In my last homeschooling post, I talked about the 5 ways that homeschooling has benefited our family. While I absolutely believe that homeschooling has enriched our lives so much in these 3 short years, I also will be the first to admit that it isn’t always easy.
I have found that anything in life worth doing has a learning curve and it’s own set of struggles built in, and homeschooling is no different. Everyone’s journey won’t be the same. You might be faced with different challenges in your homeschool than we have in ours, but I am sure there will be opportunities to grow. Here are the biggest challenges that we have had to work through so far, and some tips on how we are handling them.
1) Flexibility- If you read my first post in this series on the benefits of homeschooling, you will remember that flexibility was also listed there as my #1 benefit. In my mind, flexibility is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have the ability to create your own schedule and make homeschooling fit into your life. On the other hand, too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.
I have had to struggle with actually getting around to doing school during busy seasons. It is so easy to put actual school work on the back burner when it seems like there are so many other things that need to get done. It is also easy to fall into the trap of trying to twist every single daily activity into a schooling opportunity. Sure, if your child is helping you to keep track of the spending on a calculator at the grocery store, that may count as math, but just reading off the price tags probably shouldn’t (unless your child is a preschooler).
Like my brother-in-law always says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” In order for your homeschool to be successful, you have to have a plan and a routine. A benefit is that you can hold your routine loosely and change it up as necessary, but you do need to have a plan in place that you can come back to when you feel overwhelmed and stretched too thin.
2) Family Time- This is another point that was also on my benefits post. Family time is great. But when you begin homeschooling, you may need to set some boundaries with extended family. I love our family, but at first they just couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that since our kids were home, it wasn’t okay to be showing up and trying to take them places during our school time.
My mother-in-law lives out of state, so when she comes for a visit, we usually put school on the back burner for a couple days. We did have to make sure that she knew it was only for a couple days though. The first few times she visited after we started homeschooling, she stayed for 2-3 weeks and wanted to take my children with her everywhere the whole time. The result was I was frustrated, we were extremely behind in school, and it was hard getting the kids back on track after she left. Now when she comes, we set aside a couple days for her, and during the rest of the week she visits other family, and we meet up with her again on the weekends.
The same goes for phone calls. My mom was getting into the habit of calling me every morning right in the middle of our school time. I just had to gently remind her that we are in the middle of school and she can’t call in the mornings. Now if she does, I either don’t answer or just let her know we are busy and I will call her back. Family is important, but so is my children’s education.
3) No personal time- Any stay-at-home mom can tell you that it can be hard to find time for yourself. This is multiplied when you are also your children’s teacher. You won’t have that time to yourself to relax or run errands or do chores during the day when your children are at school. Anything you have to do, you will be doing with an entourage of little people.
You will have to get intentional about carving out “you” time. Because you will need some time for you, or you won’t be the best mom and teacher you can be. The first year and a half of homeschooling I was very frazzled. I wanted to give up plenty of times. Sometimes I still feel like that, and if you do, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you are a bad mom/teacher or that you aren’t cut out for the job. You can do this!!!
Here’s how I get time for myself:
-I spend some time in the morning reading my Bible, praying, and drinking my coffee before the kids get up. If they happen to wake up early or I wake up late, they know that I will get them breakfast after I am done. Usually now they will just grab their own Bible or a picture book and sit next to me quietly.
-We have a quiet time every afternoon. For the little’s, this is naptime. For my older children, they are allowed to read quietly on their beds. During this time, I sit down and read, or work on my blog or essential oil business. I do not do housework. If I am very tired, I will nap with the babies.
-My husband and I take at least one date night out of the house each month. We usually try to every other weekend. And in the evenings, we hang out together talking, listening to music, or watching tv.
It is possible to get time alone. If you have to hire a babysitter for a couple hours during the week, go for it. Take care of you and you will be better able to take care of everyone else.
4) High Standards- When you make the decision to homeschool your children, you will automatically be under the scrutiny of friends and family, whether they come right out and say it or not. If your child isn’t reading by a certain age, people may wonder if you are doing a good enough job teaching them. If another child the same age as yours seems to have more knowledge in a certain area, you may begin to question yourself and your abilities.
I’m going to tell you right now–don’t let people’s opinions, either perceived or real, stop you from homeschooling your child! Every single child is different. Some children learn to read by time they are 4, others not until 7 or 8. Some children enjoy math and it just “clicks” with them, whereas others may need more practice and teaching.
My son was already sounding out letters and adding/subtracting when he was 5, but my daughter is taking longer. On the other hand, she is so artistic and everyone always comments on how well she draws and colors. Each and every child is different! Don’t waste time and peace of mind comparing.
A great thing about homeschooling is that you are teaching the whole child, not just drilling facts to be regurgitated on the next test. Your child may take longer on certain subjects but excel in others. As a homeschool family, you also aren’t confined to grade levels. Most of last year my son was at or just below grade level for language arts, but way advanced in science-I would say that he is easily 2 grade levels ahead. So I don’t stress whether he is at the same level as his age peers. I know that he is doing just fine, it will all even out, and he is getting a well-rounded education.
Of course, if you feel like your child is way behind, you will definitely want to look into getting a tutor or changing up the way you are doing things. But otherwise, just remember that not all flowers bloom in the same season.
5) Cost- I hear this one often. “I just couldn’t afford to homeschool my child.” While that may be true in extreme circumstances, it probably isn’t in most. Yes, in order to homeschool, one parent has to stay home most of the time. Yes, curriculum and supplies cost money. But where there is a will, there is a way.
We are a family of 7, and up until I started working from home a few months ago, we were living on one income. I save money by planning my meals around whatever meat is on sale that week, and I cook most things from scratch. We eat cereal or oatmeal most days for breakfast. For lunch we either have sandwiches, leftovers, or quesadillas. All are very economical. My children also love rice and beans for lunch, and my husband loves having them with dinner, so often dinner is a meat with rice, beans, and veggies. Coupons are also a great way to save money on food.
If you shop at thrift stores, you can often find very good children’s clothes for pennies on the dollar of retail price. They grow out of clothes or stain them up so frequently that I feel like it is a waste of money to even pay full price anymore. Plus, you won’t have to go back-to-school clothing shopping or worry about having to buy those expensive brand name clothes so they will fit in. My children still get new clothes, but usually just on their birthdays, Christmas, or from grandparents.
As for the actual cost of homeschooling, you can find many resources for free or cheap online and in the dollar store. If you do a google search of “free homeschool curriculum” you will see tons of resources. I also like the choices from Queens Homeschooling–you can find them by clicking the ad in my sidebar. She puts out many Charlotte Mason style resources at inexpensive prices. I also like to take advantage of back to school sales for school materials.
There also may be a charter school option in your area. I know some people don’t like to go this route because it is still a government run school, but your family gets to use the funding that a public school would get. With a charter school, you would have someone come out once a month to check your child’s work and make sure they are on track. And then you get to choose the curriculum and resources you need for your child, and they will supply you with them. Charter schools will also often pay for extracurricular activities such as music, swimming lessons, archery, martial arts, science labs, etc. It is a great option if you just can’t find the extra money in your budget, or if you like the idea of someone holding you accountable.
I hope that you were able to see that although there may be challenges to homeschooling, they can all be overcome with a little planning and perseverance.
Check out the final post in this series-Our favorite homeschool curriculum.
For all you seasoned homeschool families out there-is there anything you would add? And if you are thinking about homeschooling, feel free to leave any questions in the comments and I will try my best to answer them.
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