You know that expression that you’re often your own worst enemy? Well, sometimes that’s true with homeschooling. Despite our good intentions and overly optimistic plans, we make homeschool harder than it has to be and end up feeling frustrated and defeated, searching for relief.
It makes sense that homeschooling will be hard from time to time, but we’ve got to consider that we often bring it on ourselves. That can be a tough thing to accept, but it happens.
The good news is that it only takes a little time of reflection and some correction to remedy this. That reflection and correction starts with considering whether or not you’re making homeschool harder than it has to be.
5 Signs you’re making homeschool harder than it has to be
Not sure where to start with that reflection? Here are five signs to help you determine if you’re causing some of your homeschool troubles.
1. You don’t know your non-negotiables.
Like anything else in life, you can expect homeschooling to be difficult if you haven’t established priorities. Without priorities, it’s hard to find a starting point each day and stay motivated with daily execution.
Even worse, without priorities, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a clear vision of how your educational goals for your kids fit into daily homeschool life. And just like we read in Proverbs 29, without vision, we’ll perish.
Granted that sounds a little extreme when we apply it to homeschooling, but the principle is the same. We need vision in our homeschools; understanding our priorities helps us keep that vision front and center in the day-to-day.
The cool thing about that is you get to decide what takes priority in your homeschool and why. You get to decide what happens; you get to decide what’s negotiable and what’s not.
For us, the non-negotiables are math and language arts. If needed, I can teach both of my kids together for the other subjects or shift them to other spots on my homeschool plans. Those other subjects are negotiable because they never leave us feeling overwhelmed if we need to make them up elsewhere.
Math and language arts are a different story for us since my kids are five years apart in age. We’re faithful to do math and language arts each day because it’s harder on us when we’re not. The catch up and schedule shifting that comes from not doing math and language arts isn’t worth it.
Instead of making homeschool harder than it has to be, we’re faithful to our non-negotiables each day by putting them first. Having a clear understanding of what happens first makes it easier to deal with busy seasons of life or even unexpected interruptions to your routine.
Put simply, if life happens and we find ourselves making a mid-morning Walmart run, we cover the most important things and we can do what needs to be done without a second thought.
2. You have trust issues.
You also make homeschool harder than necessary when you don’t trust the system. In homeschool speak, trusting the system means implementing a teaching method or educational philosophy and giving it time to do what it aims to do before embracing another method.
Trusting the system is also important in regards to curriculum choices. There will be times when the curriculum isn’t working, no doubt, but there’s a difference in making needed changes and making changes because you’re not confident in your choices.
I’ve seen this play out several times before in our homeschool journey. Have you been there too? You know what it looks like: buying new curriculum, LOVING it, but changing to something else because it doesn’t look like it measures up when compared to what everyone else seems to be doing.
Huge mistake. Those brief glimpses to another lane — or another homeschool — have major repercussions.
Each time this happened, I made homeschool harder on myself by making unneeded mid-year curriculum changes. Those changes wiped out my homeschool budget and pointed me away from curriculum that was really a great fit for us.
In turn, the switch sent us regrouping and trying something different a few months later each time because the “better” options weren’t really better for us at all. The sad thing is that it’s all easily avoided by trusting the system to do what it’s designed to do.
Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Stay in your lane and don’t concern yourself with what everyone else does or appears to do. If what you’re doing is working, trust it and enjoy it.
3. You’re not prepared.
It’s no secret that pretty much everything in life runs smoother when we prepare ahead of time. And really now, aren’t we all happier when we’re ready to face our days? I know I am. When I’m prepared, I set the tone for a relaxed but efficient day. There’s little or no guesswork, which allows me to lead well and give my kids the best of me.
Unfortunately, there are times when I don’t prepare for homeschool the way I should. When I’m not prepared, it always shows.
Despite my Type A personality, I’ve had my share of unprepared homeschool days. Failing to read ahead, prepare needed supplies, and wake up on time have all happened a good deal in my 10+ years of homeschooling.
None of those things may seem like a big deal, but they make homeschool so much harder because — for better or worse — my kids follow my lead just as your kids follow yours.
When I’m not prepared for homeschooling, my kids find something else to do while I prepare during school time. That causes us to get started later, lose track of time, and eventually shift some, if not all, of our plans to another day.
Those are some pretty nasty consequences when you consider it usually takes me no more than an hour each week to prepare for both of my kids. No doubt, when I’m not faithful in my preparations, I make homeschool harder than it has to be and we all pay for it.
I’m guessing the same is true for you.
Think about it, our kids can only do so much of their parts if we don’t do ours.
That doesn’t mean you need to walk the homeschool hall of shame if you miss your prep time every now and then, but it would behoove us to remember that homeschooling requires us to be responsible leaders. Let’s lead them well, amen?
4. You’re distracted.
There’s no doubt that life is busy. Along with homeschooling, I’ve got laundry, cooking, and housekeeping to handle. Add errands, extra-curriculars, quality time with the family, and self-care to the mix and there’s a legitimate juggling act happening.
Then there’s the rectangle in my pocket.
There are plenty of things to juggle each day without the rectangle, but I can’t set myself up for a smooth homeschool day if I immediately respond to every buzz, chime, and ding from my phone.
What’s worse is the horrible double standard I present to my kids when I expect them to focus on homeschooling while I’m scrolling the social feeds. I certainly can’t expect them to shut out the distractions when I’m not willing to do so myself.
It all comes down to controlling or being controlled.
All that to say, it’s not wrong to check your social media feeds in the middle of a school day, but do it sparingly. After all, there are plenty of daily distractions we can’t control. That’s all the more reason to control the ones we can.
Better yet, when we’re able to maintain focus while homeschooling, we set a powerful example for our children. That example goes a long way in keeping our homeschool days on track and helping us avoid unnecessary attention issues along the way.
5. You never feel like you’re doing enough.
If you don’t feel like you’re doing enough, it’s probably safe to let go of that feeling. After all, people who really aren’t doing enough don’t usually care about doing enough, but I digress.
Remember, you get to call the shots with homeschooling. You get to define “enough” and you have the freedom to change it from season to season.
Furthermore, it’s okay if your “enough” doesn’t look like my “enough.” A customized education can’t look the same across the board. We all have unique children with different needs, gifts, and goals.
Also, unreasonable expectations always make things harder than they have to be. In the name of “doing enough,” it’s possible you’re expecting too much from yourself or your kids in the course of one day or one week.
Instead of trying to cover everything each day, focus on those daily non-negotiables and then sprinkle in a few other subjects where you can each day.
I mentioned earlier than our non-negotiables are math and language arts. In addition to those daily non-negotiables, we often do music appreciation on Mondays, history on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and science on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Then I may add nature study, geography, and a hands-on project on the two lightest days. Since all of these things have predetermined spots in the week, there’s no temptation to cram our days. That means there’s less need to reschedule or do extra work to make up for things that aren’t accomplished.
Focusing on three or four main subjects each day may not be “enough” in everyone’s eyes, but I know it’s enough for us. I’ve seen what happens when we try to do too much. I now understand the value of giving our best to a few subjects rather than barely touching on lots of things each day.
All this to say, reasonable expectations and embracing your unique family both go a long way in cultivating a smoother, more peaceful homeschool. On the other hand, you make homeschooling harder when you lose sight of what works for you and your kids and ignore the freedom you have through homeschooling.
In closing, know that some days come more easily than others. That’s also true for some seasons in homeschooling. Even so, there’s no need to make homeschool harder than it would otherwise be.
When we stay faithful to our callings and steward our time well, we set the temperature for a positive, comfortable, and efficient learning atmosphere. And that, my friend, is always worth the time and attention required to make it happen.