I am looking at starting my 13th year of homeschooling. And I also now have two children in school. Reasons for homeschooling are quite varied and sometimes quite specific. My reasons for homeschooling are different from the next person’s. But these years have shown me that there are some definite health benefits to homeschooling and our experience with having a kid in school have only confirmed my thoughts on this. This is not a criticism of schools and the wonderful families who shape schools into communities!
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Sleep! This one is huge and I immediately felt the impact of my kid getting less sleep! While I could never completely indulge her teen shift to sleeping later and staying up later, she was able to get many more hours of sleep when we homeschooled vs. her current schedule. I admit she needs more sleep than other kids in order to manage well, so this might not be as much of an issue for others. But even when my kids were younger, I appreciated our flexibility in wake time. I was able to let them wake up naturally, often with the sun. Sometimes they needed to recover from a fun evening with friends. Sometimes I suspected a growth spurt. Whatever their needs were, we could accommodate them somewhat.
Nutrition. Having my kids home more means I have more influence in their daily food intake. While I dislike that my school kids now eat cafeteria food, I mean more than just that. I am also able to influence their education on food and nutrition, which is particularly nice if you don’t always agree with standard nutrition advice. This helps solidify our family’s food culture. Also, many kids are rushing to leave home, wolfing down a quick and hardly satisfying breakfast and then trying to make it on that through classes until lunch. Growling bellies are distracting! Homeschooled kids can have a more leisurely breakfast and then break for snacks, if needed. How do I know all this? Because my school kid has to wake up early and spends only a few minutes ingesting the quickest breakfast I can manage for her. While we could get up earlier, I know that’s not happening. Remember the first benefit I listed above? Sleep? That’s getting first priority.
Being home for most of the day also means that there’s no grabbing pre-packaged snacks and convenience lunch foods, as well as avoiding school cafeteria meals. It also means easily avoiding any food allergens to which your kids might be sensitive. And finally, my homeschooled kids are active participants in the cooking and preparation of our food, as well as the clean up process, both invaluable skills as kids learn to be independent adults. Added in 2019: I am so grateful that I still have one kid at home to help feed me during the day while I’m laid up. I have relaxed my food rules and expectations some. I’ve also embraced Epicure kits and mixes so that she can easily pull together decent nutrition in a jiffy.
Down time/play time. Many kids today get almost NO unstructured play. They go from one structured activity or sport to another, never learning how to manage boredom or how to creatively play (with others or alone). Or if they do, it’s very limited, either by space or time. Many kids also get a limited time outdoors in the sun. Not all. I know soccer practice is outdoors and so is recess. But again, that free play in the sunshine is harder to find as our kids move up in grade.
Family time. I include time with any siblings in this, as well as time with extended family, especially older generations. Free play with siblings is important for each individual kid and for the whole family. Siblings need to make their own memories and secret worlds together! Beyond that, time between generations should be treasured. When all the kids were homeschooled, we were able to see Grandparents much more regularly. At one point we even had a weekly date set up. And we were able to see our out-of-state grandparents during the school year, taking as much time as needed to visit them. As we have had to say good-bye to the older members of our family, I am so grateful for all of those visits and memories.
Finally, homeschooling allowed us to have down time together as a nuclear family. As the kids have gotten older, we have definitely gotten busier and I look back appreciatively on our relaxation time when we could read, craft, sing, color, create and more – all together.
Is every homeschooling family well rested, eating healthily, relaxing and playing together in blissful peace, 24/7? Probably not. But homeschooling does provide families the opportunity to reduce some of today’s common stressors, such as lack of down time, quality nutrition, and sufficient sleep. However you choose to school, be sure to enjoy your time together!