Is your homeschool working for you or are you feel fed up with homeschooling?
Overwhelm doesn’t breed happiness or peace. And that’s ultimately what we want in our homeschools.
Are you fed up with homeschooling? Here’s some advice from me, a homeschool life coach, and a homeschool mama of four kiddos aged 21 to 13.
So many reasons we might feel fed up as a homeschool mom.
But since we’re all not the same humans having the same human experiences, we couldn’t possibly be experiencing overwhelm for the same reasons.
Here are a couple (okay, seventeen) common reasons homeschoolers feel fed up:
- You’re trying to keep a clean house.
- You’re trying to keep a private school in your home.
- You’re trying to finish all the curriculum.
- You’re trying to do everything that the neighbour’s kids are doing at their school.
- You’re trying to do everything other homeschool families are doing with their kids.
- You believe there really is one right way to homeschool.
- You’re trying to do your homeschool just like Charlotte Mason, John Holt, Maria Montessori, or Julie Bogart.
- You’re trying to keep your kids happy.
- You’re trying to make three square meals every day of the week.
- You love your kids and are glad to live and learn with them, but you don’t feel supported by a community outside your home.
- You have one child that has extra needs and you don’t know if you’re doing right by them.
- You have neurotypical kids, but you still don’t know if you’re doing right by them.
- You feel like you could do a great job with just one or two kids, but you’ve got five.
- You feel like you never quite get the right curriculum because homeschooling is never quite always working for you (or the kids).
- Your kids are complaining, bickering, whining, or just plain annoying you.
- You are trying to do things to check off boxes so other people won’t worry about your child’s homeschool education.
- You are feeling not good enough.
- You fill-in-the-blank…
Does anything sound familiar?
But here are a few ideas that might help you tackle overwhelm so you aren’t fed up with homeschooling anymore.
1. Require boundaries: homeschool moms need separateness.
Being a mom at home all the time, always available to our children, means that we sometimes lose our sense of separateness.
These kids don’t actually want us all the time (not usually anyway), but since they are just down the hallway putting together that electrical circuit thing with their siblings and they will surely need you within minutes as they don’t always share with their siblings.
These kids know they shouldn’t interrupt you on the phone or chat with you while you’re using the toilet, but they do anyway.
Cause you’re there.
Sometimes we forget that we’re separate human beings outside our homeschool mom role too.
Because we’ve been doing this homeschool thing for so long, also because that is sometimes the only name we hear all day long: “Mom”.
We don’t know we’re separate human beings with separate brains and separate life experiences. Sometimes we need to tell our kids (and ourselves) to do something separately, like leaving the house without kids or toileting without an audience.
Whatever it is that helps you maintain separateness, make sure you’re doing that something.
2. We need to take activities off the list.
More is not better. In fact, more can overwhelm the kids’ senses too (not just yours).
You don’t need more…
- study time
- learning opportunities
- extracurricular activities
- friend activities
- chocolate eating (okay, maybe chocolate eating)
Fewer extracurriculars and activities might enable kinder energy between their siblings.
And since we are not trying to jam our kids’ brains with every last educational tidbit (because we’re not training them to be god or google), we don’t feel it is required to offer them every last activity available to humankind.
Less is definitely more in the homeschool.
3. We have to learn how to exist together.
We love our kids. We are so grateful to have this opportunity to homeschool, but when we’re together all the time (or at least most of the time), we quickly learn that our primary goal is to cultivate relationships and learn how to communicate with one another.
And there’s a whole lot of opportunity to learn how to communicate better. Can I hear an amen?
- to listen to one another,
- to hear the other person’s subtext,
- to care about what other people need,
- to hear their perspective, which is not yours…
…is an art that is really only gained when you have the opportunity to do it.
You, homeschool mama, have a couple of opportunities to learn. Mwahahaha. (Sorry about that one, but this is definitely what we signed up for as homeschool moms).
4. Fed up with homeschooling? You need time alone.
We just do. (Yes we do, really we do, even if you’re an extrovert…I can argue this one till the cows come home: you need time alone).
Even if it’s an hour at the grocery store alone, we all need time alone. Because when we return to our homeschool family nest, we are happy to see our kids and our kids are happy to see us. (This might be a benefit of having your child in school: you are actually delighted to see them again.)
However, if you are going to the grocery store as your only source of alone time, let’s chat. You need something more interesting than that.
Do you remember what it was like to be in your early twenties, living alone, thinking that Saturday errands were a torturous waste of time?
But then you turned 34 with your newborn fourth child and you thought to yourself, isn’t the grocery store the most wonderful place on earth (because your husband was looking after the kids for an hour while you fled the nest)?
No, no it is not. The grocery store is not an exciting social opportunity and it is very much not quiet. The grocery store does not count as time alone.
5. You need your own thing: an all about you thing.
And not only do you need alone time, but you need an all about you thing.
Something that helps you grow and develop into the person you were meant to be in this life, outside your homeschool mama role.
Because there will come a time when you are no longer homeschooling your kids (yes, it really will happen).
Then what will you do? Homeschool the neighbour’s kids? (Girlfriend, you are a saint if you answered yes!)
But since most of us would rather not be sainted, probably not. So find something you love to do and cultivate it now.
6. You need to value quiet so consider a collective afternoon quiet time.
This brief separate, quiet space is a little fuel for the rest of your day.
What is afternoon quiet time?
- It’s something you can look forward to if you’ve had a rough morning.
- It’s a space in the day where the kids can take a break from each other.
- It’s a time in the day that you can invest your all about you time into.
- It’s a space in the day that enables you (& your homeschooled kids) to have solitude and separateness and creativity too.
(Notice how I speak to alone time, separate time, quiet time, and all about you time? They could be the same, but if I say it often enough in enough ways, I hope the idea comes clearly across that you need time alone!)
7. Focus on family harmony & happiness.
So I say focus, but I don’t mean expect family happiness and harmony all the time. Because, girlfriend, that just ain’t real.
I may have written a blog called Capturing the Charmed Life (you’re reading it), but we both know that the charmed life ain’t continual.
There are so many freedoms and joys in homeschool life, that’s why we signed up for it.
But if your homeschool is wildly unhappy and you know it OR if it’s just a bit unhappy and you know it, time to focus and figure out why and what you can do about it.
As a homeschool life coach, I’ve learned that no challenge, literally no challenge you’re experiencing in your homeschool is not also a regular life challenge, hence the homeschool life coach designation.
8. Maintain a morning routine.
I know you have little kids that are tiring you out and you might even be crawling out from your own bed with a child or two, but your goal, if you choose to accept it, is to create a quiet morning routine just for you.
Just fifteen minutes.
You might think it’s impossible right now (and I get that it might very well be very difficult), but the goal is to try.
Try every day for thirty seconds, then one minute, and then five minutes, and gradually, eventually, you will get that quiet time, because those kids will indeed grow up (unless you keep having kids, but I digress).
What to include in your morning routine?
- A hot beverage. Preferably a single shot cappuccino with milk. (Or is that just me?)
- A cozy blanket in a quiet space (Might I suggest your closet while you have your regular bathroom door closed with the light on? They’ll think you’re in there instead!)
- Include a gratitude practice in your morning routine.
- Instill a homeschool mama daily affirmation practice every morning.
- A yoga mat and a quick yoga practice to stretch out those tired muscles.
- Sit in front of a UV light if you’re in the northern hemisphere. (You need your vitamin D and this is an easy way to get it and help you to wake up a dark morning too).
- Take your supplements, like omega 3 oils, multivitamins, Vitamin D, and whatever else you think is important.
- Read encouraging homeschool words from me each morning (I wrote a book, hint hint).
- Read encouraging homeschool words from other people I recommend (other people wrote great books too).
Beginning your day with quiet creates mental space for you to decide how you’re going to engage your day.
If we don’t do this assessment step, we won’t truly understand what it is causing the overwhelm and therefore, not address it.
This is your single most important step to addressing overwhelm.
So how do we recognize overwhelm in ourselves?
- We write down every time we feel overwhelmed.
- Which assumes that we listen to our feelings.
- And if we’re not accustomed to doing this, we can schedule a time on our devices (an alarm) to check-In with ourselves.
- When the alarm rings, we take a deep breath, or three, then ask ourselves how am I feeling?
You can only address your challenges if you know what they are.
Sometimes, this requires an objective outsider to help us clarify our internal stuff. I’m a homeschool life coach available for that if you’d like.
10. Sit with your feelings regularly.
This is an act of self-compassion, nurturing the nurturer.
Sitting with your feelings helps you learn more about yourself and how you’re engaging your homeschooled kids too.
It also helps you be more intentional and show up on purpose in your homeschool.
(All good things that you already want).
So are you spending time sitting with your feelings, getting curious about yourself, and what you want? (Just the thing you’d expect from a homeschool life coach, no?)
11. Accept your feelings despite their uncomfortableness.
If you’re a homeschool mom like me, and you don’t have time to feel uncomfortable feelings, because you have stuff to do, well, I can relate.
But reality check, we’re humans as well as busy homeschool moms. So we have to allow ourselves to feel our feelings.
Uncomfortable feelings are a chip off the old block. A chip off the old block of our needs.
When we don’t consciously acknowledge our needs or address our uncomfortable feelings, we can spend our lives ping-pinging from one reaction to another, but never getting what we need.
Every uncomfortable feeling has a reason. It is a signpost to an unmet need.
Do we know our emotional climate?
- Are we familiar with the background climate of our sunny days?
- Are we familiar with the background climate of our dark days?
Spending time each morning assessing our emotional climate grows self-awareness. Assessing our uncomfortable feelings and the unmet needs beneath them gives us a construct to address our needs.
13. Recognize that our child’s struggles are not our struggles, it’s their struggle.
Our children’s emotional climate is and ours is aren’t the same. They are different human beings.
When we are expectant, before they’re even born, we assume they’ll be a little bit of one parent and a little bit of another parent.
Then we meet them to discover our daughter does have daddy’s expressions, but she does have mommy’s eyes.
She grows a little and we assume that her penchant for pulling everything off the shelf is her daddy’s neverending interest in exploring everything around him. He has to know how things are built.
And when she’s even a bit older, we see that she walks out of the room without explanation when she’s frustrated; also daddy on a bad day!
But get old enough, perhaps adolescence, and we discover that she appeared a wee bit like daddy and a wee bit like mommy, but turns out, she is a very different creature altogether.
A separate human being. With a different approach to life. A different way of engaging in her good days and her bad days.
She’s different, with a different emotional climate and different challenges.
Mindfulness. That thing everyone is talking about. As popular as kale and quinoa for our mental nutrition and wellness.
We don’t have time for mindfulness. Or so we tell ourselves.
But perhaps we don’t have time not to be mindful.
Mindfulness might appear to slow us down temporarily, but it really enables us to be in the moment, and be present.
- much more productive,
- much more creative,
- much more present with our children,
- and more present in our life.
And presence always breeds happiness.
Look back and be contemplative about what could have been or should have been or look forward to what might be and what hopefully will be, and you will miss what is right now.
15. Create a routine, not a schedule.
Where to include that mindfulness? In a morning routine.
The homeschool mama morning routine is intended for a few minutes of space and clarity about how you want to craft your day and how you want to decide to show up for your day.
One of the most important things we can do is set our day with intentional energy and thoughts.
Create a morning routine for us to get kick-started before the kids are awake. (Yeah, I know that is a real challenge if you have young kids. It might not even be realistic, but it is still the goal).
A schedule is forced confinement, routines are guidelines for living a life. Do the routine long enough and you become predictable and productive.
Forced confinement? We’ve done that in the last few years, so no thanks!
- Routines include the stuff you want to include.
- Routines are flexible.
- Routines create predictability.
- Routines bear out in productivity.
What do you want to include in your day? Write it down.
- Carve out a morning routine. Begin the day alone. Just fifteen minutes.
- Create a morning routine with the kids: a prayer, a lovingkindness meditation, yoga, readalouds, and discuss plans for the day.
- Ask the kids what their hopes and plans are for the day and make sure you let your kids know yours too.
- Include study time or engage in learning opportunities. (Think in subject areas or follow their curiosities).
- Include a post-lunch communal quiet time.
- Get outside and active every day.
- Slot in screen time.
- Include fun every day (this should be your goal, every day).
- Include household chores in your weekly routine: everyone helps.
- Include extracurricular activities, co-ops, and part-time jobs in your routine.
- Inject some homeschool hygge in your day!
16. Alter your expectations.
Be realistic. That statement right there is an unrealistic expectation.
We, homeschool mamas, have lofty ambitions. For our kids, for their educations, and of us.
- Be realistic with what you can do.
- Everyone won’t always get along.
- Some days you will feel like your homeschool was hijacked.
- You have an emotional atmosphere that needs to be attended to as well as your kids (and some days how they engage their emotional life affects you).
- You have other relationships that need attending to (maybe even huge relationship challenges that require a lot of your energy or maybe you simply need to invest special time into them).
To read more on how to address our unrealistic expectations, check it out here.
17. Alter your perspective: your home is not a school.
You might have a homeschool room (a storage space where you organize all the kids’ stuff, books, crayons, pencils, and scissors (just kidding, you have no idea where the scissors are)).
But this storage space, or even an informal space, is simply a space for you to sit and do an activity or a place to sit and read a book or play a game or whatever you like to do for learning.
- But there’s no recess (unless you tell the kids there is).
- And there are no school bells (literally, I have a tiny gold bell sitting just two feet away from me: a reminder of my homeschool past…but most homeschool moms don’t use bells).
- There’s no Phys Ed class (well, unless you count soccer practice or the twenty minutes you expect your teenager to jump on the elliptical each day, or weekly curling practice, tennis lessons, or cross country skiing).
Your home is not a school.
You know your students intimately. (In fact, it’s possible they took up residence in your body at one time.)
- what they’re likely to bicker over,
- their favourite snacks and the foods they refuse,
- how easily division of numbers comes to them,
- whether they prefer reading on their beds or in the family room as a group.
This is a sign you’re a parent, not a teacher.
But you want to homeschool? So doesn’t there have to be a teacher element?
No. No there does not.
Not really, anyway.
Remember before your child was five and you were asked if your child was going to a private kindergarten, public kindergarten, or no kindergarten at all?
Before that time…you taught your child how to tie their shoes, pee on the toilet, and eat their vegetables (okay, still working on that).
That is the same role you embody as a homeschool parent.
Now did you find a plastic potty where your child could pee at cheerios? Yes, you did.
Did you have to learn how to tie your own shoes first? Yes, indeedy!
Did you have to buy those vegetables so your child could learn to eat those vegetables? (This might be a bad example as you may actually be buying fewer vegetables and have entirely given up on this parenting goal).
You already are a teacher, we just don’t normally call you that.
17. Enact self-care strategies regularly.
Sure, you can book a spa visit and find a new, organic facial cleanser with essential oils.
But that’s not what I really mean here.
Address who you really are and what you really need. All the needs.
We homeschool mamas don’t think about what we need, typically, because we have too much going on. (We’re trying to address the needs of our children and that is requiring a lot of our time & energy).
Here are a few ways you can address your real self-care needs:
- Develop self-confidence as a self-care strategy.
- But actually, what are you doing about your skincare?
- Introducing a 12-day self-care strategy challenge for you, homeschool mama! (12 days of email love and encouragement from me).
- How to incorporate ten basic self-care strategies into your homeschool.
Nurture the nurturer, you.
18. Live beyond the homeschool perfection fantasy.
There is no charmed life. (There I said it).
There are so many freedoms in this homeschool life, so many.
And we see more of those freedoms the longer we homeschool.
But there is no perfect life.
- No life without challenges,
- no way to offset genetic issues,
- or health issues,
- or pandemics,
- or family upbringings,
- or personality challenges and conflicts,
- or global warming,
- or intolerance,
- or racial injustice,
- or even selfishness.
It’s all still here.
And somehow some way, we are affected by these and so many other things.
Our homeschool perfect notion will forever remain a fantasy.
However, homeschooling sure is a great construct to create so many family freedoms and memories, enable kids to grow into who they were meant to be and even help us grow up and show up on purpose in our homeschools and our lives.
So let go of the homeschool perfection fantasy and get out there and just live that homeschool life on purpose.
Grappling with Overwhelm Journaling Workbook
Journal questions can aid in your self-exploration, to get curious about what your reasons for overwhelm might be. They can be a self-coaching tool to help you discover the barriers getting in the way of your homeschool life so you can show up on purpose in your homeschool and have homeschool satisfaction. This 19-page self-coaching workbook will be your best tool to overcome overwhelm.