Homeschooling an Only Child
Joys, Challenges, Tips, and Stats
He sits next to me wrapped up in his favorite blanket. We laugh as we read our current literature selection, Robin Hood. There is no baby needing a diaper change. No big sister wanting help with her creative writing project. It's just the two of us. The day is ours. My family looks different than most homeschooling families. We have chosen an at-home education for our only child.
It is a unique journey filled with joys and struggles alike. I have the advantage of being an only child myself. I understand what it's like to be the only kid around. Although I went through public school so we're navigating this homeschool journey together. Here is a peek into our journey, stats on only children in the US, and encouragement for other families homeschooling an only.
Homeschooling an Only Child in the United States
Homeschooling is on the rise. The NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) estimates 3.4% of children in the United States are educated at home. This is approximately 770,000 kids. I am actually surprised. I thought it would be higher than this.
The statistic I was floored by is that 20% of United States families are single-child families. In large cities, only-child families are found in 30%-40% of homes. Seattle happens to have the most number of single-child families at 47%! Parents in a large city are generally LESS likely to homeschool, however.
The NCES found over 60% of homeschool families have three or more children. Data has not been collected on the number of families homeschooling an only. It's definitely not reflective of the 20% of US families that have one child.
Over 60% of homeschool families have 3 or more children.
I know a lot of homeschoolers. Most of my closest friends are homeschool parents. I hardly know any other parents of only children. I have never met another homeschooling parent of an only child in person. I've been able to connect with a few online. I interact with thousands of homeschool families. We are definitely in the minority homeschooling an only.
Unique Joys and Challenges in Homeschooling an Only Child
Yes, homeschooling an only is hard. Homeschooling any family size is going to present its own unique difficulties. It's also full of joy! These are a few of the unique things an only child homeschool family faces:
- Loneliness- Not only loneliness for the child, for homeschool parent as well. Yes, the phrase "lonely only" can ring true. However, in a culture that's largely big families- it's easy to feel lonely as a mother too. Kids connect a lot easier to one another regardless of family size. I would love to have another mother in my life who is homeschooling an only to be friends with. I have yet to find anyone in my area homeschooling an only. The other only child homeschool moms I've connected with online say the same thing. Plus, our kids get lonely for other kids to play with. I remember that vividly as a child. We also value our friends and the time we get with them because we know how fleeting it can be to have a playmate.
- Learning becomes a family affair- Homeschooling an only opens up new connection for the entire family. I have the chance to dive in deep to everything I am teaching my son. I get to study everything with him. No getting him started on something while I help a sibling. My entire attention and focus is on whatever he's learning. I am amazed at how much I've already learned and grown. I often tell people that WE are in second grade. My husband loves to come home and hear about what we've been learning together and he loves to help out as he can.
- Curriculum is much more expensive- One of the benefits of most curriculum is that you can use them with multiple kids. The price of curriculum goes up a whole lot in your mind when you know you'll only be using it once. Yes, you can sell it after you are done. I find it's a bit more of a mind game when I look at the price tags for something knowing it's only going to be used by one kid. One thing I love about ShillerLearning's materials- the kits last a LONG time instead of one school year.
- Energy wanes- Being the sole playmate and the educator is exhausting sometimes. I get worn out pretty fast. My son does too. Kids feed off each other's energy. Without another kid around sometimes we both get tired and cranky.
- Higher demands- There are much higher demands on both of us than on a larger family. We don't have several kids to split the chores between. We don't have older siblings to help teach concepts I am struggling with. There are no other kids to bounce ideas off of or to provide entertainment. Plus, only children have an extremely high likelihood of putting a ton of pressure on themselves. Knowing this first hand, I try to minimize it as much as I can. It still rears its head pretty often.
- Deeper bond- Our bond has gotten so much deeper as a homeschool family. I remember as a kid never wanting to leave to go to school. Homeschooling wasn't something I knew about as a kid but I didn't want to go to school. Only child families usually report being more connected to one another and having a stronger relationship. Having the chance to homeschool and learn together has been a beautiful relationship for us. I truly can't wait to see how it changes and grows throughout the years.
- Not enough time- I joke with people all the time that the only thing I don't like about homeschooling is there's not enough time. The homeschool world is vast. There are great resources out there. Mothers that homeschool large families have the advantage to get to try more materials out. They're able to find what works well for them, and grow in their profession as a home educator. I once read it takes a professional 10-15 years to find their footing in a career. I won't get that long as a homeschool mom. I won't get to read all the books or try all the programs I want. I don't get to go back for a re-do of things from when my son was younger that I loved. I value and cherish each day because of this. It also makes me sad.
Tips for homeschooling an only
Want to make the jump to try homeschooling your only child? Already have an at-home education set up for your child and want tips and encouragement? Here are a few tips:
- Find a nature group, coop, or regular group for play-dates- You both need it. A once-a-week nature school or art class might be one of the best choices you make for your homeschooled only. It gives you a chance to have some space from one another, gives you a break, and gives your child a consistent group of friends.
- Music and art are your friends- Turning on a little classical music and creating an art piece can help diffuse the most tension-filled day.
- Pick curriculum wisely- Look for materials, such as ShillerLearnings's, that will last several years. For other materials, find a friend with children whose ages are bookends to yours you can borrow from or split the cost with.
- Love your library- It's the best place to save money and meet other homeschoolers!
- Have open communication- This is a must among your spouse/partner and your child. Keep the dialogue open about the struggles and joys of your experience.
- Take a break- Being an only child parent is demanding. Make sure you get a break on a regular basis. Even if it's for an hour alone in your home while your kid goes to a friend's. You've got to take that time or you're going to struggle.
- Learn together- Find subjects you both are interested in and dive in together. My son and I are studying homeopathy together and it has been incredible.
Model lifelong learning- Give your student the chance for some independent study time. While they're at it, pick up a topic you're interested in as well.
Get help- If you need to get help with cooking, chores, or cleaning to focus on education, that's ok! The demands of educating an only are high and it's ok to get help. It is also ok to get help for subjects that are difficult for you to teach.
Connect- Find a way to connect with other only child homeschoolers. The Internet is an amazing tool!
Let things go- If you try something in your homeschool that isn't working, let it go. You'll both be miserable trying to force something you both hate.
- Have fun!- This is the journey of a lifetime for both of you. It's the only chance you're going to get. Have fun, let the memory of bad days roll away, and enjoy the adventure.
Do we have any other only child homeschool families in our community? Reach out and let us know your tips, challenges, and how we can support you! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure to check out our Free Monthly Activity Packs. We design them to be usable by only children through large multi-age families, my son even helps create some of the materials! You'll find a new one every month and they're an excellent way to get free materials for your child to use.
See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits
Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.