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When homeschooling is hard

It must be that time of year when families begin to discern if they should homeschool or not because I have gotten, "Katie, I would love to ask you some questions about homeschooling."  a lot lately.

And, truthfully, I try to avoid the conversation.  I usually laugh and say, "I am probably not the person you should ask."  And I try to direct them to a more veteran homeschool who can give them some great information. 

I do this because I am afraid that if I really share what I think about homeschooling and my experiences, that these families will not want to homeschool. Because if a homeschooler would have shared a typical day like mine with me when I was asking that question, I think I would have thought, "I am NOT signing up for THAT!" and forgotten all about the idea of homeshooling. 

But, instead, I heard /hear . . .

- Oh, we are done by noon. 
- My (insert an insanely young age) son/daughter just finished the Chronicles of Narnia.
- We do unschooling.  I just leave books around the house and my kids teach themselves.  They LOVE to read!
- Look at this great drawing my son/daughter did . . .

I could go on, but you all get the idea.  While, I know it is true that we all tend to show and share our best and our triumphs, and it is good to do so, there is another reality of homeschooling that is HARD.  As with kids in school, not all homeschooled children will be accepted into Harvard by the time they are 12.  Some, most, are just average kids.  Average students.  And some have learning disabilities that make each day HARD.

And that is where we are at.  My oldest has a learning disability.  He cannot write.  He can verbally tell you a beautiful, well thought out sentence, but if he has to write it, he simply cannot.  And when he has to write, there are usually lots of tears (by both him and me).  Last week, as a part of a vocabulary assignment, he had to write sentences to answer about 12 questions.

3 1/2 hours later, he finished.  If someone were to look at it, they would have thought my 4 year old answered the questions.  J felt defeated.  I felt defeated.  3 1/2 hours! We do not do this every day.  I could not do that everyday.  I make lots of modifications to his work. We do lots verbally.  But, we frequently have days like the one above. 

My reality:
-There some days we are done by noon. These are infrequent.  There are many days we are still plugging away at 4PM. Homeschooling feels like it consumes most of our days.  And when we are done, I am TIRED and often worn out.
-If I leave the room during school, it is inevitable that all work will stop until I return.
- My oldest and even my middle son need LOTS of direction.  They need lots of one on one time.  Both work below grade level, for the most part.  And most days I feel like I am not giving enough time to K or to A (my 4 year old).

I am not sharing this, in any way, to put my oldest down.  The thing that hurts about this is that he is so SMART.  He has an excellent vocabulary and remembers details from books and history, that most people would not even know they had read.  He had the Gettysburg Address memorized in two days. 

So, I looked at these facts, and blamed myself for his failures.  And then when my 6 year old really started with school, he progressed faster than his brother, but he still had many difficulties, I thought, "Well, I am the common denominator."  And the self-blame became worse.  I MUST be the problem.  They would do better if I would just . . .

Then my 4 year old came along.  He has been begging me to do school.  And he is doing it.  He is doing math that his brothers struggled with.  And he reads.  He reads. With little effort.  He is easy to homeschool. And, suddenly, I realized, "OK, maybe it is not me.  This is just who they are."

So, for these past several years, I have struggled with a lot of self doubt. A lot.  And this is the first time that I feel like I need to be completely honest.  I need to let go of the self doubt.  I need to share that homeschooling can be HARD. It can be very HARD. And you may be doing everything RIGHT!

But, just like anything God calls us to, of course it can be hard.  I cannot imagine NOT homeschooling my children.  I would not want them anywhere else.  There is a beauty in it.  A beauty in the ability to help form your children spiritually and intellectually.  I can tailor my children's education to fit their learning styles.  For the first time in our homeschooling journey, I feel like I can finally let go of outside expectations or trying to fit into what other's find is best, and just do what we need to do.  For J. For K. For A.

A few weeks ago I talked to a veteran homeschooler who is years ahead of me on a similar journey with her own children.  At the end of the conversation, she said to me . . .

"Katie, when it is hard, remember YOU are the best teacher for your son.  No one will be able to give him the education that you can.  Because no one can know him and his struggles better than you."

These are words I will hold on to for years to come; those days when I feel like this daily struggle is hard and that maybe we are not hearing God correctly on homeschooling.  I am the best educator of my children. 

And, if God has called you to homeschooling, YOU ARE TOO!


  1. Katie, I could relate to this on SO MANY LEVELS!! It is hard, and sometimes I feel like homeschooling moms are under a bit of a microscope. Our kids are supposed to smarter than the average student because we homeschool, our classrooms are supposed to be cute and ordered and our schedules filled with crafts and field trips etc, etc....and it's just simply not like that here! I have cried buckets of tears with the fear that I am failing my kids or doing so many things wrong. But, your friend is right, you are the best person for the job, because no one loves your son like you do, now one understands him like you do, and no one will sit beside him for 3.5 hours while he struggles to finish his work and see him through it to the end. (it's no coincidence that you are a marathon runner!) Hang in there, my friend!! WE can do it!!

    1. Yes we can Susan! Thanks for your comment. I cannot tell you how many times I have thought that my boys would be better somewhere else, with someone else teaching them. I think is is so easy to doubt ourselves when we educate our children at home because we are responsible for their education. Often I forget that I am not solely responsible though . . . there are so many things that play into their success and failure in school. Ultimately, I want my boys to love learning and hunger for it.

  2. Hugs and support! Don't know the homeschool struggle but I know your mother's heart and am sure that your boys are doing as well if not better than they would in any other 'school'.

  3. There's that saying about not judging your own life by someone else's highlights reel. I'm sure that those people who are done by noon also have a laser focus on their kids and rule with an iron fist. Maybe their kid read "The Chronicles of Narnia" at age 5 but the same kid could also be abysmal at math.

    My son Daniel has developmental delays so almost everything has been delayed. It's excruciating some days to read what other people's kids are doing on Facebook but it also means that there's twice the celebration when the milestones occur.

    1. Jen-
      I saw that saying on Pinterest once and I think of it often when I read blogs, etc and see what other homeschooling moms do.

  4. I have a house full of learning issues. My oldest is in college but I worry about the rest. My 13 year old daughter is just now understanding enough to read. Yet they are brilliant children. They have an understanding about God that is incredible, I am often jealous that they know HIM so much better than I. One thing I know is that I care more about their future than anyone else. I am far more motivated to get them on course than any great teacher that leaves to go to her own kids at the end of the day. God knew me and my limits when He send me these kids, I only hope I am living up to His plans. Years ago we wrote a family "motto" as it were. Our Goal In Life Is Heaven, And Anything Else is Just Gravy. Reading, writing and math are gravy. If it is His plan that they will need those things then he will help us get there. Now my oldest son, my 3rd, at 17 tells me he wants to become a priest and has contacted two seminaries. This is wonderful news except I am not sure how we can help him catch up academically, as he only started reading proficiently at 14. If that is his path then we will find a way. Good luck and you are really on track!

  5. I've thought that often - some homeschooling days are just a really BAD advert for homeschooling. I also have a kid (or two) who struggles in certain areas and the process is just so HARD. But then, I was encouraged this week watching my 8 yo doing maths. She is a grade "behind" but she's GETTING it! And enjoying it. And doing it her way (which is making up stories with the manipulative blocks while practising regrouping/carrying over in addition). Thanks for your encouragement to remember the important things - namely that even if it is hard, we're the mama and that counts for a WHOLE lot. :-)

  6. Katie, this was so refreshing to read! It was encouragement beyong measure! Thank you! - Theresa
    (Also, I haven't stopped by here for a while, so I don't know how "new" it is, but I love your new blog header!)

  7. What a generous and lovely lady you are to share your sorrows as well as your joys in home schooling. What an encouragement for all of us who have "homeschool difficult" days [or stages that are longer than days]. Just like the Bible tells us about individuals who struggle and overcome and it is an encouragement for us to know that none of these people were perfect, neither are we perfect and we have to keep looking to God for our focus. Thank you for redirecting us to Him. Best wishes. P.S. Sorry to comment as anonymous but I don't have any account


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