The Ultimate Guide for Homeschoolers Who Want to Quit
The idea of “quitting” is actually more common among homeschooling parents than you might think. And it’s not just the ones who have been doing it long enough to feel burned out. Of course, that happens too, but even first-year homeschoolers can feel like they’ve made a horrible mistake. And the reasons for their feeling this way can be as extensive as your imagination would allow.
It could be the gnawing feeling that’s compounded when naysayers accuse you of “taking something away” from your child. What will they do about sports? How will they socialize? Where will they make friends? What about prom and graduation? The list goes on. Sometimes, even parents who had a good grasp on why they were homeschooling in the first place, can succumb to the inner doubts that have plagued all our minds at one time or another. Maybe they really would be better off in public school? I assure you, they’re not!
There are a million more things that make homeschooling parents question what it is they’re doing and wonder if it wouldn’t be better if they just quit. Perhaps that’s where you are, right now? If so, please continue reading. This is YOUR guide.
Remember Your “Why”
If you even feel the tingle of a desire to quit homeschooling, be quick to remember why you decided to start in the first place. It’s different for every family and can include things like life-threatening food allergies, a short or long-term illness, a physical handicap, or a special-needs situation that is entirely unique. These are all situations in which you will want to monitor your child closely, to make sure that their health is by no means compromised. Sure, public schools are required to accommodate all children, but things happen every day that make it dangerous to take chances. Reports of child abuse, even by teachers and other authority figures within the school, make you doubt their ability to keep up with all the intricacies of health-related concerns.
On the other hand, your moral compass may not allow you to send your child into an arena where all manner of vileness and depravity are paraded as “normal”. The same school that requires you to fill out sheets of paperwork if you send an aspirin to school with your child is the same one that will gladly dole out birth control - even to the point of helping a minor obtain an abortion - without any form of parental notification. The same school that bans Bible carrying and outward expressions of faith, such as T-shirts and apparel is the same one that will teach the basic tenents of Islam, citing “tolerance” for other cultures.
If you pulled your child out of public school in order to homeschool, it could have been because your child was being violently bullied, and it’s important to remember that when things get tough. You can’t allow them to go back into that. In some cases, it can be the very authority figures who are supposed to have your child’s best interests in mind that are doing the bullying. You’re fighting a good fight, and your children are certainly worth it!
Having a gifted child can be another reason for deciding to homeschool. These children are the ones most likely to “get in trouble” as class periods drag on. They’re like a sponge, soaking up information quickly and easily. They’re often finished before all of their classmates and tend to focus their attention on other things such as talking, fidgeting, doodling, writing, or anything to make better use of their time. They’re bored! And since they are not falling in line with what they should be doing, they are immediately considered belligerent for not doing so. This is, of course, ludicrous, but the truth of the matter is that the public-school system is not set up to handle those who outdo their same-age peers. Just as children are no longer allowed to “fail” a grade, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, they are also not allowed to “excel” either.
Your own reason for homeschooling may be something entirely different than anything mentioned here, and that’s okay! The reasons are yours, they’re personal, and they are worth remembering. Think back on them often to renew your sense of purpose and get back on track. It’s worth it.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change Things
Every year, homeschoolers anticipate, with great excitement, the amazing year ahead. Prepping for the year can include studies concerning curriculum options and resources, making new connections, joining a new homeschooling group or co-op, or even attending an amazing homeschool convention in order to learn as much as possible. Some parents utilize YouTube videos, podcasts, and blogs, just like this one, in order to make sense out of both old and new ideas, to figure out if any of them will fit into their own plans. By the time the school year starts and “Day 1” happens, you think you have everything under control, and most of the time, we do.
However, if something happens to disrupt our plans, or if something falls short of our expectations, it can send us reeling. This is especially true of curriculum choices that absolutely fail to work out like we planned. The matter is compounded if that curriculum was expensive because then we feel as if we’ve wasted money. The problem continues as we try to reassess the situation, refusing to stop using that curriculum because it was supposed to work. If it’s not, then surely it must be something we’re doing wrong. In reality, there may be some way to modify the materials, teach them a different way, or supplement them with something that works for our child’s learning style. We mustn’t be afraid to simply let it go and find something else that really does work.
Another thing we sometimes fail to do before embarking on our homeschooling journey is to completely neglect the investigation into our child’s learning style as well as our chosen teaching style. These two facets of homeschooling are likely two of the most important things we can learn before getting started. A learning style is the way in which your child processes and retains the information you teach them. It doesn’t just make it easier to teach them, it actually helps them to be more productive, successful, and satisfied with their own academic achievement. A teaching style, on the other hand, is the manner in which you teach. Think about the Charlotte Mason Method, for example, or the Montessori Method. Both of these methods are well-known for the way in which learning is presented, and it really does make a difference! If you choose a teaching style that is direct opposition to your child’s learning style, there are going to be problems. But they can be changed if we’re willing to allow ourselves the grace to change them.
The truth is, we make a lot of decisions as we embark on our homeschooling voyage, and they all seem like great ideas from the start. Otherwise, we would have dismissed them. However, the real problem comes when we feel that “staying the course” is our only option. We must never be afraid to make changes; even to chart an entirely different course. Once you do, you’ll find that things move along more smoothly than ever and it will alleviate a great many problems.
When An Interruption Is Not And Interruption
Could something as simple as a break really turn the tide when it comes to homeschooling burnout? You’d better believe it! Breaks are just as important for both teachers and students in homeschooling, even if it’s just a single day. It’s a fact that wearing the many hats that go along with homeschooling - teacher, principal, parent, counselor, cook, etc. - can eventually take a toll. There are great benefits to simply taking the time to just be the parent, and nothing more. Have fun, travel, do crafts, watch a movie in your pajamas. There are tons of ways to decompress and reset the mood so that you can start over, sometimes better than before. Remember that even public-school calendars have plenty of breaks built into the schedule, long before the year gets underway. You can at least grant yourself that much.
On the other hand, it could be the children that need a break. They have to deal with as much as we do, trying to grasp new concepts, figure out how to move from one problem to the next, and keep themselves somewhat organized. Don’t forget, they also have to deal with teacher-mom on a regular basis, and it can get heavy over the course of time. Just giving them some space to pursue interests, spend some time with friends or at a family member’s house, or just giving them the afternoon to romp and play outside can turn them into an entirely new child.
Relationships Are More Important Than Academics
In the course of trying to teach your children, have you ever felt like you’re creating a gulf between you? It’s easy to feel like we’re pushing so hard, we’re pushing them away. During those particularly difficult lessons, emotions can run high and it’s not unheard of for a few tears to fall. You’ll be questioned, Why are you forcing me to learn this?!, and you may even be tempted to just drop the whole thing. But at some point, it may be your own tears that fall as you wonder if you’re ever going to have a good relationship with this child once you’re finished teaching them. It’s a place of emotional turmoil that can really make you consider sending them back to public school, just so someone else can be the bad guy for change!
The good news is, you can take that control back again. It may be as simple as changing your child’s perception of you as the “meanie”. As the parent, it’s sometimes worth it just to put the lesson down and take a stroll through nature together. Tell them how hard your day has been, and why. Admit your fears, share your heart, and leave plenty of room for them to do the same. You’ll be surprised to find that they are willing to both listen and share, rooting your real relationship deeper than anything else at the moment. You can always pick the schoolwork back up again. And when you do, you’ll likely have a refreshing new start, as you both understand one another a little bit better.
Don’t Try To Do It ALL
Most states have a required list of subjects that must be taught in order for you to be compliant with homeschooling laws. If you live in one of these states, it can be tempting to try to do every single subject during every homeschool session. It’s true that some subjects must be taught regularly to be properly grasped, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, but others are not necessarily “every day” subjects. You can put off some subjects, working on them every other day, for example, and still find that they are easily absorbed and the knowledge retained.
This is a great plan, but remember, your child’s learning level is entirely their own. Some may need more practice whereas others will need less. Some children might work better if you assign “homework”, allowing them to work on their own, whereas others may need constant assistance, supervision, and reassurance, especially as new concepts are learned. It’s best to focus on working towards whatever gives them the greatest level of confidence until they are able to step out on their own.
Nothing is harder on you as a homeschool parent than trying to do it all - all the time. You can further compound this problem by expecting perfection, either from yourself, your child, or the both of you. Most of the time, perfection is often hard to reach, especially in the short term. If this is something that’s important to you, be sure to set up measurement protocols so that you can see a progression or decline over time. It’s not going to happen in 24 hours, but as you make some form of notes, you’ll easily see which way you’re headed.
Give Yourself Time
Just as perfection is not attained in a short period of time, neither is your perfect homeschooling day or week. It takes time, even after a few years, to make sure the chosen curriculum will work, or that changes taking place around your family are tolerated well. It takes time to get comfortable with each aspect of homeschooling, but even then, things can happen that upset the routine a bit. Is someone in the family changing jobs? Moving? Going away to college? Having a baby? Have you recently lost a loved one? Or a pet?
All of these things, and more, can upset the daily routine, even if it's only a frame of mind. It’s important to remember that it’s your child, and your rules. You needn’t struggle to please anyone outside the confines of your homeschool and the sooner you accept that, the easier it will be for you to move on. It could be your first year, or your fifteenth. It could be that you’re teaching a five-year-old or a fifteen-year-old, but the premise remains the same. You may not get it right the first time. They may not get it right the first time. But that time WILL come and your patience will help usher it in.
There’s no shame in taking your time moving into a new homeschooling endeavor, or homeschool year. There’s no reason to feel like a failure if you’re having a hard time adjusting. And there’s certainly no reason to quit! If something isn’t working, drop it. If it works as if it were made for you, rejoice! The important thing is that you understand it will work out. Just like it does for all of us.
Dealing With Naysayers
Another truth in homeschooling is that you will run across people who simply don’t understand homeschooling. Sometimes it’s their choice and sometimes, they have no background that would give them understanding. And sometimes, those people are your own flesh and blood. It would simply take up too much space to list all of the statements we might hear from these people, but you’ll know them when they start talking. Here are just a few examples of naysayer language that can be absolutely hurtful unless you’re prepared for it:
- Why would you give up your freedom to do this?
- Aren’t you afraid you’ll scar them for life?
- Is it even legal to homeschool?
- Is homeschooling your religion?
- Shouldn’t they get a REAL education?
- How are they going to meet real people?
- Can they actually get a job without an education?
Some of the questions you’ll hear are steeped in misinformation and some just plain hurtful, especially if the people asking the questions are supposed to be your friends. They likely believe that they’re doing you a favor by making you think about these things, or calling you out and forcing you to answer.
But you really don’t have to answer. Of course, you could always attempt to offer them relevant information or answer their questions honestly, but you’re not likely to change their way of thinking with just a simple conversation. As this fact becomes obvious, you’ll need to remember that self-control is a necessary element in some situations. And never underestimate the power of simply leaving them standing there.
The Benefit of Finding Community
A homeschooling life is often synonymous with a “secluded” life, at least to those who do not homeschool or know anything about it. If your “reason for homeschooling” includes a child who has dealt with, or is dealing with, crippling depression or social anxiety, that seclusion can actually be a wonderful thing for them. For children like this, the large masses of people in most social situations can be “triggering” to them. Triggers are things that happen as a result of trauma such as bullying or abuse, and it’s far more serious than many people understand, especially if they’ve never had a child like this in their lives. If this child is left in the public-school setting, they are usually misunderstood at best, or further bullied - even by teachers - at the worst. They’ll spend more time just trying to survive than they will ever spend learning. In the safety of the homeschool setting, however, they begin to explore ways in which they can get better.
Still, finding a community of like-minded homeschoolers can be a great option. There are lots of clubs, groups, and co-ops that will help provide a much-needed change from time to time, as well as offering a bit of respite for both you and your child. Just having a social outlet where you’re understood can be a great thing. You can also explore ideas such as local sports or hobby clubs, music or art lessons, theatre, gymnastics, and so much more, to provide other ways for your child to grow and expand their horizons. You can even oversee volunteer opportunities which can be an excellent lesson in servitude, in addition to forming social and community ties.
The truth is, you may encounter many things over the course of your homeschooling journey that might anger you, bring tears, or yes, even cause you to consider giving it up. But I encourage you, when this happens (because it will), take some time to understand what you’re feeling. Talk with another homeschooling mom or dad who’s been through that already. Reach out to a support group, as many can be found on social media outlets, and you’ll likely find you’re not alone. Just as with life in general, tough days happen. And if you think about it, your track record for getting through all of them is 100% so far! So why not press on?
Your child is worth it. Their amazing education is worth it. And it’s not that hard to get back on track once you find the culprit behind your feelings of inadequacy. The best part? Not only will you have overcome an obstacle by the end of this experience, but you will have taught your children that “giving up” simply isn’t an option, even if things get really tough.