was a really great school, but it just kind of bothered me that she spent so much time away,” Strickland, now living in Rochester Hills, says. “By the time she came home she didn’t have time for friends, she didn’t have time for Brownies, she didn’t have time for ballet or anything like that.”
Strickland pulled her first child out of public school in first grade and she says the method ended up being a great fit for both of her kids, now 16 and 20. Her eldest went on to build her own business at 15, something Strickland says she wouldn’t have had time to do going to school in the traditional way.
Advantages of homeschooling
There are many reasons families may decide to homeschool, from religious needs, or feeling like the conventional school model isn’t a good fit for your family, Strickland notes. Strickland is the original founder of the website Homeschooling in Detroit and founder and editor of Modern Homeschool Family, both full of resources and information for fellow homeschoolers.
When it comes to homeschooling, she says, “It’s personal for everybody.”
The very definition of homeschooling means children are taught at home. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 3 percent of the nation’s children 5-17 years old were homeschooled in 2011-12. There are various methods depending on the curriculum and approach the parent teaching their kids wants to use.
For Amber Quesenberry, a mom of four in Rochester Hills, one of the advantages of homeschooling is that she is able to teach each individual child based on his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and work the curriculum around the kids’ interests or what they already know. At 3 years old, she knew her eldest son, already reading, was “marching to his own beat,” which is why she originally started homeschooling. Plus, all of her children “learn very differently,” Quesenberry notes.
If her kids need extra attention from her on a certain task, the others will work on a quiet, individual project. She says with her youngest two, ages 1 and 3 at the time of her interview with Metro Parent, she isn’t “pushing anything on them.” With her other, older children being in homeschool, they are able to learn through reading to and working with their younger siblings.
The homeschool schedule is flexible, too – another one of the benefits of homeschooling. In Quesenberry’s home, school is complete by lunchtime, (sometimes, math is done in pajamas, something the family calls “pajama math”). Then, afternoon is open for different activities like play – and the family doesn’t have to worry about homework.
“My kids have a lot more freedom. They get a lot more play time and they get a lot more physical activity,” she explains, adding, “We get a lot of time as a family.”
For Strickland, the family time was a huge benefit of homeschooling. In the beginning of their homeschooling journey, Strickland’s husband worked in construction, meaning he was busy with work during the summertime. That’s when the kids did their schooling instead, so the family could spend time together during the winter months.
Additional advantages of homeschooling
By her senior year of high school, Strickland says her daughter was a highly independent learner.
“She has received so many compliments on how well she was prepared for college compared to her public school counterparts because she has the ability to study independently,” Strickland says.
Those unfamiliar with homeschooling tend to be concerned about socialization, Strickland says. The first question people ask Quesenberry is, “Well how do your kids socialize?”
One of the facts about homeschooling that parents might be interested to know is that there are tons of opportunities for homeschool kids to make friends and join sports and clubs. The Homeschooling in Detroit website was created to share local events for homeschoolers, she says. Strickland also works for Homeschool Connections in Michigan, a program through which first- through 12th-grade students can sign up for various classes depending on their needs or interests. The classes are taught by teachers, and can be taken individually or in a full-day schedule, Strickland explains. Families can check out the events and field trips through Homeschool Connections, too.
As for social skills, Strickland and Quesenberry note that in traditional school, kids are grouped with others their age. With homeschooling events and activities, age groups are mixed, which is similar to everyday life, Strickland says.
“That’s the thing that I don’t think people see is that I’m taking my kids to the grocery store when other kids are in school. We learn so much there,” Quesenberry says, noting even here they’re interacting with people. “They’re learning all the time, and that’s what I love the most about (homeschooling).”
Learning in homeschooling is a constant, she explains. “It’s not from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s an all day, every day thing.”
At first, Strickland admits homeschooling can be intimidating. “The first thing I would say is take a deep breath.” She explains there’s no right or wrong way to homeschool, and if something isn’t working for you, there’s flexibility to try something new.
“Don’t compare your homeschool to others (and) what works for other people,” Strickland says.
It can be a challenge to get everyone on task at first, too, adds Quesenberry, so organization is key. “You really have to have a good schedule that you follow if you’re going to do it this way.”
Where to start
Now knowing the advantages of homeschooling, parents looking for more information on how to get into homeschooling can find a lot online. There are plenty of free homeschooling resources, such as Strickland’s website Modern Homeschool Family.
To find out the specifics about homeschooling in the state of Michigan, visit the Michigan Department of Education’s website.
“The thing I hear the most from my friends is that, ‘I could never do it, I don’t have enough patience,'” Quesenberry says. “It takes one kind of ‘ah-ha’ moment to be there with your kid to motivate you to have the patience.”
Her advice to other parents asking, “Should I homeschool my child?” “If they have the inclination to give it a shot, be patient with yourself, (and) be patient with your kids.”
This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.