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Homeschooling One Child


TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: When you are homeschooling only one childA common mental picture of a homeschooling family includes Mom, Dad, and multiple kids — if not a whole bunch of kids. That picture may not be accurate for lots of reasons, but today I’ll just take a look at the kids in the picture.

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There are a lot of us who aren’t homeschooling multiple kids, much less a bunch. Some of us are homeschooling just one child.

How does “homeschooling for one” come about? And what’s it like?

1. You’re homeschooling your youngest child. Older siblings have completed their homeschooling and moved out. In my case, I’m not yet an empty-nester, but most of my age peers are empty nesters. A few years ago, the kids on a little rec soccer team I was coaching were shocked to learn exactly which birthday I was having.

“You’re older than my grandmother,” one of them told me.

Yeah, well, it happens.

“And what soccer team is she coaching?” I asked.

But it’s true, having energy for homeschooling is more of an issue than it once was. And, homeschooling a youngest child often means your family doesn’t fit as well with other families in homeschool groups. Without younger siblings there — and being accustomed to being around older kids — the “last” homeschooled child in a family can often feel homeschool group activities are skewed really young, and there is less interest in attending. This means that a mom may not get her own needs met for social time and homeschool support, which was not a problem for her when she was hauling around a van full of kids.

2. You’re homeschooling one child while your other kids are in school. This is a challenge because you can sometimes feel you have the worst of both worlds. You are still busy helping school kids who have to follow a strict school schedule of timely arrivals and homework submissions, but you’re also in full charge of the education of the one who’s not enrolled in school.

And, the chances are good that as the only child at home, he or she is at home for some special reason that takes more time than homeschooling typically might. There might be health issues, or academic issues, or special needs, gifts, or talents — all of which take more time to navigate.

There can also be jealousy from the kids who are enrolled in school, who don’t get the homeschool treatment of all that time with Mom and the cool field trips and the do-overs and the impulse to go pick strawberries instead of stewing over long division on a nice spring day. Even if the other kids don’t want to be homeschooled, the situation sets up challenges that can be difficult.

Meanwhile, the child who is homeschooled, even though homeschooling may be his first choice, may have days of regret when the school kids in the family are enjoying something special at school.

3. You’re homeschooling an only child. You only had one child, or, your family has experienced a dreadful loss, leaving only one child in your family, only one child to homeschool. My friends in this situation have said it’s like having an only child — except moreso.

Typically in our society, all children go to school, so “only children” have a lot of daytime stimulation from their schoolmates, and lots of school activities to choose from. Parents of “just one” who are homeschooling may actually struggle with “the s word” — socializing — since their children don’t have built-in siblings or classmates. Some kids are absolutely fine with this, comfortable in the presence of adults and getting social needs met through Scouts and youth group and gymnastics and homeschool co-op. But others are truly lonely, and parents find themselves expending a lot of effort creating social opportunities.

Benefits of Homeschooling One

Despite these challenges, homeschooling one child can be rewarding. There may be more time to develop a relationship and give each other more undivided attention. There may be more opportunity to work on academic goals and challenges, with only one hungry brain to feed. There may even be more money for homeschooling (unless it’s during the time you may be helping older children finance college or otherwise get a kickstart).

If you’re an older parent down to homeschooling the last one, yes, you may find you have less energy than in the old days, but you are also not up in the middle of the night with a toddler nor facing the same number of household duties.

Homeschooling one, you may find a special intensity, but also a unique enjoyment of your days together.

A larger family may remain the stereotypical picture of homeschooling, but you can be assured there are other moms and dads out there working through the challenges and enjoying the rewards of homeschooling one. 

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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  1. Ginger

    I am a 57 year old mother homeschooling my 14 year old son. My son attended a small Christian school up until third grade. The school closed due to low enrollment. The books were public school curriculum which really bothered me. He had social experience. Not a large enough group of boys in his class so it was not the best situation. Way too much homework at night. We buy Abeka video curriculum. As far as socializing goes he plays with boys in a neighborhood and games online with them. The boys are jealous and mean at times. He is our only child. I make sure he is in the latest clothes, shoes, and hairstyle to avoid the stereotypical homeschool child . He is entering 9th grade this fall. Family is applying pressure to give him the chance all kids get with a public school. I want to avoid the political influence now being taught. Public schools are $7000 per year minimum. At a turning point and don’t want to ruin my son.

    • Mary Ann Kelley

      It’s good that you recognize high school as a turning point, since credits become important at that level and often schools have stricter rules about reentering after homeschooling. I found high school to be the easiest time to homeschool, because kids are working independently, they can enroll in community college classes or co-ops for classes, and they have more time to get their work done and participate in outside activities than if they are in school all day and come home with 3 hours of homework.

      Every schooling option has positives and negatives. Putting a child in public school may give him some additional opportunities but it also takes others away. Putting a child in school does not guarantee there won’t be bullying – kids may bully someone for being homeschooled, or they may bully about any other number of characteristics. Kids who think that is appropriate behavior won’t be deterred by the setting.

      Have you discussed the options with your partner and son? For what it’s worth, I’m not a big fan of using homeschooling to protect kids from exposure to the world; they live in the world and a strong foundation at home while experiencing other beliefs is preferable to turning them loose with no experience when they leave home, in my opinion.

      Things I considered for my own kids when making a decision about a particular schooling choice centered on the way the child learns, the opportunities available with each option, and the individual personality of the child.

      Best wishes to your family as your son enters high school!

  2. Shauna

    So I have a related question. I have two kids and no plans to have more. Because I only have two I plan on doing mostly one on one instruction. We are looking to start homeschooling in the fall and I feel that the vast majority of how to info as well as curriculum are intended for families that are teaching multiple grade levels in one lesson. What books, websites, curriculum etc do you recommend for those of us that can do one on one lessons.

  3. Lorraine

    I am 51 years old with a10 year old daughter. We are doing a grade 6 curriculum this year. She does NOT want to go to school, as she experienced the pitfalls of going to school and being bullied. So, for three years I have taken over her education. We have travelled to Europe-living in Ireland, visiting Rome and France. We have met many wonderful people young and old. She is intelligent with an excellent vocabulary, she is a good listener and she is happy and funny. I think she is a social person and the idea that only school can do this is false. I was a teacher from 1990 to 2014 and I can tell you that most students are bitter, hardened, angry and unable to do the work because of the social atmostphere in school. I think my daughter is lucky!

    • Mary Ann Kelley

      Your daughter’s travel experiences offer her a better education than sitting behind a desk ever could!

    • Gretchen

      Hi, we have an active , social and outgoing 10 year old son. We would love to travel with him but we find he is so social that he needs friends to hang and play with on our long trips. How did you deal with this with your only child when you traveled?

      • Pam

        We took our daughter’s friend with us. She came from a large family that saw the advantage of allowing her to travel with us. Our daughter traveled with them as well. Win,win.

        • Mary Ann Kelley

          What a great opportunity for both girls!

  4. Mary Beth

    I’m a 50 y/o mom with an 8 y/o daughter…my only child. On top of that I work full-time. It’s tough to find a group where we fit.

    • Kristie Jennings

      I am a 45 yr with a 5 yr old daughter and she is our only child. I work full time and she get to come to work with me. I work 2-3 full days a week and 2 half days a week where I work from home. So far things are going great for us.

  5. Connie

    I had “one child” twice. It was nice to not be interrupted by other kids needing help, too. I could answer the child’s questions without being sidetracked by what another child wanted to talk about. Although it’s quieter when the child is engrossed in reading or math, etc., I wasn’t bored because I could read my book or do laundry. We never belonged to a homeschool group, so I couldn’t feel awkward being the only one without a large family. Neither child had problems with loneliness because each one spent so much time hanging out with friends he met in town or while working. When you don’t have hours of homework each night and on weekends, you have more time to meet strangers who become friends. The only downside to “one child” is the lack of actors for the Greek & Shakespeare plays. You just cannot do Julius Caesar with only two people. Costume changes help determine which character you are at any moment, but certain scenes need at least three people.

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