HS #286 10 Things I Hate About Homeschooling
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HS EP 286
Hello and welcome back to another installment of the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Wendy Speake, and I am one of the many hosts we have here on the podcast. Each week you'll hear from one of us inviting one of our friends to join for a conversation about this busy blessed season as we educate our children at home.
Now the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions. While we don't have the answer to every question, we know that all the solutions to every stress and every struggle can be found in the Person and presence of Jesus Christ and His living and active and applicable word. We are so glad that you're here to join us for today's conversation. But before we start the show, I'd like to thank our sponsor.
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Hello. Welcome back to another highfalutin Homeschooler episode of the Homeschool Solution Show. I'm Jennifer Cabrera and I hope to bring you some more sarcasm, inspiration, and laughter today with ten things I hate about homeschooling. Now if you read a lot of homeschooling blogs, listen to a lot of homeschool podcasts, you will find an abundance of articles and talks telling you how great homeschooling is and it is truly. There's family time, more of a possibility of a childhood free from bullying and bad influences. They can learn at their own pace. You have religious freedom. You can take days of movie marathons and Minecraft binge days. And obviously, it's so exciting to buy new school supplies, pick out new curriculums, set up for a new year. It's great. You just know it's going to be great, and especially when you first start homeschooling because everything is new and exciting and you're going to conquer the world.
But you know, before you bought your first baby or two if you had twins like me. You brought them home and you had everything ready and all the plans for every scenario worked out in your head. And then fast forward to sitting in that spit-up covered glider rocking chair, three AM with a croupy baby in one arm, mysteriously empty bag of Cheeto puffs laying atop your still pregnant looking belly and thinking to yourself, this was not in the brochure. Only then do you really know what it's like, and it's like that with homeschooling too. So, before I continue, let me add a disclaimer.
I hate homeschooling about as much as I hate Christmas, puppies, and family vacation, which is to say not at all. However, if you are really giving homeschooling all you've got, tirelessly pouring all of yourself into raising and educating your kids to the best of your abilities, you may have noticed some things aren't falling in line with the dream. They're not always so great. And I don't hate puppies, Christmas, or family vacations, but let's face it, puppies are messy and so are kids, and possibly so is your house and your car if you homeschool. Or even if you don't. Kids, right? And Christmas is exhausting, especially if you start the day after Thanksgiving by cutting down your own tree to decorate and planning cooking, shopping, and by the 25th you're exhausted. Sort of like at the end of a long week homeschooling because you want to create this Norman Rockwell memory and experience for your children. And family vacations? Well, they're not always fun. I mean, you can pack and plan all you want, but sometimes you only learn your kids don't like roller coasters after you've dropped three hundred dollars to get into Six Flags when all the family rides are closed. And so, if you've ever had a puppy or a bad experience on a vacation or have been exhausted after Christmas, sometimes you're left thinking why are we doing this? Whose idea was this anyway?
This is exactly what you might ask yourself about homeschooling from time to time. And though I love it, it is possible that there are ten things that I hate about homeschooling. And so, I want to keep it real and let other parents know who might be struggling to stay jolly, there is at least one homeschool mom out there who is willing to admit homeschooling is not always storytime on the couch with cocoa, followed by nature walks in kum ba yah moments. When we're in mixed company, i.e., around those who disagree with homeschooling, we can't complain about these things without worrying that some smug skeptic will jump at the chance to tell us they knew it. That it wouldn't work, and why don't we just put our kids back in school already?
But since we're in our safe space with our peeps, so to speak, I would like to share the ten things that I hate about homeschooling with you.
Number one, being the cafeteria lady. No one ever mentioned this part of the job. Three meals a day, seven days a week, plus snacks and a second breakfast. Which by the way, really is a thing. And at our house can consist of anything from goldfish crackers to gummy worms to dry cereal and beef jerky with hot tea and the last bag of fried rice fought over and spilled all over the counter. I hate being the cafeteria lady for three reasons.
A, shopping. Sure, grocery shopping is a math lesson. We use it as a cute idea to show that we learn everywhere, but it's tired y'all. I rarely have the time to let my son calculate the cost of each bean in the Goya can. My boys and I grocery shop more like a casino heist. Like Ocean's 11. Only it's the highfalutin four. Get in, get out with as much as we can without being noticed or asked why we're not in school. Which, recently, it's more like where's your mask, but I digress. But the quantities. I now understand why homeschoolers are known for growing their own vegetables and raising chickens for eggs and goats for milk and cheese. And it's really not to keep the grass mowed. It's because they're tired of going to the grocery store. The average grocery cart at Sam's Club or Walmart or wherever you buy your bulk items, they're not deep enough. I have four growing boys to feed that are constantly grazing like goats. And yes, I include my husband in that count and I just really get tired of going to the grocery store constantly.
B, the second reason that I hate being the cafeteria lady is the prep and cleanup. Now, of course, I have taught my children how to cook using the microwave, the stove, and the oven, and thank goodness for frozen fried rice and taquitos, microwavable burgers, and all of those wonderful little pre-packaged items that make life so much more doable for us in the twenty-first century. But it still takes some prep work, and inevitably everyone wants the last piece of meatloaf leftover from last night's dinner and the sharpest elbow winds, only to blow it up in the microwave. And of course, they know how to clean. And yes, they have chores, but we have to get to the rest of our subjects so that we can make it to swim practice, piano lessons, all of the other things we have to do. And so once we get through breakfast and lunch and all of that disaster, the kitchen looks like we just hosted a New Year's Eve party for the entire Co-op of Texas. Wrappers, paper plates, condiments, bits of rice stuck on the counter, and the dog. And then nobody left it laying there. It's not my cup. It's not my napkin, and it's not my dog eating a cellophane wrapper. We don't have time for all that mess.
And the third, C, the third reason that I hate being the cafeteria lady as if shopping in the food mess wasn't enough already, I've got to teach them all how to cook because it's a survival skill, right? And that's what we're all about with homeschooling is teaching those life skills to help them be better adults and hopefully, better spouses someday. One summer I even bought cooking across the USA, which was kind of like a geography lesson, but yet you got to eat things, which is perfect for the boy children. Possibly the girl children too. I don't know. I don't have any for real. But their wives will thank me one day. I taught each of them to cook. We tried some of the best dishes supposedly from all fifty states, so I'm not quite sure they got all of those right. Anyway, they learned how to do an abundance of things, but sometimes I just want to sip wine or iced tea and scroll through Facebook and wait for the boxed Mac and cheese to boil. Alone. I don't want to be cooking as a lesson all the time. I just really get tired of being in the kitchen. It just feels like a constant battle, like the laundry, but let's not go there.
Moving on the second thing that I hate about homeschooling is being heavy from sunup to sundown, we get to bark orders. There is no backup, no teacher that we can come together to complain about assigning all this homework. No, you can't have a pop tart and hot cocoa for a second breakfast. Too much sugar. Do your math. Now. Quit tapping on your desk. Stop complaining about your brother tapping on his desk. Finish your grammar before they change all the rules again. No, you can't watch TV yet. Have you eaten lunch? Or practiced piano? Flush the toilet. Stop fighting with your brother. Don't look at me like that. Pack your things for practice. Get in the car. Yes, you have to go. Oh, I'm ruining your life huh? Fine call your dad. I'm calling him too. Now.
Now I love my husband. His extremely hard work and dedication to our family are evident in the long hours he works on call at the hospital, and it is what makes our homeschool lifestyle possible. I love that he trusts me with the education of our boys, but the whole thing about Dad being the school principal, that's just an illusion. Sort of like the fabled electric paddle the public-school principal supposedly had. So, he's at work. What can he really do at the moment other than threaten? I mean, I call anyway, usually to whine, explain the face-off and ask where he hid the electric pedal. Put him on the phone, he'll say for a pep talk and listen to the perpetrator's plea of innocence, and then he will probably threaten something he can't possibly follow through on, like do your work or you're not going to your grandmother’s birthday party this weekend. Or no computer for a week if you don't shape up now. And those are fighting words to almost any homeschool mom in need of quiet time. Minecraft may be the greatest babysitter ever invented.
But when we hang up the phone, it's still heavy, and often still staring at me in the same room with glaring eyes is the child who still doesn't want to do the work that I've assigned. And then I've made this lovely poem for him.
I'll love you forever.
I'll like you for always
However, you look at me
Your homeschool mom, I'll be.
Of course, I know they love me too. You can see it in their eyes, right? If looks could kill, this could be a weapon of mass destruction on days when you have a hard-headed child. But unfortunately, my head is harder than my kids and that is saying a lot because sometimes being a homeschool mom is more like being a warden. So, when Dad gets home and they're so excited to see him like Santa, walking in with chocolate-covered hundred-dollar bills, maybe I get a little bit jealous. And so, I don't wanna be the heavy all the time. I wanna be Santa with the chocolate hundred-dollar bills.
Now the third thing that I hate about homeschooling is reading about the world's greatest curriculum that I'm not using. I feel like I should explain this like an AA meeting intro. Hi, I'm Jennifer and I am addicted to looking at, shopping for, and reading the reviews of homeschool curriculum. It's euphoric, I get lost for hours reading reviews and if you ever go to the convention the exhibit hall is dangerous. I used to never envision my kid's real personalities when I was perusing this stuff. It's more like Christmas shopping for Stepford children. Learn to speak Spanish fluently in ten weeks of audio lessons while simultaneously practicing fractions and learning to knit for the homeless. This will be great. We can do this in the car on the way to swim practice every day. The possibilities are endless.
Which is why we homeschool eclectically. Homeschooling eclectically for those who don't know is code for Mom, the control freak can't make up her mind, so she tries a little bit of everything, changes things up mid-year, every year, backs up, starts over. All kind of stuff. But we find what works for our kids. So, when I'm looking for a curriculum for the following year, by early summer I have an enormous cart online filled with all kinds of things and I'm sweating hitting the purchase button because I've narrowed each subject down to my top five picks. I have spent at least 47,000 hours and all the coffee beans in South America researching to find the Golden Ticket medley of courses to guarantee future college scholarships. It's really a crapshoot, right? And when I finally lay the money on the table and commit to the dealer, I cringe as the tabloids of success roll in for the programs I turned down or never even knew about. And so, when people write and ask me what's the best math curriculum for boys, I start sweating and get annoyed and I'm tempted to type back in all caps. How should I know? Do your own research? Or better yet just cover up your eyes and play eeny, meeny, miney, mo. PS, Saxon math rocks.
The fourth thing I hate about homeschooling is feeling that every decision I make as cruise director could sink their ships in the future. If our kids don't turn out right, it's all our fault. We are in charge of organizing everything they do or don't do, and if we fail to the outside world, it will be because we homeschooled and if they are successful, it will be counted as sheer, dumb luck. Now Amy Dingam, of the Home Schooling Mom once wrote a great article called It's Because They Homeschool. But no, actually it's not. Now, this article was all about her quiet and reserved son and how he interacts at Church and 4H and others say that he is just shy and awkward because he homeschools, while an equally introverted girl in the same groups that he's a part of is let off the hook because, well, it's just her personality. She can't help who she is because, oh yeah, she goes to public school. So, see, there's a double standard already.
But it's not just whether we choose the right curriculum that might sink their ship in the future or set them off on the great expanses of knowledge. We have all these other questions rolling around in our head that if we make the wrong decision, we're going to screw them up royally. Should we school year-round? How many extracurricular activities are too many? Does each child need music, sports, and a fun hobby on a topic of academics? If we skip the review on adjectives that we write off any chance at the New York Times bestseller list? Should they go to a regular high school? Will they fit in or stand out? And what if they don't stand out? And what if I forget to teach them something essential and they get to college not knowing how to use a combination lock? Should I go buy three combination locks? If we don't visit Disney World often enough, will they never learn to wait in line like a good citizen? Lying in bed at night I can worry a hole in my pillow about these things. Or if my husband is still awake, I can worry a hole in his pillow and his left temple because every decision I make is going to decide their future, correct? It feels that way anyway when we take on the decision to homeschool. So yes, I hate having all of that weight on me. So not only now are we the heavy, being the disciplinarian of the day, most of the day, but now we feel like there's this heavy weight on our shoulders.
Now the fifth thing that I hate about homeschooling is desperately needing alone time while simultaneously being lonely. Okay, I call this smothered loneliness. It is possible to be having your ear talked off by multiple people at once and feel like you are on a deserted island and no one cares if you get hit on the head with another Minecraft coconut. Now if your kid plays Minecraft, you know exactly what I'm talking about. When they aren't playing, they're following you around and giving you a play-by-play. And don't dare look distracted or they'll start over. Now it goes a little something like this.
Hey Mom, I finished my cave house on Minecraft. I had to go mine more Redstone and gold ore. My inventory was low, it was awesome, but then I accidentally blew the whole thing up and so tomorrow I'm going to build a floating sky cruise ship. It's going to be awesome. I'm going to use notebooks and time them to play the SpongeBob song when we walk on the main deck and remember what I told you about how to grow a garden anywhere on Minecraft? No? Well, first…
And so, you have these moments after teaching, cleaning, being used as a Minecraft sounding board where you just need a break. Now hiding in the toilet with a book is almost as good as grocery shopping for nothing in particular without the kids. Notice I said nothing in particular, not when you have to go do all of that shopping for feeding the entire family and back to the cafeteria lady, okay. And then sometimes you just need an adult conversation. Now we're having a bad day, we have only a few select people that we will admit this to because we brought this on ourselves, remember? And we don't want to hear I told you so from the naysayers.
So, we need friends and if you miss my last episode, it was about best good homeschool friends. So go back and listen to that and you'll know all you need to know about what a best good homeschool friend is about, where to find one, and why you need one. But do we have the energy left to be a good friend by the end of the week? I mean digital friends are easy. You can text and read Facebook on the toilet or while you're waiting for the timer on your hair dye to go off while clipping your toenails. But real 3D friends are hard to come by and to make time for and so we have smothered loneliness. We have no time for ourselves. We have no time for friends. It's really a catch 22, isn't it?
Now the sixth thing that I hate about homeschooling is the pay sucks, for lack of a more accurate word. Salary.com calculated the average salary of a stay-at-home Mom would be, if they got paid around a hundred and forty-three thousand, one hundred, and two dollars, based on all the tasks most moms performed daily. Now we're going to add a $10,000 bonus because homeschool moms are anything but average and then we will add the yearly salary of an average schoolteacher which is around 56,383, non-starter US teacher. Now add another $10,000 bonus for teaching multiple grades at once, right? Well see, and that adds up. Oh yeah, and the field trips that we could take, like studying the Romans in actual Rome.
But it's not about the money, is it? We knew this going in and no second income. It is worth it. Most days so we didn't fully appreciate how the deficit would sting until that first year when our property taxes were due, and then we realized how much we were splurging on education for everyone else's kids, which turns out to be way more than we spend homeschooling our own. It's not fair. But as my high school calculus teacher would say, the fair only comes to town once a year and never for homeschool families. And that's okay, because if we pushed for fair, we might get some of our money handed back, but it would be handed to us in an envelope laced with regulations and oversights. So, we willingly pay double for our fair share of freedom. Homeschooling is definitely not something we do for the money. We do it for the off-season discounts and the sweet homemade cards, right?
Number seven, the excitement that I have created and hoped for homeschooling is rarely met by the children. Let me just say that doing all of elementary and middle school and now some of high school for the second and third time has been a blast. So many great books, multiplication games, silly writing prompts. I mean history, y'all. We didn't get to learn much of that in public school, I now realize, but how much fun is this? I complained so much about school as a kid. What was I thinking? Now I'm all like, woohoo, let's do this. Jumping around on too much coffee and enthusiasm. And then my kids show up. Cue the whining and groaning. Uh, why do we need to know this stuff? It's not fair. This is boring. Okay, now one year I put together this awesome social studies and history unit, US elections for the fall, Texas history for spring. Okay, so that year Hillary and Donald did most of the work for me. My kids kept up with the debates, made popcorn, and no one could have written that curriculum more Interestingly.
But come spring, I kept waiting for the boys to explode with joy over the exciting unit study I'd put together on Texas history. We're gonna make the Alamo out of clay guys. Now little D, my youngest, he was totally into it. He loves all things hands-on. Building, art tinkering, but one of the older two knocked the wind out of my sails on these projects. Do we have to? And then they gave it about seven minutes worth of effort and handed me this blob of clay, which I wish I could show you. I have this great picture of because I knew one day we could look back and laugh and I plan to put it up at his graduation from high school, even if he gets into architecture at MIT.
Anyway, it was just a blob he didn't want to spend any time on it because he didn't like crafting. And really, that's cool because it's such a letdown when no one gets as excited as I envisioned about all the awesome things that I planned. But I don't really like crafts either, but I really had worked hard on that unit study. Now, as parents, we're looking into learning from the opposite direction than our kids with experience and perspective, and because some of us went to public school that we understand our kids who haven't, cannot really appreciate that there truly are more painfully boring ways to learn things than building a replica and sitting on the deck of the actual Texas battleship. They just don't know what they have, so maybe I'll have to put him back in school just so that...no, forget that. I mean, we always threaten, but we don't really mean to do we? We know we're not going to put our kids back in school and they kind of know that too. They called our bluff.
Okay, so the eighth thing that I hate about homeschooling is being called a stay-at-home Mom. Now when out with my husband coworkers at a dinner party or any activity I get introduced to new nurses or doctors that he works with often. I pretend I haven't heard any dirt on them from my husband and I'll ask where they're from, what position they hold. Are they married? Do they have kids? And what is it that they do in the surgery Department and pretend I don't really know when really, I probably know all kind of gossip, but I hit on their experience and all those pretty initials after their names. And then inevitably, they turn the conversation to me and say, now you're a stay-at-home mom, right? You homeschool? Uhm, yeah, that's right. The view of a stay-at-home mom in feminist America is that it's the participation trophy for those women who couldn't cut it in the career world. But what I'm really thinking is this. No, I'm not just a stay-at-home Mom. I am the matriarchal academic ninja. That makes me the man. Now it really shouldn't bother me, and most of the time it doesn't cause I know people who admittedly go to work to get out of the task of stay-at-home Mom. So that means it's not for the weak. And homeschool moms are the stay-at-home Mom 10.0 version. The souped-up version with antivirus software because we work even with a Kleenex stuffed up both nostrils and a low-grade fever. It's our job and there's no escaping it. So don't just call us a stay-at-home, Mom. We are way more than that. Like when people say I'm just a mom and I tell them you meant that like when Batman says that he's just Bruce Wayne, right?
Okay, so we're getting close to the end of my list. Are you keeping up with me now?
Commiserating? Disagreeing? That's fine. Send me a letter. Tell me all about it.
But number nine, the ninth of the ten things that I hate about homeschooling is the following: Telemarketers, wrong numbers, right numbers at the wrong time. UPS, FedEx, Amazon, meter readers, mailmen, handymen, door-to-door salesmen, political activists, or anyone with a pamphlet that I did not ask to read. People who say they will be here sometime between eight and five PM, do-gooders who kidnap my "lost dog" in quotations from our street and call me to come get him across town. People I don't really like. People I love dearly. And anyone in between that shows up when I'm only minutes away from finishing teaching an intensely long and painful math lesson and thus causing me to envision stabbing them with my blue grading pin. Not really. But all it takes is one of these little distractions to snowball into a day of nothing accomplished.
So occasionally I do get a little frazzled when the phone rings. Distractions are just part of life. So technically I'm teaching them how to deal and multi-task. So, win-win again for the homeschool crowd. It does make your hair fall out though when the doorbell keeps ringing, and the dog keeps barking and you're just trying to read the last paragraph.
Lastly, the tenth thing that I hate about homeschooling is not knowing if what I'm doing is working. Okay, so obviously some of what I'm doing is working. My kids can dress themselves, read above grade level, write in cursive, argue convincingly. I've got two in Precal now. (Woohoo, waves her flag). We know how to socialize like homeschoolers, but I'm a planner. I like to know where we're headed and that has been almost impossible for the last year. We want to know each step and the expected outcome, though when we're trying to plan our kid's future. A + B = C, right? But there is no absolute assurance that choosing to homeschool, choosing the award-winning math curriculum, or teaching them to question everything and how to use a combination lock will make our kids successful in life. We won't really know if we did this homeschooling thing right until our boys are grown up, gainfully employed, independent, upstanding husbands and fathers. Because of this homeschooling sometimes feels like quite a gamble. But it isn't a gamble. It's a wonderfully exhausting leap of faith whether they become chefs or surgeons, engineers or repairman, plumbers or senators. God help us. I want my boys to first be genuine, hardworking Christian men. And all I can do is my best. I can point them in the right direction, arm them with skills, this kind of skills they need to seek knowledge and truth and pray for the strength to see them on their way, and realize that I am not in control. It won't be easy and we will love it some days and hate it the next. But Galatians 6:9 tells us, let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
And so, I'll leave you with this. When it comes to homeschooling, I will always love it. I don't know that we're always doing it right, but I do know that it was the right thing to do.
And so there you have it. Ten things I hate about homeschooling, which I really don't hate.
But I think it's good to have a complaint box in the office, and best good homeschool friends to vent to. Now, if you enjoyed this list, get yourself a copy of Socialize Like a Homeschooler. It's available at Amazon. It's a humorous homeschool handbook. A truly laugh-out-loud funny look at homeschooling. Something in it for everyone in the entire family.
Also, if you have a middle school child who does not like to write but likes to follow you around and tell you about Minecraft and silly jokes and gross things that they can tell you to make you gag, check out my other book, Revolting Writing, which is a writing journal illustration program for reluctant writers from ages nine to thirteen. It is also available at Amazon and at Rainbow Resource.
If you aren't already, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Gab, or Parler. I'm also at Pinterest occasionally. You can follow my podcast episodes also from my website at highfalutinhomeschooler.com. Under the podcast tab, you can listen to all of my old episodes and be ready for the new ones as they roll out.
So, until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.
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