Homeschooling: Why we stuck with it

Homeschooling: how we began

(As you read this, please know I am not dissing other school options or proclaiming homeschooling as THE answer for everyone.  I know successful adults who have come from every type of school setting.)

That first year of homeschooling, we charged into the school year with great excitement.   I bought desks at yard sales.   My husband made a chalk board for the family room wall.  We even had a flag.  Basically we were trying to recreate traditional school, right there in our family room.

The first year didn’t go badly– we went back for a second year, after all.  But looking back, I do think I made it harder than it needed to be. My girls were second grade and kindergarten– they didn’t need 7 subjects, and their momma certainly didn’t need the stress of trying to teach 7 subjects, especially the very first year. And our lovely classroom? Not really necessary. We quickly learned we preferred our kitchen table, the living room couch, and various bedroom floors.

We began homeschooling as an affordable way to effectively teach our kids in an environment that would not undermine our beliefs.  But as we settled in and found our groove, we found a host of other benefits.

Our kids developed close friendships with each other. We got to know them better, and to spend more time with them. We had the freedom to vacation whenever my husband could get time off. And — one of my favorites! — homeschooling mornings can move slowly if you desire. No racing and rushing to get kids out the door at a specific time.

Now that we are also homeschooling kids adopted at an older age, we are finding even more benefits. Yes, the teaching is more challenging, due to the need to teach English right along with fractions and nouns. But it allows lots of bonding time– super important when settling kids into a new family–and you can really personalize the teaching to the child’s needs.

I’m only human– there are days when I wish for a break from teaching. But now that our first two home school students are all graduated and grown up, we know homeschooling works.  Our 10th and 12 grade sons are doing well.  And we can very clearly see the benefits of homeschooling for our younger children as well, right down to our 4 year old who already knows lots of phonics from hearing older siblings being taught.  So we will carry on!


Do you have questions about homeschooling?  I’m planning one more post about homeschooling in the next week or two, and I’d be glad to take a shot at answering any questions you might have.


  1. I’d like to hear how you occupy little ones while you are teaching. I have two children; the younger one only joins in to be disruptive and to seek attention (or so it seems).

  2. I’d really like to know if you follow a certain curriculum and how you began with kindergarten. I really just don’t know where to start.

  3. Mary, I’d love to hear about how you taught reading–that feels the most daunting to me; I’m less worried about subjects (I teach in a public school myself) than I am about that.

    Also, I’m interested in hearing how your kids reflect back on their experiences. I imagine their capacity for self-reflection is a bit higher than the average public-schooled kid, and I’d like to know what they think about the choice. I’ve known so many kids who were grateful for it, but also a few who chose to do high school half time or attend public school starting at a certain age…

  4. I’m all for the dining room table, living room couch, bed, kitchen counter as the best homeschool classrooms going. I will look forward to reading your posts about homeschooling. I have always looked at it as the way we live our life rather than the way we school our children as we too have found many of the benefits that you have. I’m frustrated to know that if we are approved for foster parenting, we will not be able to homeschool him or her as I’m sure this style could really help him or her grow emotionally as well as educationally.

  5. I’m with you… on all of it. Especially the sibling friendships.

    For the reader asking about entertaining little ones, I think you have to get out of the mindset that school happens at certain times. Make it work for you. Play with your little ones first and then when they are otherwise occupied or napping, school can happen. Plus if you have a Kindergartener and a preschooler, there are a lot of activities you can do together.

    The best advice I received from an experienced homeschooling mom when I first started is RELAX!!! It isn’t supposed to be a traditional classroom. You don’t need to spend eight hours a day in workbooks.

    I took the advice and now it is going so well that I’m up to third grade and first grade and will start my third son with Kindergarten next fall.

    Another alternative for people who want to homeschool but are lost is a virtual school. Our state started one last year and it has worked really well for our family (plus it’s free). It wouldn’t be for everyone, but it was a great fit for us.

  6. my question is regarding the social stigma against homeschooling and your perspective on it. i am not necessarily concerned that much of other peoples’ opinions of me as i recognize values are different for each person and family. however, i am more concerned about my kids being made fun of/looked down upon because they are homeschooled. i think of places like sports, when/if they enter mainstream school, and even church where others may think of my kids as homeschool “weirdos” and not treat them as well.

  7. I am considering homeschooling but am leaning towards traditional schooling. We live in a super-great family-oriented community with a really great elementary school. Of course, we still wouldn’t have the level of bonding in home schooling, but I plan on working outside the home, so home schooling would be a bigger commitment to me (in addition to committing to schooling, I’d be committing not to work also). I’m actually -more- concerned about middle school. What do you think about moving kids in and out of “traditional” school? Like homeschooling elementary and then putting them in regular middle school, or the opposite? I also wonder how you keep everyone occupied, especially considering you have so many. In my case, I’d probably need to start schooling one, while still having another in pre-school age and another in diapers. I only have one right now, and he basically takes up all my time, especially when I even partially keep up with housework and cooking, etc. Does it get easier as they get older … or are you just that awesome?

  8. I think it’s a great task for parents who actively seek educating their children. I believe a lot of children could benefit since public schools are found to be wanting with their overcrowding, less educational resources, staff shortage, inflated rates of pay. Children deserve the best and praise to all parents homeschooling their children.

  9. We LOVE homeschooling!! for so many reasons its hard to pinpoint them all down at the same time! something that another commenter mentioned…about socialization…is one of the biggest reasons we home school. first of all…our kids have heard nothing but cries of envy from other kids (you don’t have to go to school!??)(you’re done school by lunch time??) but for us, something that really strikes a chord is that, where else in human culture…in a our many varied societies, do you find people segregated by age? how does it give our kids “real world preparation” to place them in a room with 1 teacher and 30 other kids of their own age when everywhere else in our lives we are in environments with people of all ages, learning not only from the “teacher” but also form those with more experience and through having the opportunity to be the more experienced one who gets to have a chance to “teach”. when I look at our broken society(and broken public school systems)…the crime, anger, hatred, bullying, fear, everything being over sexualized…the lack of attachment that seems to repeat itself over and over I think…this is exactly WHY we home school…because we want to show our children that there is more then the box that our culture tries to put them into!!

    (note: like you said at the top of your post….this is what works for us and I am not saying that this is the only way to go…just our experience and what fits for our family)

  10. Thanks so much for these posts!!! I’ll be homeschooling my oldest, Anna, beginning in about a month–she’s starting kindergarten. I’m so excited about it!

    What curriculum/methods do you use???

  11. Thank you for this post. I only have a toddler right now, but the idea of homeschooling has become very appealing to me. I appreciate learning about the specific “how-tos” of doing it. I wrote a post just today about why we spend time on learning activities at home, even at an early age. Thanks for this great post, I’ll definitely be back to read more of your posts!

  12. I love your perspective – thank you for sharing this. I think homeschooling would work so well for our family – I hope we are able to do it. 🙂

  13. Ooh, we get to ask questions, too! 🙂 Missed that part until I read back over the comments.

    People ask me all the time about ‘socialization’ – that’s my hubby’s main concern with homeschooling – and I truly think that traditional schools, where children are with their peers constantly, is more of a negative socialization, and being with your family is positive socialization. But do you also have to make sure your children are involved in many activities outside the home to make sure they’re growing properly socially? (If so, we are involved in church, and my husband works at a Christian camp/retreat center, and we’re often up there, so our children are exposed to many strangers and staff/friends on a weekly basis and home with me on the days in between – will this still be enough social connection when they’re of school age???)

    And, also, in NY state at this time, homeschoolers are not allowed to participate in school sports teams, which I know is something my husband will want for our children as they grow older – do you have any thoughts on this?

    Sorry this comment is longer than your post. 🙂

  14. I would be interested in hearing about the logisitics of homeschooling so many children at the same time. One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is the one-on-one attention you can give your child, but when you have eight kids to homeschool, how do you find enough time to work with each child individually?

  15. I, too would love to hear from your kids about why they like homeschool?

    Would you ever consider traditional school for your kids? If they wanted to pursue it?

    Curriculum? It seems so overwhelming to figure out how/where to begin!

  16. I think you might have opened the flood gates with your call for questions! We want to home school, we really do. Our oldest is just 4, and will probably attend 1/2 day kindergarten in the Fall just so we can say yes we’ve tried public school. Our second daughter is not yet a year, but we DO plan on having more kids. My only concern with homeschooling is the social aspect. Without ever facing a classroom of 30 kids, how will my children learn to cope with the fact that some people are mean, some people won’t like them, and that’s OK? How will they learn to cope and work with all kinds of people? It’s only the social-skill-set acquisition that I’m worried about.

  17. thanks so much for posting about homeschooling. It is very timely for me. I am homeschooling my daughter and we are doing kindergarten this year. I just feel so much stress and anxiety over the whole thing though! We did preschool last year and it was fun and relaxed, but I think because it’s KINDERGARTEN this year and I’ve got a curriculum to follow- it just seems so much bigger and scarier. My questions would be about how to keep little brother (who’s 2 1/2) occupied and how to overcome the self doubt!

  18. Hi, I’m a kid in high school who isn’t homeschooled, and I was wondering if you think homeschooling through high school would give children an advantage/disadvantage in applying to colleges?

    I was also wondering if your kids are able to be involved in band, orchestra, or sports teams with your local schools?

  19. not to inundate you with more questions, but here goes. My own experience with public school was absolutely horrendous and although I do not have kids right now, I am already questioning the public school culture. I am not completely sold on homeschooling either.

    Growing up I had several friends and relatives who were homeschooled at some point in their lives and yes, I did think that they were “weird” but I think that opinion was put into my head by my parents and teachers (and my parents are also teachers btw). They were probably trying to justify their own choice by judging others.

    I have to say that my impression of the homeschooled kids was that they seemed to be kind of immature to me -not sure how to explain it. I recognize that public school can cause a child to be jaded at a young age and maybe there was some of both going on there. How do you think that homeschooled kids maturity level stacks up against jaded public school kids?

    Also, going to public school is no guarantee that a person will be socialized. I went to public school and i am the most antisocial person in the world. Public school probably made that worse. Do your kids find it easy to make friends outside the family? Being from public school i can remember feeling “forced” to make friends with only people my age. And I have not remained friends with anyone that I went to school with, go figure. Sorry to ramble on here. I have so many questions i could never fit them all in here.

  20. I’d love to know how you did/do homeschool kids when they don’t speak english? We’re waiting on adopting two from Ethiopia, ages 6 & 7, and I’m a little nervous about how all this will go. I’m currently homeschooling my 5, 6, & 9 yr. olds.

    Thanks in advance, if you could touch on this!

  21. I’m just now starting to follow your blog, as I’m reading your book “Sane Woman’s Guide…” and LOVING it! 🙂 My husband and I are interested in homeschooling in the future, so I’m really looking forward to your posts on this.

  22. ‘Just laughing at the question about gaining experience with “mean” people. You don’t have to go to public school to experience mean people! Even if someone were to claim that they’re only found in public schools, the other 185 days a year, half days and after school hours provide ample opportunity for contact =)

  23. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts about homeschooling. I love homeschooling…but I’m not sure I’m doing very well with it. I have four: 8 yr DS, 5 yr DD, 4 yr DD and 1 yr DD. I’m not sure if you would have any insight to my issue, since it doesn’t seem you’ve encountered it, but I’ll go ahead.

    I sent my DS to public school at the end of March this year after 2 years hs’ing. I continued with the girls and will go on with them at home.

    It’s a complete dichotomy, to be so dedicated to hs’ing on one hand, and yet be sending my boy off to school….all the arguments I’ve heard and used for years I’m now stewing about—that he will be negatively affected. But I do feel God led me/us down this path.
    My son is developmentally delayed to about half his age. I was strongly encouraged to homeschool him through conferences and various books: that home was the best place for a special needs child. But we’re not just talking dyslexia or ADD or something. He’s considered non-verbal and has only mastered toilet training in the last 2-3 weeks. After two years he started ps unable to write his own name, did not know letters or numbers (according to the school: I disagree to a degree) and earned his own full time EA because of his tendancies to wander/bolt and attempts to strangle his classmates in frustration. (Wow, in writing he seems really awful…he’s really a wonderful sweet kid whom everybody adores!)
    He’s done GREAT. I’ve been SO proud of him. It was a bit of a challenge to explain to the girls why he was going to school and they weren’t, but we managed. I just….worry. (I know, slap my hand). I do still wonder if it was the right thing. I miss him at home. I started to feel a little disconnected those few months. I wonder if I can keep up this homeschooling/public schooling split between my children. I often feel….that I failed him.

    But we did see some wonderful bonuses. His classmates loved him; I was so scared of how he would be treated. I can’t even count on the kids at church to love on him. I’m a bit of a lazy bum and getting out the door in the mornings forced me to get my ducks in a row…and then my girls and I would saunter home and snuggle down for ‘girl time’ with a lovely classic. I actually started meeting people in my neighbourhood!

    Anyhoo…for a person who gains the most reassurance from hearing other peoples’ stories of how they did it/got through it/mastered it, etc, I don’t have a huge pool to draw from of homeschoolers who are living in both worlds. If you are, I’d love a shout out.

  24. How do you look after the younger kids, not school age, giving them your attention if you are home schooling the others. Do they not get distracting for the others. How ever you manage it I am in awe, just wondered what happened to the younger ones?

  25. Hey Les,
    It really sounds to me like you are doing the best for your family in your particular situation. And actually I know more than a few people who opt to homeschool some and send some out. Don’t worry!!!!

  26. I’m also curious about teaching the kids whose first language isn’t English. Did you get any training yourself for raising (or teaching) children with the language challenge? Do you study their first languages?

  27. We have 2 little ones from Ethiopia, our eder was 4.5 when she came home, and we had to teach her English while homeschooling her older(our bio) DD, it was tricky, but doable. We used reading and little kid word books for objects, she went through these quickly, then you just start identifying everything around you. Her mind was ike a sponge, she caugh on quickly, and was English verbal in a month fluent in 5-6 months. There are still things sh does not quite get, but I see it on her face because I know her so well now from teaching her all the time. Best part of HSing her though is that she learns how to behave in our world from us, and the people we select to allow into our family life. This is huge as peer pressure, esp. on a new kid is huge, and she is fragile on the acceptance thing.
    Mary, your ideas and thoughts on Homeschooling helped me to sell the idea to my hubby, so thanks, we love it, and are totally go with the flow teaching family now, and will likely bring in a friends baby(babysitting income) to join in the menagerie:), and it should be a bit more challenging, but workable just the same, thanks for the encouragement and advice. Jamie

  28. oh my. this is a hot topic for me. i have been thinking and praying about it for a long time. i struggle with trying to discern that God is really calling us this way or not. how do i know it’s God’s calling versus something i think sounds cool for my family?

    i also very much worry about friendships for my kids. NOT socialization as we all know one can socialize anywhere…even the grocery store! however strong friendships are different and i worry that my kids won’t have them.

    i also worry about how others will judge me or ESPECIALLY my kids. none of my friends homeschool and most are not even proponents of it…my church is huge but not a big homeschooling church. so many worries….and that’s where God’s direction gets all jumbled for me.

  29. I am a teacher in the public school system and I am tired of fighting the system to get the best for my students. As a mom of a 17 month old, I am going to stop teaching after this school year and stay at home with my son. I also plan on homeschooling him. Public school is not an option and paying $12,000+ for private school makes me sick.

    How do you go about finding a strong curriculum that you can use as the foundation while adding to it? Also how do you go about finding home schooling groups to get support?

  30. I just found your blog after reading your Family Feasts book and have enjoyed reading through it. Thank you for sharing how you got into homeschooling and how it works for you. I have a 5 yo, 3 yo, and 2 yo, all boys, and am currently researching schooling options. I want to homeschool, but do not know very people who do. Your post is very encouraging! Thank you.

  31. Mary, I want to second (third? fourth?) the idea to have your grown up kids comment on home schooling. What were the benefits they saw? What were the drawbacks? Would they consider homeschooling their own kids someday?

    Thanks Mary!

  32. You know I’ve been reading Owlhaven for awhile, probably 4 years now? I can’t believe it’s been that long! When I first starting reading my oldest went to public school. We pulled him out mid-3rd grade and had a rocky start, but I have to tell you it’s been an amazing transformation.
    My son’s confidence in himself has grown, his respect for me has grown. I have four children, and I want to homeschool them all now. I look to you as an example of successful homeschooling and it’s fun to go back and read how it all began!
    Thanks so much!


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