How to give your homeschool a fresh start when the burden outweighs the joy.
Have you ever felt like homeschooling is causing frustration, worry, tears, and pain- for both you and your child? I have. Have you ever threatened your kids with the big yellow bus that drives past your house in the morning? I have. Do you spend more time arguing with your child then learning together? I have.
Oh, how I’ve been there. In my first several years of homeschooling, I wanted to give up more times than I could count. I have spent late nights researching local school options in tears. I have already felt the pain of burnout and the helplessness of not knowing how to handle certain situations.
I think that any honest homeschooling parent would attest to the fact that you are going to feel like this at some point during your homeschool journey. Maybe even semi-regularly.
When the burden outweighs the joy
Wasn’t homeschooling supposed to be a happy endeavor? Didn’t you embark on this journey- at least in part- because you wanted to enjoy learning alongside your child?
Personally, I really wanted to homeschool. I had visions of reading together and doing projects side by side. I wanted the privilege of seeing my children really get a concept for the first time. I wanted to be able to help them develop academically and personally.
That’s why our fist “real” year of homeschool was so devastating:
It looked nothing like what I imagined.
One of my children was going through a very difficult stage. We faced regular fits, screaming, and acting out physically. Learning time was fighting time more often than not. Fun projects often dissolved into tears of frustration from both my child and me. Time outs, yelling, and crying were normal occurrences.
Needless to say, this was not an ideal homeschool scenario.
Of course, we all have our days- and it’s important to remember that a few bad days don’t mean that you need to reevaluate everything you’re doing. However, if the challenges are regularly stealing the happiness from your homeschool, maybe it’s time for a fresh start.
Whenever our homeschool begins to unravel, I try to stop and think through what’s going on. What needs addressing? Is there anything that needs to change? Sometimes all you need are a few adjustments.
First off, take a deep breath. Things aren’t nearly so often as bad as they might seem. Remember that the reason you are so distressed by this is because you are hugely invested in your child. This matters so much to you because you love them so much and want the best for them. Be encouraged. You can get through this.
Evaluate your schedule
I found that busy seasons in my life promoted rushing, cramming, and stressing in our entire family. Think of it this way: if you are feeling frazzled by all the running and over-commitment, think of how difficult it must be on a small person who needs more rest and regularity than an adult.
If you can let go of some of your activities in order to promote a more manageable schedule, do. You may find that it relieves stress factors for both you and your children. Consider doing some of the following:
- Reducing your work hours
- Dropping kids’ activities that are no longer valued, or just aren’t working for your current season of life
- Minimize weekly outings
- Trade babysitting with a friend in order to run errands more easily
I know that once I dropped some responsibilities outside of the home and minimized our weekly outings, we had a lot more peace in our days.
Consider your children’s academic work
At the risk of sounding like a mom who doesn’t want to overwork her children, let me say that it is wise to periodically evaluate how your child is handling his or her level of academic work. Sometimes we homeschool parents want to push our children ahead, but perhaps they aren’t ready. Other times we want to “let them play” while they are little so much that we end up lacking the order and routine that they could benefit from.
Take a moment to evaluate how your child is handling his academic work. If it is far too difficult and causing frequent frustration, back up, slow, down, and don’t worry if he seems “behind.” If it is far too easy and promoting boredom or “idle hands,” then consider adding in more challenging work- or good play- to help your child to grow academically and personally.
Consider your child’s emotional state
Tell me something: if you are having a downright awful day, are you able to focus and work productively? Not usually. Why is it that we expect our kids to get over their troubles and just do their work?
We need to pay attention to our children’s emotional state. Certainly there are times when a child seems to be making much ado about nothing. However, we need to remember that things that seem like a small affair to us might be a huge problem for a young person. Instead of expecting them to “get over it,” we need to slow down and listen. Sometimes that same child who was distressed 20 minutes ago might be ready to work after a good snuggle.
Check your relationship with your children
When your relationship is strained, chances are your schooling is too.
It can be totally worth taking a short sabbatical from school to really spend time investing in your relationship with your children. Take a day off and go to the park, stop school early to make cookies, or even take a week to really focus on each other instead of pushing more schoolwork.
Relationship trumps academics any day. Find ways to check in on it and prioritize it.
Look for less obvious problems
Look under the surface a bit to see if there’s anything there that might be a hidden cause for stress in your family life and/or homeschool. Has there been something that’s bothering you or your child? Has everyone been getting enough sleep? Is your family’s diet sustaining and nourishing? Has there been a significant change in your routine recently? Any of these factors could be creating a negative undercurrent that needs to be addressed.
Start and end your day well
A wise teacher once told me, “You can’t control everything that happens to you in a day. But you can choose the attitude you start and end your day with.” How true in life, and also for your homeschool!
You may have a crummy homeschool day or week or month. But you can choose to start each day well: prayer, a smile, and a cup of coffee can go a long way. And no matter the course of the day, you can choose to end it with a good conversation, forgiveness if needed, and lots of unconditional love.
When your homeschool needs a fresh start, try to name your struggles for what they are, and take it one step at a time to help make it better again. Remember, mama, this too shall pass. Take heart.
One more note before you go:
Sometimes- and this might feel really, really hard- you can work through all kinds of adjustments and still feel like homeschool just isn’t working for you. If that’s the case, there is no shame, no guilt, nothing wrong at all with making a loving choice for- dare I say it?- school.
Nothing is forever, and it’s okay to change your mind. Really.
What is your strategy for a homeschool fresh start?