The worst stuff about being a home schooling family

I have been homeschooling my own children for over 15 years now as well as helping hundreds of families on their educational journey.  Before I start on this post, let me say that I LOVE home schooling and would never choose anything else for my family.  However, that doesn’t mean that there are not days that I want to tear my hair out.  That’s OK!  I want to have you understand that while home schooling may be a decision you are making for your family, it will NOT be all sunshine and peaches.  Before you start, let me show you the worst part of it – if you can make it through these, you will ROCK home schooling

  1. You can NEVER, EVER, EVER complain about teaching your own children, and how they drive you insane sometimes
    If the number one reason you wanted to home school your children was because you all love spending as much time together as possible, this may not be an issue. However, most home schoolers don’t start because of this reason, although it does become a nice side benefit.  For me, spending a much larger amount of time with my kids is a blessing.  However, anyone you spend a great deal of time with, all of the time, day in and day out (I’m sure you are getting the picture here), will drive you crazy at some point.  Maybe often.  Most likely at least once a day.  That doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T spend time with them!  Sometimes you need to vent, especially when other parents around you are venting about how their kids drive them insane.  However, when YOU complain about this to others who do not agree with your choices, for whatever reason, these people will ALWAYS tell you, “Just send your kids to school if you hate it so much.”  It not the solution or what you needed to hear.  It would be equivalent to you telling parents who complain about their kids to give them up for adoption.  Neither of these options are reasonable. However, they don’t see it that way.  So here are some things you can do to keep your sanity:

    1. Join a home schooling group or at least get a friend or two who home schools so you can vent to someone who actually understands.
    2. Make sure you take time for YOURSELF – this tactic has been, by far, the hardest for me. Between my own children and my students, let alone the day-to-day things getting time for myself is hard, but you need to get away in order to be a sane.  Trust me on this.  My kids will definitely tell you that I can lose patience very easily, and they have been known to call me Mommy-yell-a-lot.  Once I started making time for myself, and getting the help to get things done around the house (see next tip), I was able to handle everything better, especially when my kids are whiny and bickering with each other.
    3. Get help –especially around the house. You are the teacher, NOT the maid.  Unless you have infants, there is no reason why you need to do all the cleaning.  I know my household is unusual in the United States, but my kids started to help when they were 3.  At that age, they can easily put the silverware away (and that teaches sorting) and put away their own laundry.  By starting young, when they WANT to help, it creates a habit that they don’t get out of.  They also have completely done their own laundry since they were between the ages of 6-7.  At that age they also started vacuuming and dusting.  Soon it was onto cleaning the toilets and floors.  Now, my teens make breakfast and lunch and some dinners.  Everyone helps clean up after dinner – unless sick or injured, no one leaves the kitchen until dinner is cleaned up.  If your kids don’t already help and they are older, you may get some resistance.  A good way to stop that is to create a reward system and I don’t mean money for ‘chores’.  Personally I hate that word, because to me chores indicates doing something that has to be done but you don’t want to do it.  I use the word responsibilities or job.  That makes it a little different, because if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.  Instead of money, I use a tally board and they get to choose how to use the talleys for something FUN to do AS A FAMILY – go to the park, go to a hockey game, go get ice cream.  Things they like to do.  Not only does this instill a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, but it also makes a stronger family unit.  However, the best part is that YOU aren’t running around doing 5 full-time jobs while you are teaching your kids.
  2. You can NEVER, EVER, EVER complain about your child’s teacher and/or school administrator
    This may seem funny, but as my kids play A LOT of baseball, it used to be hard to sit in the stands and listen to all the parents complain how bad the school is and how much it is ruining their child without being able to be part of the conversation (the irony here is that ALL of these parents have told me to “just send my kid to school if they are driving me crazy”). You WILL feel excluded at events where you may be the only home schooling parent there.  This will definitely affect those parents who are more social and have a need to be in the group.  If you are a loner, like me, and are OK with being excluded, or if your significant other is 100% on board, it won’t be as bad.  Nonetheless, it will crop up and here’s some ways to deal with it:

    1. Again, join a home school co-op or group. Facebook has A LOT of groups you can join and then, at least online, you’ll be around like-minded people.  Check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund’s page which lists all the groups by state, then county, they are aware of (they also have groups from around the world as well).
    2. There are many groups that have their own activities and sports. I live over 2 hours north of Philadelphia, in the middle of nowhere :) , and there are at least 4 different groups within 45 minutes of me.  As home schooling becomes even more popular, there will be a lot more opportunity for your families.
    3. For my kids, they WANT to be with other kids who are not home schoolers and they play competitive sports. For times when you can’t be around like-minded people, I am friendly but know that once they start complaining about school or just school-talk in general, I will be excluded.  I have accepted that.  As I love to talk, it is hard to not be in the conversation, however, I also enjoy being alone.  For me, I enjoy being there by myself and just watching my sons, so I bring my chair and work to do and watch my kids when they are playing and get things done when they are not.  I’m friendly to everyone but I don’t go out of my way to make ‘friends’ with the parents.
  3. You will obsess to make sure you are doing absolutely right by your child.
    Now that you have taken on the responsibility of teaching your children, you will feel 100% responsible to pick the right curriculum and teach correctly ALL. THE. TIME.  It can become an obsession, and a task that you will NEVER be able to do 100% of the time.  You will also not be able to get away from it – so it is a double hit here.  However, do you think the local school board is thinking what is best for YOUR child?  No, they are thinking what may be best overall for the majority of the children which also is within their budget.  So just realize, you need to make the best choices that you can at each moment, then if you find out it doesn’t work for your child, change it.  You have a HUGE advantage over the school systems, if a curriculum doesn’t work, you just have to get a new one, which can come as soon as 2 days.  You can’t ruin your child any more than the schools do.  Even if they can’t write a 5 paragraph essay or solve Trig problems, they will survive – unless they want to go to an elite college.  If that’s the case, they should be motivated to learn it themselves anyway.  The way to combat this problem is to first take a deep breath, then call someone who you trust to help you choose curriculum.  I know not only for myself, but also for my clients, talking over curriculum choices makes it so much better.

Can you handle these problems?  If you still want to take charge of your child’s education after considering the downsides, go for it!  You can ALWAYS change your mind if it isn’t what you think it will be.

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