Do you homeschool or have ever considered it? Or maybe your path has crossed a homeschool family at some point? Many people have misconceptions about homeschooling, but probably the most prevalent, albeit damaging, are teachers.
Teachers are overwhelmingly negative about homeschooling. They think homeschooled students are behind, but they have other complaints, too. However, the real reason teachers dislike homeschooling is that teachers believe it is a professional insult to their education, training, and experience.
I’ve been a public school teacher since 1996. During this time, I’ve also homeschooled our four children from kindergarten to high school graduation. This has given me a unique perspective about both schooling options, as well as a behind-the-scenes understanding of what teachers think about homeschooling.
Table of Contents
1-Teachers Think Homeschoolers Are Behind
Probably the first thing a teacher says about homeschooled students is that they are behind their peers academically. If a teacher gets a new student who came from homeschooling, there immediate concern is that they’ll have to catch them up or fill in the learning gaps.
However, the idea that homeschoolers are behind academically is a myth. Usually, it is the opposite in fact. This study from the peer-reviewed Journal of School Choice says that homeschooled students typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above students who attend public school on standardized academic achievement tests. As well, black homeschool students tend to score 23 to 42 percentile points above black public school students.
Let me give two personal examples to illustrate the myth that homeschooled students are behind.
The Day I Received a Homeschool Student
First, as a teacher, I remember receiving a homeschooled student a few years back. His parents were in the military and chose to homeschool rather than bounce him around different schools every two years. Apparently, they were planning to stay in my area permanently, and so chose to introduce him to public school at fourth grade.
Since I have a positive background with homeschooling, I wasn’t immediately concerned like my colleagues about this student’s academic skills. That is, I wasn’t any more concerned than I would be about any new student I received.
When I met Z, I immediately worked to make him feel comfortable among the other students and paired him up with a buddy who could show him the class ropes.
It became apparent that Z would not have any problems academically. He was tops in math and reading, and had the confidence to share his knowledge without any reservations, raising his hand with every question I asked the class.
I can tell you, though, that this wasn’t what my colleagues expected. As the grapevine relayed news around the building about my receiving a homeschool student, just about every teacher found their way to me before the week was out.
All had the intention of expressing condolences about getting a homeschool student “at a testing grade.” I shocked them all with the news that he scored 100% on every entrance test I gave him! And he continued to rank in the top 1% of the class the rest of the school year.
My Homeschool Kids (x4)
On a more personal note, my own children dispel the homeschool kids are behind myth, too. By the time Brandon, Lexi, and Ronin were of standardized testing age, they’ve tested above normal for their peers/age-group.
For the few years we elected to try Lexi in public school, she tested into their gifted programs and put in all honors classes.
As high school students, both Brandon and Lexi received academic scholarships, entirely based on their SAT performance. No sports required!
Currently, Ronin repeatedly tests several grades above his official level for reading and writing, and on grade level for mathematics.
Ethan, who is autistic and has Intellectual Disability, is obviously not above grade-level. We first started him in public school so that he could participate in special education services, however, it was a huge mistake and resulted in him being highly medicated even to endure it. At one point his child psychiatrist asked me if I would be able to homeschool him, knowing my positive views on the subject and that I’d been homeschooling his brothers and sister.
Now, six years later, Ethan reads at the middle school level and has made strides in mathematics, too. He made huge leaps in learning…after being removed from public school and public school distractions.
2-Homeschoolers Are Socially Inept
Teachers think homeschoolers are socially inept and awkward. This is probably the second most provided point by teachers regarding homeschooling.
There are a couple of things that should really come to mind when teachers say this to you. First, keep in mind that they are comparing homeschool kids to their public school peers. Have you been in a public school lately? Which of these peer relationship behaviors should homeschool students really emulate?
If you’ve ever read Lord of the Flies, then you should be able to picture the right image of public school students. Even children who behave well at home and have strong family values start mimicking the bad behaviors just to fit in and survive!
Kids in school are brutal. As as teacher, I spent half my day dealing with bad behaviors. Because I knew how to run a proper classroom, I rarely had problems inside. However, the moment they were away from my supervision (recess, lunch, in another teacher’s room…), problems ensued! And don’t even get me started about my poor substitutes!
Second, most homeschool kids have grown up understanding proper social etiquette, because they haven’t spent 8 hours a day around misbehaving kids. Personally, I appreciate that they aren’t like their peers when it comes to conversation.
Homeschool kids wait their turn to talk, listen when adults are talking, and use good manners. It’s difficult to find public school students who do this because they’re so used to interrupting just to get a word in edge wise!
Finally, it’s uninformed to think homeschool kids don’t socialize. Most participate in sports, clubs, homeschool groups, and church functions. They aren’t simply sitting at home all day. To be honest, our kids spent much of their homeschool time on the road, either going to museums, church, outings, visiting others, and traveling throughout the year.
3-Homeschooling is for Religious Nuts
Teachers think that homeschooling is for the very religious, or that homeschoolers just study the Bible.
It’s true that one reason some people homeschool is due to religious ideals. It is also true that many homeschoolers include the Bible in their curriculum. However, this certainly isn’t the only reason for homeschooling, nor is it the only type of people who homeschool.
Other prominent reasons people homeschool are
- health/medical needs
- to repeat a year or move ahead faster
- to have a nontraditional calendar/schedule
- curriculum choice
- they move a lot (e.g. military families)
4-Homeschoolers Can’t Follow Rules
Teachers think homeschoolers can’t follow rules. They think because homeschoolers aren’t used to a mandated schedule (when to eat breakfast or lunch, read, do math, sharpen their pencil, raise their hand, etc.) that they are disruptive and rule-breakers.
However, homeschoolers are used to schedules and following rules; it’s just that the schedule and rules are different than a typical classroom. They certainly can learn it but it’s much easier if teachers present them the schedule and routines in the beginning, rather than wait until the student breaks the rule first.
My New Homeschooled Student, Z
I remember my homeschool student, Z, getting out his snack in the middle of independent reading, sometime during his first week. He was hungry, knew I allowed snacking in class, so why not snack during reading?
Well, immediately 5 students raised their hand to tattle on Z about eating. It was my fault for not explaining that snack time was at 10 a.m., after reading. Once I explained that, I didn’t have to do it again. Z understood- and never failed to have snack ready at 10 a.m.!
My Daughter, the Consummate Rule-Follower
Our daughter, Alexis, was mostly homeschooled (she had a stint of public schooling 2nd-4th grade and then again 7th and 9th). No matter where we were, Lexi always followed the rules, or did her best to, as long as she knew what they were.
I remember one day in 9th grade she was very upset about her performance on a history test. She explained that her teacher marked her down because she didn’t elaborate enough on some short essay questions. When I asked her why she didn’t write more-because she knew the material, she replied that her teacher said they should keep it brief and if they didn’t, he’d take away points.
So I could see her frustration. On one hand, he marked her down for not elaborating, but on the other, she was following his directions to be brief.
I told her to explain the dilemma to her teacher in order to defend her reasoning and presumably, argue back the lost points. If it didn’t go well, I was prepared to step in.
The next day she came home and said although her teacher wasn’t fully in agreement, he gave her the points back since she was able to verbally demonstrate she knew the material and he could see where she “misinterpreted his directions.”
Suffice it to say, she was able to follow rules, to the letter. Maybe better than her teacher!
5-Homeschooling is for Right-Wing Extremists
Teachers think you must be a right-wing extremist if you homeschool. It’s not unheard of that conservative families homeschool, but there are more conservative families who send their kids to public schools if we compare the numbers. And there are plenty of liberal families who homeschool, too.
Many so called ‘right-wing conservatives’ are starting to speak out more about their child’s public school education, too. Because there are some teachers who overstep curriculum boundaries to express their personal beliefs, often in direct contrast to conservative ideals, we’re hearing more public school families voicing their strong opposition.
This demonstrates that public schools are not without conservatives, and teachers need to take note.
6-Homeschoolers have Controlling Parents
Teachers think homeschoolers have controlling parents, or parents that are too demanding or restrictive.
On the contrary, homeschooling parents are generally more child-centered and flexible. They create whole systems for educating their kids rather than use what’s already available, easy, and free (public schools).
Homeschool families usually coordinate their vacations and family excursions around learning opportunities, too.
Yes, it may seem to the public school teacher that homeschool parents are in-your-face and always questioning. But that’s because they care about their child’s education…the very reason that led them to homeschooling in the first place. If a teacher finds a homeschool student entering their room, they can trust that it wasn’t done lightly and that the student is from a family who cares very much about their child’s education.
It doesn’t mean the parent is controlling- more so than any caring, loving parent should control the environment their child is in.
7-Teachers Think Homeschoolers Are Naïve
Teachers think homeschooling makes students naïve. Let’s consider the definition of naive, according to Merriam-Webster: “marked by unaffected simplicity” and “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment.”
Now how many children are proficient in worldly wisdom? For that matter, how many 16-year-olds have informed judgment? I wouldn’t want to rely on tween/teen judgment if my life depended on it, would you?
I think to discredit homeschooling by suggesting it creates naive students is just plain silly!
What about college students, then? Are homeschooled students who go off to college naive about living on their own, dealing with college parties, and keeping up with college work? Yes, most likely! But what high school student isn’t, whether they were homeschooled or pubic schooled?
All college freshmen have a transition period. But homeschooled students don’t do any worse than their peers at adapting. We’ve sent two off to college; both handled it based on their individual personalities, not based on their homeschooling.
8-Homeschoolers Are Isolated
Teachers think homeschoolers are isolated. This is so far from the reality that I think most teachers don’t know any homeschoolers!
Homeschool Groups Keep Kids Un-Isolated
Most homeschool families today are involved with other groups. They either join local homeschool clubs or socialize with homeschooling families at their church.
Homeschool groups take field trips and meet to share ideas. Often homeschoolers partner up to share expertise. One family might teach a foreign language while another might have expertise in math or science.
A Twin Example of Un-Isolated Homeschooling
I remember a set of twin girls, homeschooled, who attended karate classes with my husband (to learn more about karate for homeschoolers, you can read about it here) . These girls were also the biggest social butterflies of any other humans I think I’ve yet to meet.
They attended karate twice a week, worked in their father’s doctor’s office a few times a week, cheered, were Girl Scouts, and probably much more than that! No one who knew them would ever imagine them as isolated! (By the way, one went on to become the office manager of her father’s practice and mother of two, while the other attends Veterinary School in Grenada!)
9-Homeschooling is a White Thing
Teachers think homeschooling only involves white families. Today more than ever, this is far from the truth.
My homeschooled student was non-white. His parents were also non-white. As well, there are many other non-white families who homeschool or have homeschooled.
Famous, Successful Non-White Homeschoolers
One of the most well-known examples of non-white students who were homeschooled for all of their k12 education are Venus and Serena Williams. There father explicitly has said that he did this in order to provide enough time for them to learn and practice tennis. It seems to have paid off, huh?
Two other examples of black homeschool students are Misty Copeland. and Simone Biles. Both girls were initially public schooled but eventually switched to homeschool in order for them to have a more flexible schedule.
This paved the way for Misty to succeed in ballet (Copeland became the first black woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre). And for Simone Biles to become a successful Olympic gymnast (Biles went on to become the most decorated American gymnast.).
Latinos Embrace Homeschooling
A surprise to most teachers, homeschooling has surged not only in the black communities, but also in the Latino families. Like some, homeschooling is a way to impart religious education. And like some black families expressed, homeschooling is an opportunity to include relevant history in their child’s curriculum.
In a narrative study by Georgina Aubin at the University of San Francisco, she found that Latino mothers embrace homeschooling for several reasons. One oft-cited reason was to deepen family values in their child such as religious and cultural beliefs. Another recurring reason was a result of negative public school experience.
10-Teachers Feel Personally Insulted by Homeschooling
The tenth view teachers think about homeschooling is that it is a personal and professional insult to them. This is honestly the real reason public school teachers don’t like homeschooling. They feel it devalues everything they’ve worked hard for.
And to be honest, it sort of does!
When I was in my teacher prep program at the University of Tennessee, I was appalled at the idea of anyone homeschooling their child. It seemed absurd to me that the random Bob or Sally, who often didn’t have a high school diploma, let alone a teaching degree, thought they were capable of teaching their child when I was in college for 5 or more years to learn the ‘craft’. No, not just capable, but better!
That is, until I had a child of my own. It’s at that point that you realize no one in the world will love your child as much as you, or care about your child’s future as much as you do. It’s then that you come to an understanding that you are willing to make extreme sacrifices and hard decisions for the betterment of the little person now entrusted to you.
So then, homeschooling becomes part of the conversation. It’s not that everyone should homeschool; but it’s also not that you shouldn’t either. Every parent has to look at their situation and their child, and then make the right decision for them, regardless of myths and misconceptions others may have
What Do Teachers Think of Homeschooling Wrap Up
I could probably add 10 more to the list of ‘what do teachers think of homeschooling’ but I think you get the gist. In my experience as a public school teacher, I have been afforded an unguarded, unfiltered perspective from the inside.
In truth, teachers don’t like homeschooling. But also in truth, teachers don’t know homeschooling. If they did, I think they’d be quite happy about that unlikely homeschooler added to their class role or perhaps they’d find themselves pondering homeschooling their own child one day. I sure did!