I just read a blog entry, on a homeschooling blog, that listed the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling an only child. I guess I just don’t care for the term ‘disadvantages’. Perhaps that sounds like I’m being picky about word choice, but this is the definition of disadvantage:
an unfavorable circumstance or condition that reduces the chances of success or effectiveness.
That’s just negative.
To me ‘challenges’ conveys the proper idea:
a test of one's abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking.
If you’re familiar with my blog, if only a little, you should be familiar with my thoughts on homeschooling and socialization. Can you imagine my shock when the number one disadvantage, on this homeschooling blog, was SOCIALIZATION? I was …. was …practically speechless. Now, to be fair, the post wasn’t saying one shouldn’t homeschool an only child because they won’t be properly socialized, which is what people say against homeschooling in general, but it was saying it was the number one DISADVANGTAGE to homeschooling an only.
I then began to think about parenting an only child. It is different than parenting two or more children. Homeschooling an only child is different than homeschooling more than one as well. And, in all honesty, there are challenges faced as a result of having just the one child
So what are the challenges we have faced in homeschooling Punky without any siblings in the mix? Before I get to that, let me say that just as there is a yang for every yin, there are bonuses to homeschooling an only.
Bonuses of Homeschooling an Only Child
1) One-on-one, uninterrupted, instructional time.
Punky has her own personal tutor. I am not worrying about getting her instruction done because Junior is waiting for his English lesson or Little Miss needs to be fed or changed.
2) Catering to just one child’s learning style.
I do not have to worry about catering to several children and incorporating a myriad of learning style approaches into lesson plans or activities.
3) Punky’s educational interests are what we can focus on.
I don’t know if this is a bonus for Punky or just me! It’s nice to not have to try to meet the needs of several children’s interests though.
4) One child, one schedule.
I do not have to try to shuttle different children around to different extra-curricular activities and Punky doesn’t have to wait through her brother’s karate class or her sister’s dance class.
5) Uninterrupted self-exploration.
Punky has learned, very well, to play by herself using her imagination to create games, stories, and whole other worlds. I believe this serves her well as she has the time, literally, alone to explore her interests through play. She learns about herself and her world without any outside influence.
6) Financial flexibility
We have the financial resources to explore Punky’s interests and ambitions not only because we have the time, but with having only one child, we have the financial resources to do so.
7) Peace and Quiet.
Our house is rarely loud. Now for some this may not seem like a bonus, but to our family it is. My hubby was raised with 7 brothers and sisters. He’s a natural introvert. He craved solitude and quiet. I was an only child. I’m an extrovert, but as an adult too much noise and chaos gives me anxiety. Punky has an even division of me and her father in her. She loves to go and do and be out and about, but long term chaos or loud noise bothers her and she never enjoys that type of chaos in our own home.
8) Being able to enjoy and ‘dig deep’ into whatever age/stage Punky is in at the time.
This was a bonus of parenting an only that has carried over into homeschooling an only. Now, lest you think our 24/7 focus is Punky and what she wants and needs let me be honest with you. Parenting, and even homeschooling, Punky as our one and only, allows us the time to explore our individual interests. Hubby has his hobbies and activities he enjoys, I have mine, and Punky has hers. If I had more than two, I would think, I’d be nuts with always taking care of the children and their needs and never having time for myself. Call me selfish, but that’s how I operate. The Universe knew what they were doing not giving me a passel of kids.
Challenges of Homeschooling an Only
1) I’m the only ‘other’ there is for activities and games requiring more than one person.
Let’s face it, some activities and games are just more fun to do with peers, or at least more than just mom. This isn’t always a challenge, but it can be. The upside of this though is that is has forced me to stop and enjoy the moment with Punky whether we are completing a project or playing a game. We also make sure to participate with friends for activities that would be more fun with a few peers/friends involved. We enjoy something we call ‘Mom School’. A very small group of us get together and each week a different mother leads the group in learning. Various topics are covered: art, geography, science, critical thinking, and literature. It is there that Punky gets to do group activities. Whenever I come across an interesting unit study or activity that I know would be more fun to do with a group of kids, I save it for when it’s my turn to teach at Mom School, so that Punky can enjoy the group dynamic.
2) No siblings to ‘help’ her understand the social dynamic of relationships that don’t involve her parents. So basically, no sibling rivalry, no sibling competition.
I list this because I believe there is some truth to it, but not nearly as much as others believe. I, too, did not have a sibling to grow up with in the house, and one of the hardest lessons for me to learn as an adult is that people aren’t fair. The people I grew up with were always fair. But in an effort to help Punky learn this earlier than I did, I randomly throw in ‘unfair’ challenges and when Punky exclaims, “That’s not fair!” I say, “Life is not fair.” But the real truth of the matter is that the one thing that I’m doing differently than my mother did, is that I expose Punky to scenarios where ‘unfair’ stuff is going to happen because that’s life. Auditions are a big one here. Punky doesn’t always get chosen for a part she’s tried out for and sometimes she doesn’t even make it into the show. There is not always a visible reason and she’s learning to deal with it. This, I believe, will help her deal with the other ‘unfair’ shit that life randomly throws her way.
And while it may seem impossible, those are the only two challenges I see us facing as homeschoolers of an ‘Only’. There are other challenges, of course, but those are a result of homeschooling, in general, or Punky’s areas of academic weakness, not due to the fact that she is an ‘Only’.
I am aware that the traditional homeschooling family has been larger families and religious ones too. We are neither. I don’t believe we are alone though. The secular homeschooling community is growing, just as homeschooling is growing. I’m sure we aren’t the only homeschoolers on the planet who are homeschooling an only child. At the end of the day though, I prefer to categorize the yin and yang of homeschooling with terminology other than advantages and disadvantages.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – homeschooling if what you make it. It can be a rousing success or a abject failure. But ‘homeschooling’ in and of itself isn’t either of those things. It just is. It exists as a way to provide your children with an education, learning opportunities, and preparedness for their future…whether you are doing that for two plus children or just one.