NC Homeschool Resource Guide: Navigate The Course

Homeschooling the Only Child

1 Nov 2004

by Jaime Cook

Recently, through queries on Spiceline (a homeschool email loop) and discussions with friends and acquaintances, the subject of homeschooling an only child has come up. I would like to offer the following article to perhaps encourage those in this situation as they go forward in homeschooling an only child.

I grew up as the middle child in a family of seven, with a flurry of activity and personal interaction always around me. Energetic and organized, I married a playful but responsible man and settled in to have a family of my own. Twenty-seven years later, I'm the mom of two “only” children. Go figure!

Fifteen years ago, when my husband, my dear son, and I felt God's calling to homeschooling, I began gathering my supplies and seeking mentors and support. I soon began to notice that I was alone, in a sense. I never saw an only child on the cover (or the inside) of Teaching Home, or any other resource I found. I began to observe that homeschoolers are a prolific group—most of my friends had three or more children, and they weren't slowing down. Virtuosity and fertility seemed to go hand-in-hand in the homeschooling community. Being in the middle of a long struggle with secondary infertility, I held in high regard anyone who could bear so many children, let alone educate and rear them excellently! But I so often wondered, "Is there anyone out there like me?" At that time, homeschooling was heavily scrutinized, and the socialization question, along with open looks of dark speculation (concerning homeschooling an only son) fell especially hard on me. Even well-meaning Christians, who have offered me great wisdom and insight through the years, have, on one hand, held homeschooling as the most excellent option, and, on the other hand, expressed caution over an only son spending so much time under the influence of his mother.

Yet, despite doubts from without or within, I returned to the comfort that God has ordained all our circumstances and His calling and provision still stands. My son truly enjoyed his own company and had no problems being an only child. We were able to go on more adventures using fewer resources, than anybody I knew, and we greatly enjoyed our years together at home.

Then, after fourteen years of “onliness,” our younger son was born. Through the overlapping years our house was full of hassle and “rassle,” sibling revelry and rivalry, two worlds exquisitely mingled together—algebra and applesauce, term paper and toilet paper. At our elder son's graduation, I mused of a year off as teacher, but the next day our four-year-old begged to learn to read, and so we began again. My baby is ten now, and I often recall that our homeschooling began with his brother at this age. As for the doubts, my firstborn has a beautiful family of his own, is a homeschool dad, and a Raleigh cop.

Recently, I noticed a query on Spiceline, “Does anyone else homeschool an only child?” I immediately responded, “You're not alone!” I do understand the hesitation of asking for homeschool support from moms with multiple kids. After all, when looking at numbers (i.e., a significantly reduced class or family size), everything looks like it would be easier with an only child. Yes, the house stays clean longer, and the laundry gets done faster. But there really are different challenges with an only child. I can already see rolling eyeballs from you moms of multiple kids. But imagine just for a minute or two that one of your kids was your only one. Everything they do with their siblings would be done alone or with you. There is no competition in schoolwork. Games are played with a parent. I need to join in his play when invited, even if it doesn't come naturally to me. It's a good thing he likes winning all the time because I can negotiate that game cube as easily as I can land a commercial jet. When you send your kids outside for awhile, you might consider it a break. When it's recess time at my house, I often feel obligated to get out there and participate, even if I'm not particularly interested or energetic at the time. Would you let that snake-chaser go off exploring the woods alone? An only child has no one with him while he bikes in the neighborhood, goes to his friends’ houses, faces enemies or difficult situations, etc., etc., unless, of course, it’s me, or a friend. He doesn't have anyone visible taking up for him, protecting him, ratting him out when he's away from me. I had to stop thinking about his possible encounters with every imagined danger while he's alone a long time ago. I especially don't want to raise one of those selfish, intolerant “onlies” I've heard about. So, since the upkeep that a large household requires is missing, I have to invent extra work for him to do to build his character and set up situations or environments of conflict, so he can learn to share, wait, listen, turn the other cheek, make allowance for, etc. His dad and I aren't aggravating enough for this to happen naturally, like sharing life with siblings might provide!

Personally, as fulfilling as it is to encourage and teach younger women, I sometimes find myself unqualified to do so when the situation is directly related to having multiple children. I can relate to the child's point of view, but not the mom's; so, oftentimes, prayer is the only help I can give.

And yet, there are so many wonderful aspects of the life God has chosen for us. I do love the hours of talking and interacting with this one person. I've learned to creatively customize and benefit from the advice and techniques of my large-family friends, and to take advantage of the opportunities we wouldn't have if our situation were different. And, with the assurance that we're not alone, we can renew our focus on fulfilling the purpose that we've been designed for.

Jamie Cook and her husband, Ed, live in Fuquay-Varina and have been homeschooling for fifteen years. They have been blessed with two sons, Shea, twenty-five, who is himself a homeschooling dad and Zachary, eleven, still at home and blessing his parents.

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Tina 's picture

I have an only as well, and we're in our first year of "official" homeschooling. It's harder than I expected, even though I've been home with him from the start. We no longer have any built in friends (they're all in school!) and he's a very active, extroverted, outgoing whirlwind who LOVES to be and play with others. To top it off, we're somewhat isolated, which means for lots of driving for us to get where the other kids are. I'm learning how to manage it all - teaching him in a way that doesn't frustrate either of us, finding and arranging play opportunities, etc - but it's a struggle.'s picture

Please update me as to your progress. This year am going to home school my only. Worried a little.