Homeschooling Hiccups: Challenges Outside the Box

Homeschooling parents often talk about the joys of home educating their children, since they become able to build strong relationships with them encouraging them to develop as individuals rather than file numbers.

In essence, homeschooling does entail gleeful shrieks while running in fields of bright Marigolds, but this does not mean it comes without challenges.

Just as families with school-going children face a myriad of challenges on a daily basis, homeschooling families are not spared from chaos and mayhem, tears and some heartache. But with all choices that we make, we do face hardship and the easiest way for resolve is to turn to Allah for guidance as He, in His Supremacy, has already promised two eases for each hardship.

So if homeschooling seems up your alley, but at the same time the alley does not always seem so bright, know that challenges come in all shapes and sizes. And as you educate your children outside the mainstream box, there are ways to also overcome these challenges while going against the grain of what is perceived to be the norm.

The house is a shipwreck

Yes, the children are practically living in the house 24/7. There is no down time, where they disappear for eight hours a day, five days a week, 30 weeks per year. And while you are tidying up the blocks, they are dismantling the toaster. While you fix that, they have flooded the laundry room in an experiment with bubbles. There is no end. And really, it’s not the house that is a shipwreck; it’s the home school that’s a shipwreck.

While the feelings of dire straits may arise and a pressing need to cart them off to school becomes a recurring fantasy, remind yourself that it’s their house too. Many families grow up living separate lives, and many a time children are cordoned off to their bedrooms or the play room, to give adults the space and time they need.

While this is reasonable and possibly encouraged – because adults do need downtime –we have to remember that children are important members of the family as well. Allowing them to be actively (they are never passive) involved in what happens in the house, helps them build a grounded identity to the house they live in and the family they surround them.

So the house may always look like it’s been hit by a tornado, but it’s really not the end of the world. In many ways, it can help imbue the gratitude for having the freedom and space to allow them to develop in a non-prejudice, non-judgmental environment. In time they will also learn to be responsible over their actions – and as they come of age, household chores are in tow.

Hanging out with peers, or the lack of them

Many homeschoolers worry about this. It can’t be helped. One noticeable challenge for homeschoolers is peer interaction, or generally, the lack of peer interaction. Well, depending on the time and place of the homeschooling family, more would be exposed to peers, perhaps, those on the same journey, whereas, a little less. Although peer interaction seems like the bane of childhood development, it is often blown out of proportion by homeschooling naysayers.

There’s a lot to be said about socializing and socialization skills, and few of it actually revolves around the need to be with peers for a great chunk of the time. Homeschooling interaction with others involves – really – interacting with everyone. While homeschooling families hang out, they bring socialization to a new level, encouraging children to work with other adults, speak to them, listen to them and  form opinions based on what they learn.

Peer interaction – or too much of it – sends a message of conformity or rejection. If you do not confirm to the peer norm, feel free to self-reject yourself from the circle. Though this may seem harsh, it’s common in the class room setting. Homeschooling gives the advantage of hanging out with like-minded individuals, regardless of age and upbringing, and often makes home school socializing a family-affair.

Everyone in the family is encouraged to interact in the circle, rather than living separate lives on a grand basis. Of course, there will be times where friends differ between siblings, and that is part and parcel of children building their own niche. Most importantly, the family unit becomes more important than the need to associate with peers.

Homeschooling needs time and space, which is not always available

It does feel like this most of the time, and in most places: like the kitchen, the living room, when they’re somersaulting on the beds. Creating time and space for homeschooling is important. Though it’s not necessary to have segregated classrooms, a little order is most welcomed in the midst of mayhem. Certain rules can also be put in place to respect proper space and time as well. Loose schedules make a lot of room for children to thrive and develop.

When there is enough determination to do something, given encouragement and lots of tender loving care, children do thrive in their own right.

When there is enough determination to do something, given encouragement and lots of tender loving care, children do thrive in their own right.

Another challenge related to this, is second-guessing the children’s progress. Homeschoolers don’t get tested like in conventional schools and neither do they bring back report cards with an appointment to follow up with a parent-teacher meeting. So for the homeschooling parents, it’s often a guessing game as to whether their children are en par with their peers or meet the expected standards.

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to development than just exams and report cards, though they do come in handy when children are older and if they are heading down the College route. But, as children grow, parents don’t have to “teach” children, while being homeschooled. Instead, autonomous learning takes place based on interest. When children are left to dwell in a safe space and given the time and pace to develop on their own, they tend to become very creative, exploring opportunities, new ideas, and new dreams.

When there is enough determination to do something, given encouragement and lots of tender loving care, children do thrive in their own right. It may be taxing at times, when they are bored or do need plenty of attention, but children learn in spurts, and many homeschooling families find that they really do need to give their children time and space, coupled with guidance and encouragement.

By the time, they reach their teenage years, many things fall in place and homeschoolers are known to have more self-motivation to accomplish their dreams. They are also said to have higher levels initiative and better socialization skills because of the time they spend outside school interacting with others, partaking in community work, or spending time in an apprenticeship.

With hardship there is ease; with (the same) hardship comes ease

Homeschooling is a gratifying journey, no doubt – even for the most frazzled mother. Those who choose the route will encounter challenges, and they do come in all shapes and sizes, as every family is different. Though there may be some who will settle for the challenges that appear while sending their children to school, there are families who do choose to continue to home school, knowing that with each hardship, Allah provides double the ease, and there are great rewards in being the primary educator for one’s own children.

Lots of prayer, patience, some organization and mental strength are required to persevere through homeschooling. And just like homeschooling, each challenge can always be handled outside the mainstream box of the norm.

First published: February 2013