How to Handle Homeschool Overwhelm

Homeschooling can be a whole lot. When we’re new to it, when we’re intent on homeschooling in a particular way, and when we have unrealistic expectations.

We need to consider where we’re at in our happiness. And then consider where we’re at when attempting to peacefully exist in our relationships.

We usually project onto other people what we most want. And working out of that can propel us to greater contentment for our entire family.

So how to handle homeschool overwhelm?

how to handle homeschool overwhelm

Table of Contents

Use an assessment to address your homeschool overwhelm.

Here are 15 tips on how to handle homeschool overwhelm…

1. We must instill and maintain boundaries.

What does the word “boundaries” mean to you?

We all create different definitions of words and this one is loaded with different ideas.

You might have boundaries issues in your homeschool if you spend too much time thinking about…
  • what do other people think about your homeschool
  • knowing that you want more time for you but not getting it
  • answering the phone when you should be eyeball-to-eyeball with your kids
  • recognizing that you need more time spent on developing you but are not sure how or where you can do that
  • spending more time doing extracurriculars because people are asking you to participate, even though you want a quiet day at home
  • giving your time away to meaningful things, but not the most important things
  • fielding unsupportive questions about your homeschool choice
  • feeling exhausted by conflict with your partner 
  • knowing you’re not showing up as you’d like with your kids but you’re not sure why
  • feeling guilty or ashamed at how you’re showing up with your kids
  • desperately wanting a separate space or time away from your kids
  • feeling your kids are mistreating you or disrespecting you, but you can’t quite figure out if that is just them being kids
  • you feel unsupported and you don’t think you can ask even the most important people in your life to help
Straight up, if you identify with these thoughts, you need stronger boundaries. 

I’ve come to understand that the energy we have for our homeschools (& lives) is directly proportional to our established boundaries:

  • the boundaries we have in our relationships,
  • whether that be our relationship to others or ourselves,
  • and also how we’re framing the vision of our homeschool.
You can do some of these things to help establish boundaries:
  • Schedule just 15 minutes a week outside the home just for you.
  • Schedule a quiet afternoon break with the kids as part of your regular routine. (& expect the kids to play quietly in their rooms, or allow them to use screens at that time, but every afternoon, schedule a collective time.)
  • Put your screens away between your formal homeschool hours (or at least, turn off notifications).
  • Tell family and friends you’re not available between certain hours, so you can focus on the kids.
  • Preplan responses to commonly asked homeschool questions by the public or family members.
  • Determine how you’re going to address your emotional triggers in your homeschool.
  • Schedule weekly eyeball-to-eyeball time with your kids. (You don’t have to deeply connect with each kiddo every day).
  • Determine how much time you want to invest in playdates and extracurriculars before the homeschool year begins, so you actually spend time at home.
  • Time block your week determines how much time every activity is taking you and decides which ones can be deleted.
  • Request your needs be met by the important relationships in your life. (And if this is especially challenging for you, talk to a coach or counselor to address this challenge).
  • Intentionally create a homeschool community. (You are always welcome to join the Homeschool Mama Support Group where we homeschool mamas show up on purpose in our homeschools & lives and support one another).

Is it an internal boundaries or external boundaries challenge?

2. We need to take activities off the list if we want to know how to handle homeschool overwhelm.
Most of our homeschool lives are too big.

We have…

  • Too many activities planned for the kids.
  • Too many playdates so we don’t have to question ourselves alongside random strangers, “what about socialization?”
  • Too many places to explore (field trips!)

And they’re all great ideas, of course.

But too many activities are just too many.

And too many=overwhelm. Which is not a happy-making place to be!

To prevent this?

Time block your week.

How much time does every activity actually take?

Write every activity down.

(Yes, every activity. And yes, this is a lot of work. But you only need to do this once to gain clarity.)

Like every activity…
  • dishwashing
  • floor sweeping
  • dressing kids in the morning
  • the time it takes to drive to soccer practice
  • how much time you spend on the phone chatting with a friend
  • how much time you’re on Instagram
  • when you sit with the kids to do a readaloud
  • when you drive to spend time with a friend at a nature reserve
  • when you show your kids how to sound out a word
  • how much time you spend on Netflix
  • how much time you chat with your partner

As Tolstoy so famously declared, “Our whole life is taken up with anxiety, with preparations for living, so that we really never live at all.”

We have an opportunity to really live, to harness the freedoms that homeschool enables, so let’s choose our activities on purpose.

Are you feeling stressed during your homeschool days?

3. We have to learn how to exist together.

Obviously, we homeschool mamas intuitively KNOW that, but sometimes we reactively engage throughout our days and we’re not intentionally responding to things that come up (like our triggers, or the big emotions of others around us).

Here’s why homeschool family harmony won’t happen:

We’re human. We’re learning. Learning from each other. All six of us. 

The kids learn to engage or socialize by practicing ineffective and effective interpersonal skills.

Ditto for us adults.

So perfect family harmony? Not gonna happen.

I’ll tell you why it is happening increasingly though (if you have a plan for it).

Because I’m intent on growing and learning myself.

I’m being honest about how I engage my important people and being honest about what my core values are.

So what are your core values and how do you want to engage your important people?

If you’d like to join me in a coaching conversation to gain greater clarity on how you actually are showing up and create a plan to show up differently, connect with me here.

The most important self-care strategy for the homeschool mama…

4. We need time alone if we want to learn how to handle homeschool overwhelm.
Quiet time for me is as necessary as breathing fresh air.

How to find quiet:

  1. Mama might need to go for a run or a neighbourhood walk when the oldest can look after the youngest.
  2. Mama might arrange a Saturday afternoon when the kids are hanging out at someone else’s house. Trade kids once a week.
  3. Mama might arrange a getaway when her partner arrives home.
  4. If both parents are home together, one parent might take responsibility for the morning and another parent takes responsibility for afternoon activities.
  5. Get up before the kids. (Yes, I know this can be a challenge with younger kids, but just two mornings a week might profoundly benefit you.)
  6. Designate screen time for your quiet time.
  7. Designate a basket of special activities just for quiet time.
  8. Head to another room and place a timer outside the door so kids know when you’re available: when the alarm goes off.
  9. Leave the home. By yourself. Even an afternoon of errands alone can refresh you when you’re accustomed to being with kids all day.
  10. Being home alone is the sweetest quiet. (Also the trickiest quiet time to find.)
  11. Sit your kids with grandparents reading zoom dates. Grandparents can read stories or play trivia games or online games with kiddos while you’re in another room. And they’re in their Zoom Room.
  12. Have kids go to bed early once a week. Let them be on their bed with games or books for longer than typical bedtime.
  13. As a final option, get noise-cancellation earphones. Point to the earphones, which declare, “Mom is not available”. (And eventually, they’ll believe you when you practice this on repeat.)
Mama just has to know what she wants, be humble enough to ask, and set healthy boundaries, on repeat, until quiet time habits are entrenched in her routine.

how to handle homeschool overwhelm: getting quiet time as a homeschool mama

5. We need our own thing: an all-about-homeschool mama thing.

One day, you’re not going to be a homeschool mama.

Your last child will move away from your home, your kitchen counters will stay free of crumbs for more than twenty minutes, the laundry room will look like a room of respite and orderliness, and you will no longer be overseeing kids’ learning goals.

What will you do?

Nurture that YOU now.

Even in the small amount of time you have now, you can choose to do something that is just for you.

What do you like to do?

  • Decoupage?
  • Up your chess game?
  • Garden?
  • Plan events?
  • Write novellas?
Invest just fifteen minutes a week doing the thing you love to do: just one thing just for you!

14 Tips to find quiet…

6. We need to create communal quiet time.

**Don’t expect the kids to prefer this idea straight up but assume that over time, they will relish this time too.

After lunch is done, let the kids know that you’ll be enjoying a little quiet separately. They’ll be on each of their beds playing with a toy or looking at books. Or they’ll be watching a documentary in the playroom.

But you’ll be in your room, sitting in the corner chair with your iPad and Pinterest (& a box of cookies tucked under the cushion) for twenty minutes, or a half hour, or an hour, or two hours, whatever works for you.

This is a long-term strategy intended to reenergize you every day.

crop girl reading book at table having a communal homeschool quiet time so I know how to handle homeschool overwhelm

7. We need to maintain a morning routine.
One of the most important things we can do is set our day with intentional energy and thoughts.

Create a morning routine for us, homeschool moms, 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. So does that mean you have to get up at 4:00 am? No, I am not suggesting that. I would never have done that myself. My kids would laugh if I even suggested that to you.

Still, the goal is to be up before the kids are awake, especially the younger ones, so you can set your day with intention.

I start the day with a cup of coffee and milk. As I live in the northern hemisphere, I use a UV light in the morning for about 15 minutes. At the same time, I read my daily morning mama affirmations. This helps us set our minds thinking about the things we want in our homeschool and how we want to engage our children.

There’s no magic bullet in reading daily affirmations, but it does set our minds on the right things. Praying and meditating with intention and asking God for help strengthen my resolve and clarity.

Daily meditation practice and, of course, journaling.

I have been journaling since about Grade two. I didn’t have much to say then, so I wrote, I woke up, I made my bed, and I brushed my teeth for about the first five years. And though it was simple, it has been a powerful tool that helps me understand how I’m feeling and what I want to accomplish in my day.

Journaling is a powerful tool to start your morning.

I also write three focus words at the top of my journal. This year I wrote: encourage, expand, and invite. (And if you come over for a cup of coffee, I will tell you why I chose those words. They all relate to relationships, my work, or my intention for this period of my life.)

Choosing focus words sets our mind to approach our day and activities the way we want to.

First and foremost, set up your day with an intentional morning routine.

8. We need to get clear on what is overwhelming us.

So many reasons we might feel overwhelmed 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.

Use this Grappling with Overwhelm journaling workbook as a self-coaching tool to help address your needs, gain satisfying relationships, and shift your perspective.

Overwhelm is a feeling that can represent a lot of different issues around your needs, your relationships, and your perspective on your homeschool.

So get out your pen and dig deep into the following journaling questions to assess what issues you’re dealing with in your homeschool life.

These journal questions can aid in your self-exploration, so get curious about what you’re feeling, how you’re addressing your needs, how you understand your homeschool responsibilities, and how you engage in relationships.

how to handle homeschool overwhelm

9. We need to sit with our feelings & accept our feelings despite their uncomfortableness.
What uncomfortable feelings might we have? Oh, I dunno…

Anger, you can handle one kid being too sharp, but not four; you told that kid a thousand times to do something and they forgot again, or you’re simply feeling a lot of intense frustration around that premenstrual time of your month,

Irritation, sibling squabblesconstant interruptions of any thought you have, you can never find the scissors (or is that just me?), no matter how many times you clear the minivan of garbage, dog hair, it’s always gross,

Loneliness, wondering if you can have the kind of communal support that you need to have to do this homeschool thing for the long term.

Guilt, you lost it on your child, you don’t have the motivation to do the cool homeschool things everyone on Instagram or Pinterest is doing,

Stress, there’s more going on in your homeschool than homeschool, you’ve got a sick parent, you’re marriage is in a heck of a lot of trouble, you think you’re dealing with unresolved trauma or depression long before your family.

First, you have to know yourself: what even are your feelings?

You feel things all the time.

But you might not have built-in self-awareness practices to explain and understand your feelings.

  • What is a common reason you might feel sad?
  • What is a common reason you might feel mad?
  • What is a common reason you might feel glad?
  • What is a common reason you might feel happy?
  • What is a common reason you might feel confused?
The first principle of wielding this tool is to acknowledge that you have big emotions.
Just as you can’t leave your tools or toolbox out in the rain, you can’t leave your big emotions out in the rain either. (AKA pretend they don’t exist).

Leave the electrical generator out in the rain, and when you most need it, it won’t be available, and you won’t be able to access electricity in a power outage. (This literally happened to us yesterday).

So the first thing we have to do? We have to acknowledge that we have big emotions and become familiar with them all, the comfortable emotions and the uncomfortable ones.

Here are a few practices you can practice to address your feelings:

If you want to get more familiar with your feelings, start with journaling.

A journaling practice helped me…

When I was seven, I purchased my first item ever, a green-locked journal.

In that journal, I wrote every morning:
  • I woke up,
  • I made my bed,
  • I brushed my teeth.
Not a lot of inspiring activities as a seven-year-old, but I wrote everything down.

And obviously, I didn’t have a lot of dental visits!

Eventually, I learned to write and describe my feelings, the activities of the day before I felt those feelings, and how I related to those feelings (what I did with them).

This act of writing helped me process what I was feeling.

Eventually, I wrote stories, fiction stories, fiction stories based on my non-fiction reality, random snippets of stories that related to my favourite television shows (everything with Michael J. Fox), short stories, and novellas.

I just wrote a lot.

This writing act helped me process my perception of the stories in the real world.

I wrote myself out of confusion.

And even in my coaching sessions today, I continue to encourage homeschool moms to journal in their notebooks about how they feel.

ps I’ve created a Journaling Notebook for Big Emotions for the Homeschool Mama so you can self-coach too.

Addressing your Big Emotions in your Homeschool

10. We need to recognize the underlying needs of those feelings.
You have to take care of yourself if you’re taking care of homeschool kids

You are a human being in your homeschool that has needs too.

  1. Get to know your emotional atmosphere: sit with your uncomfortable feelings.
  2. Yoga or stretching practice.
  3. Exercise, every day.
  4. Include things that you like to learn in your homeschool too.
  5. Supplements & nutrition for your brain.
  6. Create quiet time just for you!
  7. Challenge your uncomfortable thoughts, on the regular.
  8. Include activities that you enjoy in your homeschool.
  9. Include alone time in your day.
  10. Foster friendships for you. (You’re welcome to join the Homeschool Mama Support Group where you can encourage other homeschool mamas and where you can be encouraged too.)
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:
Nurture the nurturer, you.

Learn more about mindfulness practices for homeschool moms.

Self-care is required for the homeschool mama, here’s why…

11. We need to recognize that our children’s struggles are not our struggles.
Recognize that our child’s struggles are not our struggles, it’s their struggle.

What our children’s emotional climate is and what 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 never-ending 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. (daddy on a bad day, ha).

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.

We love our kids. We are their mamas. But their struggles are not our struggles.

How to deal with big emotions as a homeschool mama…

12. We need to practice mindfulness if we want to learn how to handle homeschool overwhelm.
Schedule a daily mindful moment check-in, with yourself.

Every day I am reminded to breathe. At 11 am PST.

I set the alarm on my iPod so I can do a quick check-in with myself.
  • How am I feeling?
  • Am I intentionally breathing from my gut?
  • What are the thoughts behind my feelings?
  • What is the story I’m telling myself as I think and feel?

Understanding our emotional climate is the single biggest self-care strategy that will address our big emotions when dealing with pandemics, homeschooling, or any other major life event.

The more we know about ourselves, the more we are able to honestly address our needs and continue to grow up.

Practice mindfulness.

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, be present.

And therefore,

  • 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.

Dealing with unrealistic expectations in your homeschool…

13. We need to alter our expectations so we can learn how to handle homeschool overwhelm.
You can’t do everything.

If our intention is to create a homeschool where our children will become God or Google, they will not miss an educational beat, well, we’ll need to expand our schedule and get on with extensive private school education.

Crack the whip.

Don’t give your children solitude, because there is no time.

We must guarantee that our children know as much or more than every one of their student counterparts, the neighbours kids, the public schooled kids, the public school teacher’s kids, the private school kids, the twice-exceptional kids, the Asperger’s kids, just every kid.

An education isn’t complete until and unless they know everything.

They have to be competent in adding to every topic on Wikipedia. In fact, they need to begin developing a new form of an encyclopedia, because they’ve got to have the knowledge bandwidth on everything.

(Can you appreciate my exaggeration?)

Say what? NO? That is not your goal in their education?

Quite simply…

  • you do not have to teach them everything, 
  • they do not need to do every extracurricular,
  • and more activities won’t mean a better homeschool.

Less is definitely more in our homeschools.

And good thing, because that is a sure way to be overwhelmed.

Learn more about dealing with unrealistic expectations. 

You’re not always going to show up in an ideal way you.

In what ways are you being unrealistic? Write them down.

a young woman using a laptop beside her mother: how to handle homeschool overwhelm

14. We need to alter our perspective: our homes are not schools.
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, or 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.)

You know…

  • 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, indeed!

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.
Answer the question in your journal, how is my perspective on homeschool unhelpful in my homeschool?

Ten Lessons to Plan for your Upcoming Homeschool…

15. But you know what else we need to do?

Accept that overwhelm is part of the human experience.

Human beings feel overwhelmed at times.

Especially moms, because we’re trying to do all the things and trying to nurture the kids too. Even more so, especially homeschool moms, because we’re trying to do all the things plus more things that most homeschool moms would dare take on.

If you’ve tried every one of the above nineteen tips and you’re still overwhelmed, then I’ve got a tip for you: talk to someone.

You don’t have to carry these challenges alone.

You can talk with me one-on-one or you can connect with BetterHelp and speak to a therapist.

But you want to figure this out for you and your kids.

It’s time to ask someone to help you learn how to handle homeschool overwhelm.

If you’re considering coaching…

Sometimes the homeschool mom life can breed codependence & enmeshment: our children’s struggles are always their struggles, not ultimately our struggles.

Teresa Wiedrick

People often ask…

Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.

Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod