Homeschooling Pros and Cons: Part 1

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People opposed to homeschooling focus on all the things – real or imagined – wrong with homeschooling. To combat that, those of us who homeschool tend to focus only on the positives. The truth, however, if both sides are honest, is that there are both homeschooling pros and cons.

Homeschooling Pros and Cons

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I’m going to start with the cons for two reasons:

1) You already know that I, as a homeschooling mom, am for homeschooling.

2) You probably expected me to start with the pros and I don’t like being predictable.

I’ll post the pros next Tuesday.

Homeschooling Cons

1. Homeschooling is a huge responsibility.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself because, let’s face it, parenting is a huge responsibility. That doesn’t mean that your average, well-adjusted, self-supporting couple shouldn’t have children.

It does, however, mean that homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It’s not all unicorns, puppies, and rainbows. There are hard days. There are days when you – the homeschooling parent – doubt what you’re doing. Are you teaching your children what they need to know? Are you covering enough? Are you adequately preparing them for life after homeschool?

I think – obviously – that homeschooling can be done and done well, but it takes commitment and the realization that every day is not a walk in the park with your children eagerly gathered around awaiting the wisdom you are about to impart.

Homeschooling means that all that stuff you might like to blame on the teacher will be resting squarely on your shoulders. {Tweet this.}

2. The homeschooling parent will take all the blame for any educational shortcomings.

With #1 comes #2. If there are any shortcomings, real or perceived,  in your child’s education, you’re probably going to get the blame. It’s human nature to want to blame someone else.

Don’t believe me? How many times have you caught yourself, upon learning something new while teaching your kids, saying something along the lines of: Oh, well. I’m a product of the public schools.

I confess to telling a couple of friends lately that some days (the hard ones) I wish we’d left Brianna in public school, not because I think she’d have done any better there or that homeschooling hasn’t been successful, but so that when she wants to blame me for not knowing something, she could blame it on the school and not on me.

I don’t really wish we hadn’t homeschooled. Overall, I think it’s been great for our family, but those times when our homeschool day is epitomizing that statement, “You can lead a horse to water…,” I sometimes fantasize about the responsibility and blame being on someone else’s shoulders.

How’s that for transparency?

3. You’re under a microscope.

This pretty much goes with the previous two statements. If you’ve got a shy, introverted kid, he’s that way because you homeschool. If there’s a typo in your Facebook status update, there’s going to be somebody who says (or is thinking), “And, you homeschool your child?”

Ask a question on Twitter that doesn’t come out quite like you meant it and people are going to reply with things like, “I feel sorry for your kids.” (True story.)

As a homeschooling parent, you’re often not allowed a shy kid, a simple mistake, or a bad day. Your child’s emotional, social, and educational well-being apparently depends upon always typing the correct there, their, or they’re.

4. You have to teach the difficult subjects.

Remember algebra, trigonometry, or chemistry? If you can think of teaching any of those subjects without shuddering, you’re ahead of most of us. The good thing is, you’re often surprised to find that you remember more than you thought you did, and it’s sometimes easier than it was in your memory when you’re learning it the second time alongside your kids.

Thankfully, there are options such as: tutoring, video and online courses, and co-ops.

5. You’re with your kids 24/7.

Don’t get all bent out of shape. This one’s going to make the “pros” list, too. This isn’t a con in the “I could never stand to spend all day with my kids” way. However, there are things to consider with regards to being with your kids all day.

  • Introverts like me will have to figure out ways to carve out some alone time. Being with people all. day. long. is hard for us – even when it’s people we love.
  • Activities like lunch dates or doctors’ appointments for Mom require a bit more planning than they would if your kids were in school.
  • Finding time to workout will require more planning and sometimes more ingenuity.
  • Your house may not be clean until after your youngest child graduates.

6. It can be difficult teaching multiple grade/ability levels at once.

This one is trickier the younger your kids are. As they learn to read and get more independent, it gets much easier. That’s not to say that it’s not sometimes mind-boggling to go from teaching long division to solving algebraic equations in the space of five minutes, but, hey, that keeps your mental faculties young, right?

I’ve been very fortunate that Brianna is far enough ahead of Josh and Megan that she was reading and not needing lots and lots of one-on-one time by the time they hit the formal learning stage. Add to that the fact that the younger two are close enough in age to school together on most subjects, and I’ve had it pretty easy.

I still remember, though, having three different kids doing three different levels of math at one time and everyone hollering, “Mom! Mom, I need help.”

We quickly ditched the “everyone on the same subject at the same time” idea in favor of alternating what one or two could do independently with what the remaining child/children needed focused attention on.

7. There are more out-of-pocket expenses for curriculum and supplies.

This may not be true for everyone and I don’t think it costs as much to homeschool as many people think it does, but the cost of curriculum and big-ticket items, like computers or microscopes, can add up quickly…and there’s no government funding for that. (Not that I want there to be, but that’s another post for another day.)

Some people argue that at least homeschooling families don’t have to buy as many school clothes or uniforms. That may be true to some extent, but homeschooled kids still have to have clothes – and some of them like shopping for new clothes as much as public-schooled kids and feel ripped off if they don’t get a back-to-school shopping spree. {ahem}

Even the ones who don’t like shopping for clothes sometimes go through insane growth spurts and the jeans you bought a little big last Christmas so they’d still fit this fall are now an inch or two north of said kid’s ankles. Ask me how I know.

8. Sibling bickering can drive you to the brink of insanity.

I’ve mentioned before how I bought in to that homeschool propaganda about homeschooled siblings being BFFs. Now, don’t get me wrong; my kids love each other, but that thing I mentioned about being around people all. day. long. even if it’s people you love? Yeah, that affects kids, too.

This is a shameful story, but it’s true. I remember there being this girl in junior high (way back in the day before it was called middle school). Her name was Jenny. I delighted in tormenting her. I lived to bicker with her, one-up her, and just generally annoy her. I would be even more ashamed of admitting that if I weren’t certain that the feeling was mutual. It wasn’t that we disliked each other. It was that we delighted in annoying each other.

As shameful as that story is, I’m glad I had the experience, because now I recognize when my kids are doing that to each other. It’s not meanness as much as it is mental and verbal dueling. That makes it a little easier to take. Some days.

Then, there are days when I want to run screaming from the house. Or, I consider taking to strong drink.

9.  You have to get more creative with social opportunities and extracurricular activities.

The thing about homeschooling kids being weird and unsocialized is, by and large, untrue. I’m sure there are some weird, unsocialized homeschooled kids. There are weird, unsocialized public school kids, too.

That being said, my kids don’t see their friends every day and it does require a bit more creativity getting them to group activities. They can’t just go to band practice after school. They have to be driven to the place where the homeschool band practices. They don’t sign up for the drama club. You have to drive them to the theater. And, they don’t sit and chat with their friends between class or at lunch. You have to arrange play dates – or times for them to hang out. They don’t like it when you call it a play date after age 13 or so.

The cool thing is, even though it may take a little more work (and driving) on your part, the opportunities are there for homeschooled kids. My kids have done music class, plays, volleyball, books clubs, field trips, Valentine’s parties, prom and much more.

And, sometimes, we have “socialization class” just for good measure. It usually involves hanging out at the mall, watching a movie, going to a park, bowling, or just meeting for lunch.

10. You may have to buy a rectangular baking pan.

One of the biggest drawbacks to homeschooling, in the early years, was our lack of square pizza. So, I had to start using a rectangular pan. It was a difficult adjustment, let me tell you.

What are some of the cons you’ve discovered about homeschooling, and how did you overcome them?

Click to read >> Part 2.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. What!!! Pizzas are suppose to be retangular?? How come no one every told me that…. (or are they supose to be square? I’m confused)

    Thank for this honest look. We hope to homeschool (little boy is only 22 months!) and right now it looks all sorts of fun and rosy. So, its good to be reminded at times of what it can be like.

  2. I would say easily my biggest con is feeling like I just don’t do enough. I meet other home-school mommies and think “wow, I really suck at this.” And I totally feel the microscope–every time I take them anywhere or talk to anyone about homeschool I feel like what they know or don’t know is completely my fault and/or failure as a home-school mom. My older son is dyslexic and having a lot of trouble learning to read–we’re taking our time and working on self-care as well as reading (he’s brilliant in math so we don’t focus on that as much–we still do it, but he doesn’t need extra help.) and I feel like him being “behind” in reading comes off as my laziness. It can be rough.

    1. I understand completely, Liz. I have two children with dyslexia. If your kids are in public (or private) school, they can have a learning disability. If you homeschool, any areas of struggle are because you homeschool.

      Hey, at least you and I (and other homeschoolers) know that’s not true. Be sure to read next week. One of the pros of homeschooling deals with this very issue. Hang in there!

      1. My oldest started in public school. She has dyslexia and a hearing impairment. I have been able to do so much more for her than public school was ever able to. You can read her story here
        We focus on her strengths, let her work at her own pace and follow her interest. She has done exceptionally well. No one cares more about your child’s success than you do so, no one will strive to what is best for your child more than you will.

      2. It can be very annoying to be viewed as the problem to your child’s learning (I know I’m not, but that I can help and hinder in the course of things). We have been dealing with that for the past few years. I’m very glad that I read you post today and am looking forward to next weeks. It is very easy to get caught up in the negatives (have been lately), I’m ready to read the positives!

      3. I actually had a school deny us speech services in the past stating that the issues were only related to homeschooling and that for him to receive help we would have to put him in school. Very frustrating and so untrue. Glad we stuck with what we were doing at home though. He is doing amazing at 14 now. It seems when my kids were younger I fretted more about if I was doing enough. Not saying it never comes up now but I have learned to be a lot more relaxed about things and enjoy the time we have together.

  3. All of this is awesome and helpful. I’d like to give a major bahahahaha to the square pizza! Rock on, square pizza!

  4. Wow. I can tell FB has affected me because I wanted to hit “like” for every. single. sentence.! I would add another “con” (that still applies to every kid, really) and that is trying to give your children a balanced view. It’s so easy (for all of us) to get self-righteous about homeschooling, (or breastfeeding, or church-going, etc.) and kids have a hard time differentiating, especially when THEY don’t always like homeschooling (or public school, or private school, or the responsibilities that come with growing up 🙂 so we try to present it in the best light possible. Sometimes I feel like a termite in a yo-yo, because I want them to know that they are taking the very best path, and yet not look down on their public school friends (even though it’s easy to see the problems their friends are having that ARE attributable directly to the “institutionalization” they are receiving). They have a hard time not blaming EVERY issue on public school, when in fact, people are different, and have free will. Well, you can see why I don’t run my own blog – it would never END! 🙂

    1. Yes, yes, yes! When my oldest told me that none of her friends were readers because, “They go to public school, and they don’t have time to read with all their homework and classes,” I had to take a big gulp and look more carefully on the things I was saying to her (and around her). Sometimes I feel like my life consists of chasing after that elusive thing called “balance.”

  5. this post was amazing… thank you for being so honest. I am just now starting this journey and you speak of everything I fear….. it’s so good to know we aren’t alone but why do we all still feel that way?

  6. Thanks for this. For 3 years I have struggled with wether or not to take my kids out of public school. PS was fine when we were stationed in San Diego, but once we moved back to my home town in Maine I realized just how far behind the school system here was compared to the country let alone the world (it took until half way through second grade for the school here to catch up to the work my oldest did in half day kindergarden at Camp Pendleton, they have full day kindergarden here.)
    My only reservation this year is that my 3rd daughter will be starting kindergarden and she is likely somewhere on the autism spectrum (haven’t had her tested for that yet) and she has had a severe speech delay, which my medical insurance did pay for for a year and a half. She ‘graduated’ in December and I was told by the speech therapist that she is at the point where she has to wait until she is in school to continue and that the school system pays for it (to my daughter’s benefit she did have an amazing therapist and she made 3 years of progress in a year and a half. the therapist was amazed at how quickly she learned and also noted her oddities and told be just to keep an eye on that). So I kind of want to send her to school this coming year, but she doesn’t want to go without her older sisters. I may still HS the older two (who will be 5th and 3rd) and the youngest in preK and just send her to K.
    My oldest is considered gifted, she is reading at a much higher level than for her age (she turned 9 in October and has burned through all the Harry Potters, Hunger Games series, Eragon series, Percy Jackson, and has even started borrowing my Kristen Britian books and Raymond E.Feist books), she writes better short stories than I do (which is one of my hobbies that took me years to get good at), she’s a gifted artist but is also really good in Math, science and all other subjects. She will benefit the most from homeschooling as we can burn through material at her pace (she gets bored in school and teachers have raised concerns about her being ADD, but all her grades are 95%-100%). I’m eager to homeschool her. #2 is hard headed, onry, stubborn, dramatic and will fight me tooth and nail, but I think it’ll be worth it for her too.

    Sorry for such a long comment but your post really spoke to me and I guess I just needed a place to vent my concerns.

  7. Yes, square pizza! I think it’s hilarious that your daughter missed that because our school had two kinds of pizza–square and round. The round was so much better, but we only had it about once a year. No way would I have asked for the square pizza at home! 🙂

    Thanks for posting these. We’re definitely planning on homeschooling our kids, and although I’m excited, I know it’s going to take a lot of work. Being able to anticipate some of these things more specifically is very helpful. Looking forward to the pros!

  8. Someone posted this on a local homeschool list, and I wanted to tell you it’s a great list. I think the hardest thing for me is when my six-year-old won’t do certain things for himself like dress/undress himself and I wonder if it’s my fault or if he were going to PS would being around other kids make him a little more independent and take iniative (by contrast my three-year-old is much more of a do-it-yourselfer.) However, I look at how creative, sweet and intelligent he is, and I remember that there’s a certain area he’s always been a bit behind in, and I think that it may just be his personality and he needs more time to mature there. And with all the Pros to homeschooling, I am certainly not going to send him to school just so he can overcome some of these quirks, which really aren’t that big of a deal! Being around other kids more may not help anyway, and it might actually cause other quirks I’d stress over even more!

    1. My son was also one of those kids who just needed a little bit more time for most things. I love that homeschooling allows him that time without stigma.

  9. Thanks for the post! I needed this so much today. I started homeschooling my youngest (6th grade)this year. She has been in PS up to this time and I have days where I feel like I am not doing enough. I am constantly worrying about whether she is learning what she needs to learn. Her older sisters who are in 9th and 11th grade go to PS and I think that sometimes people look at me why am I only homeschooling one child. Her personality is so much different than of her sisters. My husband and I prayed about it and believe this is what God wants us to do. She is a very introverted child and I do worry if she is getting enough socialization but I am leaving it up to God. Thanks again for the post and encouragement.

    1. I think doing what works for each individual child is one of the biggest jobs we have as parents. Even when my oldest was in K and 1st at public school, I still thought I might homeschool my son. I can’t think of a better way of handling these huge parenting decisions than praying about it and trusting God.

  10. I am dying about the square pizza! My daughter’s biggest things she missed from public school were “lunch and recess.” Her words. And the square pizza was one of those things!

  11. Thank you for this post.
    I am a introvert with a learning disability and I home school my daughters (5&10). I have not had much support, especially from family members or friends. Some which have been very nasty. My husband is very supportive thankfully.
    I do have a tendency to compare my daughters to their PS friends and worry that they aren’t learning well… Is this normal?

    1. Yes, I think it’s perfectly normal. It’s when you quit worrying and think you have it altogether that you might need to reevaluate, I think. 🙂

  12. Kris, I have to say, this is one of my favorite posts on the truth about homeschooling. It isn’t easy. There is stigma…and in my opinion – if a parent is not ready or they haven’t felt lead to homeschool, they shouldn’t. We all have to make choices and sometimes people feel like they have to give an excuse rather than just being honest and saying they don’t want to or feel lead to. Thank you for this very real, honest and kind post –

  13. I am on the brink of that sibling bickering insanity right now. Any tips?? UGH!

    Great post, Kris. Thanks for keeping it real.

  14. I love this post! I was silently laughing at some parts (“I’m sure there are weird unsocialized homeschool kids out there”) because my sick 2 1/2 year old son is sleeping on my lap. I want to homeschool so badly and have started reading through BFIAR. It’s a bit overwhelming trying to decide exactly HOW I want to homeschool (which method) but I have such a passion for it that I know God put it on my heart. Thank you for writing this!

  15. Yes. All of the above. I’m not sure my son has progressed much since leaving PS to become my student a year and a half ago because of his learning disabilities left unidentified by the “system.” But I AM CERTAIN I will get the blame when he doesn’t meet certain standards in just a few short years.

  16. Thanks for this dose of reality! We are dealing with Math struggles this year, but we are relieved that we can take our time to get through it.

    Our square pizza is the big yellow school bus that picks up the neighbors kids. So my hubby took our son to work and let him ride on a front wheel loader!

  17. As a mom of nine that has homeschooled for a l-o-n-g time (our oldest two just graduated college…the youngest is in 2nd grade), I loved the summation of the cons of homeschooling. Too often we are afraid to list the cons lest we give someone “ammunition” but truth be told, any calling has its pros and cons and homeschooling is no exception. Well said!

    And congrats on that second Half. I’m hoping to run my second one in a couple of weeks. You go, girl!

  18. I have this sneaking suspicion the Pros list is going to be nearly similar to the Cons. Like – I’m with my kids 24/7. Both and Pro AND a Con!

  19. Kris ! Thanks for posting the very true “CONS ” !

    This is our first year of homeschooling . I struggle often , when I hear people saying ” these kids are being homeschooled ! not good for them . How can they survive in this world?”

    Statements like this makes me thing IS HOMESCHOOLING RIGHT FOR THEM ?

  20. Ugh. I am hoping to homeschool our kids. They aren’t quite to the age yet. It’s going to be a struggle, though, because our oldest is incredibly shy. This has already been attributed to our choice to have me stay at home with her instead of return to work and place her in daycare. I am sure that will be an issue. (I’ve also gotten the blame for her being left handed. Because, in case you were unaware, staying at home with your children equates left handedness. )

    1. Well of course staying home with your children makes them left-handed. That’s surely why my mom is left-handed. Hmmm…I wonder why her 5 siblings aren’t? Or my 3 kids? I’m so confused now. 😉

  21. I went to school to teach Special Education and I loved it. Until I had children. Now, I’m starting to consider homeschooling…
    This is weird because I was so sure I was completely against it. Growing up a lot of the children who were home-schooled were “weird”–just sociably awkward. As an adult at church, a lot of the home-schooled children are disrespectful and don’t know how to yield to others. I had a child yell at me to “Move!” I was shocked! In general, I notice the boys, have a HUGE problem with structure and authority–they run the show. But…It doesn’t have to be like that, right? I mean, I teach my 3 year old to say “please”, and “thank you”, and “please forgive me.”
    I’ve noticed some of the shortcomings of public school and I do want the best for my two kiddos.
    I’M TORN! Any moms out there had to really, really consider this? And has there ever been a mom that regrets homeschooling their kids? (I don’t think I’ve read of one as of yet). 🙂

    1. I think every mom who homeschools had to really, really consider this. 🙂 It’s not a decision that’s made lightly. And, I have to ask, is it only the homeschooled kids at your church who are rude? I’ve met kids both super polite and insufferably rude, but I wouldn’t say that they’re either public schooled or homeschooled kids. Just kids.

  22. Wow, how informative. I am a mom to a four year old and 8 month old. I have gone back and forth since my big boy was born about homeschooling. I have really began exploring homeschooling as I approach the preschool period and haven’t really found someone to list the cons the way you have. I sincerely appreciate this, because I am now convinced homeschooling is for my family. I don’t expect it to be easy breezy, but I think it will give my boys an excellent foundation in life. I am still trying to figure out if this would mean the end of my career before it begins. I just graduated UH for Speech Pathology. Though I still require a masters degree, once done my work flexibility increases drastically. However, my main focus is my boys education, but I do hope to help other homeschool moms who have children with speech impairment. Thank you again for this informative piece. May God bless you and yours.

  23. Thank you for this post. My husband and I are praying and seriously considering homeschooling our children (my son will be in K in the fall and my daughter is she has a bit to go). There is a private school here, but it is so expensive and after research I am really leaning toward HS…but I am scared out of my mind!

    1. Being scared out of your mind is perfectly normal. 🙂 Best wishes as you go through the decision-making process.

      1. Thank you so much! Your blog has helped to encourage me and to give me very good things to consider as we make this choice. Can I ask, what was your decision making process like? What were your defining moments in choosing to HS? (Or do you have a blog post you could direct me to?) I almost wonder, is HS a little like becoming a parent for the first time? No one is fully ready to become a Mother, but once the decision has been made, you learn as you go and rise to the challenges as they come seeking wisdom from others who have gone before? Is that a little bit how it feels to decide to HS? because, I think I want to do it-really!-but then I feel so overwhelmed that I don’t know what I don’t know, if that makes sense…

        I would always welcome any advice or wisdom you have 🙂

          1. Thank you so much for these! Your blog so far has been incredibly instrumental in my decision to try to HS, along with much prayer, reading and talking with my husband 🙂

            After reading your review about Trail Guide curriculum I really think that is a direction I want to go, I love books and history.

            May I ask, would doing Horizons be a good course to start on for K-2 before the Trail Guide starts at grade 3?

          2. I’m glad I could help, Abby. We’ve only used Horizons for math, so I really can’t offer an opinion about their other curriculum. Geography Matters does offer a couple of unit study courses that they recommend as a precursor to Trail Guide to Learning – Cantering the Country and Galloping the Globe. I didn’t know about them when my kids were younger, so I can’t offer any first-hand advice. I just know that’s something that they recommend. Hope that helps!

  24. Thank you again, Kris, I will look into those! I really appreciate your opening up on your blog and just showing me how diverse HS is and really just taking some of the fear of out of it. 🙂

  25. I have been considering homeschooling for several years, but I’ve been so afraid of ruining my kid. My son is 9 and has severe dyslexia. And even though I have been his relentless advocate, it has been a difficult, heartbreaking journey. I am VERY tired of trying to get the school/teachers to follow the accommodations in his IEP (or even acknowledge that dyslexia is real) and I even more tired of watching my son struggle at the bottom of his class. He feels like a failure every day. And I am finding that no matter how much we build him up at home, we cannot counteract all the negativity he experiences at school. Your blog has lightened my spirits and encouraged me that maybe homeschooling would be right for us after all. Thank you.

    1. You are very welcome. It’s difficult when you have a child who learns atypically. It’s hard to get them to see that learning differently brings its own set of strengths and talents and does not indicate a lack of intelligence.

  26. My daughter is 13, and about to go into the 8th grade. She’s been in public school since K. Last year she was diagnosed with Selective Mutism. It’s an anxiety and social anxiety disorder. My daughter is undergoing therapy and after a few months of little success, she asked to try medication. Despite not being able to talk at school, my daughter has been an A/B student for several years. She has asked for a long time to be home schooled, but after starting the medication last year, she stopped asking. This year she started asking again. I can understand how she feels because I had this when I was young, but was never diagnosed.

    If I did homeschool her, I wouldn’t even know what kind of programs are available. The doctor is not too keen on the idea since she thinks my daughter will miss out on the socialization. My daughter rides horses, and also works at the stable on Thursdays for the helper program. She feels most comfortable there, and there are several girls there who are her age, and homeschooled. I’m willing to try, but my husband probably would not be as agreeable. My parents and in-laws are worried she will be bullied at school especially at this age when kids can get really mean. Even adults can be mean. One was our doctor (no longer with her) and an instructor at a different horse stable.

    I guess the best thing to do is pray about it, try to find out the different types of homeschooling.

    1. I’m sorry to hear of your daughter’s struggles. I can understand your concerns with the school setting. Kids can be very mean. Of course, there are also some really amazing kids out there who may rally around your daughter and offer support and friendship. It’s hard to know what to do. I think you’re right – your best course of action is to pray and follow God’s leading. I wish you the best!

  27. I love all of your points and feel we could be friends in real life! I would add one more con- if you homeschool only one child (I have others, but they are 18 and 14 years older and were basically out of the house/in high school when our youngest started school) I have to be much more diligent about finding outside activities and time with friends, especially since she is an extrovert. Being the introverted mom of a touchy-feely social butterfly can be exhausting because she doesn’t have built-in playmates (well, she’s in high school now, so built-in comrades?)

  28. One of the biggest challenges for me has been finding time alone with my husband. When my son was in public school, my husbands weekdays off work were our time. Now that my son is home, we have no time together. Everything is done all of us together. I love my son dearly, but my mornings with my spouse were precious to us and I really missed that.

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