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  • Pitfalls of Homeschooling – and How to Avoid Them

    No method of schooling is without its faults and despite so many positive aspects, even homeschooling has some areas of possible weakness that parents should be aware of. After all, nothing in life is perfect since we live in a fallen world! However, most of these negatives can just as easily become positives, so it is important to know how to handle each pitfall and not simply use their existence as an excuse to reject homeschooling without serious consideration.

    Hard to find friends

    This is an area that we have certainly struggled with at some point with each of our children. However, for both our children, the struggle to find good friends has been a blessing in that it has been an opportunity to show them God's concern for even the “little things.” I will never forget the time I checked on our then five-year-old son, who was taking an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom after his shower. When I opened the door, he seemed dejected and defeated. I could see he had written something on the bathroom mirror in the steam and upon further investigation, discovered that it said, “I will never have a friend.” I knew at that moment that this area needed to become a priority! So, we prayed about it together and I promised him that God would find him a true friend because God answers prayer. Within a matter of weeks, I met a lady (who is now a dear friend of mine) who had a son just a few months older than mine. I shared the story with her and she immediately wanted to make sure they got to have some play dates together. Today, they are best friends!

    Last year, our seven-year-old daughter struggled with the same issue. After a heartfelt cry, I held her in my arms and shared the story of her older brother's search for a friend and then we prayed about it. A few days later, she had her first friend spend the night and she was so excited to get to know her better! The other little girl had also been struggling with trying to form friendships, so it seems that God had led them to each other. The fact that her mother and I have been involved in organizing homeschooling activities together makes the friendship even nicer, as we moms also benefit by being able to spend more time together. Both of us are so happy to see our daughters enjoying one another's company.

    Homeschooling may make finding friends a little more of a challenge, but in the end, it is worth the effort because the friendships they form will be lasting ones that they will never take for granted. It is also a great faith-building opportunity for young ones to see how God cares for every aspect of their lives.

    All responsibility is on the parent

    Whether you choose to send your child to a traditional school or teach him or her at home, ultimately we are all responsible as parents for our children's schooling. However, the weight of that responsibility is certainly felt more by those who choose to personally take on the task of teaching in the home. Perhaps this is because often more blame is laid on the homeschooling parent whose children do not become “successful,” than is laid on the parent who simply turns them over to a traditional school. We see the teacher himself, be it the parent or the traditional teacher, as being responsible for the outcome when in reality God lays the full responsibility of education on the parents alone. But, this is a topic in and of itself!

    Having sole educational responsibility as a homeschooling parent is both a positive and a negative. Responsibility goes hand in hand with freedom. But freedom can lead to laziness or disorderliness in both parents and students. In a traditional school, there is a structure and a process of accountability. If a teacher is not performing adequately, there are certain immediate consequences that result. Job security or pay may be in jeopardy. However, the “parent teacher” may not see direct results for some time. It is easy to think, “Well, we can pick that up next year.” But do that for too many years in a row and you may one day realize that you've raised a child who is unprepared for God's will in his or her life.

    On the other hand, the flexibility of being able to put off some learning until later is also a great benefit. Can we really expect that all children are going to develop exactly the same? Should every second-grader be able to read? Should every fourth-grader be ready for multiplication? To assume that all brains develop exactly the same seems presumptuous. I once heard of a homeschooling mother whose fifth-grade child still did not know how to read. (Can you just hear the gasps of horror)? However, that same child is today a successful engineer. He learned to read when his brain was ready to learn because his patient mother had the wisdom to research this and have faith in her decision to wait. Had this child been in a traditional school, I shudder to think of the labels that would have been attached to him, leaving him feeling a failure when in fact, he was very intelligent but simply did not learn to read when most teachers would deem it time. The flexibility of being able to “put it off another year” was a huge benefit for this child.

    Flexibility in the homeschool may also mean skipping some teaching entirely. Certainly, some of the so-called education in public schools is nothing more than time-wasting, at best, and indoctrination, at worst. Even Christian schools may have some requirements that you as the parent do not deem best for your particular children. If God is clearly leading the educational path in a certain direction, the parent needs to have the flexibility to follow in faith. Every child is an individual, unique in his or her educational needs and life calling. Having sole responsibility of the education of your children is a major benefit in this respect, as long as it is not taken lightly.

    Easy to become “sheltered”

    Because homeschooling can take a good amount of time and since much of that time is in the home, a homeschooling parent can make the mistake of allowing his or her children to become disconnected from the world around them. This is not necessarily bad in some ways. I, for one, do not care whether or not my children know who Lizzie McGuire and Justin Bieber are. Nor do I care whether or not they have two silly bands or 200. Having them in my home each day allows me to decide what I will expose them to and what I will protect them from. I believe this is my duty as a Christian parent.

    However, that said, I do think we are also training our children to be salt and light to a lost world. If they stare blankly at an unsaved friend who asks them what movies they like, then the problem of relatability may be a hindrance to any witnessing opportunities. The beauty of homeschooling is not that parents are able to completely isolate their children from any knowledge of the world, but that they are able to filter all knowledge of the world through their own biblical world-view before exposing their children to it. Having your children in the home for the majority of their education provides more opportunities for this monitored exposure. Parents, rather than the school or friends, have control of the training.

    No Parent-Teacher conferences to highlight child's weaknesses

    One advantage of homeschooling is that since we spend the majority of our days with our children, we have more opportunity to see them in their element, interacting with others. However, as with any parent, it can be easy to see our children as perfect angels and become blind to their faults. Those who school are regularly reminded of their children's shortcomings and failures (at least the ones the teacher is concerned about) because any time their “angel” steps out of line, a note is sent home or a meeting is scheduled. And of course, the regular parent-teacher conferences are also of great benefit in this aspect. Homeschooling does not naturally provide this outside perspective, so this is definitely a detriment that needs to be addressed and overcome.

    Overcoming this seeming disadvantage is certainly not impossible if you are consciously working to avoid it. Family meetings can be one great way to take stock of problem areas on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis, depending on what works for your family. Knowing a meeting will take place at a specified time will help to make the parents more conscious of taking note of consistent problem areas in their children's lives and will make the children more aware of their behavior, as well. Another great idea is to get together regularly with a small group of trusted friends with the express purpose of challenging one another in this area and having somewhat of a “parent-teacher” conference of your own. Hearing the perspective of those who are outside of your family can be very revealing and beneficial and this is a great way to create a safe environment where everyone benefits. Ground rules can be set up so that everyone understands what is expected and feelings are not hurt.

    Homeschooling is a huge responsibility that must be met with sobriety, but also with confidence in the calling. Being aware of the pitfalls and knowing how you will handle them is a major step to building that confidence. And we must always remember that God does not call us to something that we cannot accomplish with His help! Knowledge and faith will carry us through.
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