Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

2019_8_16 - Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom_Sara Jones.jpg

As someone who was homeschooled during the 1990s, I had a distinct idea of what the ideal homeschool mom was like. She was organized, found creative ways to teach mundane concepts, read aloud from beloved books, and enjoyed the process of planning and teaching while her children helped run the household according to the system she’d set up. It didn’t sound a lot like who I was as a homeschool student, but I guess I thought that when I began homeschooling my own children, I’d magically acquire those ideal qualities.

Imagine my shock when, instead, I stayed the same person I’ve always been. And what does my non-ideal-self look like? Well, as a veteran homeschooler—four kids homeschooled all the way up, one now graduated—here are my confessions.

  1. I don’t like reading aloud. It makes me tired and irritable. I prefer to teach a child to read and then let him or her explore books at will.
  2. I don’t like field trips. There was this one field trip I went on when I had little ones: the six-year-old wandered away from the group, the five-year-old kept touching things and disrupted the group tour, and the one-year-old was in a phase where she felt compelled to shut all the doors in the world. She trapped the whole group in a small room by throwing her little body against the one exit, screaming every time someone forced the door open. Really, that sums up most of my field trip experiences.
  3. I don’t delegate very well. All the ideal homeschool moms I ever heard of knew how to teach their children to pitch in with chores and help siblings from an early age. My own sister can do this. But it turns out that I’m not good at it. If it were up to me, my household wouldn’t run like a well-oiled machine. It would run more like a flock of scared chickens.
  4. I don’t look forward to the fall schedule. I frequently talk to moms who just can’t wait to get back the school routine—“We just do so much better on a schedule, you know?” Nope, I don’t know. I like lots of unstructured time for thinking and creating, and I’ve passed on that love to our children. Returning to the school schedules feels like changing out of pajamas into a formal dress . . . that’s too tight . . . and the zipper is stuck . . . and it’s harvest gold which doesn’t even look good on me. Maybe I’ve made my point here.
  5. I’m not an early riser. This expectation might be specific to the very conservative homeschooling circles I grew up in, but I thought all good homeschool moms got up by 5:30 a.m. to get some quiet time before the children got up at 6 a.m. for family devotions and all those chores I’d delegated to them. Well, as a mom who no longer has to get up with babies or toddlers, 6 a.m. is still night as far as I’m concerned. I get up just before 8 so I have time to write before the children start school at 11.
  6. I love workbooks. I know, I know, homeschoolers have the flexibility to create the same types of lessons in much more interesting ways. Practicing fractions? Let’s bake cookies! Spelling trouble? Let’s get out the Scrabble set! Parts of a plant? Let’s go for a walk and find some! But hear me out: workbooks are tidy, self-contained little lessons that let kids feel the glow of accomplishment. When I’ve got a sink full of dishes, three kids needing guidance, and an afternoon of driving ahead of me, workbooks rescue me every time.
  7. I don’t like planning lessons. I can’t easily take a big subject and break it down into manageable pieces. However, I also dislike detailed schedules or lesson-plan charts. Why, yes, this is a self-defeating combination, thanks for asking. I did all the school planning for six years, at which point I burned out. Fortunately, Darren loves all these things. So what that means is…
  8. I’m not just a homeschool mom. I’m part of a homeschool team. Darren and I split the homeschooling labor about 50/50. He shops for curriculum, writes out lesson plans, and oversees the high school courses. I superintend the day-to-day school, drive kids to lessons, sit down with students who still need one-on-one instruction, and teach elementary subjects. It’s a division of labor that not only works well for our children, but also has improved our own relationship.

 But as I’ve (possibly) learned, what’s ideal for me is not ideal for everyone. What are some ways your homeschooling looks different from what you expected?

—Sara

Photo Credit: iStock

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19 Comments on “Confessions of a Homeschool Mom”

  1. LisaDay
    August 16, 2019 at 8:55 pm #

    I don’t homeschool, but I loved your list. Congratulations on your homeschooling success.

    Like

  2. Heather
    August 21, 2019 at 2:34 pm #

    Wow! You and I could be BFFs! I am so similar. I have 2 sons in high school now and we’ve homeschooled since kindergarten with Classical Conversations. Glad to know I’m not alone! Thank you for writing.

    Like

  3. Molly
    August 22, 2019 at 12:38 am #

    I was homeschooled in the 1990s. My mother was I’ll equiped, literally struck with cancer, and continued to homeschool all 3 of her children. She did not have a college degree. She did not have the focus, confidence, or ability to teach her children.

    Regardless of the aforementioned frustrations, my mother made a choice for me. I was trapped in a verbally abusive, educationally stagnant environment. I never had a choice. Children and teens do not have the ability to choose for themselves to access education that should be a standard in the United States.

    If you feel like you did your best, that’s fine, but do not rob your children of the ability to grow socially and educationally.

    I will be a better mother augmenting her education from qualified educators than limiting her to my abilities and qualities.

    Like

    • Sally Standard
      August 29, 2019 at 6:21 am #

      Meh, That description of stagnation and no ability to choose sounds like a public High School education. And one may have qualified educators as you call it but have a bureaucratic education system that has quotas and support staff that are lack luster individuals you would be just as frustrated. I’m sorry that you are angry at your mother, but there are plenty of mother’s who do not have college degrees but are well rounded and able to do the job exceedingly well. And by the way my children went through public school all the way to High School were it was stifling them, hence I’m trying homeschool and it’s opening many doors for my children. Because you didn’t go to public school the grass seems greener there for you. I did go myself, and it really did nothing for me educationally. Any friends I had, I did not keep. It wasn’t until college that my world opened up.
      On a personal note, sometimes it’s better to forgive your parents, know that they did the best they could for you with what knowledge they had and move on. There is no perfect scenario.
      What is a standard education? If you want that, you have a standard child. And I have yet to meet a standard child or adult for that matter. It’s a roll of the dice. You may get an over qualified Turnip for a teacher that doesn’t want to be there.. with no recourse on your end. Write back to me in 20 years. Let me know how it goes….. 😉

      Like

      • Molly
        August 29, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

        Ah, Sally. Your grammar alone inspires confidence.

        Also, I chose not to accept standard education for my daughter. She is enrolled in one of the best private schools in the country. I’ll be happy to report back in 20 years when she received scholarships to any college she chooses. ✌️

        Like

      • Caroline
        October 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm #

        We chose to homeschool our son due to poor quality and safety of local schools in the area. This is our 2nd year. I am fortunate to actually be able to see his progress and work as a team with him. I used to work 40-60 hrs a week when he was younger and I think of all the milestones I missed while he was in daycare.

        Homeschool is like real life. It’s authentic. I believe it’s an investment.

        Sometimes, we are on “schedule” but sometimes we go off track due to life happening. The beauty is I can teach lessons under a tree at a park, while sitting in the car at the laundromat or on a trip somewhere.

        Learning opportunities are everywhere inside and outside walls. The real satisfaction comes when you’re having dinner and your child recalls something he learned a week prior when you thought he wasn’t listening while hanging upside down from the couch and/or playing legos.

        We are all doing our best and working with what we got.
        Here’s to supporting each other, trying our best and remembering, it’s all about our kids and how we are trying to raise decent human beings. Aloha!!!

        Like

    • SJ
      September 1, 2019 at 6:35 pm #

      Molly, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. It’s that burnout and stagnation that makes me such an advocate for finding the support of a community, and outsourcing the subjects we can’t do justice to. My husband and I work together to cover what we’re good at, and then we look to tutors, local private schools, and online classes to fill in where we fall short. No matter how any of us educate our children, it’s not an easy task and takes a lot of thought and dedication. I’m so glad that you’re looking to give your daughter what she needs.

      Like

      • Molly
        September 7, 2019 at 3:27 pm #

        SJ, thank you for what you are doing for your children and being kind. I only want to educate mothers about the potential fall out of homeschooling and the pitfalls associated with your choices.

        Like

  4. kingskid77
    August 22, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    Oh my goodness, I’m glad someone said it and you said it perfectly. Not all homeschool moms fit the mold…and others of us break the mold. So often I find myself quietly sitting and listening as other homeschool moms share their journey. Why? Because my journey looks more like the one shared in this blog and that has always brought feelings of shame and failure. Perhaps it’s not failure? Perhaps it is just different. Thank you so very much for sharing!

    Like

  5. Sagittarius Viking
    September 4, 2019 at 1:10 pm #

    I think it sounds wonderful to create a school that works for your family, and share the labor with your husband. Sounds pretty perfect to me!

    Like

  6. Holli
    September 5, 2019 at 4:46 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I sent it to all my homeschooling friends….just starting and veterans. Blessings!

    Like

  7. Adenike Babalola
    October 22, 2019 at 7:06 am #

    Hi Sally, thanks for sharing it. I hope to homeschool my kids too. I’ve created my idea of what I think will work for us. I’ll just wait to see how things turn out.

    Like

  8. Sandra
    October 30, 2019 at 8:59 pm #

    I homeschool my children during the 90s and I checked real quick to make sure it wasn’t one of my children writing this article. As a mother I loved reading out loud to my children but it had to be a really good book like Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the RalphMoody series or there was a really great book called the foundling. And I loved field trips because I set up my own field trips instead of letting somebody else do it … one time I set up a field trip to a jeweler and they gave me and my six children and a couple other kids from another family a private exhibition of how diamonds are mined in South Africa it was really great. I also set up field trips in my own home where I invited two Scottish people from Scotland to talk about Scotland or The Neighbor Next Door to talk to us about World War II because he was an expert on that topic. Nevertheless I can relate to your desire not to be too rigid because I had a bunch of little kids and it was hard to stick to a schedule and I often felt exhausted and my husband didn’t help me at all ever.. So I applaud you for figuring out how to avoid getting burned out …that’s a very valuable lesson and may end up saving your marriage.

    Like

  9. Kelsey
    October 30, 2019 at 9:45 pm #

    Snort-laughing! Great post. Very relatable. That door-closing 1-year-old … 🤣

    Like

  10. Angela H.
    October 31, 2019 at 1:55 pm #

    This was amazing to read, and the negative homeschooling comment above crushed me again… I am not a “type A personality”, and being the product of public schools, I wanted more for my kids than was offered. My main goal in teaching my kids is that they learn how to teach themselves. Give them the keys and see where they go with it. We follow a normal curriculum (think workbooks), but we also explore everything around us! Answer their questions with “Let’s go find out!” And make a trip to the library or search for info another way. If this is the only skill they learn, then I count that as a success. Also, when they have a tough subject to learn that I don’t know much about, I let them see me diving in right next to them and learning myself!

    But it’s tough being plagued by feelings of failure and defeat.

    Like

    • Molly
      November 18, 2019 at 4:08 pm #

      My comment is not intended to be negative. It is intended to shine light on the end result. Regardless of how hard you work or compensate, it is irresponsible to make a permanent, life altering decision for your child. You child/ children have no control over the consequences and ramifications of your choices. Should you choose to augment your child’s education at home, after school, good for you, but no one should be allowed to deny a child’s mandated right to be exposed to education and culture.

      Like

      • Angela
        November 18, 2019 at 4:52 pm #

        I assure you, I CAN and DO make life altering decisions for my child(ren). I am the parent. I get to choose to teach them that they need to respect authority (life altering, right there), laws, people, etc. I get to teach them to teach for what they want, and to not just follow the crowd. They get to learn that stealing someone’s stuff is wrong. And to care about other people. And to serve their communities. These all are life altering choices that I get to make for them. Would I purposely choose a substandard education for them because I felt like I wanted to homeschool? No. I may not homeschool perfectly, but the education my children get compared to what they would in a public school is FAR more well rounded and allows them to reach as far as they want – not easy to do in our PS systems. I’m not saying they are all bad – just like homeschooling isn’t always a bad choice.

        I’m sorry your experience was not good, but that doesn’t mean you should be against ALL homeschooling. Most parents do a great job teaching their kids.

        Like

  11. Melissa D. Willoughby
    November 2, 2019 at 11:29 am #

    Love this dearest, I feel passion through your writing! Not everyone can do that! We homeschool too. I have found that Jesus is the only thing that keeps me sane. I am a planner for sure but there is almost something every single day that messes that up (leak in the roof, shopping needing to be done, a sick kiddo, or so many other things). I often beat myself up for feeling like we are moving at a snail’s pace through the curriculum but, our learning takes so many forms. Feel free to take a look at my page when you get a moment. ❤ It's nice to connect with other homeschooling families.

    Like

  12. Deborah
    November 2, 2019 at 12:43 pm #

    I think I thought there would be more sunshine and rainbows. 🤣 In reality, it’s AWESOME, but it doesn’t fit into a tidy little box, because I am only human, and my five young kids apparently got that human thing from me too. So it can be a bit messy. Sometimes one of us loses our temper. I love my schedule but we are almost never completely on it. And reading outside makes for a good picture, but in reality, the ground is wet, the sun is too bright, the bugs are bugging people, the wind is blowing papers, and the toddler is running away. One kid, as a 3 and 4 year old, just loved what most of the homeschool community called “busywork that kills enthusiasm for learning.” We’ve been very behind. We’ve caught up and fallen behind again. It’s hard. It’s fun! And it’s AMAZING.

    Like

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