This is a list of things we wish were not true, but they are. These are unpleasant but need to be said. I think every homeschooling family discovers these same truths, eventually.
Money makes things easier.
It’s true. You can make things yourself and homeschool for nearly free, but it is hard work. Digging up library books. Writing your own lesson plans. Creating crafts from popsicle sticks after you eat the popsicles. Those can be done but take a lot of mental and physical energy.
Going ahead and spending money on quality curriculums, kits, and manipulatives makes life much easier. It really is easier to buy all the books, craft supplies, and whatever else your child will need for the year upfront. It is a little more effort to buy them as you need them and requires more planning. However, the most planning and effort are required when you are trying to do things as inexpensively as possible. Hours of stalking the local library or asking friends to borrow books can be exhausting.
You can save money by finding used items, but even that can backfire. I have purchased various used items over the years that ended up having missing pieces or other issues that meant that they were not the good investment I was hoping for. But sometimes, books are books, and my family has used a ton of second-hand books in our homeschool.
Unfortunately, if you have the money to just buy the things you need without thinking hard about it, it really does make homeschooling easier. Just this week, I ordered the manipulatives to go with the math curriculum my child needed to start. I thought hard about them. I mean, they don’t look that impressive. But I know from experience, teaching the lesson with the blocks the teacher’s book calls for will be easier on me and my student than trying to force something else to work.
Homeschooling more kids IS harder.
Yes, lots of homeschool families homeschool 3, 4, or more kids. No matter what anyone tells you, homeschooling more kids is more challenging, and teaching fewer is easier. It is easier to lesson plan for one kid. It is easier to take one child to a museum. It is easier to afford the fancy curriculum for just one child. And when you homeschool multiple kids, even if they do lots of work together, you still need to teach each one phonics and math individually.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t advantages to larger families. When kids have siblings, they have someone to do projects with. They have a naturally built-in lab partner. They have a friend to play with at the park or during recess. Siblings are great! Until the kids are fighting and you are wondering how to send them to the principal’s office for fighting.
I salute all of you homeschooling multiple kids. I have 3, and when the oldest graduated and I got to start only homeschooling 2, it was a real load off my week.
You can’t teach everything.
When I started out homeschooling, I believed I could do far more than was reasonable. Now, I realize that there are things it is important to outsource. While I can be my child’s teacher, I can’t teach everything, and I don’t want to be their therapist. Sending my kids to OT or PT instead of trying to do it myself was essential to their success. I might know what they should do, but it isn’t good for our relationship for me to make them do everything.
I also realized that outsourcing physical education to dance teachers, coaches, and swim instructors was essential to my sanity. I might know how to do those things, but the beauty of hiring someone to do them is that my kids get better instruction and I get a break. Lessons like singing and piano are other ones that are great to outsource.
Over the years my kids have participated in various co-op classes and had a wide range of experiences that let them try new things that I did not teach. It made their educations richer and more interesting. It also let me focus on teaching fewer subjects at home.
What you need to outsource may not be the same as what I need to. I just want you to know that it is okay to not do it all. You are amazing, but you don’t have to be amazing at everything.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.