The 9 Biggest Misconceptions About Homeschoolers

It’s 1 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and I'm in Target with my clearly school-aged children. "Why aren't those kids in class?" I imagine people thinking as we traipse by. Or, I'm on an Internet forum when I mention that I won't be online in the morning, because I'm doing school. There is confusion. "What are you in school for?" people ask. "No, I'm doing school," I say. "I homeschool my sons." There's always radio silence, and I know their image of me has morphed from hip young mama to Michelle Duggar. All parents are judged, but homeschoolers face more criticism than most. So I asked other homeschool moms to share the biggest myths they hear about homeschool life. Here are the 9 biggest misconceptions we're totally sick of confronting.


1. Homeschoolers aren't "socialized."

Every mom I spoke to agreed that socialization is the most common thing we get asked about. I get it from everyone -- family, friends, strangers in the Target self-checkout. Apparently, socialization can only be accomplished in a classroom of same-aged kids seated at desks for seven hours a day. But make no mistake, homeschool kids are socialized, and in a way their parents find extremely beneficial. Because homeschool kids aren't divided by age, like in traditional school, they tend to see kids of many different ages as potential playmates, and are more likely to make space for younger kids than to exclude them. They go to homeschool co-ops, museums, and "field trips" around their towns, where they meet kids from all walks of life. And they aren't burdened with the same gender stereotypes (girls play over here, boys play over there) as public school kids. My oldest son's two current besties are girls, one more than a year younger than he is. That's socialization I'm proud of.

2. Homeschoolers are "weird."

"I am personally most irritated when people either say or insinuate that by choosing to keep my kids at home, I am in some way holding them back from a 'normal' life," Judy, a mom of four and homeschooler for over 10 years, told me. Yes, homeschoolers may be behind their public school peers when it comes to pop culture, but homeschool kids are also freer to develop their own interests in things, because they don't have as much peer pressure or people around to ridicule them. My kindergartner is obsessed with extinct sawfish and Spinosaurus; my 7-year-old dresses as the Marquis de Lafayette for fun. Maybe that's weird, but we think it's awesome.

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3. Homeschoolers don't leave the house.

People think that homeschoolers stay, well, home. All the time. But my kids -- and all the other kids I know -- are around other people and children all the time. Many museums and learning centers even host regular "homeschool days." I had four separate homeschooling events I could have attended last week, and three on Friday. In fact, as a rule, we don't do school on Fridays, because there's always something going on with friends, be it a nature walk or open house at the local gaming shop. Homeschool doesn't literally mean all the learning happens "at home."

4. Homeschoolers only do it for religious reasons.

Francie, a veteran homeschooler whose daughter is a high school senior this year, says she hates it when people assume we only homeschool for religious reasons. Some parents may homeschool and stick to a faith-based curriculum, but there is also such a thing as secular homeschooling, and it's much more common today than it used to be. Personally, my family does homeschool because public school doesn't mesh with the way I think that, ideally, children should be taught. It has nothing to do with our religion.

5. Homeschoolers dress like the proverbial Prairie Schooner mom.

It's as if the people who never see homeschoolers, those for whom we exist only as a conceptual entity, think we have some secret homeschooler store that sells only denim and prairie dresses. Or, that we're supposed to make all our own clothes. This would be difficult for me, because I don't even own a working sewing machine. But seriously: Homeschoolers dress like a normal cross-section of America, from hipster-eclectic (me) to leggings and tunics, just like any other mom.

6. Homeschoolers are all white.

People assume all homeschoolers are white, but that's simply not true. According to the best data we have, while 59 percent of homeschooled children were white in the 2015–2016 school year, around 26 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were black, and 3 percent were Asian, Pacific Islander, or other. A 2012 report published in the Journal of Black Studies found that the number of black homeschooling families is actually on the rise, as many black families work to avoid "school-related racism." The idea that there's only one type of family who homeschools or one reason why families choose to homeschool is outdated.

7. Homeschoolers hate teachers. 

Sonja, a longtime homeschooling mom, says, "Before I was confident enough to pull both of my kids out of school permanently, I pulled my older son out [once] and put him back in ... The teacher took it very personally, as if I hated teachers. I actually have great respect for teachers, because while I want to be my own children's advocate, I see teachers having to advocate for so many kids. They truly have a hard job.”

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People think homeschoolers have something against school teachers, but my husband is actually a public high school teacher. When I tell people this, jaws drop. But our jobs don't really conflict. He sees the school system from the inside and works within it the best he can. He does a damn good job. I work with our kids outside the system. And both of us admire what the other person does and could never do the other's job.

8. Homeschoolers are breakin' the law.

Sonja also points out that people "think we are lawbreakers" by having our kids at home. If we go out in public during a "school day," we get dirty looks and an occasional "are they sick or skipping school" question. One homeschool mom named Kimberly says she was once asked, "'Is that even legal?' No, lady, I just like telling people about the crimes I'm committing while I'm committing them." For the record, homeschooling, with its various laws and restrictions, is legal in all fifty states.

9. Homeschool moms are super-special magic unicorn moms.

Every one of us hears it: "Oh, I could never do that." Or, "Oh, I could never be home with my kids all day." Homeschoolers don't have some magic Mary Poppins dust that lets us teach our own children. Maybe homeschooling wouldn't work for you because you can't stay home, or you don't enjoy spending time teaching phonics. Maybe you don't think your kids will listen because they're too tired to listen when they get home from a full day of school and sports. Or maybe you just don't want to freaking homeschool and you feel like you need to justify it to us. But trust me: Our kids aren't special. We lose our patience. We get tired, we get sick of it, we find ourselves going, "Oh crap. What do I do next?" We aren't magical unicorns. We're just regular parents.

You could definitely homeschool, should financial and life circumstances align. Whether or not you choose to, though? That's a choice you need to make for your own family. And none of us would ever venture to say we know what's best for you.

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