Tips for Homeschooling An Only Child Successfully

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If you were to ask 100 people to describe the typical homeschool family, you’d probably hear a lot of different replies including

  • “Weird people with loads of little kids who shun society.”
  • “A bunch of red-heads who own goats and a 12-passenger van.”
  • “Conservative church-goers who wear long jean skirts and button-down shirts to Walmart.”
  • “Crunchy folk who don’t vaccinate and spend 3/4 of the day learning about bugs, dirt, and plants.”
  • “Rebellious renegades who want to buck the system and not partake in the structured school system.”
  • “Highly educated parents who want to graduate their kids from high school at 12 and from dual Ph.D. programs at 18.”
  • “Over-protective helicopter moms who don’t want their kids to be influenced by public school hoodlums and liberal teachers.”

But what you WON’T hear from those 100 random people surveyed is… “Sweet little family with one child.”

It’s hard to put “homeschool families” into a box, especially in today’s educational climate, but it’s very safe to say that homeschooling an only child is simply not the norm.

Whether you ask 100, 1000, or 10,000 people to describe the typical homeschool family, chances are you’re not going to hear “sweet little family with only one child” as an answer.  

But, if you have a sweet little family with only one child and are considering homeschooling, let me put your mind at ease. Homeschooling an only child is totally feasible!

I won’t deny the fact that homeschooling an only child is quite different than what most homeschoolers experience. It has its own array of perks and definitely its own set of challenges

But it is entirely possible to create a successful homeschool experience for your only child and I want to provide you with some suggestions on how to do that.

Homeschooling an Only Child

only child homeschooling with the text overlay

Before I do that, I would like to share the source of these suggestions. I, personally, have an only child who I’ve homeschooled since the first day of school. My son just started Ninth Grade, so we’ve been at this for nearly a decade and, over that time, I have moved up the learning curve at least a wee bit.  

I also manage a fun little group on Facebook, Lone Wolfe Homeschooling, filled with sweet mamas who homeschooling an only child. And together, we came up with these suggestions.

Cater to your child’s interests.

This is something that all homeschoolers can claim as a perk. But when it comes to homeschooling an only child, we can really take it to a whole new level.

As one mom said, “Take advantage of the ability to cater to your child’s interests. You can still provide a solid, core education but also allow time for their extra interests. I find this helps instill a love for learning when they are involved in choosing what they are studying. Having an only child allows for so much flexibility and personalization.”

My son loves animals and knows without any shred of doubt, that he wants to be a zoologist. So, we cater to that interest as much as possible.

Before the recent health crisis and chaos of 2020, he volunteered multiple times per week at a local museum that is home to a wide variety of small animals. He spent his afternoons feeding mice, cleaning tortoise enclosures and picking weeds for the chuckwallas to enjoy.

And because I didn’t have other kids to worry about, I had the time to cater to this special interest of his.

There are 10,000 different ways to homeschool an only child, both inside and outside the home. Baking, art, music, entrepreneurship, sewing, dance, travel baseball/soccer, 4H, animal rescue….  

The list of how to cater to your child and their learning needs is endless, and though these things are available to all kids, it’s undeniably easier to make it work when you have only one.

Enjoy flexible homeschooling.

When you think about homeschooling an only child, don’t let it be a complicated or daunting task, have fun and enjoy the freedom and flexibility having a single child brings!

One homeschooling mom shared how she and her daughter have working lunches. They go out to lunch and the daughter does some of her schoolwork while mom catches up on some of her own small tasks.

When life is a little simpler, it’s easier to get out of the house for simple, yet fun things like that.

Another mom suggested going on lots of field trips. She even mentioned getting season passes to a zoo or amusement park, doing schoolwork there, and then enjoying the animals or rides after the work was done.

Obviously, those two suggestions are not everyday occurrences, but you can make even the typical homeschool day extra enjoyable with an only child.

One way we enjoy our school days is with games. We play a lot of educational games and have accumulated quite a collection that includes math, spelling, history, science and more and usually fit one in on most school days.

We’ve done this for years and will continue to do it even now that he’s in high school because it’s a simple, and educational, way to enjoy our homeschooling days!

You can snag a FREE States and Capitals Memory Match Game during the month of September by subscribing to my email list here.

As another mom put it like this, “Enjoy not having to balance more than one kid. It’s so wonderful to be able to focus on my single kid and to give him all my time and attention.” 

Protecting your time.

Indian woman smiling at child while touching her nose as they homeschool

Learn to protect your time and be okay with “no” to requests from others.

We were part of a co-op for years and I became rather close with lots of moms with oodles of kids. I sincerely love them. I love them, their big vans, and gobs of babies!

And, for a time, I loved helping them. I helped transport their older kids to activities with my kid (I even purposely bought an SUV with a third row so I could accommodate lots of kids!) And I taught co-op classes for little ones even though my kid was in Middle School.

I opened my home to families who lived outside of town but needed to squeeze in naptime on co-op days. I loved blessing other families with my time and attention.

But, as my son got older and his education became more serious, I had to learn to protect our time and say “no.” Sure, moms of only children might have more open time on our hands. But that does NOT mean we need to always be the go-to gal for helping moms with multiple kids.

You need to know it’s okay to say “no” too. Your child is your priority. Period. 

Another mom pointed out another area in which you may need to protect your own child:

“Having an only child makes it easy to have scope creep…wanting to add more because you have the time/interest/money. Many things spark rabbit trails and I’m off adding another element to the subject. Then I am pouring so much prep time pulling things together that we don’t get things done.”

Finding the balance of what must be taught, which bonus subjects can be added, and how many rabbit trails you can chase is tough to do.

Just know there may be times you have to say “no” to your own child (who wants to build a gas-fueled rocket ship in the backyard yet still needs to learn to add 2+2) and that’s okay.

Do it your way.

Don’t worry about what others are doing or saying and simply just do it your way.

Since all homeschoolers are knocking the norm (at least when it comes to education,) it might seem that this concept would come naturally to us. But I know too many homeschooling mamas who doubt themselves way too much along the way.

Just remember. You chose this for your child. You’re the mama. You know what’s best for your child. Find what works best for your family and go for it!

Another mom shared this tip: “I think the biggest thing I’d like to share is not to feel pressure from others.” 

Everybody seems to have an opinion on how you should do it.

If you tend to be a people pleaser, you might need to work hard at this. No matter what opinions you hear, don’t feel pressure to cave to other people’s suggestions.

If a trusted friend and adviser suggests something, take it into consideration. But, don’t feel pressure to do what others think is right. You get to decide which way is the right way.

One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling is the ability to make those decisions for yourself. Your way will look different than mine. My way will look different than hers. And that’s the way it should be!

If you are a sweet little family that is homeschooling an only child, please know that homeschooling is not only feasible, it can be the most rewarding, valuable, and meaningful choice you will ever make!

This post was written by....

Katie Wolfe is a homeschool mom to an only child, chronic list-maker, reluctant vegetarian, horrible interrupter and wife to an absent-minded professor. She used to be a classroom teacher {and loved it} but considers staying home to homeschool her child a true blessing! Her blog,  The WOLFePack, provides support, opinions and reviews for all types of homeschool moms.

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This article is a part of our How We Homeschool Series; a collection of content from full-time, veteran homeschoolers sharing their own experiences on the versatility and diversity of homeschooling. You can read more about the series, and see all of the content, by clicking the image below. 

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