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How to Lean in When Homeschooling is Hard: For the Struggling Homeschool Parent

Struggling with homeschooling? Take a deep breath—you're not alone. Here are some tips and advice for when homeschooling is hard.

Let's face it, homeschooling is hard! Yes, I said it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a homeschool advocate. I've been homeschooling for over 9 years and I couldn't imagine raising my kids any other way.

But that doesn't mean that it's easy. Some days I'm frustrated because my kids just don't seem to want to listen to me.

Or I'm worried that they'll struggle with making friends and they'll end up the stereotypical “weird homeschool kids.” And some days I worry that they'll graduate high school and I won't have prepared them well enough to go out in the world.

If any of that sounds familiar or you've got some other reason that you're wondering why you ever thought homeschooling was a good idea in the first place, trust me you're not alone.

I think every homeschooling parent has had moments where they thought to themselves “This is harder than I thought it was going to be.”

In this article, I want to share some tips and encouragement for how to deal with those days when homeschooling is hard. I hope it will offer you some hope and support so you can lean in and keep going with your homeschooling journey.

Why Homeschooling is Hard

Before we tackle how to lean into homeschooling, let's first talk about why it's so hard sometimes. Now if you're thinking, “Yeah, I'm here dealing with this every day, I already know why it's hard,” hear me out for a minute.

I want to go over why homeschooling is hard for a few reasons:

It validates your feelings

It's so easy to look on Instagram and Facebook and feel like all the other homeschool families have it figured out and you're the only one struggling. This list can help reassure you that what you're going through is something almost all homeschool families struggle with at some point or another.

It might help you better understand why exactly you're having a hard time

The better you can pinpoint some of the reasons you're struggling, the easier it will be to find solutions.

It might reassure you that you're not doing too bad. Maybe you read through this list and realize that there are plenty of areas of homeschooling that are going fine. Maybe you're not doing quite as bad as you thought. A little perspective can often give us a whole new outlook on how things are going.

Alright, now let's go over several reasons why sometimes homeschooling is just really hard.

It's not easy being home with your kids all day every day

Let's just go ahead and start with the obvious: being with your kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is not easy. People often talk about how it's hard to be a stay-at-home mom, but at least their kids go to school for several hours a day.

Our kids don't! They're there talking to us, asking for snacks, fighting with each other, and messing up the house All. Day. Every. Day.

No matter how much you love your kids, that takes a toll on parents. Especially if you don't have a strong support network of friends or family who can give you a break every now and then.

And even worse, most parents are shamed or judged for being open about the fact that it's tough sometimes to be with your kids all the time. This just compounds the stress or guilt we feel about it.

Well, let me just go on record and say that if this one rings true for you, you're not alone. It's hard to be with your kids 24/7. That doesn't make you a bad parent, or mean that you don't love them enough.

Teaching children is challenging

Another reason homeschooling is hard sometimes is that it's not easy to teach children. I think the world got a glimpse of what teachers have been complaining about when COVID hit.

Trying to wrangle children enough to sit down and focus on information that they don't really care about is hard! As homeschoolers, we get the benefit of making things more fun and engaging for our kids, but that doesn't change the fact that teaching is still tough.

If your child has any sort of learning challenges or differences the difficulty level can start to increase rapidly.

All of this is on top of the fact that most homeschool parents don't have any formal teaching training. We're out here trying to make it work with nothing but Google and a conviction that we can do better than the public schools.

So yeah, teaching your kids can be hard sometimes.

*Related Post: What to Do When Your Homeschooler Refuses to Work

Life gets hectic

Another thing that makes homeschooling hard sometimes is that life can be hard. Things can change in the blink of an eye.

Maybe your new baby is colic and you're getting 4 hours of sleep a night. Maybe your spouse just got laid off from their job or you both are going through a tough time in your marriage.

Or maybe you've had to move unexpectedly or there's been some sort of family crisis that has thrown everything out of balance.

Life can be very overwhelming, and when it is, homeschooling adds an extra layer of stress because now you're not just worried about keeping your head above water, you're also worrying that your kids' education will suffer.

Your child's learning is so closely entwined with your family dynamic that any changes or struggles in the family can have an impact.

So don't be too hard on yourself when life gets hectic and homeschooling becomes even harder because of it. Remember, this too shall pass and you will get through it.

Your friends and family might not understand your decision to homeschool

When I first decided to homeschool, I had a friend who said to me:

“I would never decide to homeschool my kids. I was homeschooled for 1 year in 10th grade. And I never went anywhere and when I went back to school the next year, I had no friends. It was awful.”

I mean, maybe she meant well, but not only did her experience have nothing to do with the way I planned to homeschool my kids, it was the opposite of being supportive or helpful!

Unfortunately, though, so many people have a similar, if not worse, response when they hear you want to homeschool. Even close family or friends can have very negative opinions about homeschooling and be very vocal about it.

This can make homeschooling even harder because not only are you constantly defending your decision, but you're also battling doubts and insecurities that other people's comments may bring up.

Remember though, at the end of the day, this is your decision as a parent to do what you believe is best for your child. Don't let other people's opinions or ignorance get in the way of that.

Socialization

Ah, the dreaded socialization topic. Homeschoolers around the world cringe every time someone asks how their child will be socialized if they're homeschooled.

Most of us who've homeschooled our kids for a couple of years know that there are plenty of ways and opportunities for our kids to develop social skills. However, that doesn't mean that it can't put a strain on you as the homeschool parent.

You might be worried about your child's socialization skills. Or maybe your child is a social butterfly who always wants to be with friends and you struggle to find enough engaging activities.

Something else that people tend to forget is that a lack of socialization can be really hard on the moms too. For the first few years of homeschooling, I struggled to make friends of my own.

My kids were young enough to not feel the loss too much, but I sure did! It wasn't until my children and I made some good friends in our local homeschool community, that I was able to feel better about this part of homeschooling.

So yes, socialization can be a difficult aspect of homeschooling, but it's not impossible to overcome. It just takes time and effort on your part as the parent.

Your house may never be clean again…

If keeping a neat and tidy home is important to you, then this might be a big area you struggle with. When you're kids are home all day every day, they're also probably making a mess in your house all day every day too.

Children are naturally messy. It's not that they can't learn over time to pick up after themselves and be more responsible, but it's a process and it certainly doesn't happen overnight.

And even when they're trying, they're still living in the space. They're using up dishes, pulling toys off the shelf to play with, and taking the couch cushions apart to build a real-life Roblox obstacle course. (Or maybe that's just my house? 🤷🏽‍♀️ 🤦🏽‍♀️)

I remember a few times when my kids were younger that my husband would come home to find me exhausted on the couch and our house looked like someone had come through and robbed the place.

With my kids being older, the mess has lessened, but it's still there and it can cause extra stress when I'm trying to balance homeschooling, keeping the house clean, and everything else.

So yeah, the perpetual mess in your house definitely contributes to homeschooling feeling hard some days.

All the pressure is on YOU

Lastly, homeschooling is hard because all the pressure falls on you, the parent. When it comes to teaching your kids, the buck stops here.

You are responsible for whether or not your kids become good readers. You are responsible for teaching them their times tables.

There is no one else to turn to if things aren't working out and no one is coming along to offer to help if you're struggling.

There are tons of resources out there to help homeschool parents, but once again, it's on you to go out there and find them.

Of all the ways that homeschooling can be tough, I think sometimes this is the hardest. As homeschool parents, we accept full responsibility for our child's education and sometimes that can feel like a lot.

But remember, you don't have to do it all alone. There are support groups and homeschool communities out there who are willing to offer advice, resources, and encouragement when you need it.

How to Lean in When Homeschooling is Hard

I hope after reading through some of the many reasons homeschooling is hard you're feeling a bit more encouraged that you're not alone. Many, many homeschool moms have been there.

The good news though is that many of us also find ways to lean in and rediscover our passion for homeschooling. It might take a new perspective or a few tweaks to your homeschooling approach, but just because you have some tough days (or maybe even weeks!) doesn't mean you need to give up.

Here are a few tips for how to lean in when homeschooling is hard:

Remember why you started homeschooling in the first place

The very first thing you can do is remember why you started homeschooling in the first place. What drew you to it?

Was your kid being bullied and you felt like school wasn't a safe environment? Do they have special needs that weren't being properly addressed?

Did you feel like their education was suffering? Or maybe they weren't being taught in a way that supported your faith?

There are a million reasons parents choose to homeschool their kids, but one thing I know for sure is that very few of us come to this decision lightly. We usually decide to do it because, for one reason or another, we honestly think that this is in our child's best interest.

So on those hard days, tap into that reason. Remember your why. Homeschooling is hard sometimes, but it can be rewarding and beneficial for your child in so many ways.

Reach out to other homeschool moms

My next piece of advice if you're having a hard time with homeschooling is to reach out to other homeschool moms. Other homeschool parents are an amazing source of encouragement support and resources.

If they don't know the answer to your issues, they probably know another parent who does.

I've especially found it encouraging to talk to other homeschool parents who are farther along in their homeschool journey than me. Sometimes they have tips for things I can try or just reassurance that whatever phase we're going through will eventually get better.

Just knowing that another parent has dealt with what I'm going through and gotten to the other side gives me that extra boost to keep finding a way to deal with whatever we're going through.

If you're not already part of a homeschool group, try to find a local one near you. Or even hop on Facebook and join some of the online groups.

I promise there are some moms in there who will be more than happy to offer some advice and support for whatever you're going through.

Try something new

Another tip to try if homeschooling is feeling tough is to try something new. If what you're currently doing isn't working, it's probably time to shake it up a little.

Here are some things to try:

  • Change your curriculum
  • Homeschool at a different time of day
  • Take more breaks
  • Take less breaks
  • Get outside more
  • Homeschool outside
  • Join a sport
  • Join a co-op
  • Take more field trips
  • Play more learning games
  • Make more time for passions and hobbies
  • Get more sleep
  • Add more structure to your day
  • Add less structure to your day

Depending on where in your homeschool you're struggling, there are so many things you can try. At some time or another, I've done all of these things when I felt like our family needed it.

Don't feel stuck in doing things a certain way if you feel like it's no longer working for your family.

Is it a bad day or a bad life?

This tip is a good one and has helped me during the times when life in general just feels chaotic and stressful or I've had an especially frustrating day with the kids.

When you're feeling really stressed in the moment ask yourself “Is this a bad day or a bad life?” Sometimes the issues we go through are temporary.

Struggling with a certain math concept your child can't get or when they are having a hard time making friends can feel really challenging in the moment, but those situations don't last. Your child will eventually learn how to do fractions and they'll find a friend who clicks with them.

The reasons you chose to homeschool and the benefits your child will get from it are going to last waaay longer than whatever situation you're going through.

Oftentimes when we can take a step back and look at the bigger picture we realize that our kids have way more good days than bad and whatever we're going through won't last forever. So stay focused and don't let a tough day bring you down.

Talk to your kids

Another really good tip for when homeschooling is hard is to just talk to your kids. Sit down and ask them how they are feeling about everything.

If they constantly fight you when it's time to sit down and read, ask them why. If they tell you it's too hard, ask them what might make it easier. Or ask what part of it is difficult for them.

One of the best parts about homeschooling our kids is being able to work with our children in teaching them. We're not nearly as restricted or limited in the way that we can help our children learn.

So we can talk with our kids and find out why they're struggling and brainstorm ways to make it easier.

Be sure to listen to what they say…

When my daughter was in 1st grade I had the hardest time getting her to sit still and focus on math. The curriculum I had bought was hands-on and engaging and she was really good at math, but almost every day was a fight to get her to focus.

I knew some of it was normal for her age, but it was becoming so frustrating for both of us. So one day I asked her why she didn't want to do math.

Her answer: it was boring. Now, a lot of parents might ignore that and just continue to fight through it, but I listened to her. At that age, calling something boring was her only way to describe that the curriculum wasn't working for her.

So I shopped around and found CTCMath which is an online program with video lessons. She gave it a try and liked it so much more than what we had been doing before. It's been smooth sailing with math ever since.

Sometimes we just need to talk to our kids and listen to what they have to say. It's entirely possible that they'll give you the answer to turning your homeschool around and making your days go better.

Be realistic about your expectations

Another good tip for when homeschooling is hard is to be realistic about your expectations. As homeschooling parents it can feel like we're responsible for everything.

There is always so much to do between home, the kids, homeschooling, extended family, and more. And as soon as you go on social media, you see all the wonderful things other homeschool moms are doing.

It can really make you feel like you're not measuring up and sometimes like you're failing your kids.

During these times, once again, it's great to check in with why you're homeschooling your kids in the first place. Are you fulfilling that first important goal?

If so, you're probably already doing more for your kids than if they were in public school. For the rest, sit down and decide if this is a need or a bonus.

Teaching your kid how to do math: need. Making sure your child goes to every field trip and does that super cool science experiment you saw on Instragram: bonus.

When you can separate the things you need to do for your homeschool from the things that are just nice to do, you'll find that your days feel less overwhelming and more successful.

When we have realistic expectations that are in line with our goals, we can experience more joy and less stress in our homeschooling journey.

*Related Post: Dear Homeschool Mom Who Feels Like a Failure – Maybe you're looking at it wrong.

Find the fun

Another great tip for when homeschooling is hard is to find some ways to make it more fun. Fun for you and fun for the kids.

Plan a field trip or go on an adventure around your town. A scavenger hunt for historical landmarks will get you all outside and learning something new at the same time.

You could also play more learning games, read silly books, or do new experiments. Learning doesn't have to be boring!

There are so many ways to add more fun to your homeschool day, even if you're short on time. That extra bit of fun can be just what your kids need to get through the day.

And remember to have fun yourself! Don't forget to take breaks and do things you enjoy. When we are happy and relaxed, it's easier to handle the challenges that come with homeschooling.

Take a break

If all else fails, take a break. I know taking days off can stress us out as homeschool moms because that means we'll need to spend more time schooling later in the year.

But sometimes it's just best for everyone if you pause for a day or two and start fresh when you're all feeling better. If things are hectic in your life right now or maybe you're just struggling for some of the reasons listed above, it's okay to take a mental health day or two.

Take the kids out for a fun day together or just hang at home and do nothing. Do whatever you need to relax and recharge so that you're ready for a fresh start.

When we're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it's hard to make sound decisions. It's also hard to commit to doing more stuff when we're struggling with all the current stuff on our plate.

Don't be afraid to take a step back and get into a better headspace. Then, when things are feeling calmer, try some of these tips to help improve your homeschool overall.

The most important thing is to take care of yourself and your children during those tough seasons.

Final Thoughts on How to Lean in When Homeschooling is Hard

I hope this article has helped offer you some support and encouragement in your homeschooling journey. Yes, there are days when homeschooling is hard.

If anyone tells you differently, they're probably lying to you and themselves. But it's also one of the most rewarding things we can do as parents.

So don't be afraid to lean in. Use the tips above to help you refocus, recommit, and rediscover your passion for teaching your children. You got this!

Candice McDaniel
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