It's not all sunshine and rainbows, so let's just cut to the case.
1. Swimming against the tide.
As of 2012, the U.S. Department of Education's National Council for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that homeschoolers represented 3.4% of the U.S. student population. That's not a number to scoff at. And while the number of homeschoolers has been growing steadily since the first count in 1999, homeschooled students are still a minority, and whenever you choose to do something different from what the majority is doing, you're bound to find yourself swimming against the tide, at least to an extent.
This means that you may face funny looks, invasive questions, and even outright disapproval from people who may say that your choice to skirt the mainstream is ill conceived and irresponsible. Certainly, homeschooling has begun to gain greater acceptance and wider recognition, but there will still be folks who, upon seeing your children out and about in the middle of the day, will ask why they aren't in school and feel quite comfortable expressing admiration or disapproval, loudly.
Like it or not, as a homeschooler in a world where traditional schooling is still the norm, you will face increased scrutiny for your choice. One way to ameliorate the frustration this may cause is to consider yourself an ambassador of sorts, introducing people to a new concept.
So, if you expect the questions and understand that for the most part people are sincere in wishing to understand your experience, you'll be able to cultivate a level of tolerance that will help to make your journey against the tide a bit smoother. And when they're extra loud about their non-approval, that's when you smile and walk away.
2. Potential for isolation.
Although there are numerous homeschool groups, email lists, resource centers, and cooperatives, and even though homeschoolers do, in general, have more time to socialize with peers and pursue passions, homeschooling can at times be an isolating experience.
One reason for this? That feeling of swimming against the tide we mentioned before. It's hard to maintain a lifestyle that differs in such a big way from the lifestyles of many people around you. As the neighbors' children get on the bus every morning, you'll be hyper-aware of that difference and get that reminder of your separateness. And while most mornings you'll probably be happy about that, at times you may find yourself wishing you could just do what everyone else is doing, simply for the sake of fitting in (or having more time to yourself, or having built-in structure or peers for your kids, or any number of reasons).
Another reason homeschooling can be isolating is that other homeschoolers may not live in your immediate area, which may make it difficult to get together on a regular basis. Certainly, you and your children can take classes, go on field trips, and visit museums, beaches, and other attractions, but without the built-in peer group or parent association a school provides, it can sometimes be difficult to find a wingman (or woman, or family).
3. Organization and record keeping.
Children who go to school typically leave their houses by 7:00AM and spend the next six and a half hours or so attending to a schedule organized by an outside force.
Homeschooling children are on their own, which is to say, as a homeschooling parent, you will be responsible for organizing your child's schedule. Yes, even if that schedule is a free-form one comprised of several hours exploring in the backyard, reading for pleasure, and pursuing whatever interest takes front and center that day.
Even if the schedule your child keeps doesn't require rigid organizing, you will still be the person on point (so to speak) for snacks, meals, and transportation needs as well as any structured learning time, curriculum materials, or classes that need to be attended.
Additionally, depending upon your state requirements for assessment, you may need to keep attendance records, curriculum notes, grades, and samples of your child's work for an end of year portfolio.
As you can imagine, this can amount to a lot of work, particularly if you have more than one child homeschooling. And as your children age and you begin to think about placing them in a formal school program, homeschooling high school, or applying to college, these organizational and record keeping demands may increase.
For a list of the records you should consider keeping from year to year, check out the HSLDA's article "Records to Keep." It may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it it'll start to feel like second nature.
4. Bearing sole responsibility for your child's education.
People who homeschool their children often feel as though they, as the homeschooling parents (grandparents, guardians), bear the sole responsibility for the quality and efficacy of their children's education. This is a wonderful feeling when everything is going well. "Look how well we're doing!" "Everything is under control." "I've got this!" Yes, thrilling sensations, and when that's the mood, it seems to make it all worth it.
Not so thrilling are those statement's counterparts along the line of: "Are we on the right track?" "Shouldn't we be past this stage by now?" and "I've got a bad feeling about this."
Of course, there will be numerous people and resources to help you find your way, but it can still be a bit intimidating to feel like you alone, because of your choice to homeschool, are carrying the weight of your child's future on your shoulders.
5. Maintaining balance.
Keeping life, work, and family in a state of equilibrium can be a tough nut for anyone to crack. But when you add the responsibility of homeschooling to the mix, things can get even dicier.
For one thing, in addition to all of the other roles you already play in your children's lives, you'll be adding teacher, guidance counselor, and principal. Even if you take the most carefree unschooling approach possible, at some point along the way, you will likely have to act in one or all of these roles to help your child learn a new concept or make a decision about her future.
In addition, you'll be dealing with questions from folks who have made different choices with regard to education; swimming against the tide of the mainstream; attempting to maintain records while also organizing activities and classes; and every so often, when someone or something calls your approach into question, trying to keep all of these things in balance with the weight of the world on your shoulders.
If you haven't already, this is probably an ideal time to check out the rewards of homeschooling. We don't want to scare you off. If you think you need support with curriculum, lesson plans, and topical ideas, check out our Homeschool plan, for you and your students!