What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?
~ Robert H. Schuller
The coronavirus shutdown has prompted thousands of families to reconsider sending their children back to school. Countless parents, after getting a taste of homeschooling, have decided to switch to it fulltime this fall. I’ve been homeschooling for 16 years, so I’m definitely in favor of it. That being said, I also realize homeschooling is not for everyone. A lot of factors come into play, including some not-so-obvious ones that many people miss.
At the forefront are heavy issues: student safety (parents’ #1 concern) and the efficiency/inefficiency of schools’ new schedules (parents’ #2 concern). Parents are weighing what they value most and the reality of being able to make things work at home.
With such serious issues at stake, it’d be negligent to make a final decision based on emotions, especially negative ones like fear and anxiety. And yet people often do, sometimes without realizing it.
Perhaps you are grappling with the fact that your lifestyle will shift if you decide to homeschool. Many people, when faced with such a change, feel sad because the change means they will “lose” their familiar home routine. The pain associated with this loss can be greater than the enjoyment you’ll get from a new education style because the latter is unfamiliar and accompanied by unknowns.
Scientists call this the loss-aversion principle. People are wired to avoid loss. “Researchers have found again and again that people act as though losses are from two to four times more painful than gains are pleasurable,” said Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.
This sense of loss is real, so be sure to acknowledge it. Don’t, however, let it be the foundation from which you make your decision. Instead focus on what you value most and weigh the options of how to preserve those valuables.
Some parents worry that their lack of training (“I’ve never been a teacher”) prevents them from teaching their own children. I disagree. When you think about it, you’ve already been teaching your child in countless ways. You just might not have associated your instructions with school. Plus here’s an insider’s tip: The teacher’s books have all the answers. My kids thought I was brilliant for years! And the Internet holds a wealth of information if you get stuck.
Another helpful tool is the 10/10/10 principle developed by author Suzy Welch. If you decide to homeschool, how will you feel about your choice 10 minutes from now? Nervous? Happy? How about 10 months from now? Ten years from now? Thinking about it in this light often enables you to gain some distance from the situation before deciding.
Sometimes you need a bit of distance from short-term emotions (like fear, apprehension, or even excitement) to think with a clear head and view your family’s situation objectively.
“10/10/10 helps to level the emotional playing field. What we’re feeling now is intense and sharp, while the future feels fuzzier,” the Heath brothers explain. Shifting the spotlight to the future “can help us keep our short-term emotions in perspective… [so we don’t] let them be the boss of us.”
Additionally, “a 10/10/10 analysis doesn’t presuppose that the long-term perspective is the right one. It simply ensures that short-term emotion isn’t the only voice at the table,” the authors added.
Finally, try looking at your choice from a different angle. Instead of continually mulling over your own situation, pretend your friend is the one deciding whether to homeschool. How would you advise her? Psychologists have found “when we’re giving advice, we find it easier to focus on the most important factors,” the authors said. When we consider our own circumstances, however, we can easily get lost in a whirlwind.
“When people fail to prioritize the most important factor in the decision, their decision gets muddled. When we revel in complexity, we may cycle through our options constantly, changing our minds from day to day,” the authors said. “But that kind of mental circling is risky, because it means that our choice may be determined by where we are on the merry-go-round when we’re forced to make a final call.”
It’s important to consider all the aspects of homeschooling. It’s a big decision that will change your family’s life in many ways. It’s not something to jump into lightly. Write the advantages and disadvantages side-by-side on a piece of paper. Seeing both aspects in black and white can give you a more objective perspective. Research what’s involved, talk to others who are successfully homeschooling, become as informed as possible. Then choose what’s best for your family. And as always, if you have any questions, you can reach me at Sharon@EssentialsOfHomeschooling.com. I’d be happy to help.
PS = Here's one mom's story about why she's chosen to homeschool her two children this fall, even though she and her husband both work fulltime: https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/homeschooling-coronavirus-kids-parents-home-fall-kristina-hernandez.