Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homeschooling: It Ain't Dorothy's Kansas or Eve's Eden

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

The sun is trying to wedge itself between your eyelashes. You squeeze a little tighter hoping to hold back the day. The crying baby wakes up the toddler who then roams the house waking up the four-year-old and 1st grader. You know the drill, don't you?

Have you found yourself wondering why reality isn't as picture perfect as all those daydreams of the comfy, cozy world of homeschooling? It all looked so pretty pinned up there on that Pinterest board. So convincingly pretty that the ugly reality has you feeling like a failure and wondering if it's time to summon the little yellow bus for rescue.

Call it homeschooler's remorse and think of it as a close cousin to home buyer's remorse. You've jumped on board, but life after ownership isn't quite what it looked like when the Realtor was showing the property! Did you find yourself thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” when reality didn't match expectations. 

Shock, confusion, frustration, anger, and depression can set in before you have time to realize what hit you. Slinking to the park for socialization, you look around and wonder if anyone else ever felt like you? If they did, why did no one warn you homeschooling life could be this . . . well . . . hard? This demoralizing? This lonely?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
You wanna cry, but if you do, you'll look like you are a total mess who is incapable of having everything under control enough to homeschool in the first place. You suck it up and smile like all the other moms. Before you know it, you are in bed trying to deny the day by keeping your eyes closed as tightly as you can for as long as you can.

Oh, sweet friend, you are not alone. There are pivotal reasons for the second guessing, remorse, and self-doubt that often plague the new- to-homeschooling families. What you are feeling is not fatal, and there are cures to be had if you are brave enough to stay the course.

Courtesy D. Horrocks
For families coming home to school from traditional schooling (public or private), expect a 'settling in' period where mom and dad spend time establishing themselves as the final authority re both discipline and learning. In a sense, you have abdicated your authority over learning to the teachers, counselors, and administrators that populated your early educational days.

It naturally follows that you and your children will have to adjust to a new world where the buck, all the buck, stops with mom and dad once you've come home to school. That adjustment takes time. Give yourself grace to get over that hurdle first. The rest will follow! 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
When families begin schooling at home in the preschool years, the most debilitating trap is the tendency to demand too much too quickly. Learning in the early years is best accomplished through experience, and play is the best vehicle for early learning experiences. When caterpillars are in abundance, it's hard to read a book about butterflies and then turn the kids loose to collect them for fear we will fall behind in the 'book' learning. Do it. You are developing curiosity and a love of learning. There will be lots of time to go hard after the work and textbooks. The more time spent in fostering creativity, curiosity, and the love of learning in the early years, the better.

When curriculum is not working, it is easy to cling to it because we paid good money for it. There will be a time and place to wade through a text as students get older. Especially in the early years as you are learning how they learn, don't be afraid to sell that sucker and start over!

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Those who are afraid to ask for help because they fear the reactions, set themselves up for isolation and an ever increasing sense of failure. Don't be afraid to lean on your homeschooling community when you are finding your comfort zone. One of my most pleasant experiences this last fifteen years has been watching other moms comfort and encourage the mom who came to support group meetings in tears of frustration and failure. Now, those moms who were comforted are doing the comforting!

Nurture yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Set boundaries to protect yourself. If you don't, burnout will surely follow. Those boundaries will look different from one mom to another, but your homeschool will pivot on your ability and willingness to take care of you so that you can take care of them.

No, sweet mamma who's wondering what she got herself into, you aren't in Kansas nor the Garden of Eden. You aren't alone either. You have embarked on a wonderful, amazing adventure. What you are feeling is normal. One day, you will say these same things to another new-to-homeschooling friend, and you will say it with calm assurance. Wanna know how I know? I, my friend, used to be you!

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2011
1 Corinthians 1: 4 (The Message)
. . . he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.


  1. What a comfort for homeschooling parents. Actually, I could have used this when I was teaching public school. At one time or another, I could relate to each one of the things your wrote about.

  2. Thanks, Kim. My teaching background worked both for and against me when we came home to school. Each of these issues were things I had to work through in the early years and some still haunt me now!