Overcoming Homeschooling Challenges

Have you been at this homeschooling thing for awhile, but you are still struggling?  Are you questioning your decision or feeling burned out and inadequate?  Do you feel out of energy and out of ideas?  Are you worried that maybe you made the wrong decision when you decided to homeschool?  These are some common worries among homeschool moms.

Like parenting, homeschooling can feel like a huge responsibility.  And like parenting, we won’t be perfect at it.  Self doubt will creep in.  We will question whether or not we are up to the task.  We’ll feel drained sometimes.  This is perfectly normal.

A lot of moms have expressed a lot of the same concerns, and we’ve listened.  If you’re there, first, know that you are not alone.  Most homeschool moms feel the same one at one time or another (or many times!).  Second, read through these thoughts.  We’ve talked with and helped a lot of struggling homeschooling moms.  And we’d like to help you too.

Articulate Your WHY

There’s no doubt that homeschooling is hard.  Despite the jokes, we don’t choose to homeschool just so we don’t have to go to the effort of getting dressed and getting our kids off to the school bus.  It takes a lot out of you to have kids constantly with you, to try to keep your home and your homeschool both tidy and effective, and to come to terms with the fact that you’ve chosen a life that equals almost no time for yourself and seemingly complete responsibility for your kids’ futures.

So WHY are you doing it?  You must have your reasons.

WRITE THEM DOWN.

If you haven’t gone through the process of really articulating why you’ve chosen this life, take some time and do it.  Karen has a homeschool packet for new homeschoolers that includes a place to do this; and we find it can be valuable for seasoned homeschoolers too, especially if you’re still questioning your decision.

Once you’ve written down all of your reasons, read them often.  Your internal dialogue is powerful, and if you repeat everything that is hard constantly, after a time that’s all you will see.  Likewise, reading your reasons for homeschooling will provide a different perspective and solidify a more positive message in your brain.

Discover the Pearls

Do you ever feel like more goes wrong than goes right in your homeschool?  It can be discouraging to trudge through the days when things don’t seem to be clicking.

Here’s the thing – sometimes you have to open quite a few oysters to find a pearl.  When my homeschool began it had a lot of oysters, but only the rare pearl.  Lots of hardship and very few beautiful moments.  But as I began to see the beautiful moments when my kids really learned something, it changed my view.  When my dyslexic son began to read, when the math lesson we’d been over and over finally clicked, when their eyes lit up at the science experiment – these are my pearls.

Did you know that natural pearls are incredibly rare?  But people have learned to cultivate pearls using real, live oysters.  And similarly, I’ve learned to cultivate “pearls” in our homeschool.  I have learned that unexpected fun projects help my kids light up and remember what we’ve learned.  I’ve discovered that if my kids are struggling to understand a hard concept, it helps a great deal if I stop the lesson, give a long, reassuring hug, tell them what I love about them, and then teach it again in close proximity and a gentle voice.  It took me a long time to realize that we are happier when we learn as a family instead of us all going off to our own spaces to work.

I’ve also learned that, like my reasons for homeschooling, it helps to write my pearls down.  Writing down the rewarding moments that happen in our home becomes awesome motivation and inspiration for me.  I start to see patterns of what’s working and can relive the joy of those small victories.

Find Your Tribe

Sometimes with all the inner positivity in the world, we still need external voices cheering us on.  A dear friend of mine once told me she could never get through life without her tribe.  She lived far away from her family, but had developed friendships with like-minded, positive women who supported and encouraged her – her tribe.  Our tribe is what builds us.  When we doubt ourselves, our tribe sees the good in us and urges us on.  When the doubt, discouragement, and stress get the best of us, our tribe lifts us out of that shadow.

If you don’t have a homeschool tribe, you need one.  Your spouse may or may not have confidence in homeschooling.  Your family and friends may or may not support your homeschooling adventure.  You may be surrounded by voices that are causing you to constantly question your abilities.  Whatever it takes, find your tribe – other local homeschool moms, a supportive co-op, or even an online homeschooling group.  You need a place to bounce your ideas off of, to complain to when things are hard, to buoy you up when you aren’t sure of yourself, and to share your homeschool wins with.

If you don’t have a homeschool tribe, we are happy to be yours!  Several moms contacted us and asked if we would consider starting a facebook group of homeschool moms.  So we did.  You can find us there, along with a growing community of moms who ask questions, share what’s working, and find support.  We’d love to have you in our tribe.  Remember, behind the pages of this website are two sisters who are homeschool moms too.

 

 

Curriculum Hopping

A lot of homeschool moms who are feeling discouraged report that they are constantly switching curricula, in search of the holy grail that will finally make them successful.  I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s important to find what’s right for both your style and for your kids’ learning styles.  And sometimes that takes some trial and error.  But you should also recognize that it probably doesn’t exist.  There is no perfect thing that will make it so you never have another rough patch in your homeschool.

You should also acknowledge that switching curricula is costly – in your time and your money.  Relearning and making new plans, as well as reteaching your kids using a new method, takes a lot of time and energy.  Even more, constantly switching can really disrupt learning.  If I were choosing a school for my kids to attend and one told me that they switch their math curriculum each year just to keep things interesting and exciting for the kids, I would think they were just plain crazy.  There is a grand scope of knowledge out there, and a major component of gaining knowledge is being able to organize it and synthesize it in our minds.  Sticking with a curriculum will create a more cohesive and complete picture of the material.  Jumping around leaves holes and makes it more challenging to synthesize and draw conclusions.

DON’T switch because you:

  • Saw an ad and this new one looks really tempting
  • Want to switch things up just to try something else
  • Want to try more than one just to compare
  • Think it might be more fun and interesting to trade out what you’re doing each year
  • Feel this one is okay, but there might be something even better

DO switch when:

  • You have tried and tried a curriculum and it makes everyone miserable (AKA sad and not learning)
  • Even though you’ve stuck with something, you know in your heart of hearts that it will never work for you
  • You find that you fundamentally disagree their point of view or presentation of facts (this happens a lot in history and science, depending on your viewpoints)
  • You find something better that really speaks to you and your beliefs about education

Do your best to find what works for your family and stick with it.

Before you switch, make sure you’ve done your research.  Do  your best to make sure the new one is a good fit before you buy it.  And before you give up on a curriculum, see if you can think outside the box a little and modify it to meet your needs.  I often hear people complain about Saxon math because it’s too thorough.  “There are too many problems.”  “They review the same things again and again.”  Well, then use it differently.  Only assign the odds.  Skip lessons that your kid has already mastered. Make your curriculum work for you.  Don’t be a slave to every word that is written.

But overall, do your best to find what works, and then stick with it.  Cut out the constant curriculum hopping.

Dressing For Success

Another common problem homeschool moms report is that they just feel tired and drained.  They feel like they’ve lost themselves a bit in the mix of parenting and homeschooling.  Adding another thing on to your to-do list may seem counter-intuitive to solving the problem of feeling tired, but before you disagree, give this a try…

Get dressed.  Get up and shower and get dressed.  Do your hair.  Brush your teeth.

I know that no one is going to see you and your kids don’t care.  But there’s something that clicks in us when we dress for success.  We actually feel less tired.  Less drained.  And less like we’ve lost ourselves.  We feel like we can conquer something.

And if that’s not enough, require the same things of your kids.  Because you want them to feel like they can conquer something too.

And then, plan pajama days.  It’s perfectly okay to plan comfy pajama days as long as the pajamas aren’t your everyday attire.  We LOVE PJ days, but they wouldn’t be special if we had them everyday.

A disclosure: This does not apply to you if you:

  • just had a baby or are pregnant
  • are ill
  • are moving or in the process of other big life changes
  •  have any big stresses

This is not meant to put more pressure on you.  It’s meant to get you out of an all-too-frequent homeschool mom rut.  Moms put themselves last all too often, and this is a reminder that you are important as a person, not just as a mom.

Embrace Creativity and Your Own Education

Homeschooling is so much more than winning spelling bees and having good penmanship.  It’s about creativity.  It’s about lifelong learning.  That means that you aren’t just the teacher; you are also another student in your homeschool.  I often feel like my education truly began when I started homeschooling.

I have never been artistic, until I began to homeschool.  Look at me now!  I drew and painted all the watercolor icons for our units and the watercolor buttons for our sidebars and links.

Karen has never been a computer expert, but you see this page design?  She did that, code and all.

Ten years ago neither of us would have even had it cross our minds that we could write an entire curriculum or run a website. But the experiences we’ve had while homeschooling have changed our confidence level and our creativity level as well as our ability level.  Homeschooling has stretched us.

My kids have gone through this process too.  They read and read and read because they want to know.  Inventing and building and having time to think, to play, and to work.  They get to play a part in which projects we do, which books we read, which subjects we study.  Then they internalize all those little facts about ancient Rome or the continent of Africa or the inner workings of an atom and it has made their lives richer.

Creativity is taking the magical bits of the wonders of the world and making them into something that is uniquely us.  We don’t start with a blank slate.  We start with the whole world at our fingertips and realize we have a part to play in that wonder.  Creativity is taking what the world has given us and giving a bit back.

And creativity doesn’t stop with the art scene.  A mathematician, a botanist, an engineer, a mother, a teacher, and an athlete all express their creativity in different ways.  Homeschooling taught me that I don’t need a “talent show” talent in order to have a talent.

It’s so much deeper and more meaningful and useful than any of that.  My creativity is there to bring me satisfaction in my work and blessing to the lives of others.  I hope that is what I do and I hope that is what I teach my kids.  Not to get good grades so they can go to a good college and make good money.  But to learn for the adventure of it, to produce for the joy of it, and to help others because we’re human and it’s what we do.  That’s not a mere career, that’s a life’s work.

Be a student in your homeschool.  Create.  Learn.  Grow.  And do it right alongside your kids.

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2 Responses to Overcoming Homeschooling Challenges

  1. Christy says:

    That’s one of the things I love most about homeschooling… how it gives me the chance to learn so much and explore so much, as the homeschooling mother. And I love that so many homeschooling products are produced by parents.

    • Layers of Learning says:

      Me too! I feel like I’m constantly learning and growing as a person too – you can’t be stagnant when you’re exploring so much with your kids!

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