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The Myth of Homeschooling

The other day, I was half-jokingly trying to talk my friends into doing a reality show about homeschooling moms. Unfortunately, they weren’t buying the idea. As one put it, “I’d much rather have people believe the myth.”

The Sept/Oct 2011 issue of the HSLDA Home School Court Report features an article by Michael O. Farris on “Ten Lessons I’ve Learned from Thirty Years of Homeschooling,” and offers this synopsis of the myth:

You have heard the stories – you know . . . the family with 12 children, all under age 9, whose 6-year-old has learned to solve three-variable algebra problems by studying the number of Hebrew syllables in the Pentateuch. Their 9-year-old has fully funded his college education by selling organic muffins door-to-door, using the ingredients his 7-year-old sister grew in the 40-acre herb farm she operates. There was enough money left over for Mom to run down to the fabric store (being sure to take all the kids with her so that she could teach a math lesson while buying material). She then bought enough material to make all of the girls matching dresses, all of the boys matching vests, and matching curtains to hang over the kitchen sink.

Ummmm. . . maybe not! But that is what homeschooling books and websites can often lead you to believe – that every moment is wonderful, every circumstance a learning opportunity, and that homeschooled children are always happy and eager to learn.

The reality on any given day can be far different. As homeschoolers, we are still on the fringe of “normal,” even though there are far more of us than they used to be. We are often called upon to defend our choice and to prove our children are doing well in order to silence the naysayers. Therefore, we may be prone to paint a overly rosy picture to the outside world.

The truth is, homeschooling does have its perfect moments – moments full of the magic and wonder of learning when everything falls into place and it is all incredibly worth it. But, those moments are the exception. The reality is, most of the time, we just muddle through and hope for the best. The grace of God keeps us going through the frustration, the worry, and the whining (both ours and the kids’).

Those of us who choose to leave the well-trod path of traditional schooling and jump off a cliff into the world of homeschooling were called to this task. We each have our own stories, our own reasons, our own circumstances. We are all different, but we share a common lifestyle. Even amidst the messiness and the imperfection, it is a good way to live. Perhaps someday, we’ll be able to be a bit more honest about what our lives look like and we’ll be able to put the homeschooling myth to bed once and for all. Until then, I guess that reality show will just have to wait!


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Master of Arts degree in Applied Theology from Elms College. A former Senior Editor at Catholic Lane, she is now the editor of Today's Catholic Homeschooling. She is also the author of The Catholic Baby Name Book and Letters to Mary from a Young Mother. She has two biological sons and one adopted daughter. Visit her blog at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com.


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  • Theodore Kobernick

    The homeschooled children I’ve met invariably have been comfortable conversing with an adult (moi). They communicate freely, and receive communications in a way other children cannot.

    The level of education of homeschooled kids is higher than that of their contemporaries.

    As for peer groups, the regularly schooled kids would do fine, if they graduated into a world run by their peers. But the world is not run by youngsters; so the homeschooled kids have a huge advantage there.

    Being taught by a person who cares for you, and focuses on you makes a world of difference. My grandfather taught me to read when I was either four or five. I never lost that head start. I read the Odyssey to my daughter when she was six. She has carried that advantage through her life, and passed it on to her children.

    Homeschoolers, your labor of love leaves an enduring legacy! And your children are not ruined by what passes for PC today.

  • Your description lacked the perfectly coiffed mother with perfect nails and make-up, heels and pearls baking her own bread from grain she milled herself. 😉
    Ah, Patrice, what a reality show that would be. I can see it now….WWE look out! We do all certainly do our best and pray A LOT! Without His Grace, there would be no way I could homeschool. Thanks for the chuckle!

    Christine