Are You Really Qualified to Homeschool Your Child?

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Am I qualified to homeschool?  Boy, is that a question fraught with controversy!

Every homeschooler has asked that question in the beginning.  Not only that, but your friends and family members may ask the same question.  You may have had a less than perfect experience homeschooling during the recent pandemic.  That interruption in our routines came with little notice and there was no time for preparation for homeschooling, but now you have a summer to think about it and do a little research.

Perhaps the greatest barrier to homeschooling is to convince yourself that you are qualified to teach your own child.

First, ask yourself, “Why wouldn’t I be qualified?”  Here are some of the answers I’ve heard.

  • I stink at math.
  • I don’t have a college education or a teaching degree
  • I hate science, history, whatever…
  • I have no patience
  • I’m not disciplined enough

I have a teaching degree but it didn’t necessarily equip me to homeschool my children. In fact, I got the degree near the end of our homeschooling experience. To be sure, student teaching helped me learn crowd control, gave me insight into high school age young adults, and heightened my sensitivity to learning styles, but it didn’t especially equip me to teach.  This is not to diminish the teaching profession, as most teachers are saints!

But, teaching is something you do almost daily.  Did you teach your child to brush her teeth?  Did you potty-train your son?  Do you explain things to others so they will understand, either through writing or speaking or demonstrating something?  Sure you do.  So let’s put to bed the notion that you’re not qualified to teach because teaching is simply good communication, coupled with some creativity and a desire to see a child learn.

Definition: Effective communication is a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge and information such that the purpose or intention is fulfilled in the best possible manner. In simple words, it is nothing but the presentation of views by the sender in a way best understood by the receiver.  (Source)

But I didn’t go to college…

What about not having a college degree?  Some of the smartest people I know don’t have degrees, but they are innovative, motivated, and skilled at what they do.  You’ve seen many stories lately about college dropouts who started large, successful companies, and this is a growing trend.  A degree is only a permission slip to apply for a job with someone else.  Most companies don’t really know what skills they need for a position and take the easy route. They make a degree and an acceptable GPA a contingency to apply for a job instead of really understanding the traits, character, and skills needed.

Many employers are moving toward hiring people with certifications instead of a degree.  That’s especially true in the trades, programming, or cybersecurity fields.  I am glad I got a degree because I learned how to get along with people in close quarters, worked on projects in a group with deadlines, and took opportunities to learn leadership, but do you need to have a college experience to get that?  Many people have that experience in the military or in their work experiences or in their families.  What I learned in college is what happens in real life.  Have you lived in “real life?”  Well then, you don’t need a degree to teach your child.

Take the example of neurosurgeon and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson.  His mother was determined that he and his brother would get a good education and Ben was struggling.   In addition to school homework, she reduced their watching of TV shows, required them to memorize multiplication tables, and to read books and write reports, which she graded.  Well, that in and of itself is pretty remarkable for a single mother, but the big surprise is his mother had a 3rd-grade education and couldn’t read.  Despite her own lack of qualifications, she raised two boys who excelled in their fields.

You can learn more about the life of Ben Carson and his amazing mom in the movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story or read about it here.

I’m Terrible at Math…

You might think, surely I can’t teach my child because I was bad at math (or spelling, or history, or science, or…).  Let’s unpack that.  Why do you think you were bad at a subject? We all have different gifts and interests that contribute to our successes, and likewise, a lack thereof that contribute to our failures, but it’s not always about our inabilities when we are unsuccessful at something.

In 3rd grade, I had a teacher who was going through a bad divorce.  Trust me when I say she shared the experience with us.  She sent us home with loads of math homework every night and took joy in bleeding on our papers with red ink.  That’s when my math anxiety started as I struggled to complete the homework and the anxiety got worse over the years as I was relegated to teachers who didn’t seem to understand what they were teaching and passed on that confusion to me.

A good math teacher is an indispensable gift, a joy, and in some instances, a rarity.  One friend had a son who was loath to read, but he loved military tanks.  She bought him an exhaustive book on military tanks, and that kid read it cover to cover.  He now has a master’s degree and works at a prominent scientific laboratory.

We all have things we aren’t so good at and others in which we excel.  So, you may not be good at a subject, fair enough, but somebody’s good at that subject and you’re probably better than others at another topic.  Homeschooling is not just about subjects; it’s about life skills.

Get help when you need it

When my oldest was five, I came across a software program at a homeschool convention called “Mom’s Math”, written by a professor at a university to help his own wife teach math to their kids.  It presents basic math principles in a fun interactive format and it’s now free.  There are a sundry of math curriculums, some with video, which relay math concepts that may have escaped you.

Does science make you cringe? Try Real Science 4 Kids, a curriculum written by a homeschool Mom for homeschoolers.  And, you might re-learn something as you study along with your child.   How about Bob Ross’s YouTube videos or Twitch marathons to teach painting?   There are tons of free exercise videos online.

Make exercise together a part of your day.  Plan a garden together and start the seeds, plant the seedlings, and care for the garden.  Planning the spacing in a garden requires math and reading skills.  Caring for a garden requires commitment and discipline.  Give some of the produce to family, friends, or neighbors or sell it at a farmer’s market and teach your children business skills.  There is a never-ending pool of learning your kids can dive into, and even if you’re not good at something, someone else is.  So, don’t let your perceived inabilities stop you.  Find other homeschoolers and share ideas, create or join a co-op group, or just share fellowship with other homeschooling families


What about the patience thing?  We all have varying degrees of patience and that’s a valid point.  However, patience is one of those things that the more you practice, the more of it you have.

I find in my own life that if I reframe the situation, I can often overcome the agitation that comes with impatience.  An example of this is viewing wait time at the motor vehicle office or a doctor’s office as an opportunity to answer emails on my phone or to read online articles.   Instead of being upset when a new puppy hasn’t yet been house trained, I reminded myself that training him where to potty will come soon enough and I set a timer to let him out frequently until he learned.

Patience may not come naturally to you but it can be learned.

But I’m not disciplined enough…

How about the discipline issue?  My guess is you are disciplined in some things but not so much in others.  That’s ok- we need to focus on higher priorities and not as much on lower ones.  You are disciplined in the things you value or in those that become immediately necessary.

Sometimes, life gets in the way of things you’ve planned and you make alternate plans and it’s the same in homeschooling.  Are you moving households?  Make planning, preparing for, and executing the move part of your homeschool day.  Engage your kids in sorting through their stuff, donating or selling any excess items, and packing and labeling the rest. When we got ready to move to another home, our kids helped clean grout and learned to use the carpet-cleaning machine.

You will learn to plan in breaks when homeschooling gets too rote.  Plan in a playgroup, a picnic in the park, a hike, or take in the performance of a play or musical.  Or, you could be like my friend who toured all fifty states in a year, with a new learning venue every few days.

Related: The Great American Unschooling Tour

Am I Qualified?

One more thing to ask yourself is,  “In whose eyes am I qualified?”  Once you’ve conquered the self-doubt, the next thing you must understand is your state or province requirements for homeschooling.  This website has a searchable map for homeschool organizations and laws in every US state.

The Home School Legal Defense Association also has a searchable map for your state and shows options for how to manage in states that are more highly regulated.  If you’re in Canada, check out this resource.

What is school?

When we think of school, I suspect most of us conjure up this image of desks in rows and having determined times for each subject, along with carefully prepared worksheets and activities, interspersed with recess, art, and music.

Ok, just give up that image.  That usually describes your first month of homeschool.  When we started homeschooling, I went to our public school surplus auction to buy desks because I envisioned setting up my house like a classroom.  Well, I’ve known some who have done that successfully, but the vast majority of homeschoolers use the kitchen table and a spare bookshelf, not to mention the floor, the backyard, the car, and wherever else you might find yourself throughout the day.

When my older child took a class through a co-op group, my younger son and I went to the nearby public library to use their high-speed Internet and computers for research.  Need to run an errand? Take the kids along and teach them about pricing by unit, how to decide whether brand names are worth the markup, how to spot a deal, how the store classifies items so that you can find them easily, and how shelves are stocked with the most recent expiration date at eye level.  It’s a veritable treasure hunt!

When we would irrigate our fields, I’d teach the kids how water moves, how you can regulate the flow by causing the water to build up when a gate is down, thereby releasing pressure and extending the reach of the water.

Life itself is a school.

What does it take to be a successful homeschool parent? 

  • Curiosity
  • A love of your child
  • A love of learning
  • Connections with other homeschool parents
  • Perseverance
  • A desire to move your life and your child’s life to a better place
  • A willingness to think outside the box of life’s supposed expectations
  • An ability to think of what can be rather than what can’t be

It depends on what you want.  Decide what you want for your family, for your children, and for yourself.

Related:  What Will Schools Look Like After COVID? Prison Camps. They’ll Look Like Prison Camps.

What are your thoughts?

Is there anything holding you back? What stops you from homeschooling?  Do you homeschool?  Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below.

About Linnea

Linnea Johnson has her MA in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught preschool students through adults on topics including music, English as a 2nd language, technology, business, and personal finance.  She now works in technical business development with universities.  She and her husband homeschooled their two active sons, who went on to careers in mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family, cultivating a little urban farm, and traveling with her husband of 31 years.

Linnea Johnson

Linnea Johnson

Leave a Reply

  • Our two sons were home schooled, and now our six grandchildren are also being home schooled.

    Even though we are now past that stage, we still do our part. Just as my parents set aside money for a college fund, we are paying for the home school materials for our grandchildren. I’ve been collecting books for them to use as their private library. They (as well as other home schoolers at our church) regularly come over to learn about growing things in the garden, how to use tools, and fun things like how people used to use sealing wax instead of envelopes. There is an incubator full of eggs that will be hatching next Friday, and they have been watching the progress by candling the eggs, and they will be here to watch them hatching.

    Even if you aren’t in a position to home school your own children, there are always opportunities to help someone else with home schooling theirs.

  • As the Author says, “Life itself is a school.” I couldn’t agree more! Even if you decide not to teach at home, your responsibility to teach your kids constantly is still there. Even if you don’t have a college education, you still have a ton of valuable information to share with them. Read to them everyday. Play music for them and teach them songs. Any songs – most lyrics are online. (This one is very important- music helps young brains to make neurological connections that help with math comprehension.) Teach them to cook and clean, to garden, to eat well. Anything you can think of that you want them to know. Talk to them always, answer their questions, bring them to museums and historical sites.

    The library is your best friend. When we lived in a larger city we went to two libraries for their reading programs. Tuesday and Thursday the kids would join other kids to be read a book and sing some songs while I could browse for books by myself. (Kids were right there so I could still see them.) It was heaven and the kids loved it as well. Read, read, read!

    Teach them money. My kids had to save half of all money received or earned. They had to track what they spent as did I when I was little. Now they are frugal and actually amaze me with their financial planning. They have picked up my discomfort of any debt. Always pay extra! Always save for needs that arise unexpectedly as well as retirement!

    I also taught my kids to parrot back the teachers political views without falling for the propaganda. Some teachers can be very vindictive to students and siblings. Teachers in our town were horrible to conservatives. Indoctrination failed with my kids! Teach them to think for themselves.

    I feel terribly sad when I hear someone say that they don’t teach their kids anything because, “Why should I? That’s what teachers are for.”

  • We homeschooled our kids many years ago and it was the best decision we ever made! They were 10 and 13. We quickly discovered unschooling (John Holt, read his stuff) and the kids were off and running! Math was a struggle, mostly for me, so we let the kids learn what they wanted, when they wanted. You can’t force people to learn, it has to come from within.

    We exposed them to a lot of experiences, traveled and talked to a lot of different people. Dual Enrollment at the local community college at 16 taught them that they were not “behind” other students in any way.

    My daughter is now 35, has three kids who she is also homeschooling, earned two batchelors degrees and decided to go back for a third in a different field. My son is 32 and earned a master’s degree in applied mathematics and teaches math at the local college. He is going back for his PhD soon.

    This is not to brag. We just let the kids go, find their passion, and then facilitated it the best we could.

    My son’s third grade, before homeschooling, teacher made him feel stupid in class because he was not good at math speed drills. Sure wish she could see him now!

  • I don’t have any kids, but if I did I would never want them brainwashed by the US educational system.

    Look at Seattle and Minneapolis to see the end result of ‘qualified teaching’.

    A parent can certainly do better than they did.

  • I am a retired educator after 30 years. i wander about the “political indoctrination” in public schools / college.
    I have earned two advanced degrees. So you can assume I’ve spent some time in class as a student. My only recollection of “political proselytizing” was as a junior in high school. This was a history teacher supporting the Vietnam war and opposing civil rights. Even that was rare.

  • We homeschooled our children K-12 and both of them became productive citizens with many friends. Our daughter is now an EMT/Fire Fighter and our son is a history grad student. If you have been doing school at home during the pandemic, I want you to know that traditional school at home is much harder than homeschooling. School at home requires that you execute another person’s lesson plan using curricula that you did not select and the purpose of which you may not even understand. Homeschooling allows you to select curricula that works for you and your children, to work at your own pace, and to focus on the subjects you feel are most important. I strongly recommend families select a math curriculum first because math is a subject which needs consistent, organized study. Then, add reading and writing. Don’t worry too much about the other subjects. If a child can compute, read, and write well, he/she will be well prepared for all academic pursuits.

  • I hhome schooled my younger son beginning with fourth grade. The third grade teacher had flunked all but 7 students in her entire class. I knew many of those kids were smart. I bought a fourth grade cariculum and in 11 months my son had caught up and was ahead so I helped open a small church school the took our students from preschool through 12th grade. Many went on to college. One student had a $1000 scholarship toward college from who’s who in American high school students. Several joined the Air force. One is a nurse. Two are Yale trainers lawyers. All have excelled in life. It was well worth the effort.

  • Homeschooling is good, but not for everyone. I will be in my 13th year of homeschooling next year, my final year. If both parents need to work, it may not be a good fit. It is a sacrifice financially. As a parent, you also have to take a look at the needs of your kids (special needs, etc), time you have available to teach depending on the ages of your children. Also, look at whether you want a curriculum already planned out for you or if you want to do some of the work…..eclectic or boxed curriculum, etc. Your time and the time you can give your kids teaching and with hands on fun.

    Be willing to get rid of curriculum that is not working and find something new even if it is in the middle of the year. Be involved in a support group, co-op or enrichment program so your kids and you have the support and also to make new friends! Don’t go at homeschooling on your own.

    Our son has some special needs and learning disabilities and it was the best decision we made. He would not be where he is at today as a writer and coding if he hadn’t been homeschooled. He would not have thrived in the public school system or private school system at all. I believe he will be able to move forward in life with the skills he has.

    Homeschooling has its rewards with your kids in the long run. I won’t say it is always easy, but worth it in the long run. It has its blessings and rewards!

  • I might suggest Khan Academy – an online teaching and testing system for all grades and most subjects.

    Students watch a short video on each concept and then there are short quizzes and longer section tests.

    I’ve found it to be an excellent tool for homeschooling because if the student doesn’t quite get something, they don’t get left behind the rest of the class. They can take their time and watch the video over and over if necessary.

    If they do have a strong understanding or are exceptionally bright, they can just take the tests and cruise through the process at a rapid pace.

    • Thank you so much for sharing and for letting us know about the links. They’re all fixed up now. 🙂

  • I was a teacher for many years, when I still lived in the Great White North of New England. Many of my co workers were good enough, many of my co workers were pay check players and sadly, many of them became teachers because they enjoy having power over others, and they liked being able to push the kids around. A few of us felt CALLED to do what we did, but we were definitely in the minority.

    So ask yourselves, is good enough REALLY “good enough”?

    No one will ever love your children the way you do, and that’s the most important factor of all. Anything else can be learned

  • Are you their parent? Then you’re qualified.

    Are you employed with stolen (taxpayer) money by a corrupt corporatist warmongering entity that wants to make kids stupid and not oppose them, and you have to teach what said entity makes you? Then you’re not qualified at all.

  • This is going to be long; please excuse the length.

    Here’s my personal experience with homeschooling.

    Twenty years back, our family had the opportunity to circumnavigate the USA for a year in a motorhome. We informed our son’s school (Worcester County, MA) that we would be home-schooling our ten-year-old for that year.

    Immediately they were up our pants leg.

    “You have to provide us a lesson plan, we have to approve everything you propose, you have to show us regular evidence of test results,” yadda, yadda, yadda.

    I told them, “No, you misunderstand me. We’re not taking him out of school for alternative education, we’re taking him out of school because we simply won’t be here. We’re going to use YOUR curriculum. That means that according to state law, YOU have to provide US copies of YOUR lesson plans, textbooks, tests, and all that stuff.”

    Woops. When the shoe was on the other foot, how the music changed!

    What they gave us wasn’t even remotely as organizationally robust as they had demanded from us.

    “You have to teach seven subjects: math, reading, social studies, physical science, spelling and English.”

    Then they gave us TWO textbooks: math and social studies (“Settling of the United States”). Nothing else.

    Now, I had an age-appropriate science book (from my own school days), and we had bought a crate of suitable youth reading material, but did have to ask them for a spelling book, since I didn’t know the requirements for that grade.

    “We don’t have one. The teachers just xerox material.”
    “Well, can I have a copy of what they xerox?”
    “No, they xerox them in real time as they need them.”
    “Can I just get a list of the words you expect my child to be able to spell at the end of the year?”

    This was my introduction to the “quality” of our (excellently-rated) public school system.

    My boy ended up blogging a daily trip diary (with occasional photos) for English (this was before digital cameras, or the term “blogging”). He wrote the text on his Mac and then we helped him correct and polish it. I converted it to raw HTML and uploaded it to a public website service (where it still exists to this day).

    We did a few simple science experiments (e.g., making a balloon/jar altimeter on a day out trip took us across mountains, building and flying a model rocket).

    We visited most of the landmarks in his social studies book in journey order (Colonial Williamsburg, the Nina, a plantation mansion, the Alamo, Texas oil fields, the Mormon and Santa Fe trails, Sutter’s Mill, the Lewis and Clark trail, etc.).

    Our boy practiced archery in rural Virginia, learned to shoot at NRA Whittington Center in NM, panned for gold in Montana, and threw boomerangs in Texas.

    As a family, we toured a dinosaur dig in Wyoming, a strip mine in Arizona, a plantation mansion in Louisiana, Jefferson’s Monticello estate, a Pacific rainforest, and more I have forgotten.

    At the end of the year, my wife and I felt a bit guilty that we had skimped on so many of the things in the textbooks. We hadn’t scheduled anything. We hadn’t been disciplined enough. Most of the educational things we did were unrelated to a unifying theme. We hadn’t even given a single test! We felt like we had cheated, phoned the whole thing in.

    But when the following school year started, we discovered that not only was our boy not missing anything important, but was well ahead of the rest of his class in general. Ironically, the “full-time professionals” had done a much less satisfactory job with his classmates.

    That experience opened my eyes and changed my opinion of the state of government schooling permanently. It also gave me confidence that general education, at least in the lower grades, is something most parents should be intellectually equipped to handle.

  • The less “qualified” you are to home school, the more important it is that you do it. I came to this conclusion after reading a book from the Home School Legal Defense Association. Public school statistics are really dismal for children of uneducated parents. But there is only a slight difference with home schoolers–and the group averages at the 80th percentile–that is, better than 80% of public schooled kids.

    Thus, almost everyone is better off home schooling, but ESPECIALLY if you did not even get a high school diploma.

  • We raised two children. Both read above the 3rd grade reading level when they entered kinder garden. I have a teaching degree to teach old time shop and my wife math. The system was not set up for us to fit in. The system was broken in 81, when we graduated. Fast forward to 87 when we got married and started a family. A 3 year old son with a microscope watching infusoria, large bacteria, to feed zebra fry for their first business, tropical fish. By six years old they were taking care of 30 aquariums. They could manage money and were making 75 dollars a week. Could explain the entire nitrogen cycle, water quality, grow grass shrimp and aquarium grass. Dial up the internet and research problems with the aquariums. Full blown hands on science, math, and business. On the high school/college level at 5 and 6. They both went to public school also, to learn what the real world was like. In the first grade they were tested and were above the 7th grade level. In the 3rd they were on the college level in the gifted testing. Both very gifted. Neither the wife or I had any back ground in preK education. It was a good thing we didn’t, we may have tried to apply it and stifled their love of learning. Just a wooden pizza cut in 16 pieces can teach a kid to understand fractions in an hour, while in the first grade. I am a shop teacher at heart. All my teaching was hands on. They stayed in trouble for knowing all the answers and not using the modern rules or steps they were supposed to use to solve a problem. They had mamma school all summer. They volunteered at 2 small libraries in the summer. When my daughter was 7 she started reading story hour to the older kids. Yes you can educate your kids. You will also instill your values not someone else’s , in your kids. As far as the class room work, neither of my kids needed the school system. Also the wife and I learned so much.

  • I was home schooled, up through high school. The two most important traits that a parent who intends to home school need are creativity and tenacity. The willingness to figure out a way to teach everything, the ability to look for resources, the self knowledge to know where you are weak and where you are strong, all those will help a lot. There are so many more resources out there for home schooling children, it’s nothing like it was in the eighties, when I was being taught.

    I also think home schooling is a great opportunity for parents to also shore up their own knowledge gaps by learning at the same time as their child! Stink at math? Learn by playing along with your child at those math games! Have a shaky idea of history? Learn why various important evens are relevant and get curious about it, then model that curiosity and explore together. I could go on for my own article. Suffice it to say, this article has made some great points.

  • Good article and helpful comments. Most American children were home schooled up until after the “Civil” War, when the federal government took over the educational system and made public schooling mandatory. They modeled their educational system after the German educational system, which taught children to be lockstep workers in factories. In other words, they had an agenda for schooling and it wasn’t necessarily to benefit the children. They also taught the history they wanted the children to think was real. When it came to reading, American public schools experimented with and taught sight-word reading (the child learns to recognize a whole word by sight-it only works for words they memorize) for a time up until WWII, when they discovered that many military recruits couldn’t read. Then they finally switched back to the old-fashioned way of learning to sound out words by letters.

    I substituted in schools for a time and learned that most of the school day was taken up by busy-work, at least in the location I taught in, and that the teachers, most in their twenties, were in the habit of giving the kids (after each class!) a cookie or piece of candy for “being good”. Discipline in the classroom was difficult and depended on that cookie or candy “reward” at the end of class. By the end of the school day, the kids were wired on sugar and were indeed a handful for their parents to take over. No one seemed to think giving kids cookies and candy all day was detrimental to them.

    • Bottom line: No one is more interested in your child’s education than you are, and you really don’t know what “education” consists of in public school unless you’ve been there and seen what is taught and how it’s taught. Imo, a parent absolutely can’t do worse than public school in teaching their own children what they want their children to learn.

      All the suggestions and comments here were very helpful. And Khan Academy is an excellent resource. The most helpful thing a parent can do for their child, and which will instill the ability to learn in their child, is to read to them, if you can do nothing else.
      Simply read story books to them! A quiet time of reading every day with Mommy or Daddy will ensure your child enjoys reading and will instill a desire to read in your child (right before nap-time or bed time is a good time). And if a child can read, they can learn anything they want to learn, in or out of school. Of course I believe homeschooling is best, but if you don’t feel capable of it, then please read to your child.

  • I homeschooled my 2 sons by using free teaching websites on the internet when I didn’t have a clue how to teach. Although they learned some French & Spanish, I focused primarily on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math). They took their test online and after 2 years, they started public school in a small town in the country. My oldest just graduated from college with a 3.0 and is taking a job as a Federal Border Patrol agent. The youngest graduated high school Valedictorian, 4.0 and currently attends college at a conservative Texas college planning to become a doctor. Anyone who loves their children and wants a better life for them should teach them. I don’t know anyone who homeschooled their children and regrets it.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security