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Homeschooling an Only Child

April 22–26, 2013   |   Vol. 115, Programs 46–50
Originally Aired: April 25–29, 2011 | Vol. 104, Programs 11–15

Will my child still benefit from homeschooling if he or she has no siblings? This week on Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith answers this question with an emphatic yes!

“Homeschooling an only child has its own challenges, but they’re not greater than those faced by a larger family—just different. The joy of homeschooling an only child is in following the interest of the child.”—Mary Healy

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Do you ever feel like every homeschooling family you’ve met has at least five children? If you have an only child, don’t be intimidated—you, too, can homeschool! This week on Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith explores education at home—for one.

Mike Smith: Have you ever wondered how to do academics and projects with an only child? Well, the answer might be just—do them with the child! One of the benefits of homeschooling is that the teaching parent learns as he or she teaches the child. So don’t just limit yourself to explaining a text book.

One homeschooling mom we know helped her elementary-age daughter learn to love writing by joining her in creating stories. The mother and daughter would each take a seed catalog and use the descriptions of flower or tree varieties to create personalities for their flower characters. They each would write a story about the flowers in the garden, and then they would swap and read each other’s stories. Now that this mom has graduated her daughter from homeschool, she adopts young children in their family’s church to trade stories with them!

Science projects might be twice as fun if Dad actually does them along with the child. And you just might discover that you like art projects as much as your student does! Homeschooling is the perfect way to make learning a whole-family venture, and homeschooling an only child is no different. In fact, it might be easier!

Of course, not all your homeschooling has to happen in your house. In our next program, we’ll explore ways that cooperative learning can enrich your experience as a single-child homeschooling family.

And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Last time, we thought about how the teaching parent can participate with an only child to make homeschooling projects more fun. Co-ops and group classes are also great options if you have an only child, or just one child being homeschooled.

For younger children who are not studying intensive academic subjects yet, co-op time might be best spent on field trips, nature walks, or extracurriculars such as music. Young children are still establishing a good foundation in the basics, so make your time out with other families an opportunity to hone social skills and delight in exploring the world around you!

Older students are often motivated by joining other students in a class. If English is a difficult subject for your student, taking it in a co-op might just provide the incentive your child needs to persevere.

Many subjects are better studied with others. Foreign languages, performance arts, and science labs that require expensive equipment are great choices for co-op classes. And visit the HSLDA website to learn about dual enrollment college courses for your high-schooler!

Beyond taking classes outside the home, your older student might benefit from pursuing an internship. This is a great way to narrow down his or her vocational interest, and provides terrific personal and educational experience. Next time, we’ll discuss socialization for the single child.

And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Homeschoolers have long known the real secret of socialization: the best socialized children know how to get along with people of every age. If you have an only child, socialization may be an important question in your mind, or a common concern for family and friends. But rest assured—just because your child doesn’t have siblings doesn’t mean that he will be unable to have fun with other children.

If you live in a city or suburb and have neighbors, your younger child will probably have a pool of natural playmates. There are lots of ways to create social opportunities for your child, too. He might enjoy being on a city or regional sports team. Maybe 4-H is more up her alley, or more accessible to your family. Having just one child might also give your family the flexibility for time-consuming pursuits like ballet or gymnastics.

Perhaps physical competition isn’t your child’s cup o’ tea. Speech and debate is a great way for homeschoolers to meet friends, while practicing effective and articulate communication! The NCFCA—the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association—has affiliates in every state of the U.S.

Finally, make sure your child has the opportunity to interact with—and bless—older adults. Volunteering at a retirement community or nursing home is a wonderful way to help your student reach out selflessly. This will impact not only your child’s life, but the lives of many others.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Today, I’m joined by Mary and Shannon Healy. Mary and her husband, Ron, homeschooled Shannon through high school. Mary and Shannon, welcome to our program today!

Mary Healy: Thank you, we’re happy to be here!

Shannon Healy: Oh, thank you, it’s great to be here with you today!

Mike: Mary, what would you say is the biggest challenge for a mother homeschooling one child?

Mary: For me, it was trying to provide motivation to complete tasks in the absence of peer pressure from other siblings who have already completed their work. But for some mothers, the quantity and intensity of that one-on-one interaction is also difficult. Shannon and I were always ready for a break from each other by lunch time, and we used to eat in the living room with our feet up reading novels.

Mike: Shannon, what about your perspective of this question?

Shannon: Well, I remember nearly failing my first unit test for a high school co-op class, because I never learned to concentrate in a room full of people. With no siblings, I was used to having absolute quiet when I studied. It really didn’t take me long to learn though, and by the time I took the SAT and started college, I was pretty good at tuning out distractions.

Mike: Mary and Shannon, thanks for sharing with our listeners today! We’ll continue next time with tips for families homeschooling an only child. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Mother and daughter Mary and Shannon Healy are with us again today to share their experience on homeschooling as a single-child family. Mary, what encouragement would you share with parents who may be considering homeschooling but are hesitant because they have only one child?

Mary Healy: Homeschooling an only child has its own challenges, but they’re not greater than those faced by a larger family—just different. The joy of homeschooling an only child is in following the interest of the child, and being able to skip through subjects they’re good at and concentrate on those that seem difficult. For example, Shannon learned to sew when she was just 5 years old. And although she rarely needed spelling tests, boy, did we spend hours doing algebra! And, with an only child, you have more time and flexibility to join co-op classes or go on fieldtrips. So, just think of something that interests your child, and go and have fun while you’re learning.

Mike: Well, that’s so true, Mary! And Shannon, as a homeschool graduate, what was the best thing your family did to enrich your homeschooling experience?

Shannon: I think the best thing, was that they read to me—all the time. I think Mom read every single Jane Austen aloud, and some of my best memories were of Dad reading us J.M. Barrie in the evenings. I didn’t even like to read myself until I was 7 or 8, but I never once thought that I didn’t like books.

Mike: Well, Mary and Shannon, thanks so much for encouraging our listeners this week! I’m sure your insights will be helpful to many families homeschooling or considering home education! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mary Healy
Mary Healy lives in Alaska with her husband, Ron. They homeschooled their only child, Shannon. Since Shannon graduated from high school and went to college, Mary has returned to being a registered nurse and volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center.


Shannon Healy
Shannon Healy was homeschooled K–12, during which time she spent her off-school hours dancing, sewing, reading books, and coordinating TeenPact classes. In 2011 she graduated from Patrick Henry College with a degree in government, and, since then, she has been working as a costume designer in Michigan.



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