Family & Parenting Homeschooling

Teachers Who Become Homeschoolers Are the Indicator Species

Teachers who become homeschoolers are the indicator species 2

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I was recently involved in a discussion with educators online related to the Pearson testing spying debacle (articles here, here, and here). I brought up that I thought testing had done more to accelerate the movement toward homeschooling than anything else I had witnessed in the past twenty years. Multiple teachers jumped in and said they were either already homeschooling or planned on homeschooling because there was no way they were going to subject their own children to what is currently going on in public (and, in many cases, private) schools.

One of the very experienced and savvy public school employees made this observation which I share here with her permission:

In biology, there’s a descriptor – “indicator species”.  An indicator species may be unusually sensitive to environmental changes, and biologists monitor the indicator species for signs that something is amiss in the environment.

I wonder when somebody is going to notice that teachers are an indicator species. When we leave public schools with our children, people should consider that there’s something amiss.

Since I began creating learning materials to sell on Teachers Pay Teacher and my own site, I’ve interacted with hundreds of different teachers and homeschoolers. I’ve lost track of how many teachers-turned-homeschoolers I’ve met. Many. One of the current top sellers on TPT is a homeschooling mom.

My last year of teaching was when I had the epiphany that I would not want my own child to be in my classroom even though I was a very good teacher. I think even at that point God was preparing me to be a homeschooler because He knew that the gifted daughter I would eventually have eight years later would never thrive in a traditional classroom. Now I am thoroughly convinced that the pressure of testing would be completely wrong for her and our family. Like many of those teachers in the forum, there is much I loved about teaching but I could never teach in the current climate. And if I wouldn’t want to teach in it, why would I want to subject my own child to it?

When the teachers start leaving their chosen profession to homeschool their children, people need to take notice that something truly is seriously amiss. I think my TPT friend is correct that these talented, dedicated teachers who become homeschoolers are the indicator species and they are speaking loudly and clearly about the health of the educational environment.

Teachers who become homeschoolers are the indicator species


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  • I have many teacher friends who have chosen to homeschool their own. In fact, I have a friend who works in one of the top private schools in our area (she left the public school system). She unschools her kids. Love it!

  • I agree with your observation. Many of my former colleagues would often say that they wished they were able to leave to teaching to teach their own children. Most of those colleagues’ children do not attend public school so it really does shows that they work in an environment that they truly do not believe it. I think that is a hard place to be in, but I do understand that everyone has to do what they have to do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Count me in. When I started homeschooling after 20+ years in education, I was shocked to find that 1/2 the homeschool moms I meet are former classroom teachers. I’d LOVE to find statistics on this.

  • Interesting theory. I’m a former classroom teacher who has been homeschooling her kids (the oldest are now teens) from the beginning. I’ve met a lot of other former classroom teachers who homeschool and it isn’t just testing that’s driving them to homeschool. Things like how schools treat bullying and violence and the lowered educational standards are big causes, too.
    When I was in the classroom, I had a student pull a gun on another student. I managed to talk him into pointing it down and coming out into the hallway with me and managed to summon help as I went out. Worse yet, the administration clearly brushed the whole thing under the rug (though it took me a while to notice as I was so traumatized by the whole thing). That and a few other incidents have thoroughly convinced me that my children will never be in a classroom setting (except for “Take Your Child to Work Day” since my husband’s a classroom teacher still) as long as I have any choice about the matter.
    My husband was sent to a “retraining” seminar in which teachers were effectively taught to ignore bullying as the school system doesn’t want a paper trail showing a bullying problem. Sweeping it under the rug does not do wonders for the picked on student and often leaves the bully feeling empowered to do worse, but politics matters more than the kids’ safety. For these reasons and others, we will not have our kids there as long as we have another option.

  • As a current educator, I understand the frustration from people, but if qualified teachers keep leaving then it leaves unqualified teachers in their place. It also makes public education the last resort for our kids who need educatation the most. We’ve stopped funding it, good teachers are leaving, and parents who can afford it are taking their kids out. I’m ready to be full on criticized for my opinion, but there’s always two sides. We forget for some public education is the way out.

  • Mandy,

    No criticism here. I’m a former teacher and have friends still in the classroom so I do care about educators. I don’t know what the answer is. It is a huge problem that quality teachers are leaving. At the same time, can you really blame them when they have the best interest of their own children in mind? Their first responsibility is to their own family.

    I know that some people will say that quality teachers and parents should stay in the system to make changes, but people have been saying that for twenty years and things just get worse and worse. The educational bureaucrats don’t listen to teachers and they don’t listen to parents. They continue to make changes that are not in the best interest of children or teachers.

    I think we will reach a tipping point and public schools as they have existed for the past 150 years will cease to exist. Something else will take their place. How that comes about and what it looks like, I have no idea. But the current model is clearly broken. Not because of teachers, but because we know it isn’t the best way to educate children. If you put a dozen quality teachers and parents in a room together to design the best educational model for children, does anyone honestly think they would come up with what we have now? I don’t.

    Again, no criticism from me at all. But as a parent I know the current model would be a disaster for my child (gifted/2e). I know that because I’ve looked into it a few times over the past few years when I’ve been overwhelmed and I always come back to homeschooling. Public and private school simply won’t meet her needs no matter how great the teachers are.

  • The number of former public school teachers turning to homeschooling does make a statement, a huge statement. I agree. I am a former public school teacher who now homeschools my son because as a gifted learner he was very misunderstood, yet we trusted the system, hung on and continued to advocate for him. When we finally had no choice but to pull him out, too much damage was done and two years later, we are still working to overcome the emotional fallout. Our educational system is a sinking ship–as a teacher, do we save the ship or save our own children?

    You are right, bureaucrats are not listening to parents and teachers…yet, but I am hopeful that the public’s outcry over the multitude of standardized tests will shake some sense into these decision-makers. Also, I would hope that the ever-increasing numbers of homeschoolers along with the fact that homeschoolers, across the board, are outperforming traditionally schooled students would hit these educational decision-makers’ radar.

    I would like to think that tipping point is coming soon, but in the meantime, whether we are homeschoolers, public school teachers, former public school teachers, parents, grandparents or single adults, we all need to stand together to change what is happening to our public school system. If our citizens are not properly educated, this will affect all of us.

    Thank you for bringing to light a very significant topic!

  • I am a former teacher who became a nurse over 30 years ago because of the flaws in public school at that time. When I left patient care, I taught nursing and was apalled at the lack of my students’ abilities to reason, research, or write a complete sentence. And please, don’t even ask them to do a simple ratio calculation, as in calculating medication doasages. I always spent the first 6 weeks of the program teaching basic topics they should have had in high school. I am now retied, but homeschool my very gited 10 year old granddaughter–her mother wants her homeschooled as does she, but my daughter gets too impatient with her daughter. My granddaughter begged us for 2 years to be homeschooled before we took her out of school. We started with the independent schooling program from public school, but when her math was marked wrong because she did not follow common core steps, her mother removed her from that and enrolled her in a homeschool charter school. When the student completed 4th grade, as definded by her charter school, and the school would not let her begin 5th grade, she was taken out of that and is now unschooled, after trying an online curriculum. All of this has been done as group decisions among her, her mother, and me. She is much happier and is so far advanced compared to her best friends. She also has auditory processing disorder and the noise in classrooms really interfered with her learning. And she has severe dysgraphia and writing is actually so painful, she cries. She has learned keyboarding and does the majority of her writing and composition on the computer. She is an amazing girl and would be so squashed in traditional school. She has studied Latin for 2 years and will start French soon. She can reason and think critically and is doing algebra.

    Her borther was homeschooled 2nd through 6th grades when he went to live with his father. He is now a junior in high school and in public school. His foundation in homeschool is what keeps him from being unable to think or do complicated math, or write. He has an inquisitive mind which is quelled in school, so he researches, reads, and learns on his own. These are skills that are absent from public schooling.

    When local people lost control of public education, and government took over, we saw the beginning of lowering standards so no one would feel bad about him/herself. Almost every college student has to take remedial math and English to qualify to take college courses. What does that say about our educational system?

  • Mandy,

    I worry about your concerns too. As a child of two public educators and a teacher for 20 years (10 in public school) I believe all children should be able to attain a quality education. After numerous instances in 7 years where I tried to be supportive of my school toward my children’s education, I finally had to look for other options for my own children. In return the school decided not to renew my contract in a very unprofessional way. I had excellent yearly reviews and my own kids scored in the 99% in testing. We decided to home school and I took a part time art job in a supportive private school.

    I am constantly torn between wanting to give my children a quality education and wanting that quality education for all children. When I left public education, I was working about 60 hours a week and not able complete all of the tasks and paperwork assigned by the state and district. I didn’t feel most of the work was actually beneficial for the students education. I wish I could fix it, but I was reminded in that situation that I did not have any power.

  • I’m a former kindergarten teacher (14 years) and am currently homeschooling my own 6 children.

    I feel deeply concerned for families in the public system, but I cannot give away my children’s school years in exchange for their children’s school years.  My responsibility to my own children takes priority.  Maybe when I’m done homeschooling I can help in the public system again, but I won’t do it as a certified teacher.  I’d have to be a volunteer who can “quit” whenever I feel the situation calls for it.

    My guess is that all the teachers who have left the public system would say the same — that they’re deeply concerned at what is happening.  We’re so deeply concerned that we’re keeping the people we hold most dear, our own children, out of the fray.

    • I agree that most teachers are good. I don’t think that is what this is about, labeling teachers as the problem. It’s about a broken system, reliance on testing, funding… This post was about good teachers choosing home education for their own children instead of putting them in the mess that is there now. I hope you will re-read this and recognize that it is not about disrespecting teachers or their profession.

  • Great article. Yes, another ex-teacher. People nod appovingly when they discover that I was a teacher, as if that assures that I’d be good at home educating.

    Yet they never ask themselves what that means about my insider knowledge. We know the schools, and won’t send our children to them …

  • I really needed to read this. I love teaching and have always considered myself a “lifer.”  That is, until my daughter came along.  I had the option to stay home or continue teaching; I know some parents don’t have that luxury.  I felt like my heart wouldn’t be in the classroom, and I didn’t want someone else knowing my daughter better than me.  So, I decided to stay at home and told myself that I would go back to teaching when she started school.  Now we are getting close to that time, and I am struggling.  I feel like such a traitor to the profession I love because I want to homeschool my daughter.  I know that there are so many incredible teachers out there, and they are doing their best.  However, more and more, teachers are losing the autonomy to guide their classes in a learning journey.  They can’t adjust plans to follow the interests of a particular class because of National Standards or back up if needed to cover something the majority of the class seems to be missing because of the dreaded testing.  Instead of creating life long learners, like I would like my child to be, we are creating test takers, who learn something long enough to take a test.

  • Wow!  This is an amazing article.  I’m a second generation homeschooler.  Now that I think about it, I know several professional teachers who already chose to homeschool their kids or plan to.  I live in an area where homeschooling is very common.

    Someone I know who sends her kids to public institutions expressed her frustration to me over the fact that so many homeschool parents do not participate in public school meetings.  She said that if we would participate, circumstances would be better in public schools.  However, I currently have three kids under the age of nine.  Homeschooling is a demanding job, especially when young children need one-on-one time in the early years.  If special needs, high maintenance diets, newborn babies, or personal health problems come into the picture, the demands on a homeschooling parent’s time and energy can become unbelievably heavy.  I simply do not have the time or energy left to look after other people’s children.  I really wish I could do both because I would love to see other kids happy and thriving too.  The reality is that any time I spend helping other people’s children is charity work, and I do not believe it is appropriate for other parents to expect it on a perpetual basis.

    Very interesting post, Sallie.  Thank you.


  • Jessie,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. People have been trying to change the schools from within for decades. In the vast majority of circumstances, it doesn’t work. And like you said, people who take on the responsibility of homeschooling on top of other demanding tasks simply do not have time to give to the schools. It’s sad that we have to make these choices since people do care about their communities. But our first responsibility has to be to our own children.

    Best wishes,

  • When we let our kids’ school know we would be homeschooling there were diverse reactions from their teachers.  One amazing teacher with over 20 years experience responded she could never homeschool her own kids.  Another mentioned a stereotype that all homeschoolers just sit around in their PJs all day.  One let me know she was considering homeschooling her own child.  She, one of the best teachers in the school, who had taught my children, and was adored by them, who was one of the most organized and loving teachers I had ever met was expressing doubts she could successfully homeschool her own child.  How can teachers so well respected, proven to be effective not know without a doubt they can homeschool their own kids? I think the very fact we are not in a massive teacher shortage is because so many school teachers do not yet believe they can successfully homeschool their own kids.  Once they realize this, the schools will be struggling to fill positions.  It will be a boon for recent grads not yet parents.

  • MomOf2,

    I think it is a false dichotomy to structure the choice as an “either me or public school” decision.  Parents can cover what they are confident in and outsource instruction and training in what they are not able to teach.  There are co-ops, online courses, local in-person classes that are not offered via schools, local community college courses, etc.  Many private schools allow homeschoolers to take a few of their classes as do many public institutions.  I like what Da Vinci Innovation Academy in El Segundo is doing:

    My oldest son has been training in Jiu Jitsu for almost three years now.  He LOVES it. I couldn’t pretend to know the first thing about any martial art, but I don’t allow my limitations to limit my kids.

    What was it that Winston Churchill said about democracy?  That it was the worst form of government, except for all the rest.  That is essentially how I view my role with my kids.  I personally come up short all the time, but I press harder than anyone else in the world to give them the best I can give them.

  • I just finished teaching three years in a private, Christian school and am going to be homeschooling my two going forward. Too many of the world’s influences and problems are finding their way into Christian schools. We have had enough. I can’t even imagine what the public schools must be like.

  • I got out before I got all the way in. In the early 90’s, I was in college as an elementary ed major, 3 years in. But the stuff I was reading from the public library, about homeschooling, alternative schooling, how children learn, and the real purpose of public schooling, made far more sense to me than what I was being taught in class. I realized that I would get into Trouble as a public school teacher, and that, when I had kids, I would be homeschooling them. There wasn’t anything else I wanted to major in, do I dropped out of college

  • Yes, this is a great article and great comments! I’m also a former teacher turned homeschooler because I want my kids to have nothing to do with the public education system, on nearly every front.

  • Yes. I worked in public schools, and my husband is a teacher in a public middle school. We have chosen not to send our children to public school because we have seen first hand what the education and daily life is like for these children. When people who have spent their lives dedicated to something because it is their passion, but cannot justify putting their own children into that environment because of the parts outside their control, it should be a huge warning to those looking on. What if your car seat manufacturer refused to put their kids in their car seat? Would warning bells not go off in your mind?

  • I’ve been working at different public schools in my city as a substitute teacher and decided it was time to homeschool my child.

    • Hi Vanessa!

      I don’t think you could have summed things up any better in one statement. You can see the reality right before your eyes. Thank you for sharing your story.



Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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