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What is an “Accidental Homeschooler”?

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. Then, “something” happens. Perhaps this “something”  happens over and over or different “things” happen. Sometimes there are a few classroom or school changes but it still is not working. The problems can be with other students, the school culture, the academics, or the faculty and staff. But over time, the parents realize that traditional schools are not working and they become convinced that the available schools are unacceptable.

I Never Thought I Would Homeschool…

Although many are people of strong faith, these families 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”.

One Particularly Conflicted Mother Got me to Thinking….

There was one particular conversation that got me 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 me 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. I only want to do the best thing for my child…”

I was somewhat speechless trying to think how that made her different from other homeschooling parents, or any parents for that matter.

Many Families Start on the Homeschooling Path in a Bumpy Conflicted Manner

I noticed that she is far from being the only one who followed a bumpy conflicted path into homeschooling. I coined the “Accidental Homeschooler” term to describe those starting to homeschool motivated by a process of elimination, not because homeschooling is their primary choice.

Are Most Homeschoolers “Accidental”?

While we believe that homeschooling stastistics are poor given the size and signficance of the movement (Is 5% of the K12 population believable?), I believe 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 I 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 into homeschooling. 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 me 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….

This Accidental Homeschooler became an Enthusiastic Homeschooler

Article by John Edelson of Time4Learning.com, a leading online curriculum for homeschoolers. To discuss accidental homeschooling with other parents, join this thread on the parenting forum.

5 Responses to What is an “Accidental Homeschooler”?

  1. That’s a really interesting article.

    I had never thought of home-schooling until my daughter had difficulties adjusting to school.

    Fortunately things improved, but home-schooling was an option I looked at and dreaded having to face.
    Maybe it wouldn’t have been so awful after all.

  2. Pingback: August 12, 2008 Carnival of Homeschooling « The Expanding Life

  3. IndianaJane says:

    We were accidental homeschoolers 13 years ago. We were going to do it until circumstances changed. 🙂 Our first homeschool grad is now a senior in college and we’ll be graduating another this year. I run a statewide discussion list, and the vast majority of our new members coming in are pulling their children out of school.

  4. Julie says:

    We are accidental homeschoolers. And I do think it sets us apart from other homeschoolers. Our only option in our town is the public school. If there were a Christian school here, my children would be enrolled. The priority for our family is a Christian education so we’re providing that the only way we know how right now. I struggle MANY days with feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and lacking vision that others in the homeschooling community have. I know this is partly because I am one of four families in our town who have chosen this path to educating our children. There are no co-ops, support groups, or field trips for us so it can be very isolating.

  5. Brandi says:

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading this! We weren’t accidental homeschoolers…planned on it from the time my first son was very young. But I can relate to some of these things! Thanks for sharing!