Don’t Fall Prey to a System Within the Freedom of Homeschooling

by | Reflect & Connect

I hear this often: parents’ hesitancy to educate to the full potential that homeschooling permits with concern their child won’t be able to catch up if eventually placed in a school system.

On the one hand, parents experience the freedom to focus on their child’s individual needs using the method that works best for them. On the other hand, they worry that they’re not bringing their child up to par, so they resort to school-like methods “just-in-case” their child [re]enters the school system one day.

This “just-in-case” method raises alarm for me. I worry we’re losing the big vision on the altar of fear.

I think it’s fair to say that as homeschooling parents we share the goal of wanting to prepare our children for life after academics. We want to be sure our children become life-long learners and that they fit within many diverse circles and are able to cope with many new situations.

As parents of neurodivergent or disabled children, we also want our children to be able to fit into a society that doesn’t fully understand them and their reality. We want to spare them hurt feelings and we want to reduce the need to struggle further.

You may find yourself relying on the “just-in-case” method of teaching because “just-in-case” you send your child into a school system, they won’t be made to feel anxious/frustrated in this new environment since the books and worksheets will be familiar to them.

While these are valid worries, let me reassure you with the following words:

Don’t fall prey to a system within the freedom of homeschooling

The school system is a system.

It’s not real life. It barely even reflects it.

Having been both on the inside (as a teacher), and on the outside (as a homeschooling parent), what I share here is a reflection of my experiences in both worlds.

You have the freedom to tap into your child’s learning style (which may or may not include worksheets). Don’t limit education in your home. School teachers only wish they had the resources, time, and possibilities you can offer your child at home.

All children have to adapt to change on a yearly basis

Children who have always been a part of the school system face some of the same anxieties, frustrations, and struggles we homeschooling parents worry our children will face in the classroom.

Yearly, children are introduced to a new teacher (often many teachers), new classmates, and a new environment.

Teachers are very dedicated to their profession and offer the best to their students. However, each teacher brings a different perspective by providing a different teaching style to their students. This means, from year to year, children are made to adapt to several changes. Students experience initial anxieties and frustrations because things are different from what they became accustomed to the year before. It’s no secret that it takes a good month for both teachers and students to adjust to their new relationship.

Your child is no farther behind

You need not assume that your homeschooled child will be any farther behind than their public-schooled peers.

If you send your child to conventional school, they’ll be making those adjustments right alongside their peers (even if in their own way).

Your child has an advantage over other children

Children on an IEP in the conventional system are fortunate. They are already on the teacher’s radar because they have a file that explains all of the needs and recommendations to an already overwhelmed teacher. They can take action with your child first because of the reports and meetings that come along with your child.

Further, a neurodivergent or disabled child often has an aide/childcare worker assigned to them. They are given adapted materials and extra care and attention.

Your child will receive more support in all of the transitions/changes than most other children in their class. It’s a fortunate misfortune of the system.

Give yourself and your child credit

Finally, it needs to be said that homeschoolers need to be given more credit. You need to give yourself more credit. Your child needs to be given more credit.

In teaching your child within the freedom that homeschooling allows, you are expanding your child’s potential exponentially. Home educating doesn’t have the limitations that a school system holds. Your child can explore in real life with real tools and real people and within real situations. A tremendous amount of learning occurs when textbooks are closed, and the mind is open to question and wonder within an authentic learning environment.

Homeschooled children who are permitted to fly with their learning style can later enter the classroom and excel.

Your child is at a greater advantage than peers.

  • They possess life experiences, unlike anything their peers have experienced in a classroom.
  • They have internalized problem-solving by solving many of life’s challenges head-on (and not only on paper).
  • They can communicate in their way because they have been given time to express themselves (without the need to raise their hand and hope to be called upon).
  • They have built profound relationships because family and friends contributed to their learning in meaningful ways (and not just on weekends and holidays).
  • They were given one-on-one attention that they otherwise may not have received.

And, because of these experiences, they can shine in a classroom setting.

I worry that you may be holding back in your homeschooling. You may be clutching onto worksheets, textbooks, and tests because they most resemble what your child would use “just-in-case” they were to join a classroom one day.

Even if your goal is to send your child to school next year, consider the points above and the questions below.

Questions to ask yourself

Plan tomorrow’s lessons geared toward your child’s learning style–not toward the threat of a “just-in-case.”

Ask yourself:

  • Why did we decide to homeschool?
  • What is our ultimate goal for our child’s education? What is their goal for themselves?
  • What is our ultimate goal for our child’s life? What is their goal for themselves?
  • Do I want to be building life skills or helping my child fit into a system?
  • Do my lessons today reflect the desires I expressed in the questions above?

Now, facilitate and learn.  Freely.

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4 Comments

  1. Catherine

    ” The reason this “just-in-case” teaching raises alarms for me is because I worry that we’re losing the big vision on the altar of fear. ”

    Yes, yes, yes!!!

    I am completely guilty of falling back on worksheets & textbooks whenever I feel like I’m not doing a “good enough” job. And every time, I notice that the use of these supplies makes me feel like more of a failure.

    I very much enjoyed this post – – thank you!

    • Gabriella Volpe

      Thank you for your comment, Catherine. I just want to be sure that no parent experiences guilt… not even if you do use worksheets. Everything has a place in education. Just think about when and why you use them. No guilt. No feelings of failure allowed! Everything you are doing is with the best of intentions.

  2. Chantal Halle

    Interesting blog once again!
    Isn’t it ironic that on one hand, special needs children are mostly taught from worksheet in the classroom setting, and in an adapted work setting, many of them will end up doing manual tasks? (woodwork, making necklaces, farmwork or cleaning? (among other possibilities))
    I can see the advantadges of working with a child on a more global level, rather than focusing exclusively on academics.
    Our hope as parents is that our children will do well in life in general, so focusing also on meal preparation, cleaning, budgeting , etc. in homeschooling can definitely assist in achieving that goal.

    • Gabriella Volpe

      Chantal! You got it! Exactly! This is why many parents pull their children out and decide to homeschool their struggling child in the first place. Teachers feel so frustrated that they can’t provide that kind of experience in the classroom because of lack of funds and equipment. This is why I see homeschooled children thrive in their natural environment. They get access to the hands-on, daily tasks that they wouldn’t otherwise get in the classroom (unless they’re lucky enough to be placed in a private or alternative school).

      I felt the strong need to write this post because I’m hearing parents express their insecurities toward the more hands-on method of homeschooling since they don’t get concrete evidence of learning. A worksheet is popular in school because teachers have proof of a child’s difficulties and achievements. As homeschoolers, we might feel the need to have something tangible to show others who question our approach in the first place – or even to show our significant others.

      If I could change one thing about schools, it would be to get rid of those workbooks and worksheets altogether. There needs to be a paradigm shift about what education really should look like and how to offer it to all students – homeschooled or not. Just because schools use what I like to refer to as “repetitive busy-work”, doesn’t mean we need to. In fact, we shouldn’t. Our children will be better prepared for the world because they actually are a part of the world already.

      I know that the best achievements don’t happen on paper. They happen in that precious brain that is naturally hidden from the world. We don’t need to prove to anyone that our children are learning. They will prove it to the world themselves in the skills they use to do just what you listed above.

More Resources

Continue reading my essays, activities, and case studies for supporting the education of disabled/chronically ill and neurodivergent children.