How to manage unrealistic expectations in our homeschool

Be realistic. That statement right there is an unrealistic expectation.

Cause we’re homeschool mamas! We have lofty ambitions. For our kids, for their educations, and for us.

So how to manage unrealistic expectations in our homeschool?

depressed woman sitting in room: how to manage disappointment

Be realistic with what you can do.

You can’t do everything. No, you can’t. Really, you can’t. No, everyone else isn’t doing everything. Actually, NO ONE is doing everything. They’re doing some things. Just as you will be when you honestly, kindly, accept yourself as being a normal human being that can only do so much. And that it is even good enough!

Yet, still, we need to be realistic with what we can do.

But how do we do that?

Recommendation: Time Block. Write everything you do for one week. See how you don’t have the time to do ALL.The.Things. So decide what’s most important and delete

Everyone won’t always get along.

Darn it. (But wouldn’t that be nice if they would?) No one ever complains about all the cool things you’ve planned for them but they don’t care about it. No one ever bickering with each other, just happily playing alongside one another. They always appreciate their siblings, recognizing that they are creating childhood memories and lifetime friendships.

Some days you will feel like your homeschool was hijacked.

Because of a surprise trip to emerg, a jarring phone call from afar, kids that just breathe fire as they pass each other in the hallway, there’s always some reason why your homeschool won’t always go smoothly. In fact, it’ll even feel like your day got hijacked.

Recommendation: What are you going to do with your emotionally hijacked homeschool days? How will you address your Big Emotions?

You have an emotional atmosphere that needs to be attended to.

We have emotional reactions to those days that feel hijacked, and also to the bickering, or to a kid that gets mistreated in the park, or even getting cut off in traffic while we’re driving to piano practice. And that emotional atmosphere needs to be attended to just as we would attend to our child getting mistreated at the park.

Recommendation: Have a plan to address your emotional needs. Use this checklist to address your emotions.

dealing with homeschool mama's big emotions

You have other relationships that need attending to.

And sometimes that discussion you’ve been having with your partner about that issue seems to be getting more agitating the more you discuss it.

That issue needs to be settled once and for all so you can have more energy, be more present in your time with your kids, instead of being over there with your partner.

Or maybe it’s a relationship you need to attend to that isn’t your partner. Maybe it’s a friend, a mom, a sister, a colleague at work.

The energy you expend towards thinking about this is energy you don’t expend being in the present.

Recommendation: Build stronger boundaries into your relationships to free your energy to be more present.

Great expectations could be the theme for many new homeschooler’s hopes for their homeschools.

It certainly was for mine.

There’s a fairy tale we tell about our homeschools that gradually fades away when reality hits.

The fairytale of the little girls in the white dresses, living happily ever after (that I had when I first began homeschooling).

I’ve learned that little girls in lacy white dresses get dirty. And that mom does a lot of laundry.

In the scrapbook, the kids are perfect; the memories are momentous. After the kids are tucked into bed at night, the day seems idyllic.

Real-life, though, and real parenting, isn’t a scrapbook montage.

Homeschooling has been a similar reality check as my experience with parenting: there are definitely things I wasn’t expecting.

Let’s learn from Cinderella.

Cinderella keeps a constant handle on the broomstick and though the hearth has been swept, it needs to be swept again, and again.

A friend recently said that she sweeps the kitchen ten times a day.

I don’t know if she is serious, but somehow I imagined this would not be necessary now that we were all at home.

I was wrong.

Reality check: when you live in the house most of the day, it most certainly is not tidier.

Recommendation: Create a cleaning routine (with your kids) & let the rest go.

Let’s learn from Sleeping Beauty.

Only Sleeping Beauty can claim enough slumber.

The rest of us need to regulate our bedtimes.

With inadequate sleep, I fumble with words and I am irritable, edgy, and unclear in thought.

Troubles abound when mixed with early mornings.

Short nights and impertinent children only result in mountains that could have been molehills.

Is there help for my weary soul? Create a consistent sleep routine (& don’t bring home any more babies).

Let’s learn from Jack & Jill.

I don’t know who took care of Jack and Jill after they tumbled down the hill, but when someone in my home is ill, I am the caretaker, whether I am as badly ill as anyone else.

One morning, after a sleepless night of illness, I got out of bed to do the paper route (because we signed up for it and it had to be done).

I was off to the minivan, had Zach strapped into his toddler seat, handed him a bit of banana, and boom, he puked everywhere.

Our oldest, Hannah, bathed and dressed him.

I dismantled the newly-installed car seat and gave it a bath. And then we strapped him in the seat, had the other three jumping in and out of the minivan to dispatch the newspaper from block to block.

Despite illness, the show still must go on.

Recommendation: Sometimes we must accept our homeschool stories are not always as we expect.

Let’s learn from Snow White.

Snow White’s seven dwarves all required different attention.

Attending to my older girls seems more immediate, as they have specialized requests, like learning to calculate the area of a parallelogram or translating their sewing pattern.

I try to rush through a math lesson because I overhear the toilet flush in the bathroom when every one of “flushing age” in the room I am presently inhabiting requires great patience.

I must create intentional time to read Little Mr. books or throw a ball for my youngest child, whether he knows he needs that special time or not.

Although our youngest kids have had the earliest exposure to all-things-academic, they require me to rejig my priorities for a one-on-one time the most.

Recommendation: Schedule intentional time with the non-squeaky wheel child too.

Let’s learn from the Old Woman in the Show.

There are no fairy tales where the mother figure has a temper tantrum.

Well, I can imagine the Old Woman in the Shoe doing so, but in illustrations, she looks very, very happy.

I’ve spent more time than I imagined determining how to appropriately deal with frustrations because someone won’t listen or someone whacked someone or … you fill in the blank.

I have heard many mothers say they wouldn’t homeschool because they simply couldn’t imagine that much time with their offspring dealing with this exact stuff. (That is entirely understandable to me).

If you haven’t figured out how to interact with them, deal with their idiosyncrasies, or your own, like how not to yell or how not to be unreasonable, the homeschooling lifestyle will definitely afford you the time.

Recommendation: Have a plan to deal with your big emotions & reactivity.

Let’s learn from the Princess who Kisses the Frog.

Sometimes when the princess kisses the frog, she finds out he is just a frog.

“I can’t do it if the answer isn’t eleven!” Rachel declared with frustration.

The question: 8+4=?

Well, what is a mother to do? The answer can’t be eleven just because she wants it to be.

How do I cleverly respond to that? Understanding what the child understands is essential.

I can’t just presume that she is going to understand the first time either. It takes patience. A lot a lot of patience.

What better way to learn patience, than to try and try and try again (so many opportunities as a homeschool mama).

Recommendation: Build a reciprocal relationship of understanding with each of your kids.

Let’s learn from Beauty & the Beast.

Much like the Beauty attempting to tame her Beast, I expected I could make this happen: a pristine, pretty world, orderly, generally quiet, ongoing family harmony, and undisturbed happiness.

The reality: I get all of those things, but usually in no particular order and without continuity, and definitely with a handsome helping of disorder, dirt, and dysfunction.

We all have expectations, but, as Belle discovered, the exterior is never the full representation of the experience.

Recommendation: Utopia & undisturbed happiness is not your homeschool reality. Assess your expectations regularly.

This is your big, messy, happy, not always happy, homeschool reality.

No question, though, the homeschool life isn’t a fairy tale. And yet it’s filled with freedoms.

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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.