Back to School? 4 Reasons We Might Homeschool Instead

The boys are the ripe old age of 11 months, and I’m already thinking about school. Why? It’s back-to-school for Duval county today and my Facebook news feed is packed with kids starting kindergarten, or 3rd grade, or high school. It makes me nostalgic from when Ophelia and Dakota were in school. The excitement of seeing them running up the steps of their elementary school, with their new backpack, freshly cut hair, and smiles on their faces.

It also makes me think of my own schooling. I adored school, and abhorred summer. To me, school was a place where I could excel. I loved the discipline, my friends, the learning. Those first few weeks of school were always a tonic to me – fresh, clean and potent with possibility.

But my rosy school experience is not everyone’s. People choose to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons. The U.S. Department of Education very wisely decided it should know why, so conducted a study to see why homeschooling has become the biggest trend in education, with over 1.5 million children being educated outside of traditional school.

Home School - Why?

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES).

The graph above is interesting, but I think that 9% other has a lot going on in it. We are considering homeschooling, and for us, it’s about the following. I reserve the right to change my mind, but here’s why I’m considering it, at least while they’re young.


1. We want to travel the country.

The thing about school is, you’re suddenly on the school’s schedule, instead of your own. Steph and I love to travel, and do so quite frequently. We have dreams of taking the boys to all the national parks, one by one. Of taking cross-country road trips to visit historical sites. We just found out that because August has Down syndrome, he – and up to 4 car passengers – all get a FREE LIFETIME PASS to all of our national parks. I’m pretty obsessed with our national park system, so we will be all over that one. And, I’d prefer to do that traveling in off-seasons, when most of the country is in school.

Traveling to all these places is going to take a while!


Image credit: Maps of World:


2. We want to “learn in context” as much as possible.

When I went to school, a lot of my learning occurred in the context of a book. Let’s take history, for example. When we were learning about the paleolithic period of human history, we read about what that meant in chapter 7, and then took a quiz to see what we remembered. The problem is, I remember none of that now. I actually just had to Google it to see if paleolithic dealt with the history of the earth’s development, or of human development. I’d rather our learning be experiential and “real-life.” To learn about geothermal pools in Yellowstone, and about the erosion that caused the Great Canyon to occur. To learn about geometry because we want to build a new playset in our backyard, and need to pay attention to angles.

3. We want the boys to grow up with a healthy sense of self-directed learning.

My caveat is that I know a lot of schools aren’t like what I’m about to describe, but many are. Teachers have to teach to a standardized curriculum and a test of basic skills. In Florida, it’s called the FCAT. When I was in school it was the CTBS. My older kids have been out of the public school setting for a while, but I know there’s a huge debate going on and that a lot of teachers are incredibly unhappy, because they can’t focus on learning what their students find interesting – they have to teach to the test. To me, that’s bullshit. I realize there has to be some accountability and standardization, but we have created a system where not only has a child’s self-directed learning been abnegated, but the teachers’ have, too. It makes me cringe.

4. I have a son with special needs.

August has Down syndrome. His twin brother Liam does not. Most classrooms are still not integrated with children who have special needs and more typically-developing children. I would like for both of them to learn in a mixed environment, where each can help the other.


Home-schooling philosophies – like much in life – run the gamut from radical unschooling (where there is no curriculum, and a child has 100% autonomy in deciding what he/she wants to learn) to a “school-at-home” approach, complete with a desk, workbooks, quizzes and tests.

Where do you even start? Here are a few quick resources:

1. A super quick explanation of the main forms of homeschooling.

2. Something that goes a little more in-depth on the homeschool philosophies. Lots of links here.

3. A really, REALLY  good article on why the hell someone would consider homeschooling in the first place.

4. National organization of homeschoolers, which publishes research.

Our philosophy?

Honestly, I don’t know yet which path we’ll go down. It’s really not a decision to be made lightly, and thankfully,  we’ve got time to do some solid research and soul-searching. My guess is that we’ll err on the side of unschooling, but with  direction, and accountability.  I’m also pretty intrigued by Waldorf.

Some homeschoolers can be a touch militant, and are staunchly anti-school. That’s not me. I think that different settings work best for different children. And, I think there’s more than one way to get an education.

Who knows – we might make a different decision when the boys are older. But for now, I’m dreaming of owning our own schedules, of the boys growing up with a sense of personal responsibility for their education, and of traveling the country to learn about things “in real life” as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling?

5 thoughts on “Back to School? 4 Reasons We Might Homeschool Instead

  1. Amber

    We are also considering homeschooling for the girls (at the ripe old age of 9 months!) For many of the reasons you stated, but also to expose them to diversity. We are the only 2 mom family in our rural area and just about everyone is the same peachy color. Our children need to experience more. More of everything. My spouse cannot leave her career, so we cannot move to another part of the country; however, she does get 7 days off work each month, so we could do a lot of traveling while homeschooling. It’s something we’ve been discussing since before they were born. Great post, lots to consider and thanks for the links!

    1. hbuckman Post author

      Thanks Amber! Our little ones are the same age…we’ll have to meet up at national parks and raise some hell. 🙂

  2. Wendy Atwood

    Jon and I homeschooled our oldest two for several years, and the girls did so well. They were eager to learn, and for the most part a joy to teach. Once the twins came along and we realized that Sam had autism, and both of us were working full time jobs, I came to a breaking point and realized at that point in time the kids needed more than I could provide. Trying to hang on to my sanity and marriage was already becoming a full time job at that point. After much discussion and tears, our oldest went into public school for the first time during the second semester of 6th grade, while our second born went into 2nd grade ( although she was a year ahead in her studies at home. We decided to allow her to adjust with her age group.). Meanwhile, Sam went into a wonderful class in the Clay county school system for kids with Autism. I was able to teach his twin sister preschool at home while her twin got more specialized help.
    Bottom line is, I know you guys are amazing parents and will do whatever you feel is best for your boys. It is so nice to know we live in an age when we have all of these options available to us.
    Update on the kids: Emilee is now in 10 th grade in the AICE program ( kicking butt) and on the cross country team for the second year. Katharine continues to be a joy to all of her teachers, and is an amazing writer going into 6 th grade. Sam and Abby are now in 1st grade, although still seperate schools, but both doing extremely well.

  3. Karen

    Homeschooling – and all un-traditional options, have come a long way since our first babies were in school. The co-ops, I hear, are very helpful, with regard to homeschooling.
    We did NOT have a great school experience here in Duval with our daughter (who ironically was labeled gifted and went to the “special” school). I’m all in favor of school choice. Thankfully, the McKay helps us take advantage of one of those options. Do your research on it for homeschooling—I’ve heard there are ways to get funding through that as well. Good luck!

  4. Jenn P

    Have you read NutureShock by Po Bronson? There is a chapter about a preschool program that was developed by a university in Denver that intrigues me. I’d like to learn it and homeschool Wallace based on that.


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