What If the Problem Was School in the First Place?

If you're homeschooling because school wasn't working, why imitate it at home?

If you know me at all, you know that I love new homeschoolersI am all about encouraging them, guiding them, and giving them the confidence they need in this huge undertaking. Lately, however, I’ve had more than a few conversations with newbies that go something like this:

“You’re homeschooling now? That’s awesome! What made you decide to do it?”

“My son/daughter just wasn’t learning in school. No matter what they did, nothing. I just don’t think school was the right fit.”

“I think you made the right decision. So what have you been doing with them?”

“Oh, we’ve been following a similar schedule to what they had in school.”

“You know you don’t have to do that, right?”

“I know. It’s just that that’s what they’re used to.”


If you're homeschooling because your kids weren't doing well, maybe the school routine was the problem!


The conversation usually ends there because, despite how badly I want to point out the obvious, I realize that I don’t know their kids better than they do.


What if school was the problem in the first place?

I understand that there are a multitude of reasons that parents take their kids out of school. Sometimes bullying is an issue. Other times a child may be falling in with the wrong crowd. And sometimes, the problem may be that a child is a square peg being crammed into a round hole.

It is this last group of children that I am mostly referring to here, although I do believe it can be true for others, as well.

Think of it this way…yes, your child may be used to learning in a certain way, but how beneficial has this method been? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if you started homeschooling because your child wasn’t learning in school, then the school methods probably weren’t doing a whole heck of a lot other than creating stress and diminishing confidence in your child.

So taking it a step further, I’m going to suggest that imitating school at home may not be the answer you’re looking for.

You might argue that your child wants it this way, and I know that it will take some getting used to for both parent and child, but how will you know that there isn’t a better way if you’re not willing to give it a try?

I strongly recommend that every. single. homeschooling parent takes some time to read through some homeschooling publications, be it blogs, books, or both. There are so many ways to homeschool, and, yes, school-at-home is one way, but it is far from the only way.

John Holt, a former education reformer, wrote several books on how children learn. Actually, one of his most well-known works is called How Children Learn. Between reading John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, I will never at look school the same way again.

At the very least, consider taking just a few weeks to shake things up a bit. Watch some movies. Go outside…a lot. Read together. Bake some cookies. Learning doesn’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t have to come from a textbook. 

After a while, who knows? You may decide that school-at-home is what’s right for you. But at least consider what I’ve said because every child is different, and you now have the freedom to give your child precisely what they need.

And try to keep in mind this one thing- why try to imitate something that wasn’t working?


Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

33 thoughts on “What If the Problem Was School in the First Place?”

  1. That’s right! The beauty of homeschooling is how moms can tailor their child’s education, making it personalized and so much more meaningful to the child, educating their heart, soul and mind. I know why some moms try to recreate school at home because I did the same thing when I first started out. I even printed out page after page of the local school’s 1st grade syllabus (the very school I pulled my son out of because it wasn’t working for him) and tried to follow it like a checklist! That grew old fast because it overwhelmed me. The expensive boxed curriculum I had purchased was dry and boring and felt completely unnatural. I hated it the minute I tried it. Thankfully, that experience taught me what I didn’t want to do and then it was only a matter of relaxing and following my child’s lead, which did feel natural. Best thing I ever did for the two of us. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Also we need to understand that schooling our kids should evolve with them. As my kids have been in traditional school environments through middle school, they prefer the order and structure of a school environment. However, they like being able to take their laptops and learning materials all over the house. They also prefer to focus on study using online interactive methods with workbooks, then to put what they’ve learned into action. We all have grown in our methods of learning and I find that my kids do desire order and goal setting done by me, but want to be able to add in subjects or topics of interest.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re so right. My 14 yr old used to love doing unit studies and hands-on activities. Now she hates them and prefers a more Charlotte Mason-style learning using living books and notebooking.


  3. I agree with you! I have been homeschooling for almost 6 years now (my oldest is turning 12 next year) and I am realizing more and more what works for our homeschool. And it really doesn’t look like regular school most of the time. Actually some weeks we do specific things and then switch to maybe a unit study for a little bit that goes with what we are learning and then try to get back to what they needed to do before. It’s amazing all that they glean. I am going to check out the books you mentioned! I haven’t heard of them or read them before but did see if they were at the library. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been around some new homeschooling moms recently (whose kids just started school) and they’re just now hitting the point where they’re feeling like homeschooling isn’t working – because they don’t think they’re doing enough…how can school take an entire day, but they are finished in less than an hour at home. I keep telling them that 1) they’re not really “done,” because learning is happening all day long and 2) they shouldn’t be expecting to recreate school at home… As usual, loved your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In addition to “it’s what they’re used to,” I wonder if some of the decision to follow a schedule similar to traditional schooling may be falling back on what what the homeschooling parent grew up with… If he/she attended public or private school growing up, it may feel comfortable to recycle rather than reinvent. Many of us do this in communicating with our spouses, handling finances, dealing with conflict, discipling our children, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think I mentioned that in one of the comments. It can be hard for us as parents to let go of this mindset when we ourselves grew up with it. It took such a long time for me to come to my senses!


  6. This is such an interesting post because I once thought I’d go with a Montessori educational setting. Hun and I knew, when we met, that traditional school settings weren’t our first choice and that we’d prefer some alternative setting. Then we started to have children and I started looking into homeschooling a bit more. That’s when my mind opened even further, because I really didn’t know what or how I wanted to homeschool or what it really meant. Now, I better know that my preference is more of an unschooling method, likely with some Charlotte Mason influence, with some “traditional” methods included. For now though, I’m inspired even by watching the boys learn and grow naturally at their ages. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My eldest starts primary school next september, and I must admit I worry he won’t find it the right fit for his needs. He just doesn’t strike me as the kind of child who will be able to learn in a classroom. I know I’m probably worrying over nothing, but still… xx #smallvictoriessundaylinkup

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, boy, this is so true! I always tell new homeschoolers that it’s the American Way, but it’s not the best way. It’s hard to get out of that mindset, even for veteran homeschoolers, but shaking off the public school mindset (schedule, books, methods) is the absolute best thing I did. #homeschoolnook


  9. I started homeschooling my 4th child after his 3rd grade teacher asked me if I had ever considered homechooling. She said he wasn’t ready for the independent work of 4th grade, but that it wouldn’t do him any good to repeat the 3rd grade. My good friend had been trying to talk me into joining her in her homeschooling adventure for the past year, but I kept saying I didn’t have the patience (haha). I read all summer about different homeschooling perspectives, but when we started, he wanted it to be just like school….so we set up an antique school desk in the living room, and ran on a schedule. I knew this is not what I wanted, but it’s what he wanted. At a homeschool gym day, someone told me about KONOS, a unit study that she liked. I bought it and it saved our homeschool. Now over 20 years later and 5 more kids later, I now homeschool one of my grandsons and do things entirely different, but it was a journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this article! This is such a hard concept to grasp for homeschoolers who were public schooled themselves. My husband and I adopted the phrase “we are not public school at home” several years ago. I cannot tell you how much this helped our homeschool experience!

    When we meet families new to homeschooling either from the beginning or as they are pulling their students from public, we highly encourage them to attend conferences, read homeschooling materials etc. Surround yourselves with like minded people!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s wonderful advice. I love to tell people to imagine what a typical day of traditional school looks like and then push that image out the window because homeschooling doesn’t have to look that way. 🙂


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