Homeschooling One: The Blessings and Challenges

A friend emailed me recently with a question: “What is it like to homeschool one child?”  She is a mom of six and a long-term homeschooler, but she is looking at the prospect of only having her youngest at home next year. I have three children, but two have graduated from high school and I have been homeschooling only my youngest for the past two years. Whether you have a large family like my friend or only have one child, you may wonder whether homeschooling only one child is doable and desirable. What do you need to consider if you are in that situation?

Homeschooling one is definitely doable!

In fact, in many ways, I love it. There is only one child to focus on during the day, only one set of lesson plans to worry about, and only one schedule of activities to manage. While homeschooling always allows for more customization than a traditional classroom, homeschooling several children often requires a balancing act. There is a great deal of taking turns and having to make choices that will benefit all (or at least most) of the children involved. Yes, you can help each child focus on their own interests, but that has to be weighed against the needs of all the children. With only one child, there is much more freedom in terms of curricular choices and outside activities.

What are the challenges of homeschooling one?

Socialization becomes more of an issue. You need to be intentional about finding other children for your child to interact with. Even introverted children need some exposure to other kids. For extroverts, it is an absolute necessity. This does not mean you need to be doing something every day, but at least a couple times a week plan to have some activity going on.

Another challenge, especially if you are homeschooling a younger child, is that you are your child’s person all the time. While older children can entertain themselves for longer periods of time, younger children may need you to be their playmate most of the day. (When my daughter was younger, I used a timer and would tell her I would play with her for 15 minutes and then I would get 15 minutes to do mommy things. This proved to work well for both of us, at least most of the time.)

If you are a parent of an only child, you may feel a bit awkward at homeschool gatherings. Homeschoolers, especially Catholic homeschoolers, tend to have large families. Even with three children, I am definitely in the small family category. While thankfully it is not prevalent, you may come across people who look down on those with small families. When I only had my two older children, there were times when people would insult mothers of small families as being selfish when I was standing right next to them. Just as parents of large families don’t like to be insulted or asked rude questions, the same holds true for moms of fewer children. The number of children you have is between you and God. Don’t let the few rude homeschoolers get under your skin. That being said, you may feel you don’t have much to offer to conversations about feeding a family of ten on a daily basis or managing huge piles of laundry.

Overall, however, homeschooling one child can be a huge blessing.

You get to bond with that child in a meaningful way. You can customize the education to fit that child and have time to cultivate the gifts God gave them. As with any other major decision, if you are considering homeschooling one child, I encourage you to take that decision to God in prayer and listen to what He has to say. It is also important to note that homeschooling does not have to be a lifetime decision. You can take it one year at a time. If homeschooling one child is not working out for you or for your child, there are always other options. I wish you all the best on your homeschooling journey!

If you are new to homeschooling, I encourage you to check out The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling.

Image by andrii Sinenkyi from Pixabay

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Author: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her fifteenth year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling" and "The Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary". She blogs at