Unfortunately, you will probably hear this question more often than you like as a homeschool parent or child. People want to know if you can cheat because, often, that’s what they’d do in some misguided attempt to get ahead. However, as most homeschooled families know, you are already ahead with high-quality home education. Furthermore, cheating is only going to hurt you or your kids, so why do it? Homeschool families that unschool don’t even have a way to accomplish that because of the style of education. That said, it’s possible. I would be doing you a disservice by treating cheaters as though they are myths. I’ll answer all your cheating related homeschool questions, explain why homeschool kids and parents typically don’t cheat, and how to handle rude inquiries. Plus, I’ll offer some constructive suggestions on handling a kid who tries cheating at home.
Can you cheat in homeschool? You can cheat at homeschool. However, this is not a serious problem with homeschool. Loving, attentive parents who are always around and have no other students to watch make cheating unnecessary. Moreover, it serves no purpose. Parents could fake records, but that would only harm your children’s education at best. At worst, it could invalidate their diploma and make their adult life ridiculously difficult as they re-learn anything you skipped or did for them.
Why Homeschoolers Don’t (Usually) Cheat
As I’ve already pointed out, you can cheat in homeschool, but we don’t, and I will explain why. The idea that you can fluff up a grade to make your child look better may tempt some parents, but it’s a half-thought. If you follow the process to its logical conclusion, it looks something like this:
I’ll give Timmy all A’s, and he’ll graduate with a stellar record. Then he can go to Harvard. Of course, I’ll have to write his entrance exams and probably fill out every form for him since he won’t be able to handle that level of work. They’ll take my brilliant child, and within a week, he will have been expelled, or at the very least put on some remedial tutoring program under threat of removal because he won’t actually have a grasp of the subjects that is up to the high standard I set with my cheating. By then, we’ll be out a ton of money, and I’ll have a fake high school graduate who I personally wronged moving back into my house as a painful and constant reminder of where cheating gets you in life.
What about more minor infractions. Can you push Timmy’s grade up just a little to get him into that Ivy League school of your dreams? Not if you want him to succeed in a highly competitive environment and live a happy, productive life where his confidence comes from his own achievements. The only sensible solution for sending ‘Timmy’ to ‘Harvard’ is to buckle down and help him become a superb student.
Homeschool families bring their kids studies home to offer them more out of life. Whether it’s safety from bullying, getting special needs attended to in comfort, or a chance to learn more with less stress to get ahead in life, the motive is bettering your child. Teaching them that their work has no value unless you can pretend it was even better doesn’t make sense.
Many homeschool parents do subscribe to a ‘complete and then correct’ philosophy. This means they immediately check answers and sit down with their kids to work on missed questions to help them fully grasp a concept. The initial score may be lower than the final grade in this case, but not because of cheating. Rather this is a process of continuing the education above and beyond to make certain the student has learned all they need about each worksheet or chapter.
Stopping at, ‘they tried, now we’re moving on,’ may be common for a classroom with thirty children, but a homeschool with a class of one or two rarely accepts that sort of mediocrity as the final answer. This is why, despite the ‘Mommy Bias’ myth, homeschoolers score substantially higher on SAT’s, get better overall grades in college, and complete more higher-learning degrees on average. You can’t fake those results.
How Do You Handle People Who Assume Homeschoolers Cheat
When people ask if homeschoolers cheat, be honest. Acknowledge that it’s possible, but then educate them on the subject. Don’t get defensive or angry. Instead, offer them real-world evidence of homeschooler’s achievements.
According to Brighthub Education, “in Spring 2008, homeschool students scored exceptionally high on test scores, in the 80th percentile, in comparison with the public school average of 50th percentile.” In college, “There was a higher graduation rate from homeschooled students (66.7% compared to the counterpart at 57.5%)” In both cases, they cite large studies to back these statistics.
It is more than slightly unbelievable that so many homeschooled kids are consistently outperforming their peers because of at-home cheating. Many standardized tests are performed at schools or under the supervision of certified teachers. Particularly in the context of a college setting, it doesn’t make any sense to assume parental grade bumping or every student carrying a crib sheet is the most likely contributor. Additionally, there is a wealth of information showing how well homeschoolers do outside a homeschool setting. Learn those facts and use them if this comes up in conversation with non-homeschoolers.
What to Do if Your Homeschooler is Cheating
Kids may try to cheat in homeschool. Whether they are testing their limits, rebelling, or overwhelmed by the need to see higher marks, it can happen. Even kids who are otherwise good, honest, and decent may resort to sub-par tactics if tempted or exasperated. You need to accept that it’s possible and take it in stride if you catch a kid cheating. Getting mad won’t help.
First, you need to get to the root of why they chose to do this. It may take some time, but talk it out. In the meantime, you need to keep a closer eye on their schooltime activities. The consequence of cheating is naturally loss of trust, but the cause is just as vital.
There may be an issue with a mismatched curriculum. When a child can’t work out how something is done properly, they are more likely to try and push through it, especially if you express extremely high expectations or disappointment when they don’t score as well as you want. Instead of pushing harder, or dealing out punishment, sit them down and work on the subject that has them so flustered.
Remember that no one is perfect, and they may need a tutor or more information. Likewise, your cheating child may need a break or a slightly smaller workload to feel like they can accomplish what they set out to do. Don’t excuse the behavior. Have them go back as far as you suspect the cheating goes, and work with them on each sheet, chapter, or subject to better understand the necessary information.
Guilt over cheating can cause some nasty behavior issues. If your child is a teen, hormones are part of the equation as well, and they can make emotional regulation extremely challenging. Outbursts and other self-defeating actions can come from internalized guilt or pressure to succeed. Let them know that they don’t have to face it alone, and perfection is an unrealistic expectation.
Everyone struggles sometimes. This can become a teachable moment where they learn about realistic expectations and when to ask for help. Anger and disappointment won’t teach them to handle things better. It will teach them that someone who doesn’t perform up to your standards deserves wrath and humiliation.
In extreme cases, a kid might need a counselor or therapist. These professionals have a degree and years of experience building psychological tools to combat behavior issues. Use their experience like any other resource to help a child in need. There’s no shame in giving someone every advantage so they can succeed.
If you choose to levy further consequences, make sure they suit the ‘crime.’ Redoing work and closer scrutiny are more powerful than taking out the trash for a month, and chores should be normalized rather than treated as a burden. Doing dishes doesn’t relate to better test-taking.
Consider having an older child spend some of their free time tutoring younger students online instead. Please help your child work through the temptation, and when they accept the consequence, handle it with firmness and kindness.
Homeschool kids are like other kids, and so are their parents. Unfortunately, that means a small percentage will at least consider cheating. However, the idea that the practice is widespread via the ‘Mommy Bias’ or other systemic myths is not only wrong, but it’s also rude and harmful to an otherwise overwhelmingly positive experience.
Some people will always try to cheat the system, even when it’s their system. Luckily, most homeschool families are doing their school this way to foster better education, closer familial bonds, and a more supportive environment. That’s as far from a recipe for cheating as you can get. Loving, supportive knowledge and skill-building are worth more to homeschool families than an easy answer.
Kids who test the waters to make their school day easier or please their parents need understanding and assistance more than they need punishment. Help them understand why it was a bad plan, and listen to their reasoning so you can resolve the issue calmly and permanently.