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What is an "Accidental Homeschooler"?

What is an "Accidental Homeschooler"?

By John Edelson of Time4Learning

While some families know from the start that they want to homeschool, others arrive somewhat "accidentally". These are families who had initially put their children in traditional schools. Over time, perhaps due to the environment, the curriculum, or the relations with the other students or teachers, they become convinced that the available schools are unacceptable.

Although many are people of strong faith, they start to homeschool not for religious or philosophical reasons, but as problem solvers trying to do the best for their children.

"I never thought I would homeschool, but after trying my son in several different schools, we were at our wit's end. Our son was miserable in school and doing badly. After one particularly bad day when he came home in tears and humiliated, we agreed to try homeschooling for the rest of third grade. That was two years ago and it has really worked out for us".

We coined the "Accidental Homeschooler" term to describe those starting to homeschool motivated by a process of elimination, not because homeschooling is their primary choice. There was one particular conversation that got us thinking about these families and the process of suddenly jumping into homeschooling.

One mother who had called to find out about our curriculum, felt it important to explain to us that: "I don't really believe in homeschooling and I don't want to do it, but I have to because of my children and the way schools worked." Uh, right.

We noticed that she was not the only one who followed a bumpy conflicted path into homeschooling. It's striking that we rarely hear from people planning to start homeschooling in a few months or weeks. But, we hear daily from families that have decided to homeschool and want to start immediately.

While we can't seem to find any data, Time4Learning believes that about half of today's homeschoolers started in traditional schools. So, with some fear of over-generalizing, here are some characteristics of accidental homeschoolers that we have observed:

  • Accidental homeschoolers often have the impression that they are unusual in that they are only homeschooling because it's the best option. Many seem to feel that this sets them apart from other homeschoolers.
  • Accidental homeschoolers' decision to homeschool often resolves a crisis, or series of crises, with the children, the school, and sometimes within the family.
  • Many accidental homeschoolers have been preoccupied trying to make traditional education work for their children so that when they finally "give-up" on schools and decide to homeschool, they find themselves with no preparation and no real idea what homeschooling means.
  • Accidental homeschoolers start with real trepidation and often with little to no enthusiasm for their endeavor.
  • The number of people starting as "accidental homeschoolers" is increasing now that the public has broad awareness and acceptance of homeschooling.

Since we get a lot of these calls from these families in transition, we have created a free guide with ten key ideas to help them through the transition. The advice includes how to avoid mistakes in an initial buying spree, how to layer in an overall homeschool program, how to connect with other homeschoolers locally and online, and how to build an appropriate mix of activities for each day.

The Homeschool Melting Pot

We've noticed that the accidental homeschooler label only applies for a limited period to these homeschoolers. After a deschooling transition period, parents become immersed in their new approach to education and lifestyle. Their initial anger with the education system which they feel failed them melts away as they adapt to their new life. They seem to forget that their decision to homeschool was one of necessity, not a deliberate choice.

"I had starting homeschooling when I found that the schools just did not work for my children. My initial attitude was bitterness with the schools and the blunders and accidents that had forced us to take on the education ourselves.

Over the years, a funny thing happened. I began to notice that there was nothing regrettable about the fork in the road that I took and the homeschooling path that I was on. I shifted from being a critic of the schools to being a homeschool advocate. I noticed that many of the friends I made that first year experienced a similar metamorphosis:

The Accidental Homeschoolers became the Enthusiastic Homeschoolers."

Time4Learning is an internet-based curriculum, popular with new and experienced homeschoolers.

Time4Learning includes a math, language arts, science, and social studies program for preschool, elementary, and middle school. Take a look at our online demos, our scope and sequence, or our parents forum.