Your family is simple – mom, dad, child. Homeschooling an only child has to be simple, right? You can get through all of the daily assignments without having to worry about teaching the other siblings, or bouncing a baby in your lap. This isn’t quite the case. Instead, these smaller families face their own challenges of homeschooling an only child.
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Below are the 7 most common challenges that we’ve encountered from homeschooling an only child.
Challenges of Homeschooling An Only Child
1. You are the sole instructor. That means you have to do all of the teaching, especially in the lower elementary grades. There are no younger siblings for an older child to practice reading; there are no older siblings to teach or demonstrate a concept. It’s entirely up to you to fulfill all of those rolls. Likewise, this can also cause it’s own problems. Your singleton can become dependent upon you sitting next to him for his entire school day. I’ve noticed that when I step away for a moment to load the dishwasher, my son will suddenly loose all concentration, and cannot complete a single problem. We’ve learned that talking while working helps my son to stay focused on his assignment, without me having to sit right next to him.
2. Curriculum is costly. When you have a larger family, it’s cost-effective to purchase curriculum and then reuse them when the younger siblings are ready. However, when you have only one; you can’t reuse it, and must purchase new curriculum for each upcoming school year. We’ve found that buying used curriculum, when available, is a more economical option for our family.
3. Your child strives for approval and self-worth from you. According to psychologists, singletons crave approval from their parents. In fact, most “onlies” are so sensitive to disapproval they can become disheveled over the slightest sense of disapproval. I often see this in my son, especially when he feels he is not meeting my expectations. Other times, if he feels he is going to be a failure from the start of a task, he’ll immediately decide he is not going to complete the task. I’ve learned that I must encourage him, and let him discovere that he can (italics) complete these tasks.
4. Household chores cannot be split among siblings. One of the hardest challenges that we’ve faced is balancing schoolwork, housework, and running a business. Many larger families find ways to balance all of the chores around the house, by splitting the tasks among the children. This isn’t an option with an only child. In fact, it would seem that having fewer children would mean that the house is cleaner; however, this is not the case in our home. It seems that the messes appear everywhere, and the task of cleaning is never-ending. Our adjustment is that the entire family shares the rolls of cleaning house.
5. Your child has to learn how to be a team player. In a school setting, children learn how to work together in small groups. In a homeschool setting, they learn how to interact with their siblings, and even sometimes complete group projects together. A homeschooled singleton misses out on both of these. It falls to the parent to fulfill the roles of the classmate, as you would in a group setting. By completing tasks and projects together, you both can enjoy the time together while learning about a new subject.
6. Likewise, you have to be the competition for your child. When I was in 3rd and 4th grades, I had an arch-nemesis in school. Her name was Brandy. Looking back, I’m sure she was a sweet girl. She was always respectful and kind, and never spoke a mean word. But she was smart – really smart. Every week, I wanted to beat her scores on the weekly language and math tests. She was my competition. Now that I am homeschooling an only, I realize that my son doesn’t have that “friendly competition” to push him to work hard, especially since there are no siblings to compete against. Instead, my husband and I have to be the ones he strives to beat academically. Of course, there are other activities that he can join to meet that competitive drive – sports teams, boy scouts, or even academic teams.
7. Building friendships can be difficult. I’m stating this one last, as most new homeschooling families worry about the big S word – socialization. Personally, I am not worried about the socialization part, as there are numerous opportunities for socialization – the grocery store, outings and fieldtrips, playdates, etc. Playing and being around other other children is not the issue. It is friendships that an only child craves… or I should say my (italics) only child does. Luckily, he has a best friend who is essentially an only child, and also homeschools. His mother and I make sure that we plan at least one playdate together every other week minimum, so the boys can work on their budding friendship. (UPDATE: Here’s where I’ve also written about socializing the only child.)
What other challenges do you face from homeschooling an only child? Have you found other ways to cope while homeschooling?
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