I’m struggling with homeschooling. Should I stick with it?

I have talked with many moms over the years that feel like they have hit a wall with homeschooling at one point or the other.  Teaching your own child 5 days a week can try the patience of the best of us.  We often expect more out of our own children than we do of anyone else (except maybe ourself and our spouse).  It is human nature to be hardest on the people we love most.  Here are some points to consider if you are hitting a wall:

  1. Bad days.  From time to time you may have a day where you cannot believe what a struggle your homeschool is.  This can look a few different ways.  Your child might be complaining about every item on their list.  When they turn in their revised writing project, you cannot believe they think it’s done, when really it’s at the draft stage—STILL.  I had 2-3 days during my time with three kids at home where I had to leave the room and walk around the block.  I was so angry that they were being so difficult.  I worked so hard on all the planning–only to get complaints.  I would encourage you to hold on to the fact — you do not have to be the hero, you do not have to be your child’s best friend — you are their parent and teacher that deeply wants them to succeed.  You will have bad days.  Going for a walk and getting more oxygen helps.  Knowing that tomorrow is a new day — is true.  Hold on to these points.
  2. Why are you homeschooling now?  Reflect on the answer to this question for yourself.  For myself, I got into homeschooling for one reason, but then by year 2-3, my reason for continuing changed.  Generating an honest answer to this question will help guide your decision making as to whether to stop or continue.  See this post for more information about why initially I decided to homeschool.
  3. Consider the nature of clashing.  So you have bought a new curriculum that other families love, and your child hates it.  He or she doesn’t hesitate to continue to let you know this.  Give some time for a trial, but maybe it needs to be dropped.  Or modified.  Remember—you are the teacher, and the curriculum is intended to be a helpful guide.  Don’t ever be afraid to change it up to allow real learning to continue.
  4. Is the clashing personality related?  Are you or your student too much the same—or too different.  Homeschool resource store Excellence in Education recommends every family take a personality test before beginning so families can have objective knowledge about how each person is wired.  From what I have seen, this is good advice for parents, so their own outlook is not forced on a potentially different child.
  5. How high are your expectations?  In looking back on my time homeschooling all three–I realize my hopes and perfectionism were difficult for everyone.  I thought that homeschool had to look like the best of conventional school—but even more challenging, and throwing on even more rigorous material.  After some distance from that period, I realize how wrong I had it.  I began homeschooling with a variety of friends, and I have seen all of them reorganize their school at some point or the other.  One mom I know went from a more or less traditional mode to an unschooling approach—where her daughter is self-directed.  They do not check off lists for their core subjects.  The mom is comfortable with the change, and her daughter is far less stressed out.  You can even take a month or two off to reset if you need to.  Remember—your homeschool does not have to look like a classroom environment.
  6. What are your personal goals?  Are you feeling some frustration with how long everything takes?  Do you have the time to help your child everyday?  Are you working also?  Would you like to work?  If you are working part-time and your son or daughter is older, consider one of the hybrid homeschool models where your student can take classes at a homeschool program or co-op.  Many enrichment options even take charter school funding.  Some of them will even give your child all of their curriculum.  Currently my son in the sixth grade is in such a program.  It is the only way I could keep homeschooling him—as I am working part-time.  I know it would be unworkable for me to come up with everything he needs to learn.  These hybrid programs are extremely helpful—and may help you continue to homeschool longer.  Your hopes and dreams are not insignificant.  Be aware of them and consider how/and if you can continue to homeschool with your dreams.  See this post for background about why I had to stop homeschooling for a while.
  7. Get support.  Do not be afraid to let your fellow homeschooling moms know how you are doing.  If they have been doing it for a while–chances are they have been at a similar low point themselves.  Look for conventions, speakers, and attend meet-ups.  If you are flying solo, don’t be afraid to go with a charter school.  They provide useful help in steering you towards curriculum resources, academic progress metrics, and keeping to a schedule.  Feeling overwhelmed, alone, and frustrated are all normal feelings for homeschooling moms to have.  Don’t punish yourself—accept yourself as you are—as a parent and a teacher.
  8. Give yourself time to decide whether you will continue.  After having some of those days where you tell the kids you “need to take a walk and you’ll be right back,” see if the situation improves.  Give it some time.  Give it a few weeks.  Look into full-time school options to see what you are facing if your decide to discontinue homeschool.  See how those options feel.  Tour them.  Time is your friend here.  Give yourself what you need to make the best decision for your child and yourself.

I hope this article is helpful in encouraging you to take the steps you need either pursue homeschooling with a different perspective, arrangement, or understanding.  If you want to continue, know there are a lot of ways to ensure that happens.  If you believe it’s time to try something different and send your student to full-time school, that’s okay too.  Remember—learning is a lifelong process.

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