(NOTE: I wrote this for the February 1999 issue of California HomeSchooler magazine. The subject of that issue was "Small families," either singal parent families or families with only one kid. The later would be me. So...)
I can say a lot about being a homeschooled only child, but Iím afraid I donít have a lot to compare it to. I just tend to assume it worked ok because I turned out happy, healthy and more or less sane.
As an only child you are both the firstborn and the baby. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you have the full focus of you parentsí attention. On the other hand... well you have the full focus of you parentsí attention.
You never feel that you have to compete for perennial love, attention or pride. Any time they have to spend with children, (which if you are homeschooling is probably quite a lot) is yours. So are toys and games. I am the only kid I know whoís mother read to her past the age of 7 or so. In fact, you get what you want in general a lot more. Given this, there may be a danger of becoming a spoiled brat. But balancing that is the fact that your parents have the time and energy to work with you and teach you to be polite and considerate and say "How do you think you would feel if..." Or, at least, mine did.
I was always treated.... not exactly like an adult, but like a person. We were a family of three rather than parents herding their children around. I was made a part of the decision making. My vote may not have counted for as much as those of my parents in the end, but I had a vote. I never felt powerless.
The down side of all this is that as a homeschooled only child you wind up spending a lot of time at home with at least one parent, sometimes two, who seems to have nothing better to do than peer over you should and breathe down your neck. I think this is one reason so many homeschooled teenagers decide to go to school. As much as we may love our parents, it can get a little claustrophobic under the parental spotlight. And without siblings to distract our parents, only children get a super dose of this.
Both because of homeschooling and because I am an only child, I got to be a child longer than I might have other wise. Not being in school has sheltered me a great deal from the big mean world. There were no iron rules, no scary teachers or bullies who I couldnít avoid, no gangs, no drugs, no guns.
I had neither a younger sibling taking over the baby role and forcing me to be independent nor an older sibling saying "Aw, what a baby! Why donít you grow up?" I was mommy and daddyís little girl and that never struck me as a bad thing.
I was able to grow up in my own time. And I did grow up, more or less. I may have been eight before I was willing to go to a class without my mother (and even then it was a place Iíd been and a teacher I knew) but now, at 16 I am as independent as the next kid, driving myself to all my activities, taking classes at a community collage and considering trying to get a job. But I still intend to hang on the best parts of being a homeschooled child: wonder, curiosity, and a sense of fun.