Homeschooling an Only Child

Looking around at the homeschool families you know in your co-op, support group, or church, you might observe that most consist of more than one child. In fact, a 2006 National Center for Education report found that families with three or more children make up 62% of the homeschool population. If you're one of the few with an only child at home, you may be asking yourself the question, "Can I homeschool my only child?"

The emphatic answer is yes, you can. Only-child families reap the same benefits homeschooling provides to larger families. A friend who homeschooled her only son until the age of 10, when their family miraculously grew in size, reminded me that homeschooling, like anything else, is what you make it. If you sow good seed in your homeschool, you will reap an abundant harvest, regardless of the number of children in your home. My husband and I set our hearts to homeschool our kids before we even had any. We'd been introduced to homeschooling just before our now 12-year-old was born. Our reasons for homeschooling mirrored those of most families: to educate the whole child, to keep her heart at home, to raise her with a strong Christian worldview. We paid little attention to her being an only child until I joined a homeschool support group and realized we were in the minority. Only two of the more than thirty families in my support group-including ourselves-were only-child families.

I didn't panic. Our convictions hadn't changed. We had a God-given vision for our family. I rejoiced in the benefits of only-child homeschooling I could see immediately: an abundance of one-on-one time, more freedom in choosing curriculum and activities, and more flexibility in our schedule than that already afforded by homeschooling. But first, let's consider some of the trials you might face as you endeavor to homeschool your only child. Homeschooling an only child does provide some unique challenges, but none of them are insurmountable.

Interaction with Others I don't believe there's a homeschooling mom out there who has not fielded questions about socialization. As an only-child family, you might feel doubly targeted. Well-intentioned friends and family argued that our daughter needed to be in a traditional school setting because she didn't have siblings to help her learn to share and work out differences. Privately, I didn't want her subjected to a classroom of same-age peers who would help shape her sense of self.

So I purposed to fill in the gaps left by the absence of brothers and sisters. One of the first lessons we taught her was respect: for herself, for others, and for things. Simple, I know; also useful as overall life values. Applied to homeschooling, these rules taught our daughter the elements of true socialization, not what society calls socialization. She was taught to respect herself in her thought life and in her image of herself as a bright, compassionate, and strong child of God. Respecting others became important when we visited the library and when listening to the instructions for her math assignment. Respect for things developed naturally out of discussions of God's creation. Caring for her own toys, the fragile things in our home, and items borrowed from friends grew out of that.

We also strove to provide opportunities for our daughter to build relationships. We involved ourselves in church and community events. We attended field trips organized by our support group. We took steps to promote friendships, scheduling time together. We joined our support group in visiting residents at a retirement home once a month