Home Education: Risk-Takers Need Only Apply

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“Homeschooling really isn’t for everyone, then. Is it?”

It was perhaps the fourth time I had heard some variation of this sentiment. This time, it came in a podcast interview where the host identified as ‘liberty-minded.’ On its face, homeschooling made sense to this man; he had concerns about the things happening in schools: violence, sexualization of kids, and the school district’s stand on masks and vaccinations.

So, why, after acknowledging the many benefits of home education, did he conclude that it wasn’t for everyone and most definitely wasn’t for him? Risk. “You have to have an entrepreneurial spirit to tackle this,” he commented. “It seems risky.”

I couldn’t argue. My former experience with self-employment was full of risk. As a small business owner married to a homesteader, I had to pursue simpler goals. In growing our own food and caring for an aging loved one, we had assumed a lot of risk. Every year, we had to solve the puzzle of affordable health care and payroll taxes without the assistance or funding of an employer. We had some lean years where chopping firewood gave us the most return on our time; other years allowed us to travel to interesting places and even upgrade our van with power seats and a luggage rack. It was the nature of self-employment.

But the rewards my husband and I reaped were rich. We no longer waited to be told whether we would keep our jobs or get a raise; if we sensed our income was insufficient, we would refresh our skills and sell more. The feeling of not having all our eggs in one basket was empowering and quite unlike the monotony and uncertainty that we had felt at our corporate jobs. 

So, homeschooling wasn’t a leap for a family that already took responsibility for the outcomes of their work. But what about for those who aren’t entrepreneurs?

And this was the crux of the matter for so many I meet. I am asked, “But what if you do it wrong? What if you mess up your kid’s education?” Ironically, such trepidation came from parents who were already frustrated and unsatisfied with their children’s government education. Such schooling was already messed up, already wrong.

What could the disconnect be here? It was my responsibility and thereby personally assumed risk. 

If the school messed up—brought CRT into the classrooms, cut art and music, or handed out condoms from a fishbowl in the nurse’s office—it was the fault of the school. Conversely, if a homeschooling parent chose the wrong math curriculum or failed to crack down on bad behavior, it was their fault. The weight of this is simply too much for many.

Homeschooling raises countless conversations about childcare, privilege, and earning power. But if all things are equal, what I hear most from parents who hate their school and don’t want to pull kids out is this: “Homeschooling is risky, and I don’t know what will happen if I try it.”

It’s true. We can never fully anticipate the outcomes of our actions. The reality is that we could completely mess up our child’s schooling. Thankfully, with the advent of online virtual academies and co-ops and dual-credit college enrollment, it’s less likely but remains a risk nonetheless. 

Most concerns aren’t about school either but related to parenting. “What if my child won’t listen to me?” “I’m afraid my kid will be mad if I pull them.” Both of these questions aren’t matters of schooling. Remove the teacher, and even more responsibility for raising the child falls onto the parent.

It takes an entrepreneurial spirit to lead your child’s education. From picking suitable courses to choosing wise teachers to understanding which activities are valuable, there is a healthy amount of risk assessment that happens when you first start – and continues as you go along. Perhaps, if you’re the type that hates your job, but not quite enough to leave it or try a side gig, homeschooling isn’t for you. It’s risky. I simply cannot guarantee everything will be OK.

But much of the good in our world was created by risk-takers who likely don’t regret their leap. In homeschooling – as with so many beautiful movements – you’ll never really know unless you try. 

 

Linsey Knerl
Linsey Knerl is a 17-year home educator, mom of six, business owner, and author of Homeschool Hacks: How to Give Your Kid a Great Education Without Losing Your Job (or Your Mind) from Simon & Schuster.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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