The Most Common Complaint in Homeschooling (and What to Do About It)

Nov 4, 2020

I have been homeschooling for over twenty years now, and I’ve been involved in teaching homeschooled children (other than my own) for that same amount of time. There have been a number of trends noted in the changing demographics of the homeschool community including the rise of secular homeschooling, the increase of diverse populations involved in homeschooling, and the large numbers of students leaving the public school system later rather than earlier in the school cycle (i.e., students starting homeschooling in high school rather than in elementary school). There are numerous websites and articles about these trends, but one trend among students of all types has not changed: the reluctance and obstinance displayed by students for the non-favorite subject.

You’ve probably heard (or even said) some of the following statements yourself:

  • When will I need Algebra?
  • How is this really going to help me in life?
  • Why would I need a foreign language? I’ll never be fluent.
  • I’m a horrible writer. I’m not going into anything that needs literary analysis.
  • Shakespeare is dumb.
  • Chemistry is dumb.
  • Art is dumb.
  • Edgar Allan Poe is dumb. (OK, well, maybe no one has said that last one. LOL!)

One of the things I have noticed lately, however, is these statements are being made by parents more and more and not by students. In fact, the level of disdain on the part of parents in some instances is shocking and cause for concern.

While I support homeschooling wholeheartedly, I think it is prudent to at least be guided by what is commonly accepted for subject completion and capability for students who are not experiencing severe learning difficulties. Please consider the following thoughts:

Expectation Creates Success

Parents, if you expect big things, your student will deliver big things. As a teacher, I can assure you that low expectations on the part of the teacher results in low or sub-optimized results. Expecting success and helping along the way to achieve the desired outcomes produces better results and overperformance. Your student will rise to the level expected and communicated. Speak words of life over your student’s learning.

Your Enthusiasm Creates Enthusiasm

Parents, the fuel source for learning is actually your interest and excitement. So often parents underestimate the importance of their own support of the subject or topic in the mind of the student. If you complain, lament, or denigrate the topic or book or author or subject, then that lack of enthusiasm is what the student has to use to move forward. Who wants to shortchange their child in such a way? Even if you are a poor math student, affirm the importance of it. Even if you hate Charles Dickens, learn some more about him or watch a video with your student. Even if you abhor group projects, support the process of working in a team or as a group because that is much of what real world life is about. Provide your student with the energy to get started and soar.

Be Cautious in Striking the Classics or the Core

I have frequently seen the comment, “Your homeschool, your rules” on social media boards. This assertion is true in most cases; however, I believe there is merit in fairly closely aligning with what your state suggests for a high school diploma.  The reasons for doing so are:

  1. Your student (and any employer or college) will recognize the accomplishment as being on par with peers. Your student will have confidence in his or her homeschool experience as compared to others.
  2. There is merit in doing things that are difficult or hard. For example, getting through Algebra II, even if you feel your student will never need it — and I believe they will in some measure –, promotes critical thinking skills and rigor. The same can be said for reading difficult works or learning a foreign language. The benefit for your student may or may not be in better math, writing, or conversational skills; it may accrue through better critical thinking skills, increased time management ability, or even confidence.
  3. For literature, reading the classics allows your student to participate in “the Great Conversation.” This is the notion that great writers and thinkers build upon one another, taking up ideas and themes across time. This creates a network of allusions and references that become meaningful to a well-read person. So, before you throw away that classic in favor of a more modern book your student wants to read, consider having her read both or substitute something of equal value or merit.

Now, having said all of this, it is true: your homeschool, your rules. If your student likes mythology, study it! If your student loves quadratic equations, kick the math into high gear. State requirements are certainly a guideline, but they should be considered a minimum, and there is certainly a lot of wiggle room in how one accomplishes the four years of English, the three years of math, and so on. I only strongly suggest that you don’t completely throw away those guidelines for the reasons explored above.

I Still Hate Algebra Though

But what if you, parent/teacher, just can’t muster the enthusiasm or skill set for teaching whatever your loathsome subject is. Well, it is time to farm it out to local teachers, online teachers, or other homeschool parents through co-op or partnerships.

My hope is that rather than taking the easy road of least resistance with your student, you will carefully consider the trade-off you may be making. At times, an alteration may be desirous or necessary, yet persevering through the topics that are not your student’s favorites may yield even greater rewards.

Please consider these other blogs and resources:

The Importance of Studying Shakespeare

Longer Literary Works to Read

Literary Analysis Is Not Just for Future English Majors

Jodi Guerra is an Instructor and Coordinator with Excelsior Classes, a consortium of online teachers dedicated to excellence in online instruction. She has been involved in the education of children and adults serving in public schools, private schools, and corporate America. For the last twenty years, Jodi has worked with homeschool students in private classes, tutoring situations, and in the virtual world of online education. She seeks to make every learning situation fun yet productive. Besides teaching, Jodi loves to read and finds both cooking and sewing to be creative expressions.