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The Sacrifice of Homeschooling,
by Pam Hartley

All of us have heard this response when we tell friends we homeschool: “Oh, I could never do that.”

This statement is often followed by their assurances that they are not smart enough (or organized enough, or patient enough, or insane enough) to teach their children. The implication is that homeschoolers are some kind of Super Parents – faster than a speeding 9 year old, more powerful than Martha Stewart, able to leap tall Lego buildings in a single bound.

Some homeschoolers love this image, and believe in it as well. They see themselves as the noble, selfless sort, who give up their own fascinating and important lives to spend time instead with their children.

Me, I've never been into selflessness. Mother Theresa I ain't, and I've always found halos a little cumbersome, especially when I'm crawling under the furniture looking for missing game pieces or lost socks.

I have something shocking to tell all none-homeschoolers, and some homeschoolers as well: homeschooling is not a sacrifice. It does not take madonna-like patience, the riches of the lost city of Atlantis, or a schedule that makes an 18th century English butler look like a free spirit.

Homeschooling is easy.

It can be MADE difficult, but that takes effort. Left to evolve naturally, homeschooling slides seamlessly and quietly into your regularly scheduled life. Children (yes, even your children, even MY children) are not hard to get along with. Turns out, they’re humans just like us, who happen to be short and inexperienced, and are eager to find their place in the family and in society-in-general. They are, though I know this may boggle the mind of many who were force-fed knowledge in school just as I was, EAGER TO LEARN.

Children from the ages of 5 to 18 learn in exactly the same way of all other humans, including babies and senior citizens. Just as a baby learns to walk and talk without special and specific curriculum or set-aside “learning time” every day, just as an adult can learn a new skill or job or hobby without being graded or tested. People learn the things that are important to their families and the communities they wish to be a part of. It’s that simple. No teaching certificate is required to model “being a person in this family in this city in this state in this country” for your children, and the model and your interest in them is all they need to thrive. The rest is all about delving into their individual interests and paying attention to what they want to learn, and when, and how.

The myth of the homeschooling sacrifice is harmful to families who might otherwise consider pulling their children from a bad school situation, so don’t let it go unchallenged. When people say, “I could never do that”, I assure them that it can be much easier than dealing with the schools and their schedules and their homework. It gives people something to think about, and I like to think it gives them a little hope, too.


Pam Hartley lives in California with her husband, Wally, and their two daughters Brittany and Michael-Anne. Everyone in the family is a radical unschooler, including the cat.

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