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10 Things That Make Homeschool Hard

Yesterday I wrote about the things we love about homeschool, but I can assure you that it’s not all sunshine and roses around here. Here are some of the struggles that we’ve met so far:

1. Other people – From the very first moment I publicly admitted that I was thinking of homeschooling, I was met with a barrage of opinions – some positive, some negative and it seemed like the negative ones were/are really negative. There were, honestly, some people who I knew would disagree with our choice, but were still people I genuinely admire and care about and so I sought them out to hear what they had to say. For various reasons, I trusted that what they would say and that they would say it in a fair and kind way. And that’s exactly what happened with those specific people. But there were still a lot of people who offered their unrequested opinion and for the most part,  they were/are very bold in stating their disapproval. I can certainly see why so many homeschooling families are defensive. (And to answer the ever-present question: No, I don’t worry about socialization.)
(I must also say that our extended family has been very, very supportive, which I think is a big part of our success.)

2. The littles – The little kiddos have a very hard time understanding that the bigs are at home, but not available. I have special toys and books that are only for school time, and that holds their interest sometimes. I occasionally let them watch a special show on TV while I work with the big two. Sometimes I give them snacks to distract them. But trying to let them play together? Bah! Those two are like oil and water! There are many days when I feel like I’m a referee all.day.long. I have discovered, however, that if I let them play together for a short period of time and split them up before the bickering starts, I can keep them content for longer. When I split them up, I let them play independently in their rooms. That took some getting used to, especially for the baby who is convinced that our whole family was created to serve her. 🙂

3. Too much togetherness – My children are al.ways.with me. There is both good and bad here. I love being around to experience so much with them. I love watching them learn. I love that there are spontaneous cuddle sessions. But I also struggle with just wanting a few minutes to myself or not being touched all.the.time. Oh. And it’d be nice to pee alone at least once a day.

4. Balance – I think this must be parenting’s hardest facet. Trying to figure out how much to expect of them and how much to expect of me. Trying to decide at what point you stop school and just play. Trying to pick between things that need to be done and things you want to do. It really is every parent’s problem, I know. But sometimes it seems even bigger when we’re all here all the time. Like laundry and dishes and such. You’d think that with all of us here all day long, we’d eventually get the clothes put away. Not so much. But we’re trying. And it’s better than it used to be.

5. Organization – It takes a fair amount of planning and organization to keep things running smoothly for us. That may not be true for all homeschool families, but I know without a daily agenda, we’d just ramble through the day. I have roller carts for each student and their binders and books and papers are stacked up in the order that they’ll need them. The dry erase board has everyone’s daily To Do list and we check off one thing at a time. But that means that I always have to be one step ahead of them, and given my personality that sometimes means I’m getting tomorrow’s lessons prepped at 2am. I tried doing it as a batch on Sunday night, but taking it day-by-day has worked out so much better for us.

6. Worry – I worry, worry, worry about missing something. What if I don’t teach something critical? What if I teach something incorrectly? What if this whole homeschool thing ends up hurting them academically in the future? What if? What if? What if? Luckily Marshall is the master un-what-if-er, and he usually talks me down off the ledge when I get frustrated and/or weepy. He’s good like that.

7. Screen time – I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for limiting screen time at home. When they are with friends or grandparents or babysitters I don’t worry about it, but at home I like to keep control of the remote, iPods, and iPad. But with so much school work being online and extra games and learning tools online, I’ve really had to loosen up about it. I’ve had to be careful to not go the other way, actually! When they sit down and start playing a game (even an educational one), I tend to lose track of time and it’s bad for everyone. And I begin to justify it as ‘learning’ when really I’m just enjoying the down time. (I’m not saying all screen time is bad, but trying to figure out how much of what is still hard for me.)

8. Struggles – The hardest part to me so far is when they don’t get it, when they don’t understand. When I feel like I’ve explained it every way I know how and we’re still getting no where. It’s hard for me to not get frustrated with myself. It’s hard for me to not get frustrated with them. It’s just no fun. It has honestly only happened a few times, but when I see that blank stare coming back at me, I know we’ve got to back up and re-think it. And whew! That can wear a momma out!

Okay, okay…I’ve been thinking for a long time and I simply cannot come up with two more things. I’m sure there are other things that came up and I forgot about or will come up later, but we are all loving homeschool so much that the negatives don’t even come onto our radar. Sure, there are days that I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. And there are days that I think “Good LORD, what have I done?” And there are days when I just want to slam the book shut and walk away. But you know what? When that happens, we have the flexibility to close the book and go outside and play or change subjects or read or sing or have a dance party or make cookies or whatever we want to do and we do it and things seem a little better. And if we still aren’t at a place where I feel like we can get back to our studies, we just hit pause until the next day.

So homeschool isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect for us. And I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m sure that the things we’re learning and the memories we’re making will last a lifetime. And that, friends? Is what my heart-gut dreamed of all along.

10 Things We Love About Homeschool

1. Daily flexibility – We start when we start and finish when we finish. We often will do morning work, eat lunch and take a big break (and sometimes a nap), and then finish our school day well after traditional school hours. And if we don’t finish everything today, we’ll catch up tomorrow. We’ve actually structured our weeks so that Friday is a catch-all day. Anything that we’re behind on or anything we missed gets done on Friday. If we get all of our work done by Thursday night, Friday is a completely lazy-daisy day! (Those are my favorites!)

2. Overall flexibility – We need a day off? We take a day off.  An opportunity pops up to take a trip or visit someone? We can do it. We have time to do a project with Daddy on the weekend? We can count that towards our learning hours, too! I was able to take special trips with each of the big kids that never would have worked if we’d been in a traditional school setting.

3. Pace – Carter is in 2nd grade. Lydia is in 1st. Both of them are ahead of schedule for at least one subject. Once they finish all their grade-level work, they can go ahead and start on the  next level!

4. Fund Raisers – None! I don’t have to feel guilty about asking people to buy overpriced stuff that none of us really need anyway.

5. School Politics – There are certainly things I care about (see also: Amendment 1) because I believe that public education is very important and the best option for many, many children, and I imagine that we will re-enter the brick-and-mortar public school system at some point, BUT that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the nyey-nyeying and blah-blah-blah that goes on locally. We are zoned for a great school (which we loved) and a nice district, but still…there are always things that make you want to beat your head against the wall.

6. Variety – We aren’t chained to one location. We have been known to pack up all our stuff and do school at the playground or park. We use mundane chores (like grocery shopping or even cleaning the house) as learning opportunities. Twice now we’ve been in the middle of studying something and I realize I’m not explaining it well and we hop in the car and go on a field trip.

7. Family time – When my kids were in a traditional school setting, mornings were horrible. Lots of crying and whining and complaining. Lots and lots. From them and me. Our mornings now aren’t perfect (I’m SO not a morning person), but I can’t remember the last time there was an all-out morning meltdown. (Those were fairly common for my sleep-loving Lydia the past few years.) And then afternoon pick up would often interfere with naps and everyone would be tired and grumpy. When they’d come in, I’d want them to start on homework; they would just want to play. And I’d have an internal debate about giving them a break after a long day at school versus having to do homework later in the evening. And then by the time it was time to make dinner, we were all grouchy and miserable because either I’d pushed them to do homework and they were dragging it out or I’d let them have the break and now struggled to get them started. Blech! Now our afternoons and evenings are a lot smoother and more comfortable. When Marshall gets home, I’m not (as often) frustrated and haggled as I have been known to be. (There are still moments, I assure you! But overall it is much, much better!)

8. Pants optional. (You knew I had to mention that, right? Because it’s totally awesome!)

9. Nap Time (or Quiet Time) – If we need it, we take it. The big kids rarely need to take naps, but I do! 🙂 We most often use that time for reading. Sometimes the little kids and I nap while they read. Sometimes the littles nap while we read together. Sometimes I get things done around the house while they read aloud to me. I’ve discovered that a little downtime in the middle of the day does wonders for what we manage to get accomplished in the afternoon!
Same subject, different thought process: If the littles are sleeping, I don’t have to wake them up to go get in car-rider-pick-up line. That is a HUGE blessing!

10. No homework!