Sunday, August 14, 2011


Homeschooling is dangerous.

The grocery store clerk, your mother-in-law, the woman at church who teaches 6th grade at the public school ... they've all been telling you this for years.

I'm here to tell you that they're right. Homeschooling is not to be taken lightly. It's not a choice to be made flippantly. It's not something you can just do, or not do.

No. Homeschooling is dangerous, and should be treated as such. 

What makes it such a heavy undertaking? It's not the fact that your kids may not learn how to hold their pencils correctly, or might miss out on the character-building experience of being picked last for a game of dodgeball. It's not that you're categorically unqualified to teach reading, or that putting Jesus in your kid's science book might cost him a couple of points on his SATs.

Those are the world's reasons for thinking that homeschooling is dangerous, and well, they miss the boat. 

Homeschooling isn't dangerous because of socialization issues, uneven teaching potential, or a lack of exposure to cultural norms. Homeschooling is dangerous because it shifts the paradigm. It drops the scales from eyes. It begs questions.

Once you have thrown off the coverlet of expectations (Child turns 3, goes to preschool. Child turns 5, goes to kindergarten. Child turns 16, goes to prom, et al) you're left with a raw, unexplored landscape to ponder. O.k, so no preschool, because I just don't think Billy needs that whole "socialization with other preschoolers" thing in order to be normal. But everyone else does. Why? If that one thing is untrue, then what else have I assumed that I might now discover is wrong?

This time of the year always brings a crop of new homeschoolers out of the woodwork. People who always thought they'd do things the normal way. The safe way. The acceptable way. They had no idea, as they sat cradling their newborn three or four years ago, that when the time came-- when the "Now Enrolling!" signs began popping up-- that they'd sneak a peek of their darling in the rearview mirror, gleefully shouting along to a WeeSing cd, and feel a pang in their heart. They had no idea that they'd hear well-meaning friends extoll the virtues of this school or that one, and suddenly feel empty. They had no idea that they'd ponder three hours a day, twice a week and think, "At his age?"

They had no idea that they would say no. That they'd turn their backs on the establishment. That they'd have the audacity, the strength, the insanity to try and do it themselves.

I love this time of year. I love new homeschoolers. They always strike me as being something like Alice, who falls into Wonderland. A little befuddled, genuinely curious, unable to contain the wonder and awe that they're feeling, they hunt for veterans to guide the way. When they find one, they either pounce or carefully tiptoe into a conversation. They want to know that it can be done. They want to know that they will succeed. They want to hear that they're not dooming their children, that their own families will come around, that they're doing the right thing.

I always tell them that yes, if they feel led to homeschool, they're doing the right thing. And then I warn them:

Don't be fooled. Homeschooling is dangerous.

Now that you've taken the first step, there will be others. You might start to wonder why on earth that Disney movie has to have that teenage girl fawning over a boy. You might find yourself unable to partake of the "drop-off" culture of Sunday School. You might find that modern literature is rubbish. You might even wonder who on earth thought Youth Groups were such a good idea, or who in their right mind came up with the idea of teaching a 5 year-old boy who'd rather build with Legos how to write.

There will be changes in your family. Your husband might grow a deeper connection with your children as they age than you see developing with institutionally schooled families around you. You might consider "just one more" child not such a bad thing. You might learn of a missions need on the other side of the world and not think twice about ditching it all to follow the call.

Stranger things have happened, you know.

Homeschooling is dangerous. It opens eyes--and families--to whole new, undiscovered possibilities. It rips off the comfort zone band-aid that we apply in our lives, and exposes us to whole new ways of thinking. It changes lives; not simply the lives of children, but the lives of entire families and communities.

Be warned, as you step foot into the next season of schooling for your family. Homeschooling is dangerous. It can take you anywhere. It's an unlocked door that leads to places and thoughts that most people would rather not entertain. It's not for everyone. But for those of us who have taken the red pill, well ...there's no way we'd ever go back to sleep.


Sarah @ Frugal Fun for Boys said...

Great post! As a homeschooling mom, I have really enjoyed reading your blog. This is totally off-topic, but I am thinking of cloth diapering for our 4th baby (not sure why I waited this long to get on the bandwagon!). I've read all of your diaper reviews, and feel a little overwhelmed. Do you have a recommendation for one type over the others for a mom just getting started? Feel free to reply to me at frugalfun4boys @ gmail dot com. Sorry to hijack this comment thread!

Erin said...

Ahhhh! YES! So true! Beautifully said!

Ruby said...

Great post, MG!
I feel this is so true! I often wonder why my dh & I seem to be almost the only people we know who question the way things are done. I start to wonder if we're weird or something, because nobody around us seems to even have the same questions & thoughts enter their brains. Homeschooling definitely starts you down the path of questioning the status quo! Your list of questions very closely mirrors our own. That red pill can be a bit tough to swallow at times, but it has definitely been good for our growth & maturity, not to mention our joy!

Michelle said...

So THAT'S what's wrong with me!!! I was homeschooled in high school and have every intention of homeschooling my own children when they are given to us. I was recently called rebellious to societal norms. This post explains it quite eloquently! Thank you!

Unknown said...


Melody said...

Great post! We are starting our first year of homeschooling this year. I am already feeling many of the things your mentioned. A definite adventure for sure!

Unknown said...

My homeschooling journey has taken me to different places, for sure, than your journey has.

I actually do wonder if I've done the best thing for my kids.

My kids are really happy, well-adjusted, well-socialized, God-fearing, talented, popular kids.

But still, I worry about what their take on this homeschooling thing will be in years to come.

I worry about the choices they might make in order to stretch their wings, and try new things.

High school puts it in your face that these are choices that I've made that will have lifelong implications for them: for good, and perhaps, for ill.

It actually CAN BE dangerous, in some ways you haven't implied, in my opinion.

I think I'm glad we did it. They think (at this time) they're glad we did it. But I can't guarantee that it is the best way for every family, nor for every child in the families who actually choose to homeschool.

Luke Holzmann said...

Just last night my family got to talking about a really sticky subject regarding missions. I love that as a homeschooled bunch we could sit around and toss out ideas and thoughts without reverting to a pre-scripted script fed to us by Conservative Christian Media (not saying, of course, that CCM is bad... just noting that it may not always be right).

Thinking outside the box? Dangerous, for sure. But the potential is fantastic!


Kim @ Everything Etsy said...

We've been homeschooling for about 8 years...I wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh, and I do find myself shocked by what's considered normal in movies now. We do live in our own little world of values around here.

Great post!


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JJ said...

You have a great way of putting this out there! I'm one of those "new" homeschooling moms. As I watch all of my friends post pictures of their kids first days of school and comments about how they took the day off of work to cry I can't help but think, "hello! You're struggling with this because there's something no quite right about the system! Look around - you feel it, acknowledge it!"

I'm pretty nervous about where this homeschooling journey will lead... but I also know I don't like where the traditional path is leading at all. I want something different for my family and children!

Anyway, I'll be blogging about our adventure so maybe my grocery store clerk, family, friends, etc. will see the difference and read how it can be for everyone... not just the wierdos!! (like me!)

Heather said...

Ruby - you are NOT alone! My husband and I question the status quo on just about everything these days. We're really trying to measure whether things are falling in God's will or if it's just another "pattern of this world." We're trying to avoid the latter. We think of this as living intentionally. We are no longer satisfied with "because that's the way it's done" being a reason for anything in our lives. And yes - it does make us stand out and it can cost us friends...but in the end, we feel we are living out God's best for our family.

Jamie {See Jamie blog} said...

One of the best homeschool-related posts I've read in a while. Everything you've said here rings true with me. Now in my 6th year, still learning, continuing to think more "dangerously" ever year/month/day.

Blessings to you!

Jen @ Gricefully Homeschooling said...

Thank you for standing up and saying what we're all thinking!! Amen...Amen!

Newest follower!

Anonymous said...

Well (and accurately) said! Homeschooling was always a given for us. The idea of not seeing my children for 35+ hours each week made me ill! However, before we even started that season, we began to experience the paradigm shift you've spoken of.

We started choosing our children's influences more carefully...friends, books (even "Christian" books) and media. It's been a gradual process--intentionally. We didn't want to swing to the opposite extreme and hide from reality. We did, however, want to deliberately form their processes of thinking and decision-making to prepare them to engage the real world.

A month ago, we got rid of our TV and our (carefully selected) collection of videos. We still have the computer to watch DVDs, but those are infrequent and special treats. Surprisingly (to me), we haven't missed the TV one bit. :)

Thank you for the encouragement!

Lance & Andria said...

Well, I just HAD to chime in. Thanks, once again, for a well-written, well-timed, thoughtful post. I will print it out and add to my collection of inspirational articles. Words are powerful and you are "doing good" with your divine gifting for them. Thanks again!

Cathy F. said...

I am a new homeschooler. We sent our 4-year-old to preschool last year, pressured by family and friends and society as a whole, I guess. I can't tell you how well your article described that early doubt for me, a doubt that grew and grew, even though my daughter did as well as any other kid in preschool, possibly even better - she's a social butterfly. Looking back, it was entirely the wrong move, but here we are now, having learned our lesson and having realized that homeschooling is the only choice for us. I'm overwhelmed, swamped with ideas, excited, looking forward to meeting a local homeschooling group next week... and, yes, my mind this summer has opened to much that I hadn't seen only a few months ago. Your article is spot on and something I really needed to read today - I just sent out the letter to the preschool to let them know we wouldn't be back. I've never felt so rebellious in my life. :-)

Anonymous said...

mary grace -- Wonderful article! I love reading posts re: homeschooling such as this that truly make me stop and think.

To Susan in the Boonies --

(Sorry, I don't think there is a way to direct-reply here in Blogger.)

I can only share from my experience, of course, but I wanted to reassure you by sharing our story.

My daughter has been in everything from public school special ed, regular public school, homeschool w/standard curriculum, homeschool w/eclectic curriculum, virtual charter school and now back to public school. Giving her what SHE needed *when* she needed it has yielded us a well-rounded, grounded, sensitive and talented individual.

"But still, I worry about what their take on this homeschooling thing will be in years to come.

"I worry about the choices they might make in order to stretch their wings, and try new things.

"High school puts it in your face that these are choices that I've made that will have lifelong implications for them: for good, and perhaps, for ill."

I had the same worries, and all I can tell you is that they were all for naught. Yes, there are choices, but as a rising sophomore, thus far, she's made relatively good ones. We've had the normal struggles with grades and studying vs. extracurriculars and social time, but she's gotten it together and is doing wonderfully.

All I can say is, trust your instinct and go with your gut. If you strongly feel led to homeschool, go for it. If sometime later you feel that it's no longer working, be open to the idea of changing it up.

YOU know best what your child needs. Not a school district, teacher, principal, social worker, your neighbor, the grocery clerk, you name it.

I hope that helps. Feel free to drop me an email if you'd like me to go into more depth. I've typed a book here as it is. :-)

Momma in Progress said...

Just found this blog and love this post. I'm a new homeschooler this year. Actually, we haven't even started yet! My girls loved preschool, but now that the Big K is upon us . . . well, let's just say I had a change of heart. Laughed out loud at the Sunday school drop-off part; mine have never been because I could never understand the drop kids and worship without them concept. Anyway, just wanted to say hello; looking forward to reading more.

Deana said...

Thanks, just what I needed. MORE fear. We're working on our second year of homeschooling, and this is JUST what I needed to hear. That homeschooling is dangerous. As if I needed something else to fuel my already doubt-ridden psyche. Really, thanks. LOL!

Adrienne said...

Very nice. I have home schooled for 8 years and we are REALLY different because we do Charlotte Mason approach, which even goes against the grain more! This was great insight.

Because of homeschooling and using Charlotte Mason's method I was able to start a cleaning business with my kids when my husband was unemployed. I even created a DVD for parents and kids to hep them learn to speed clean green and create family routines! We really went against the "normal".

My blog and site are

My homeschooling blog is

Living in JOY,
Adrienne Freas, Dallas area

Unknown said...

Wow! This is so true! I'm so glad I'm not the only one. There are so many things that I just accepted until I had children. I see no reason to be "normal" if it is not glorifying to God, and could even harm my child.

Deb said...

Yes! Brilliant - and so true.

I have found that homeschooling isn't one single thing, it's an ethos. It has permeated our entire lives. Question one single thing and suddenly nothing conventional makes sense anymore. Some days I feel like I am the only one (in my real life) who can see what's really real, and everyone else is plugged into the matrix.

Okaasan said...

Uh oh, guess I should've read this before I decided to start homeschooling! Oh well, too late now! ;)

Unknown said...

I LOVE THIS!!! I was anti-homeschool and now I wouldn't have it any other way.

Penny Layne said...

It is amazing how much your views can change once you begin to homeschool. It was not something I had ever imagined doing, until the time came for my daughter to go to school. I realized I couldn't do it any other way.

Of course it is also dangerous because you have to deal with those who are closed minded constantly trying to change your mind.

Hopewell said...

Great post! I've done it all: Christian School, Public School, homeschool. But I totally agree with your post. I don't have a problem with Sunday School at our current church, but did before--preacher preaching against video games yet that's what my kid was doing in his Sunday school between "hours" of church. Nope not for us! This time they are learning the Bible, but enjoying it and getting a lot out of it.

Unknown said...

Great post! Another homeschooling mom shared this link with me. Though I've never been one to conform easily I never imagined that I would ever consider homeschooling. I always hoped that I could afford private school because I knew I didn't want my kids in public.

Then when my oldest was still a toddler I read a novel about a homeschooling family and I realized that I could do that! I thought I'd have a hard time convincing my husband, but he was so disgusted with his older daughter's public school education that he was all for it.

Now that my oldest has just turned five I keep getting the "is going to go to kindergarten?" question - almost daily.

I've been pleasantly surprised to find that most people are actually a lot more positive about it than I had anticipated. I'm also glad that it's becoming more and more popular, finding other homeschoolers isn't too difficult. I've run into some people who are 200% against homeschooling (surprisingly, people from my church) but they are the minority, at least so far!

darci said...

LOVE this post.:) So, so true. What started out as a desire to protect the sparkle in my oldest daughter's eyes (ie. avoid bullies) has morphed into SO MUCH MORE. As if homeschooling itself didn't make us oddball enough, we have definitely begun questioning so many things, and when we leave those things behind, it is with no regret, only a regret that we didn't leave them behind sooner. I have noticed that homeschoolers as a whole (and yes, I'm totally making a generalization here) are often not just homeschoolers, but also homechurch (or at least family integrated), adoptive families...and who knows what else God will bring our way. The great big dangerous Adventure-bring it on! :)
Thanks for this great post. I have shared it with friends already.