When homeschooling gets hard, it’s no joke. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably not looking for quotable quotes or platitudes. (But if you are, here are some encouraging snippets from Theodore Roosevelt-Ha!).
In all seriousness though, you want real advice.
You want the truth, and you want to know what in the world you got yourself into with this homeschooling thing.
The toddler is in a new phase and climbs on the table disrupting every single lesson. Your preschooler no longer naps and personally takes it upon himself to scatter all the toys throughout the house like fairy dust at the exact moment you aren’t looking. The third grader cries every time you say the word ‘math.’ Laundry is piling up.
Dinner needs served in an hour if you’re going to make it to basketball practice, but defrosting the meat completely slipped your mind somewhere between breakfast clean up and your sorry attempt at a family read aloud. Your husband is beginning to wonder what you actually do all day. And to be quite honest, so are you.
There are endless reasons homeschooling can be hard:
learning disabilities, behavioral problems, loneliness, sickness, reluctant learners, disagreements over educational philosophies, too many kids, too few kids, working full time, or limping by on one income. The list could go on.
The honest truth is that no one is exempt.
Those Instagram homeschoolers who look like an ad for Pottery Barn? The ones with the well-groomed children who always seem to be “caught” reading serenely in the nook next to a picturesque nature display? Yeah. They have hard days, too.
Every homeschooling family has those days when the doubt creeps in and the panic starts to rise. I can assure you; this is normal. It takes a certain amount of pluck to set out on this unconventional journey in the first place. It’s only natural to second guess yourself after that initial leap. You might be asking yourself if you’re really cut out for this. Is anyone really cut out for this?
The reasons people homeschool are as diverse as the ways it can be difficult.
A blog post can’t offer personalized advice that will solve your specific issue. But here are some general questions to ask yourself and advice to guide your thinking:
Do you know your “why” ?
If you don’t really know why you’re homeschooling in the first place, it can be difficult to have the motivation to keep going. Sometimes the vague idea of “it feels like the right thing for us” just isn’t enough. Take some time to write down your reasons. It could be a simple list form, a family mission statement, or a journal entry from the heart. Anything. It helps to have something in writing that you can go back and read. On the hard days it can reaffirm your commitment.
And sometimes your “why” changes. Sometimes your reasons evolve. It’s often not a one and done exercise, but something that bears repeating. It can help you to know where you’re coming from and where you want to go.
Is your house in order?
I hate to bring this up right off the bat. However, often times when I’m feeling completely frazzled and overwhelmed it can be attributed to a lack of organization. I am far from an being an organizational guru or a candidate for housewife of the year. But that’s exactly why I need to take a step back and reorganize all the things every so often.
It can be infuriating when you’re trying to check the next task off your list and you can’t find the math book, or a pencil eraser, or the folder with those awesome printable games you prepared ahead of time. Having supplies all in one place and ready to grab and go is a must.
And it’s equally frustrating to be tripping over toys. I know the dread of facing clean up. Your little ones are having a blast dragging out every last thing in the house. But you end up feeling like your entire afternoon is spent cleaning up after a party you weren’t invited to. It helps me to box things up and put them on a high closet shelf or out in the garage. Then you can rotate in a few toys and art supplies at a time.
A routine where everyone helps take care of daily tasks, like dishes and laundry, can also make a world of difference. It’s amazing what it can do for the feeling of the home and mama’s mental health. You don’t have to make up complicated chore charts if that’s not your thing. Just make a habit of cranking up the tunes and giving everyone a responsibility. Working together can just become part of what you do.
Do you need help?
There are times when you just need help. The kids are in that little phase, your husband works long hours, and you’re running on empty. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family. They can offer much needed respite or support in reclaiming your home. A nap, a quiet bubble bath, or someone to fold laundry with may be just the morale boost you need.
If homeschooling is new to you, you may also just need sound advice. Reading books and blogs have been fantastic. However, nothing can compare to meeting with a group of women who have been there before. Gleaning wisdom first hand is irreplaceable.
Are you part of a supportive homeschooling community?
Finding “your people” can be a difficult task. But camaraderie and friendship for you and your kids can make all the difference in your homeschooling journey. The first place I would search is online or, more specifically, local homeschooling Facebook groups.
There are usually groups ranging from park meet-ups to teen specific game nights. Sometimes, there isn’t a group already formed to fit your needs. But with a little reaching out, you can always start your own group. I’ve been there, done that. And it’s worth it!
Are you trying to do too much?
On the flip side, meeting with all the groups and trying out all the things can suck the home right out of homeschooling. It can leave you feeling ragged and rushed, and disconnected from your kids. This is likely exactly the opposite of what you had in mind. Outside activities are great fun, but there is a definite balancing act involved.
There’s also such a thing as trying to do too much at home. In my experience, most of the time less is more. It may be tempting to pack your day with every shiny new curriculum that catches your eye. But inevitably, trying to pack in Latin roots, art projects, geography, essay writing, Spanish, Sol-fa, nature walks, piano practice, hands on math, sentence diagramming, and typing every single day will only lead to burn out and frustration for everyone involved.
Are you bogged down with information overload?
Information overload is a real thing. There are so many curriculum options and differing opinions over which educational philosophy is the best. You can easily run yourself in circles, second guessing every decision you make. One minute you’re 100% certain you’ve found the perfect fit for your family, and the next minute you find yourself with curriculum buyers remorse.
Sometimes you just have to stop searching and go with your gut. Love your kids and do the best you can. It will all work out.
Are you working with your family’s natural rhythm?
If your family is full of natural early risers and everyone is ready and raring to go by 8 am, that’s great. My family does not work this way. Trying to force early mornings and traditional school start times has not worked for us. I had to learn that it’s o.k. to take advantage of being home and let kids wake up naturally.
You may be experiencing kids with different temperaments (night owls and morning people), rough nights with teething babies, or a spouse with a crazy work schedule. Don’t be afraid to do what works for your particular family. Evening school with big kids, catch up days on weekends, or being done with school by noon are all legitimate options for homeschooling.
Are you putting family relationships first?
It always pays to put relationships first. If math or handwriting is making your homeschooling days a living nightmare, take a step back. It will not hurt to take a break and try a different approach later. But it may hurt to keep pushing a child who is struggling, burned out, or just not developmentally ready for the task at hand.
Is your family enjoying the lifestyle you’ve created?
Homeschooling is an amazing opportunity. There is so much freedom for your family to work together to create life experiences that help you all thrive. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to try out of the box solutions. Embrace your own family culture, likes and dislikes, passions and quirks. Remember, your homeschool is your own. Make it what you want it to be.
Thanks for listening, friend!
Read about more about a heart-based education here.