Homeschoolers vs. Schoolhomers

Dear Dr. Fournier:

My husband and I have decided to home school our son, who is very intelligent but has had lots of difficulty in school. We had him tested and the tests show that he is bright, even though he is having a terrible time with writing, spelling and math. He is a strong reader but does not enjoy reading books at school.

The writing really hurts him. He knows the answers but it takes him forever to write them. I offered to write them for him, but the teacher said that it was not fair to the other students and that he had to learn to do it on his own. For spelling each week, he has to write thirty words three times each. This torturous event constantly causes conflict in our home.

We have no problems with him except when it comes to doing homework, which also includes the work he didn’t finish in school. We want our son to love learning as much as he did before he started school. Any words of advice? Which textbooks should I use?

Joanne A.

Los Angeles, CA

Dear Joanne:


Having met with many parents who have reached the same decision, I see two distinct categories – homeschoolers and what I call “schoolhomers.”

Homeschoolers make sure that the content and structure of education is determined at home, allowing children to delve into subjects with meaningfulness and to a depth not that is atypical of traditional classrooms. This type of homeschooling does not have to follow a curriculum established by someone else, which frees the learning process from the prison of standardized testing and set in stone dates and expectations.

Instead, a family garden may become a way to teach science and biology (growth and development of plants), history (their place of origin), math (measurement) and even foreign language (with terminology in another language).

Each learning experience teaches content as well as the infrastructure of learning how to learn about a new topic.

On the other hand, “schoolhomers” adopt the structure and content of school even though the constraints of traditional school have not been in sync with what they wanted for their children. I coined this term because “school” seems to take precedence over “home” in this model.

These parents present content just as it is taught in school, using textbooks and measuring education based on the number of hours of “doing” work. Many times this is not intentional; it is what still feels “correct” for the parents, based on their own experiences with schooling. It is important for you to realize that this new leaf is going to be a shared experience, for both you and your child.

The central question is: Do you want to be a homeschooler or a schoolhomer?


Instead of worrying about what textbooks and workbooks to buy, first you must determine what you want to teach and how you want to teach it.

We are so acculturated with the thought that school requires certain materials that it is a homeschooler’s first challenge to reject the temptation to copy the school environment at home.

A mother who has homeschooled her children for seven years offers the following tips for the first year:

1. Give yourself and your kids the first year to embrace the idea; get to know one another in the academic sense; develop your learning and teaching styles; and get settled into a new and improved routine.

2. Discover your kids’ strengths and weaknesses, and build up their weaknesses with a step-by-step approach. You are no longer bound by one grade level curriculum.

3. Rely on your sense of humor. If you don’t have one, develop one-fast! It sure helps. The family that laughs together learns together.

4. Have your own Homeschool Philosophy. Here’s ours: Have a good understanding of the basics; emphasize developing good attitudes, manners and self-confidence; and have a good understanding of our religious principles and beliefs.

5. Remember, chores are great for a family. Keep them fair and balanced. Emphasize that a family is like a team and everyone is important.

6. Enjoy your family. You will have bad days. Close the books and go to the park or make cupcakes or do whatever helps you unwind. Learning is like the air; it can happen most anywhere.

7. Thank God for your family. Whether you homeschool for a short while or for the long haul, make the most of it. You have an opportunity to make some wonderful family memories.

Develop your own personal philosophy of homeschooling, and the teaching methods are sure to follow.

Dr. Yvonne Fournier
Dr. Yvonne Fournier