10 Reasons Why We’re Considering Homeschooling

3 Posted by - May 5, 2013 - Kids

If we lived in Thailand and not Mexico, our three year old would be enrolled in school already (if he was a local) and most likely wearing powder blue uniforms with dark socks and a too-big-backpack. Trust me, it’s adorable. However, one thing travel has taught me about parenting is that there’s no right answer. Every culture does it differently, each family has their approach, and every child has their own needs. I have no idea what’s best for everyone, I’m just trying to figure out what’s best for us.


This sums up raising children these days: my son Cole using his old school letter board to hold up his iPad so he can play an almost identical app.

To be clear, I have a confirmation bias (and you probably do too, we all do). In my case, I live overseas, it’s easier to homeschool and probably cheaper too (if I don’t factor in my time as a cost, of course). We travel a lot, so anything that lets us do that more is going to seem more attractive. But I am concerned that I’ll filter all the evidence in favor of what I want to do anyway, so I’m trying to be careful to at least be aware of my biases. I would like talk about this more though, as I work through it, and I don’t know where to start, except where I am right now.

This is the crossroads we’re at, an embarrassment of choices: we could go back to the US for our son’s education. Or we could continue traveling. We could enroll him in an international school. We could homeschool. We could “unschool”. We could sign him up for a bilingual private school in Hawaii (I just threw that in, I love Hawaii). It’s wide open.

However as we look at our options there are some things that might be deal-breakers when it comes to schools and specifically living in the US:

1. Zero Tolerance.

Earlier this year a six year old was expelled from school for telling her friend that she was going to shoot her. With her Hello Kitty gun. Which only shot bubbles. Expelled — not scolded, not held for detention or put on leave, but kicked out of school. Permanently. Who is this helping? This week a teenager was expelled for her science fair project exploding. No one was hurt but they are also bringing charges against her. I don’t know what the tone is like in the average school, but these kinds of stories that have been hitting the national press in the last few years seem to point to a frenzied desire to not just keep our children safe but to adhere to these draconian rules for appearance’s sake.

2. Lack of childhood freedom.

I used to read the Free Range Kids blog, but Lenora’s writing was infuriating me, specifically the stories she posts about the increasing number of cases where the police are getting involved for such offenses as letting their 15 year old walk home from the library without their jacket or allowing a six year old to play unattended for any amount of time. You could always argue perhaps that’s not the choice you’d make as a parent, but surely CPS doesn’t need to remove the child from the home, right?

Between the zero tolerance policies in schools and the police involvement in the community, it seems to me, that not only are children being hyper-protected, but your ability as a parent to choose to do things differently is shrinking. It’s that second part, the over reach, that makes me wonder if I return to the US would I be forced to helicopter parent my child in ways that didn’t align with my beliefs?

3. ADHD.

This is a hot topic for us, because my husband suffers from adult ADHD, so I’m very familiar with the disorder and it’s also genetic, so my kids could get it. A few years ago we got Drew’s transcripts from kindergarten to 12th grade — they started back in the early eighties when they didn’t have ADHD. The transcripts were so sad to read because here you had this bright boy who was labeled as “chatty” in kindergarten and his grades slowly dropped and teachers over the years started labeling him as “unfocused” and a “poor student”. The thing is, my husband, even as an adult, still needs to shape his life around his ADHD, not the other way around. There’s no way that a school can really accomodate ADHD students — for example, letting them get up and move around or having lots of music or white noise in the room (which is actually calming and helps my husband focus). Which kind of points to the over-diagnosis as well — are little boys really best suited to sitting still at that age? Would a program that allowed them to move around and get their wiggles out lead to more productive bursts of learning? I understand why schools can’t do this, it’s a numbers thing, they’ve got 30 kids in a room, what can they do? But that’s one reason why homeschooling is particularly attractive to us because we have that option.

4. Art, Music, Phys Ed.

I’m a writer and photographer. My husband is an illustrator and animator. We love the arts, it’s what we do everyday! So, while we could supplement with art classes or music lessons or karate school, I also feel like little kids are way over-scheduled these days, and I’d rather not have to use our evenings and weekends to squeeze in a second curriculum to compensate for the gaps in public school — or at least not when the option to do a more balanced approach exists.

5. The value of a college degree.

When I was growing up, it was drilled into me that I had to go to college. It was the stepping stone between being poor and being middle class. These days, I’m not so sure. It’s a huge opportunity cost. Kids at 18 are perfectly capable of starting their careers if they want, and four years of not working — even if it’s interning or apprenticing for someone else — is a lot of missed time. Plus you come out of school in debt. Of course college graduates seem to do better in life, but it’s a self selected group — they would probably do better in life anyway because of the same ambition and talent that lead to university in the first place. It’s a huge cost: $40,000 – $120,000 plus four years plus a lack of practical skills (who uses what they learned in college in their job these days, anyway?). So while high school is hyper focused on getting into college I wonder if it’s better to be hyper focused on figuring out what you love and getting hands on experience.

(Note: obviously some careers definitely require a college degree, but I’m less convinced you need to prepare for the potential of becoming a scientist by forcing everyone to take advanced calculus, when it’s easy enough to catch up if that’s a direction you want to take. Sort of like most careers — like programmers, we don’t learn C++ in high school but then again maybe we should…)

6. Becoming an entrepreneur.

Drew and I are entrepreneurs. We’re self-employed. We did the whole other side — heck I worked for GE, literally the largest company in the US. So as we’re thinking of education options one thing keeps coming up for us: are we raising employees or entrepreneurs? It’s entirely different skill sets and I do think that public school is wise to prepare children to the real world, which for most of them will include working for other people. But is that our goal? And since we loathed that life so much, and love the freedom of what we’re doing now, wouldn’t it be sort of hypocritical of us to put our kids through a system that made us unhappy?

7. What school doesn’t teach you.

There are three things traditional school doesn’t teach you: 1) how to manage your money 2) how to find what you love and 3) how to make money doing what you love. I didn’t have a clue on credit cards, or how to be a freelancer. I didn’t know the difference between picking a career that was safe and picking one that I enjoyed. I spent 10+ years of my life trying to figure out what I could have learned in a year of courses. I can’t remember anything significant from high school biology (we dissected a frog, that’s all I remember) but I could have really of used a course on doing my taxes. Which makes me wonder, why can’t school prepare you for life, at least just a little bit? Is getting into college the only goal?

8. Languages.

This is big for us, obviously, I’m learning three languages right now, and I’m hoping this immersion leads to our kids picking up a bit. The crazy thing about languages in public schools is that kids are natural language learners. Their brains are geared towards it and this doesn’t change until they are about 13. It’s called the critical period. So what do we do in the US? We wait until kids are 14 to start teaching them a second language. What a waste! After so many years of trying to learn languages, I know how hard it is, but we’re squandering the one opportunity we have in life to pick them up easily because of scheduling? Madness.

9. Learning how to learn.

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly learning new things online. But I think about how I learn now verses how I tried to learn in school and it’s completely different. I read, yes, but I rarely memorize. I don’t focus so much on retaining everything I learn, but figuring out how to access it later. I think this is huge for the next generation and the school systems haven’t caught up — we live in a digital age, where it’s better to know how to use Google well then to cram specific facts and dates. It’s more important that you know how to find answers, than knowing the answer themselves. I think a lot of people would argue that this is a terrible development, but we’ve already gone through this once. Before books, people used to memorize everything! We don’t do that anymore. We have books. They would have argued that we’ve lost the great art of memory, and they are right, but so what? Books! Easier! Same thing, to me. We have the internet. The world of knowledge is right there, and for kids coming up, their education should embrace this fact.

10. Creativity.

I watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk about creativity the other day and everything he said rang true to me but especially this:

“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

When I was in Beijing, there was a symposium where they talked about how they couldn’t compete because they weren’t creating enough creative thinkers. We seem to be moving more towards the Asia model (standardized tests, heavy workload for kids, penalized for errors) when Asia is trying to figure out how to be more like us. It’s critical.

Watch the full talk here:

I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on all these things. Maybe we’ll homeschool for a few years when the kids are younger, then go to international schools when they are older so they can do a bilingual program and learn to read and write in a second language. Or maybe we’ll figure out some kind of homeschool co-op with a group of like-minded parents and make our own mini-school. Or maybe we’ll just head back the US because whatever we try doesn’t work. I’m open to anything at this point, although you can kind of see where we’re heading. In two years, Cole will be entering kindergarten, what exactly that will look like is still open. Soon though, I’d like to start some kind of preschool, even if that just means me buying more art supplies.

I would love your thoughts on this, if you’re so inclined!

  • http://Thegravelroadinguru.com Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

    I too, constantly wonder why we weren’t educated more on finances in high school. My home EC teacher did a short lesson on how little money one would have if they quit school and went straight to work for McDonald’s. We balanced a checkbook, taking out money for utilities, groceries, etc. I twas helpful but kids really need a lot more. I am shocked at how many people I know that are in some serious debt. Basic life skills knowledge definitely need to be integrated into our learning! Good luck on all these huge decisions!

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Yeah personal finance has the ability to totally change your life… way more than even getting into college. Americans save on average $zero dollars a year, it’s crazy.

  • http://lifewithamission.com Daniel Espinoza

    We started homeschooling our oldest two (Kinder, Pre-K) this school year. We chose this for many of the reasons you listed (http://lifewithamission.com/why-we-decided-to-homeschool-our-kids/) because we are self-employed, location independent business owners. Although the ability to travel whenever we wanted was high on the list, we have loved homeschooling so much that we would choose it even if we weren’t going to travel!

    Another reason to homeschool is that you get to set the pace. If your child need to spend extra time on a subject or is breezing through the curriculum you can adjust accordingly. Our 4yo zoomed through pre-K and will probably be mostly done with Kinder before he is 5. We’ve been able to adjust the curriculum to keep him engaged and interested.

    Whether you and Drew decide to homeschool or not you have done a fantastic job of processing it. Best of luck!

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Thank you! That’s a really great post you guys wrote up! Love your site,

  • http://www.perseveranceblog.com Chris

    I’m just getting into the internet entrepreneur world and love the idea of being able to travel while still being able to work. I’ve wondering how I can balance this when I one day have kids so your post gave me a lot of food for thought.

  • Sheralyn

    So much of what you wrote resonates with me. My biggest concerns with the way things are going in North American society:

    1)The ADHD thing: Are too many kids, boys in particular, getting misdiagnosed over what is actually within the NORMAL range of behavior for their age? My understanding is that studies have proven that even so-called NORMAL people can concentrate and focus better on ADHD meds. So the fact that a child is able to concentrate and focus better on ADHD meds does not, on it’s own, prove the diagnosis of ADHD is correct.

    2) Zero tolerance: As you say, more and more, we are hearing ridiculous stories like this. It’s disgusting, and they ought to be embarrassed and ashamed of their over-reaction.

    3) Lack of childhood freedom: It seems like rather than focus on clear cases of abuse and neglect, CPS sometimes makes grievous errors in going after good parents. The fact that some overzealous government agency could turn our lives upside down scares the crap out of me… not that it’s likely to ever affect me, but still, if it happens to SOMEBODY out there, then it’s possible that it could happen to me too, right? EEEK!

    Anyhow, our kids are 6 and 4 right now, and we are planning to leave next year for long-term budget-travel. We’ve decided to homeschool them in the beginning. If we like it, and it’s working out well, we’ll carry on that way… if not, then we’ll have to consider other options.

    But you know, as much as it’s somewhat intimidating to take on the responsibility of educating our children ourselves, a big part of me thinks it can’t be THAT hard once we get into it… heck, I was a really good student, so if I could do it back then, surely I can teach my children too. (Hopefully I didn’t just jinx it by writing that haha!)

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      RE: teaching — I’ve heard it said that most of what teachers learn in college is how to manage a classroom of children. Which obviously won’t apply when it’s 1-1 or 1-2.

      • Sheralyn

        Exactly! :)

      • http://www.colleengetslost.com Colleen

        I probably should’ve explained the reasons behind that… in US public schools these days you find a heartbreaking prevalence of standardized curriculum (boring), standardized testing (unethical), and standardized pacing (not developmentally appropriate). Good teachers do amazing things in the classroom in spite of this, and not every school is so restrictive, but still, it’s the norm. And the most caring, creative teachers often get frustrated, burn out, and leave. On the other hand, there are really wonderful schools (including international ones) I’ve looked into teaching in that are creative, nurturing environments for both teachers and students. I promised myself I won’t go back to teaching if the school isn’t somewhere I’d be happy putting my own children.

        I can’t help but respond to a comment above: “RE: teaching — I’ve heard it said that most of what teachers learn in college is how to manage a classroom of children. Which obviously won’t apply when it’s 1-1 or 1-2.”

        A GOOD teacher education program is heavy on learning theories, child psychology, and brain development. You do learn basic crowd control, but also so much more… You delve into each subject, reading, writing, math, the arts and sciences, like a scientist in a laboratory, dissecting them to their core in ways most people would never dream, and learning all the pieces necessary to set a strong foundation for future learning. There is a lot of specialized knowledge good teachers hold that shouldn’t be overlooked and we’re always happy to share our bag of tricks. (Meaning, I’m sure you’re doing fine on your own, but I’m happy to be your standby teacher expert if you need one, or send links to resources to get you started, especially if C ends up running into some learning hurdles. Early math/language/reading development is my specialty.)

  • http://inspiringtravellers.com Andrea

    We don’t have children yet but, like you, I am very concerned about what kind of education they will have when we do. The college issue resonates with me because I find the current university degree market to be just that: a “one-size fits all” indoctrination that you must get a college degree and thus enter into massive amounts of debt before your life even gets started. Most kids don’t even know what they want to do at 18. I do think, however, that socialization is important. Luckily, at least in the US, there are many other homeschooling parents where you can find support and interaction these days. I also think parents have to be very involved in their kids’ education today. I can’t understand the people who have children then seem to just not really care, leaving them to the “system”.

  • Heidi

    I’m not a parent, but as a long-term expat I’d like to point out there there are many excellent non-US universities, which even with international fees may be less expensive than their US counterparts.

    Also, some primary systems may be more accommodating for ADHD and gifted students, e.g. the Finnish system: http://www.greatschools.org/students/2453-finland-education.gs.

    I’m not sure how you could interline all of this, but I do think the US model is rather limiting.

  • http://www.colleengetslost.com Colleen

    I taught in public schools in the US for seven years and always said (still do) that if I had my own kids I’d homeschool them. A lot of my teacher friends share the same sentiment. Sad but true. Playgroups and homeschool coops are a great supplement to add social time, if that’s an option where you are.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Wow, that’s telling, thanks for commenting!

      • http://www.colleengetslost.com Colleen

        Oops… meant to post my reply here, and not in response to Sheralyn’s above. Sorry.

  • http://www.zabrina.ca Zabrina

    I loved seeing this post, and I agree on every point. You missed one about socialization, though. The socialization of public school kids is sorely lacking: they’re crammed into a room with twenty, forty, or more kids their exact same age for 6+ hours a day and it’s expected that this is what good socialization is. When you begin homeschooling (if you make that choice, which it sounds like you’re leaning towards), you’re going to have lots of people saying, “BUT WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?!” I still have people ask me that, and I just graduated university after being homeschooled K-12.

    When you’re homeschooled, you socialize with kids your age in extracurricular activities and the rest of the world — generally more mature, likeable people than kids your own age — the rest of the time. This is such a valuable gift, because you don’t learn how to blend in, conform, and avoid attracting attention in order to be a “good, socialized person”; you learn how to be polite and respectful (so rare in many kids) while maintaining your own opinions and identity.

    I also love how strong the support for homeschooling is today. When my parents started back in the mid-90s, it was a freak-show phenomenon and well-meaning people fought with them about it, school systems refused to recognize their choices, and you’d have thought the world was ending! Now, even the school system admits that homeschooling is a better choice in many cases.

    If you’re looking for a homeschooling curriculum, both my brother and I used Calvert School for grades K-8. It gives you everything you need from a teacher’s guide to crayons, and prepares you for college by compressing 12 grades into 8 grades. Afterwards, your kid can choose his own high school program like I did if he isn’t ready for college at that point, or just go straight into college (my brother more or less did this).

    Right now, I’m seeing the first generation of homeschooled kids who entered it under the conditions described above starting to graduate university and be very successful, which I suspect is inspiring many people to begin supporting it. You’re bang-on when you say homeschooling teaches you a lot about life that regular school doesn’t. Let me know if you want any help or support, I can point you to some resources.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      That’s very inspiring, thank you!

  • Sheralyn

    “When you’re homeschooled, you socialize with kids your age in extracurricular activities and the rest of the world — generally more mature, likeable people than kids your own age — the rest of the time. This is such a valuable gift, because you don’t learn how to blend in, conform, and avoid attracting attention in order to be a “good, socialized person”; you learn how to be polite and respectful (so rare in many kids) while maintaining your own opinions and identity.”

    So glad to have this confirmed from someone who has been there! I suspected as much. In school, you quickly learn to conform to what the other kids expect of you, or else be ostracized – this can take many years to break free of and can be so damaging to one’s self confidence. People who believe that’s the only way to become well-socialized couldn’t be more wrong.

  • Rachel

    I’m sure you’re heard of this resource, but I wanted to pass it along anyway just in case: http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/

    Penelope Trunk is mostly know for career advice but she recently had to shift her work schedule around to home school two boys, at least one of which has Asberger’s syndrome. While her homeschool method is “unschooling”, she links to a lot of current research on homeschool and she also features other posters. Hope it helps!

    Here’s her post on why she homeschools: http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/2012/04/02/why-i-homeschool/

  • Melanie – NJ

    While I don’t actually know you, most of everything you write about seems to be well thought out and logical….for you. If I take some of this content and apply it to some people I know who try to do what you do, I would feel really sorry for their children. Every child, adult and situation is different. If you are fortunate enough to have all things align for the situation to be successful and appropriate for your child and your life that is wonderful and more power to you. I would only suggest that the most important trait is having enough common sense and love of your child to make a change if and when it is deemed necessary.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      I’ve never been afraid to change course drastically when it came to my child! :)

      But I did say in the beginning of this post that I wasn’t suggesting this would work or be best for every family, so yes, I totally agree, just slapping my ideas onto some other family wouldn’t work and could be harmful. I mean first things first, the family would have to WANT to homeschool, then be able to homeschool, and be committed to it. But I don’t think pondering the question of whether or not to homeschool is about how “wonderful” our life is… it’s not really an elite thing, don’t most parents question school choices, even if it’s where to live or what options there are for their kids?

  • michele

    a few reasons why we decided to home school

    - I am underwhelmed with the quality of the
    teaching staff

    - I am likewise underwhelmed with the quality of
    the curriculum

    - Opinions are valued as highly as facts (this
    allows everyone to earn an A)

    - Not enough individual attention

    - One-size-fits-all approach

    - Busy-work substitutes for meaningful

    - No emphasis on learning to learn or critical

    - Valueless environment

    - Rules for the sake of rules

    - Limited parent involvement

    - No sense that anyone cares what happens
    with my kid so long as she is not a problem for the school

  • Tina

    Great post! We live in the US and it is for exactly these reasons that we are homeschooling–I can’t even imagine sending the kids to public school at this point. My daughter is Kindergarten aged this year and I’m excited to share a love of learning with her. I love that we can go at her pace and use real books (and the Internet and video and field trips to learn) and not boring textbooks. I love that we can do art and music every day if we want. I love that we can read and read and read together and that he loves to find things on our giant wall map. I love that I get to watch her discover new things.

  • http://www.sarahsomewhere.com Sarah Somewhere

    Fantastic post, Christine. When I was six, I wrote stories about my life that made my teacher laugh, and danced on the coffee table at home. Over twenty years later, after going to university and working for 11 years in a job I fell into, what am I doing? Writing stories about my life and trying to pluck up the courage to start dance classes again. We have natural gifts that should be nurtured. Traditonal schooling just doesn’t do this. Your kids are so lucky their parents realise that. Bravo!

  • http://www.WanderingEducators.com wandering educators

    hope you find the right path for your family! we unschool and LOVE it. i wrote about our daughter’s joy in learning a few years ago (http://www.wanderingeducators.com/special-interest/traveling-children/princess-sea-dives-ocean-knowledge.html) – it’s only grown stronger.

    and i know many homeschoolers that have done well at university (and even gotten a phd!) – it all depends on what each person wants to learn. i love that life gives us so many choices, if we’re open to being different.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Thank you! Very interesting to see how others approach it.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Oh and I wanted to add, that I didn’t mean to imply that homeschoolers couldn’t go to college, it was more that school is focused on that as an end point, when maybe being a craftsman or artist or business owner would be a better fit. Homeschooling let’s you tailor to your child. So, YES! Homeschool definitely can mean college down the road.

  • Susan Cummings

    If you come back to the States, don’t do it for public education. My 17-year-old was diagnosed with ADD in elementary school. It has been pretty awful, with regard to the standardized testing and the squashing of creativity and problem solving, which is the result of teaching to the test. I’m a college prof, so I get kids in class who are products of the system. They are not prepared and, even worse, are rarely curious.

    My son is in high school and doing well, but because he was labeled ADD, he was not encouraged to try the pre-AP and AP courses. High School has become the default for socialization and babysitting. He will go to junior college when he graduates, and I hope he finds the stimulus there that public schools never gave him.

    We love Mexico, and even considered moving there when Austin was younger. It would not have worked for many reasons. Now, though, we’re thinking of retiring there. By then, our son should be thriving on his own.

    I think you’re asking important questions. Your family, though, is the only one that can make the correct choice. Best wishes for you and your family.

  • http://www.climberchica.blogspot.com Eryn

    As a public school teacher, I am going to chime in. My kids will NOT be homeschooled. Ever. For many reasons, but mainly because I feel like they need to learn how to adapt to situations in which they are not always the center of attention and how to be cared for by different adults. I am also a little taken aback (I love your blog, don’t get me wrong) by some of the reasons you listed. Many of the things you mentioned are news stories for a reason- because they are the extreme. Every school and every classroom is different. Please make sure that you make judgements about education based on what you are knowledgeable about. I am a middle school Spanish Immersion teacher. My students have been in Immersion since kindergarten and are fully fluent and literate in two languages. I have had partnerships with the Portland Art Museum and the Right Brain Initiative to teach art AND content together (yes, it is entirely possible and it is awesome). I have been trained by Wordstock to use creative writing and writing workshop in my classroom with language and art. I teach to ALL learning styles. No kid should be sitting for hours a day and in my classroom, they don’t. We move, we talk, the curriculum is student-driven and individualized. All of this in a Title I school where the majority of the students are on free and reduced lunch. I also use a Tribes curriculum to encourage emotional health and confidence in learning. I love love love my job and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I do not believe that every schools is for every child nor is every child for every school. The same goes for individual classrooms. However, please know that amazing things can and do happen in public education every day. Visit several kindergarten classrooms in different schools. You will see great things happening (I always say that every teacher can learn from kindergarten teacher).

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Eryn! I want you to be my son’s teacher! What you’re doing sounds awesome. And i hope you’ll forgive me, because I am working through this stuff out loud so people like you can give me feedback because i know I definitely DON’T have all the answers.

      What you said here, “For many reasons, but mainly because I feel like they need to learn how to adapt to situations in which they are not always the center of attention and how to be cared for by different adults. ” really hit me in the gut. It’s a great point and something I’ll definitely be considering.

      Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate you adding your experience to the discussion!

  • Kyle

    I don’t have kids nor am I an experienced educator, which makes me perfectly qualified to comment on things on the internet :)

    If anything, my teaching abroad experience taught me that teaching is hard. Very hard. Even when I did one-on-ones, I thought I was doing OK, but when I would talk to professionals (people with degrees in Education), they gave me all sorts of insights of where I could do better and where I was lacking. When I applied them, they actually ended up being right. It’s not to say that people can’t learn how to teach, but if you’re a proper teacher, you probably know a lot more about it than I do.

    Of course, I loved my public school upbringing and would do it again. I loved being in college (not for academics, but that’s besides the point). And I’m glad that I was in a setting where I wasn’t the most important person in the room. School gave me the structure (which got me in trouble a lot) but I learned how to learn on my own. And I do remember some of my memorable teachers from Mr. Runyan who taught us how to do a Calculus Cheer to my typing teacher who had us practice to the rhythm of They Might Be Giants songs.

    The point being, of course, don’t let the outlying cases determine your choice.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      “The point being, of course, don’t let the outlying cases determine your choice.” Damn Kyle, why are you always so smart? :) Thank you, point taken!

      • Kyle

        “Damn Kyle, why are you always so smart?”

        Probably all the spring breaks playing NES video games until 5 am. Or skipping high school classes to hang out at Taco Bell. One of the two.

      • Tina

        “And I’m glad that I was in a setting where I wasn’t the most important person in the room”

        Hi Kyle. I just had to comment on this statement….

        A homeschooled child is not necessarily seen as or treated as the most important person in the room (or home). I was homeschooled and never was treated as such. I have 3 siblings and we were taught to work together as a family (of course this is more about family values and home environment than about education and can apply to homeschooled or traditionally schooled children). I teach piano (to homeschooled and not homeschooled kids) and have worked as an accompanist in public schools. I know teenagers who seem to think the world revolves around them still and others who are humble and gracious from all schooling options so it seems to me that these things are learned in the home….just a thought. ;)

  • http://www.laurazarrin.com Laura Zarrin

    I love this post!! It made me cry, though. I have 2 boys, 11 & 15. The 15yo has ADHD, though I would say it’s minimal at this point. He has much more control on his focus than he used to have. He’s been lucky enough to have teachers that love him even though he consistently underperforms. It weighs heavily on me that his school experience may have had a negative affect on him. I feel like we’ve been pounding a square peg into a round hole for most of his life. I’m too unfocussed and impatient myself to have been an effective homeschooler and have never found a good alternative program. I’m afraid all of this may have broken his spirit more than anything. He’s so laid back, I can’t tell. Only time will tell. We went the Catholic school route (for small class size/community), now a Christian highs school with a film program in hopes that at least he’s gets one class a year that feeds his passion of filmmaking. I’ve always wished for a crystal ball for his future to see if the decisions we make help or hurt. Good luck to you. I wish I had been a prepared before he started school. If I could do it all over again, I’d work harder at choosing a different path.

  • http://avenue-reine-mathilde.over-blog.com Tiphanya

    In France a new law will take place next septembre : kid can start school at 2, the month they are turning 2. But education is an obligation from 6 to 16 years old. So we plan to “unschool” her to start. Then we’ll see when she will be 6. But home/unschool is our main choice. Except if we go abroad (Japan is our main target as my boyfriend study japanese archeology) and we think that a school will help her to learn a language but also some social and cultural knowledge.
    What is great is that there isn’t one way to do, and that our way to do can evolve with the year.

  • Jenn

    First of all, I love how every post about raising children beings with “I’m trying to figure out what is right for OUR family.” I think this is where we as parents all run into trouble, we think there is a one size fits all solution to parenting. There isn’t, in fact I’m finding, and you may be as well, that what is good for one child may not be the right thing for the next.
    I was all set on the education of my son. We were lucky enough to live in a town with a great public school system. Being small town VT I knew many of the teachers on a personal level.
    Then we moved to Germany and suddenly finding a school for my then 2 1/2 year old became one of the first all consuming goals. Would he start at 3 as most kids do, would it be full German or bilingual? What happens if in 5 years, when he and now his brother are in grade school we move? Would his education be portable? I was thrown for a loop. After touring many kindergartens (in Germany preschool is kindergarten) I finally settled on a bilingual private school that he can attend until we no longer live in Germany. He has two teachers in the classroom at all times, one only speaks English, the other only German. In his class at least half of the children speak 3 or more languages. In second grade they add Spanish and in fifth Mandarin. I did consider keeping him home with me for as long as possible and teaching him on my own. But I had a lot of the same feelings that Eryn expressed. I felt it was time, that he learn how to interact on a meaningful level with other children and adults. He needed to learn how to be part of a group, solve problems with his peers, even wait in line. It has been wonderful for both of us. He has really flourished and because over 60% of his class is native German speakers has gained a tremendous amount of language in the last 10 months. This is what is working for our family right now. I hope you guys find your answer and I look forward to hearing about it!

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Thank you for sharing your experience! It’s very interesting, there’s so much to consider.

  • http://TheRunnersTrip.com Sarah Lavender Smith

    Hi Christine — here’s my two cents, based on the experience of teaching my two kids the equivalent of 3rd and 6th grade on the road during a year of RTW travel, and also based on seeing my brother unschool his two kids (who went on to be very successful at Cornell and Pitzer):
    - please keep in mind that “homeschooling” is a catch-all term that can mean many things. It’s not an either-or, black-and-white decision. We did a hybrid of traditional curriculum and homeschooling while road schooling. My brother did more full-on “unschooling” but also had his kids enter private high school. Also, my sister-in-law, the primary teacher, devoted her FULL TIME to teaching them and my brother also was extremely involved in their teaching. Is it realistic to think you have the time to home school given how many projects you and Drew have?
    - also please stay open to the many, many advantages of school (and the advantages school has to the parent-child relationship insofar as you’re not the only one teaching your kid; it’s good for kids to learn how to get along with others and learn from different teaching styles, and how to deal with adversity in social situations)– I know so many teachers in our public school system who are better teachers than I, and our kids got so much out of the classroom environment that I couldn’t provide on my own. Yes, some of their teachers sucked, and yes, an incredible amount of time was wasted in the traditional 8am – 3pm school day and they often received cookie-cutter instruction that dulled their curiosity … but at other times they blossomed at traditional school, and they learned life skills by dealing with a community of many others.
    - Homeschooling is easier at younger ages, I think, but becomes more challenging when the academics become more advanced in the middle school years.
    - I recommend you check out one of my fave family travel blogs, bodeswell.com, to see how they’ve raised their son on the road and started schooling him.
    Bottom line … being flexible and finding the right fit for your kids is key, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak; that is, don’t close the door on the schooling experience because at least some traditional schooling experience can be quite beneficial.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Good points as always, Sarah. I’m thankful to have your feedback. :)

  • lucy

    I like that you are considering various options for your kids’ education, but really have to question your #1 and #2 reasons for homeschooling. I have read about this sort of stuff on occasion, but in 28 years of parenting, volunteering in my kids’ school and the community and sharing stories with other parents, I have never, ever heard of this happening in real life. It’s like saying you shouldn’t visit Mexico, because the drug lords are out shooting and beheading people in every town and village in the country. ;-)

    As far as some of your other concerns, there are some really good schools amongst the mediocre and bad ones. Unfortunately, many of the best are private or are small public schools limited to those who live nearby. My daughters went to a fabulous school that had a wide range of the arts (drama, theatre management, glass blowing, dance, symphony, media arts), 6 or 7 foreign languages, very high academic standards and strong focus on values, community service, personal responsibility and independent, creative thinking. It was an amazing experience for them, and for us as a family too.

    I considered homeschooling when my own children were young like yours. What stopped me was I realized that I would not be happy being a teacher all day long. I can be a great teacher when I want to, but I also really enjoy my work and didn’t spend a portion of every day pushing curriculum. I also knew my limitations; I took my dog to puppy school, but often didn’t make the time to practice at home, and though I could use the exercise I am embarrassed how infrequently I go to the gym. I decided to find a great school and let them do the consistent, day to day work academics while my husband and I would take on the other aspects of their education. We traveled, expanded their exposure to arts, taught them about money, and formed tight family bonds, while still being able to do the work we loved and being very involved with their school activities.

    It doesn’t have to be a choice of only crappy schools or homeschooling. You can hunt down a school that you like, just as you will be hunting down educational materials and experiences if you homeschool. Even if your kids go to just an “okay” school, you can still supplement their experience with the activities you value when they aren’t in school. What is important is that you find what works for your family, and prepares your child for many options when they grow up.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Good points and increasingly I’m realizing I set up sort of a false dichotomy here — we don’t need all schools to be great, we just need to find ONE really excellent one. So even if 50-75% of schools wouldn’t be an option for us, that’s not the say the ONLY other option is homeschooling. Of course the quality of schools wasn’t the only factor but it’s definitely food for thought. Thank you.

  • http://ramblecrunch.com Renee — RambleCrunch

    You don’t know what works until you try it.

    My daughter’s education has been a complete mishmash. She attended a Montessori in Vancouver for ages 3-4 (absolutely amazing), a nasty all-girls private school in Vancouver for KG ( Total fiasco…unkind environment & frustratingly slow-paced academics…we removed her midway through the year), and a school for gifted students for a year and a half. She had a great first year there, but then a crap half-year after a new & inexperienced teacher came in. Enough was enough, and we removed her from institutionalized school at age 8.

    My daughter’s now 12, and we’ve been traveling for two years (Europe, Turkey, and now Mexico). Right now she’s auditing in a bilingual school. The academic level is two low for her, but she’s loving the kids, learning Spanish, and is happy as a pig in slop. I’m no fan of schools, but this one’s been a good experience, and there’s no way that homeschooling Spanish could have matched the language (and cultural) acquisition of a school environment.

    You just have to keep trying stuff until you find what works, both for the kids and for your family. Sounds like you’re open to anything, which is awesome. Good luck! :-)

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      I like the mishmash approach. :)

  • lucy

    That should have been “I enjoyed my work and didn’t want to spend a portion of every day pushing curriculum.”

  • http://www.discovershareinspire.com Rachel Denning

    TOTALLY AGREE! Many of the same reasons we homeschool (or ‘worldschool’ as we like to call it) our five kids :)

  • http://myfamilytravelsblog Lorena

    I agree with all of the reasons why you are considering homeschooling. We had two “bomb threaths” these past three weeks, one at one son’s high school followed by one at other son’s middle school. I’ll agree that what I dislike the most about sending my kids off to school every morning is 1)zero tolerance which leads to rigid behavior and 2)not knowing if today is the day a tragedy happens at their school, granted the likelihood is small but it is on my mind nevertheless.
    When the boys were little, homeschooling wasn’t on our radar; maybe we would have tried it. We are self-employed and have thrown around the idea of taking the boys out of school to travel more but they are dead set against it arguing that they LOVE their schools so we are listening to them, trusting that they are old enough to make their own choices.
    It might be nice for your kids to go to school wherever you are living at the time not so much for the three R’s but rather for culture immersion (i.e. while Dia de los Niños is a Mexican celebration that they will learn about just by living in Mexico, actually getting to celebrate it at school with their classmates will be lots more fun).
    I say go for it, you can always enroll them in school if it’s not working out (or viceversa). They are only little once and it is gone in a flash.

  • Bruce

    Our kids are roughly the same ages as yours and it is something that we struggle with as well. But we are trying to not lose the big picture in this as well (happiness as an adult) nor do we want to close doors thinking that our path is the right path for our children. For instance, employee vs entrepreneur…maybe the kid will prefer to be an employee. And it’s certainly easier to go from an employee to an entrepreneur than the other way around. How many of us went that path? And what if the kids are never raised or attend college in the USA. Will they be able to tap into that market to earn USD? I mean it’s certainly possible but is it probable. How many people really earn a significant amount of money from a culture/country that they haven’t lived in especially if trying to do it from abroad? How many doors might we be closing? It’s certainly an area of discussion for us as my wife is a different nationality and we’ve lived many places but never lived in the USA together. And we will likely never live there, but it is something we have to keep in mind.

    I think for us it’s going to end up being a balance of maintaining the child’s love for learning with the skill sets (whether they like them or not) that they are going to need to succeed in a country/culture and that may require some traditional schooling there. Well, there is that, and a few passports to fall back on.

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      True, good points.

  • RamblinKat

    I am pregnant now (due any day) and plan on living abroad/ traveling throughout her childhood. I love the comments touting a mish-mash approach. Every place you go will have different educational opportunities or lack thereof. I am really attracted to the Montessori school methods (right up your alley btw) and I know they are all over the world, so I hope we find a good one somewhere we are (cost is a big factor unfortunately, but maybe cheaper abroad?). But the main thing, and the thing that most people don’t understand, is that we will do what works, where it works, for as long as it works! Much like our travels and lifestyle in general. How long will we live in Nicaragua? As long as it works! What will we do next? Whatever we want, for as long as that works! And so on…

    • http://almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Me too: we’re kind of mishmash on everything.

  • http://www.bohemiantravelers.com Mary

    Christine, This was a great post. It is so interesting to see it all happening, the thought processes, worries, and all while the kids are still young. I love that you guys are thinking so much about it already. We are unschoolers who started out homeschooling with an open mind and over the past 7+ years have worked through what works for us. I wrote about our jouney here http://www.bohemiantravelers.com/2012/02/travel-familys-journey-to-unschooling.html as well as many other posts on the topic.

    I think the most impirtant thing, like you said, is finding what works for you. We will all be different and have different priorities. Now that you have multiple children you will probably start to see that even in your own family there will be a slightly different model that will work best for each child. It is an amazing journey, have fun!

  • http://safariroo.com Lauren Hesterman

    I just wrote about this myself; a quandary isn’t it? To me, being open is probably the best start (and finish) ;). Goodluck!

  • http://www.carolinabaker.com/?page_id=2664 Carolina

    Hi Christine – I don’t know much about this, but Sarah writes a bit extensively on the topic here: http://becomingsarah.com/index.php?/becoming_sarah/category_listed/category/homeschooling/. And Kate was homeschooled and provides resources here: http://un-schooled.net/

  • http://amandasummons.com/blog Amanda

    Such a great post! Being a student of International Schools, definitely don’t rule them out! The best international school is in Bangkok actually – Patana! Haha! It’s my old school. I think, for senior school, they are a great option. International schools often have the best communities because everyone is in a foreign country and everyone wants to learn more about where they are living, rather all being in the same hometown year after year. Homeschooling or Unschooling sounds perfect for what you want for when they are younger, but definitely consider International School – I went to 6 schools in four different countries and they all have their pros and cons but International School was definitely my favourite!

  • http://www.thejourneyitself.com Carmel

    Point #9, learning how to learn, is so vital. There’s such an information overload nowadays, that teaching kids how to be critical thinkers, question what they read and sort through all the crap has to be a part of the equation.

    I loved school for a lot of things, but even with a business degree, I rarely get to use what I learned.

    I think some practical life skills would be helpful, too.

  • Heather

    One thing you might want to consider if you homeschool: kids learn a lot by playing and interacting with other kids. If you homeschool, you might also want to consider having him attend a play group so he gets the social interaction he wouldn’t get as a home schooled kid.

  • Heather

    I just finished the dog and thought of something else: Here in Kansas, you can send your kid to an online school that is affiliate with the public school system. I have a friend who is doing this and the classes are actually *much* more difficult (as in the kids are expected to learn more) than the local school. It’s actually a d*mn good school.

    Link: https*//www.connectionsacademy.com/kansas-online-school/home.aspx

    I’m sure this is done in other states as well, so this may be an alternative to consider.

    And, since much of your income is earned by writing about traveling and living in different countries, won’t you lose that if you move back to the States and enroll in school here?

  • http://ourjourneytothesea.com Ourjourneytothesea

    Always remember that before it was called tourism, travel was considered and education.

  • http://ourjourneytothesea.com Ourjourneytothesea

    Oh and here is another travel mummy’s perspective: http://www.escapeartistes.com/2012/07/10/home-education-while-travelling/

  • Kate

    One thing about parenting is that you’re probably doing your best, and you’re probably doing it wrong… or at least your kids will think so until they’re in their mid-twenties! :)

    More seriously, Zabrina’s comment “When you’re homeschooled, you socialize with kids your age in extracurricular activities and the rest of the world — generally more mature, likeable people than kids your own age — the rest of the time” resonated with me. It’s a very broad stroke to suggest that spending time doing selectively chosen activities, with selectively chosen people, with whom you can easily relate, is the same thing as socialization. When do you learn to stick with something you don’t like, with people who don’t think you’re as great as your parents (or their friends) think you are? And when do you learn to negotiate your relationships on your own terms, when your parents aren’t looking out for you? This morning my daughter (1st grade) was telling me a story about how a 3rd grader talked her into giving her a push on the swing yesterday. She explained that the older girl had offered her a piece of candy to do it…and so she did…and then was given no candy. Think she’ll give that girl a push on the swings again? Heck no! Think she would’ve learned that lesson at home? I doubt it. Was she disappointed? Of course. Has she grown as a person? I suspect she has. My daughter also has a best friend, who she met at school, and who I never would’ve known to pair her with. They appear to be polar opposites as far as interests go. But their love for each other is so fantastic! I guess, the thing about school (outside the home), is that my kid has chosen her friends, not me, and she’s done so based on her own knowledge and experience and mutual connection.

    From my view the trials and tribulations that come with collaboration and integration into groups, that are not hand picked for you, is part of life. I think we’re blinded a bit by the assumption that negative, or unwelcome, experiences are detrimental to growth. They can be, but they can also be an impetus to change and shape our lives. They can also be an opportunity, for you, as a parent, to teach your children how to navigate any situation with confidence. To show your child that you are their advocate but that they have power as well.

    I would also like to add that I truly despise my daughter’s 1st grade teacher. Passionately. But she’s learned a heck of a lot from her year with “that woman” and so have I. I won’t always get my way, and neither will she. And sometimes she’s going to have to do what other people expect her to do. And it’s a bitter pill. And life’s not fair. Are these lessons that you can’t teach your children when they’re yours and you’re so in love with them?

    Whatever you decide might work great. If it doesn’t, toss $50 in the future therapy fund and try something else.

    • http://www.bohemiantravelers.com Mary

      Hi Kate, I wanted to respond to what you wrote here. Children that homeschool also have contact with other kids that are not the same as them just like a child would in school. They are also around family members and adults that definitely do not think they are amazing and are not always treated lovingly. We are able to learn the same things and have discussions and learning moments from disappointments, bullies, etc. The great thing is I am usually around and our communication is so wonderful that they discuss these and very heavy issues with me so they get real perspective on these types of things. It is no different and certainly nothing they need school for.

      I have been homeschooling my kids for 14+ years now and believe me there is NOTHING school can provide or teach my children that I cannot do my self or have facilitated for us. My children choose their friends as well. Maybe you just do not understand what a homescholing day looks like but I can assure it it is not a set up by me controlled by me or hand picked by me. Negative experiences happen within a family, out in the mall, at a local playgroup, in school, on a plane…basically ALL the time! Again they do not need school for that!

      I also do believe those lessons you listed can be taught by parents by simple natural consequesnces in life. Just because we homeschool does not mean they get everything they want or that they are not expected to do things they do not want to! No one needs school for that. I also think that when you homeschool you have the opportunity to teach your children that what they want and need and love MATTER! They do not always have to blindly follow what someone else lays out for them and they do not have to walk through life thinking life is not fair, as you put it! Life is exactly what we put into it and my children know that. Life is of their own making no fair or unfair about it!! They also know they can go where ever they want, be whatever they want, and it does not have to be something pre precribed by society! They can never teach that in school, in my opinion!

  • http://www.thebigtraveltheory.com Clayton

    I went to public school my whole life and my wife was homeschooled her entire life. We are now out traveling and when we have kids are planning to homeschool them. Mostly so we can pursue our passions of traveling and exploring. Homeschoolers had a bad reputation where I grew up. I have noticed that when it comes to homeschooling, any deficiencies the kids have are really just passed on from the parents. The problem was never homeschooling itself. It’s just another method of education. Also, the only time I see an actual downside is if you are in a small town. There were not as many activities and groups a homeschooler could get involved in without being in public school. when I lived near Dallas,TX there were so many homeschool groups and clubs that you could literally do anything that you could in public school. So my perspective is that this option allows you to work for multiple goals without being forced into something you don’t want.

  • Megan G

    I just stumbled onto your site and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have found this article. Me ,my partner,and our 5year old daughter are moving to Czech Republic from Boston next month. I have been debating the homeschool idea and loved your article. Brilliant points. Thank you :)

  • http://jesshurd72.wordpress.com/ Jessie

    I just started keeping up with your blog and have really enjoyed it. I read your post about growing up bilingual, and it still seems like the issue of languages (#8) would be fixed best by a local school – English immersion at home by English speakers and Spanish immersion at school by Spanish speakers. Many of my friends learned two languages this way and speak both flawlessly. There’s a whole world of potential native Spanish teachers (classmates, friends, teachers), why limit him to just one teacher who’s still learning?

  • http://www.roamingtales.com Caitlin

    I think home schooling could be a great option for you. You could always mix and match too.

    I think public schools in Australia are pretty good and uni is affordable and we do languages and art and music right from primary school and I’m currently an employee, so it’s probably not my choice for MY family but I think it can be a great option for some.

  • http://www.prettythingsakbeyond.com kt h

    As a public school educator of eleven years, I found this post intriguing. In fact, as I started reading, I wondered if you’d seen the Sir Ken Robinson TED talk (and there it was, at the bottom of the post). I am lucky enough to work in a small town, where our class sizes rarely top twenty. Our electives (each student is required to have three per semester) include foreign language, general art, stained glass, culinary arts, aviation, welding, Autocad, construction, cinema, drama, choir, band, steel drums, and cross fit. Other than #1 and #2, I found most of your points to be valid. I don’t think there is anything wrong with homeschooling; in fact it can be an ideal choice for world travelers. Keep in mind, however, that there are a few more things to consider about public schools.

    -While there can be lame teachers, there can also be fabulously inspirational teachers.
    -We are required to complete ongoing professional development. Particularly at the secondary level, we are highly trained in our subject manner. I can’t imagine being a parent and trying to teach my child Advanced Composition, Calculus, Chemistry, History, and Spanish IV (a typical schedule of a high school senior).
    -We have experience with ADHD. Student in my classes can listen to music, stand, walk around, and present to their peers.
    -Many of us are changing with the times. My students complete real world projects, all of which involve creativity, innovation, collaboration, and critical thinking.

    I enjoyed reading the comments on this post. I think that homeschooling is the perfect option for your current situation, but hope that you don’t rule out public education forever.

  • http://flippa.com/blog Ophelie

    There are *way* more than three things that school doesn’t teach you, but unfortunately I figured that out after spending way too much time in university. Meanwhile, my childhood friends who were homeschooled, for the most part, have substituted apprenticeships and internships for formal education, found what they were really passionate about, and, in some cases, entered university later (but were so in-demand they received full scholarships).

    I get it, it’s not a panacea, but from where I stand, homeschooling sounds pretty great for the kids.

  • Anne Anderson

    Whatever you choose will be fine. It’s all about being flexible and realizing that kids are super resilient as long as there is lots of love in their home, which seems pretty obvious in your case. We have our 3 girls in the local public school, and when our oldest was in 6th grade and we were questioning our local high school, we had the hair brained idea to start a progressive, project-based magnate program to be housed within the local high school. It’s now a fabulous, functioning school and our daughter is totally happy. Anything is possible and you will most likely be surprised by the paths you take when it comes to your kids education.

  • http://www.twoOregonians.com Bethany ~ twoOregonians

    Hey Christine,

    I’m catching up on your posts and enjoyed reading this one (and all the following comments) this afternoon. Ted and I were both home schooled; my mom was an educator in public and private schools prior to having me, and she’s a private school high school teacher now. She facilitated my independent education from birth (ha!) to high school graduation, and she provided my five younger brothers with a mixture of home/private schooling. (My baby brother just graduated yesterday, actually, so after nearly 30 years of overseeing her kids’ education in some way, shape, or form, she’s finally done!)

    I can’t give anyone else a formula for their family, but the wise advice I always heard my mom give to other parents was this, “You have to know your own child and connect them to the education that fits their unique personality, learning stye, and interests.” There is no one way. Home/private/public/un/world/etc.- schooling…learn about them all, learn about your family and your child(ren), and do your best.

    In my experience, the most valuable thing my mom taught me was the love of learning. (You’re spot on with #9.) That passion for life and discovery fuels my internal engine and shapes every part of who I am today. I think any parent can help give their kid that love, no matter the ultimate education-style choice. And I think you’re well on your way to passing on your love of life and learning to Cole and Stella. Keep it up! xx