When Homeschooling is Hard: Six Perspective-Shifting Approaches

When homeschooling isn’t hard, we feel like we’ve hit the jackpot.

Could there be another way to live?

This way is filled with freedoms beyond what we imagined.

But when homeschooling is hard, when days upon days are getting us down, or even months, homeschooling can feel like the goofiest extra responsibility that we should never have assumed. Or we wonder if we’d be better off letting the kids return to school. And we’re white knuckling our way through our homeschool days, with the least bit of joy.

faceless unhappy woman covering face

Sometimes homeschooling is hard because of reasons other than homeschooling.

Like life happened.

  • Someone was given a diagnosis, maybe that somebody was you, and it’s been taking a lot from you to adjust (and some days you don’t want to adjust).
  • Your partner and you are struggling. Again. And you’re consumed by it.
  • Or maybe you aren’t wanting to struggle any more.
  • Maybe you’re new to single parenting and though you’re grateful not to have constant conflict, you’ve got to do everything yourself and that’s a giant adjustment.
  • You haven’t been connected to family because you don’t see the world the same way.
  • Perhaps your family just isn’t as supportive as you need them to be.
  • Or your family business hasn’t survived the last year.
  • Your attempt at a business didn’t happen as you expected, and you put a whole lotta time and effort into it, let alone the juggling act of homeschooling and business.
  • Alternatively, you fill in the blank…(cause there’s always something that didn’t make my list that you are experiencing).

Sometimes homeschooling is hard because homeschooling can be hard.

  • You’re trying to get through the day without kids complaining that they couldn’t be bothered with your plans. (Plans that included hours poring over curriculum catalogues and reading Facebook threads).
  • They don’t want to sit still when you’re reading a book together.
  • You can’t get out the door to do errands, walk the block, or get to forest school without a giant meltdown (& the kids are upset too).
  • Your mom can hardly believe that you don’t, at the very least, have your kids in pjs that fit them. Every time she comes over, the kids are in pajamas that should have been thrown out last year. There are holes and the PJ pants are almost above the knee like shorts, a sure sign mom’s right, but still…(of course, the kids don’t seem to mind.)
  • You can’t get your child to sit and write about anything, let alone those flowery narratives that your friend’s daughter is putting together in her floral notebook with not one, but dozens of stories.
  • You’ve been homeschooling longer than cows mooed and you’re just feeling the need to do something, anything, differently.

Is homeschool hard for you?

when homeschool is hard

Life still happens whether you live the homeschool life or not.

So sometimes it’s not really homeschool that we experience as hard.

It just feels like it’s homeschooling because we think homeschool still needs to happen even when the dog dies, the farm burns down, your wife leaves you.

(Oh wait, I think that’s a line from a country song).

And sometimes homeschooling is hard because you’ve not settled on a few things…

What is your reason that homeschooling is hard right now?

How to Build Boundaries in your Homeschool…

So, what to do when homeschooling is hard:

Do these three things:
  1. Become clear on what it’s hard.
  2. Decide how you’ll approach your challenge.
  3. Practice doing the thing that will benefit you and your homeschool kiddos.
Simple to write, sometimes not so simple to do.

If you want help sifting through your challenge, connect with me.

when homeschooling is hard book a consultation with the homeschool life coach

1. Change how you’re doing it: even a week of doing nothing helps shift gears toward a refreshed perspective.

Have you ever noticed that schoolteachers have professional development days every month or so?

Have you ever noticed that homeschool parents never have professional development days?

Maybe we homeschool mamas wouldn’t give those days the title of professional development, but we need to take days off to help regain refreshed perspective for our homeschool life.

Sometimes we need to do something a whole lot different, like change how we’re doing our life entirely.

Once upon a time, homeschooling was definitely not working for me.

I was, legit, ready to run after a yellow school bus in the neighbourhood we were visiting (didn’t even know the school schedule, but I felt suffocated by the demands, mostly MY internal demands, and the conflictual energy between my kids & me, and also the constant requests, the complaining, and the arguing, just all of it.)

Forget the fact that I didn’t have a supportive community and I was challenged by my marriage relationship, I still tried to sit the kids down, all four of them, at the kitchen table to DO an hour of our private homeschool program with regular school hours every day.

John Holt came to the rescue (or should I say, God came to the rescue), as I perused the library bookshelves and discovered a book titled, How Children Fail, by John Holt.

That began my deep dive toward unschooling and self-directed education, which released me in HOW I was homeschooling.

Because the way I was homeschooling wasn’t working for my kids, or me.

And that is the question we all need to ask: Are you homeschooling in a way that is working for you?

So, if it’s not working for you, take a week off and do nothing, then reassess.

2. Create a plan to address your kids’ big emotions (& yours).

I dunno about you but I didn’t adequately plan for my kids’ big emotions.

Straight up, I assumed I could modify their behaviours, their unpleasant emotions, definitely decrease their angry reactions, so I wouldn’t have to experience their feelings at all.

Before you judge me (but I do get why you would), it wasn’t conscious. I wasn’t intentional about any of that last paragraph.

Obviously, I would want my kids to feel good, be prepared in life, know how to address their emotions, and know how to relate to others.

However, my training as a child in big emotions was THIS:

Don’t feel your big emotions. And at the very least, don’t express them.

But if you do feel your big emotions, pretend they’re not there. There is a designated feeler of emotions in this home, and it’s not you.

Another person in your family will address your emotions occasionally, but since she doesn’t know how to address her own, she won’t be able to see you, help you feel safe, and allow for full expression either.

(FYI These people weren’t intending to convey that message, but they still did convey it. Because they were unhealthily locked in their own patterns.)

How did that work for me?

You already know the answer. It didn’t.

But why?

Because I didn’t honour my humanness. I didn’t see my internal world as safe and normal.

I didn’t allow for full expression of my emotions; rather, I carried them inside my body (which caused ill health), and I recreated those unhealthy relational patterns in my grown adult life too.

Naturally, I continued those unhealthy relational patterns in my mothering role.

Surprise! (No surprise.)

Naturally, I had more frustrated, more reactive kids.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I discovered and built self-awareness practices into my quiet times.
  • I was challenged to look at my relational dynamics and ask myself if my relationships were satisfying to me (What a question! I literally didn’t consider that one before).
  • I was challenged to ask if I was addressing my needs.
  • I was challenged to look at how I was showing up in relationships and if it was how I wanted to show up.
Nope, nope and nope.

Didn’t have a plan for any of that.

Fast forward a couple decades, and yes yes and yes.
  • Did I learn it easily? Hell no.
  • Did I always want to address these things? Def not.
  • Would I make a whole bunch of tweaks to how I engaged things? Oh YEAH!
  • Am I still learning it? Obviously yes.

Address your own big emotions, because when you care about your big emotions, you’ll know to address and care about others’ big emotions too (like your kids).

3. Plan for quiet, somehow some way, but plan for a quiet time away.

Those moments of refreshment give you clarity for the next stretch of full-on homeschool parenting.

And in these quiet moments, build in time for self-awareness.

So, fill up your gas tank and go somewhere, anywhere.
  • Do you have a nature reserve that you can walk for an hour alone?
  • Do you have a cafe that you can bring a cup of coffee to (if it’s too expensive) and sit outside the cafe with a coffee and your Spotify list of Coffeehouse tunes?
  • If you can afford to buy a drink, can you take that drink to the local discount home goods store and peruse for fun?
  • Do you want to take drawing lessons?
  • Or learn to play the violin like you always said you would?

Create a buffer time in your life to take a breather and just be: be outside the demands of your homeschool family.

latte macchiato with latte art on top and a plate with cookies makes homeschool a little less hard

4. Decide how you’re going to deal with other people’s opinions.

Other people always have opinions, always, and sometimes they voice them and sometimes they don’t.
But remember, you do too.

And does your opinion matter every time someone moves or breathes? It doesn’t have to.

Well, everyone else’s opinions don’t have to matter to you either.

But that, girlfriend, is a practice.

Of course, you will care what other people think. Because you’re human. Because people like to live in community.

But we can train ourselves to consider, before we filter other people’s opinions, and determine how valuable someone else’s opinion is in our lives.

We can explore whether we need other people to validate our choices.

  • We don’t have to respond to every comment that our cousin makes about our homeschool choice.
  • We don’t have to create a 3-point essay in our head so that the next time we see our yoga teacher and she gives her opinion on whether our children will get a decent education in our homeschools, WE ARE READY.
  • We can decide if we want to hear all our uncle’s opinions on the benefits and disadvantages of socialization for our homeschooled kids.

We have to train ourselves to listen to our internal responses to other people’s opinions and assess our thoughts.

pensive grandmother with granddaughter having interesting conversation while cooking together in light modern kitchen and discussing why homeschool is hard

5. Determine the answer to this question: what is an education anyway?

You’re a homeschool family, which means you get to decide how you homeschool and what you believe an education to be for your homeschool kids.

Because the answer will determine how you do homeschool, and the answer should coincide with how you actually do homeschool every day.

So, what is an education anyways?
The ingredients for a great education:
  • A specific child.
  • An engaged adult who is listening and observing that child’s interests, curiosities, and aptitudes.
  • A pursuit to find learning opportunities for that child.
An education is an act of discovery that occurs over a lifetime.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Kids learn differently.
  • They don’t want to learn the same things as each other.
  • They don’t want to learn the same way I would want to learn.
  • They engage different activities differently.
  • They engage me and their siblings and their friends differently.

This might be because they don’t have the same reason for being here on the earth.

What is an education for?
  • Ability to read?
  • Ability to communicate?
  • Ability to calculate?
  • Ability to be employed?
  • Ability to be college-ready?
What’s the benefit of an education?
  • To be successful?
  • To buy what you want to buy?
  • To be recognized and acknowledged?
  • To travel to far off places?
An education enables a human being to live a life on purpose.
  • To have meaningful work that contributes both to oneself and to a community.
  • To be able to provide for oneself, and possibly a family, as well.
  • To develop who they were meant to be.
  • An education is enabling a human to live a life on purpose.
So how do you equip your child to live a life on purpose today (& for their potential future)?

Whatever your answer is will determine what you do today.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

(But you don’t have to).

–Henry David Thoreau & Me

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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.