by Leslie Fobbs
After worrying that I wasn’t adequate enough to homeschool my child, my next concern was that I couldn’t do it with an only-child. I worried that I’d be taking him out of his biggest social environment and secluding him away from other kids. I worried that he would turn out weird and not know how to be around other kids. This was especially because we had just moved from out of state and didn’t know anyone. My family must have thought I was crazy when I announced that we were moving and I was homeschooling.
One year and six months later I am more confident that homeschooling was a good choice for us. My son being an only-child doesn’t mean we can’t successfully homeschool. There are times I do wish he had a sibling, and he does too. Ultimately though, I do not think he is lacking opportunities to be social. In fact, there are some advantages to him being the only one. I’d like to encourage other moms who are new to this or who are on the fence thinking about it. You may have my same previous concerns, but you will find that the challenges are no more than what a larger family has. They are just different.
Here’s what you can expect:
The biggest one is overcoming the loneliness your child will feel. No matter how many social activities I plan, I still find that my son says he’s lonely every now and then. My heart aches for him each time. That’s when it’s a good day to snuggle up together and read a book. Anything to give them your full, undivided attention.
Speaking of full, undivided attention, you’ll be giving a lot of that which can be a little exhausting some days. With larger families, the children are able to entertain themselves with each other. Of course this gives mom built-in pockets of time for herself. But with an only-child, there is a constant request for your engagement. You must get good at balancing their needs with yours. Sometimes that means being a playmate when you don’t feel like it. That is still a constant struggle for me as I don’t always enjoy some of the games my son wants to play.
Overcoming shyness and fear of "other kids" is a huge challenge for us and may be for others as well. I took my son out of school after second grade. He’s naturally shy, but just recently told me that he experienced a small amount of bullying in that class. (More children doesn't always mean quality socialization!). So, I believe that experience, and isolating ourselves in virtual school prison for a few months, had a negative impact on him. It caused him to become intimidated at the thought of being around public school kids. We've worked through it though by involving him in local, diverse groups of children. Since then, he has gotten much better.
One of the difficulties I see with homeschooling larger families is having to juggle multiple ages and interests. I marvel at how well some moms are able to handle it all. With homeschooling my only child, I never have to worry about that. I can just focus on one person and one set of interests. I cherish this time that I have to give him all my love and attention, and you will too!
Earlier, I listed more face time as a challenge for moms to be constantly engaged. Yet, it is also advantageous towards a strong parent-child relationship. It strengthens the bond they have with you. Especially compared to them being in traditional school. I imagine that this closeness will carry on into adulthood. At least, that is my hope anyway!
All this time with just you, an adult, makes your only-child more mature. Their vocabulary is incredible. They are also able to relate to adults more and become less intimidated by them. I think this is a good thing and I see it in my son once he overcomes his shyness around new people. At times, I have to remind him not to butt into certain grown folks conversations. Like that of his old-school grandparents. But then I also find myself chuckling at his fearless, and inquiring mind. After all, he is pretty used to only talking to me and my husband most of the time, lol.
Compared to traditional school, homeschooling an only-child makes them more creative and independent. They have no choice, but to find ways to entertain themselves with no peers at home to play with. They also will not need the validation or permission of others when they become older. I love how assertive my son is about his interests. He does not hesitate to let people know when he doesn’t like something (sometimes to my horror, lol). I take comfort in knowing he could handle peer pressure well.
Homeschooling an only-child can seem like an oxymoron. When you think of school, you think of many children, not one. But, I’ve learned that school is what you make it. I'd like to think of it as a special adventure you get to journey on. Just you and your child.
Yes, there are different challenges that require some workarounds for only-kids. Yes, you will have to stretch yourself into something you weren’t before. And yes, you will have to be more proactive about their social life. But guess what, it can be done! Many of us do it every day. Don't let having only one child be the reason you don't homeschool.
Are you thinking about homeschooling an only-child, or do you already? What are your worries and concerns?