What Can You Learn from a Homeschooling Dropout?

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It’s May, and the defectors are amassing. If you’ve slugged through a year of school-time misery, it’s time to reassess and do some problem-solving. Today I’d like to share four insights from former-homeschoolers that I find helpful for parents struggling with school decisions.

#1: Homeschooling changes the rhythm of your day.  It’s the all-day drizzle versus the afternoon thunderstorm.  When kids go to school, early morning is a whirlwind, then the house gets quiet.  In the afternoon the storm hits: Homework, chores, dinner and activities consume family life until bedtime.

For some moms, the craziness of the before-and-after-school shifts is a small price to pay for a few hours sanity to get something done for a change, or to be able to let the babies be babies until the big kids get home.  Others of us love the drizzle – the steady flow of shared artwork, curious questions, and the chance to live together side by side. It boils down to a personality difference.   It’s okay to be the mom who just likes it better one way or the other.

But sometimes reality trumps personality, bringing us to point #2: You can’t do two things at once.  You can get a lot done around the house while homeschooling, but it’s very hard to do work that requires focused attention for long periods of time.  Even if the kids really do finish their school work in two hours, the trickle of needs drips all day long.  For moms who work from home, the physical reality of having the kids in the background can create stressful conflict.  There are moms who do it, but it requires discipline and sacrifice.

Which reminds me of #3: Homeschooling does take discipline. Even relaxed-schooling and unschooling parents have to put forth an effort to allow learning to happen. For some moms this is easy, but many of us carefree spirits struggle with self-discipline — there’s always one more urgent reason to put off school until later.  The more challenges you have in your daily life, the more self-discipline can be a struggle.

If you want to homeschool, “I’m not disciplined” isn’t a reason to give up on homeschooling before you even try it.  If you’re struggling, reach out for help with accountability, whether that’s peer support, homeschool co-ops, enrolling with an oversight organization, or sending your child to classes taught by someone else.

But some moms discover they just can’t get the support they need.  It’s okay to be the parent who took a risk, gave it a shot, then evaluated and changed strategies down the road.

And then there’s homeschooling’s dark secret, point #4: Not everyone likes homeschooling.  When I tell someone we’re homeschooling, if they aren’t convinced I’m ruining my children, the praise can be effusive – I must be some kind of superhero.  Well, no, I just happen to enjoy it.  But there are superheroes in the homeschooling world: The moms who do it because they must.  Given the choice, they’d put the kids in school – but they don’t have that choice, not for this child or not for this year.

Those of us who love homeschooling – despite the difficulties – should not feel threatened by that.  We don’t need every mother in the nation to love what we love.  What’s best for our family is not measured by what’s best for the next door neighbors.

We carry out our mission as the primary educators of children by making the most of the personalities, abilities, resources, and limitations God has given our family, this year.  What’s going on in your life this spring?  Do you need to make some changes for the coming school year?  Have you had to make difficult school decisions in the past?  I’d love to hear from you.

Copyright 2012 Jennifer Fitz

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About Author

Jennifer Fitz is the author of Classroom Management for Catechists from Liguori Publications. She writes about the Catholic faith at her Patheos blog, Sticking the Corners.

12 Comments

  1. Spot on. Life throws some curve balls that can change our lives temporarily or permanently. The only way to truly fail is to see that something isn’t working and then refuse to change anything at all.

    Great post!

    • “The only way to truly fail is to see that something isn’t working and then refuse to change anything at all.”

      Exactly!

      I spent years feeling like I was failure at organizing and planning and making decisions, because everything I did eventually needed to be changed. Then I realized — wait a minutes — that’s because my life keeps changing!

  2. Thank you, Jennifer! You put beautifully into words what I experience daily through homeschooling…the steady drip! Sometimes it’s a refreshing rain, other times, an uncomfortable squall. Some days feel like I’m running around plugging holes in our little boat before it sinks! But…the rewards are many, we’ve had great experiences through homeschooling, too, and I have learned to think out of the box in terms of addressing the kids’ needs — and mine. To get my quiet time, I’m often up and writing by 6:30 AM. Some solo head time and time to pray is so important.

    • I prefer the drip myself — the morning and evening rush does me in, and then I just lounge while the kids are gone, doing nothing. I need the kids around to keep on track. Except when they’re getting me off track, hehe.

      But yes, sometimes that need for quiet can get desperate. It takes some creativity to figure out ways to get it. Or plod on without it until the break finally comes.

  3. Wow! Just came across your blog via Larry D at AoftheA.

    This was a great little post, though! I just finished my second year of homeschooling. The first year, I only home-schooled my oldest (of 5) and it was fantastic, this year I taught 3 of them (having increased the family size by one), which has been a big struggle, and next year I’m sending 3 of them back to school. My oldest (11 yrs.) will still be taught at home, but we’ll be adding another member to the family this October, and for me, my homeschooling days consisted of the whirlwind times in the morning and afternoon AND the constant drip all day. I was starting to go a little crazy and my poor children were starting to feel the affects of it. I wasn’t able to get anything done all day, and my afternoons/evenings were still crazy!

    So, needless to say, this post was quite comforting. In my group of acquaintances, it is hard to find support for my decision to send most of my children back into the regular school system. There are a lot of die hard home schoolers that don’t seem to see any reason why a mother CAN’T home school. I feel that, regardless of the schooling choices made, they should be made for the good of the whole family, and as my mother always used to say, “If the mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

    Cheers!

  4. Thea, I’m glad it was helpful! There are so many moms in the big middle where everything isn’t easy and perfect — we’re the ones too busy keeping up with normal life to have time to speak for ourselves. Please pass this around to anyone else in the ranks of the normal moms who could use a little encouragement.

    And congratulations on your new addition — how exciting!

  5. All that has been discussed is very true and pertains to every family as it grows and/or changes for various reasons. As a mother and grandmother, homeschooling was not even heard of. Catholic school or public school was the only major choice. Even these choices were hard for student and parents.Most kids need a structured daily routine to prepare for the outside life and future careers,however only getting in (passing the various tests to gain entrance) was stressful on the child and you were taunted if you didnt make the grade. Also even then the enormous cost of high school, uniforms ,books etc. was pressure on the parents. Then after all this, the child didnt work well with strict rules from teaching staff including nuns and priests. On the other side was public school,it was throwing your kids to the wolves with all those bad kids.So even years ago a decision on schooling presented unanswered questions.The basic answer to me is train your children with God,pray a lot and make a decision on what is best for the child and what they seem to be able to handle. No wrong or right answer here-just faith!

    • “pray a lot and make a decision on what is best for the child and what they seem to be able to handle” Bingo. There’s often not a perfect choice, you just have to make do with what you’ve got.

  6. Thanks for a very candid and positive post on this topic!
    I find that prayer is essential in developing the self discipline and sacrificial nature that you describe here; especially when it comes to working from home and homeschooling (of which, I do both). Setting certain goals/parameters about when I will “work” and when I will set that aside to devote 100% attention to my husband, children, and hearth and then: 1) Praying for the grace to STICK to that and 2) Accepting and acting on the grace that I TRUST is sent, immediately, by God, through my prayer.
    This is definitely an “easier said than done” but it IS possible and VERY rewarding!
    Thanks for sharing a look at both sides in such an encouraging and uplifting way!

  7. I just came across this article today (5/10) as we were having some computer glitches and I am catching up on e-mails.
    This article is just what I needed to hear. I tried my hand at homeschooling but found that it just wasn’t the right fit for our family. I was dealing with the death of my parents 17 months apart and an ailing father-in-law. There was not much support in the Catholic homeschool group that I belonged to. It was just too much. My children and I were all suffering from Mom’s lack of sleep, focus, and grief. What hurt the most is I also found many of those in the Catholic group to be “die hard” homeschoolers and they had an “us” against the “Catholic schools attitude. We need to support each other no matter what decision a family makes for their child’s education. We are all one big Catholic family that is also growing and changing. Love will conquer not criticism.

  8. Cassie, thank you so much for sharing that experience. There are certain people in every kind of education who just don’t believe the “other way” can work. You are not alone! I hear from many parents who’ve been in a similar situation, and struggled with the guilt that gets piled on from well-meaning friends.

    There *are* families for whom homeschooling makes it easier to get through a crisis. But that’s not every family. We have a Catholic high school in our diocese that offers homeschool courses — I’d love to see more connections between homeschoolers and Catholic schools built up over time.

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