Hey, homeschool mom. I see you sitting there on the other side of your computer screen. You’re exhausted, and you want to quit homeschooling.
All your friends are starting to talk about next year. They’re planning. They’re ordering curriculum. Everyone in your homeschool Facebook groups is talking about the upcoming school year.
But not you.
You’re not planning for next year because you barely got through last year. You haven’t opened your planner. You could care less about ordering curriculum. You’re not talking about next year because you’re done. D-O-N-E. Done.
You are frustrated, burned out, or feeling like a failure. You’re wondering if you made a colossal mistake and trying to decide how you’re going to get through another year. Or if you should even try.
I’ve been there. I’ve been the homeschooling mom who wants to quit. But we made some adjustments and somehow, not only did I get through the following year (and the ones after that), but I rediscovered the joy of homeschooling.
So, what do you do when you want to quit homeschooling?
1. Identify the reason you want to quit homeschooling.
The first step in dealing with the urge to throw in the towel is to figure out why you’re feeling so defeated.
Some common causes of homeschool burnout or feeling like a failure include:
Exhaustion. You feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends and not accomplishing anything. If you are getting things done, you feel as though you’re barely keeping your head above water. You need a break and can’t figure out how to get one.
Curriculum. Maybe it’s too rigorous, and your kids are frustrated. Maybe it’s not meaty enough, and you’re spending too much time and mental energy tweaking it. Perhaps you’ve got several children on different grade levels, and you’re finding it challenging to meet their individual needs. Or you’re trying to school them together, and it’s just not working.
Attitudes. The attitudes at your house are driving you crazy. (And it might not be your kids’ attitudes.) Maybe bickering siblings are wearing on your nerves. Or you’ve got one child who demands more attention than the others.
Worry. You worry that your children would be better off in public school. Perhaps your kids just aren’t getting a vital concept. Maybe you’re not consistent with school. You might worry that you’re not doing enough or your kids aren’t learning what they should. Perhaps that stereotype of the weird, unsocialized homeschooler seems more accurate than you’d care to admit. What if your homeschooled kid really is weird?
And, sometimes, it’s all of the above.
2. Understand that you’re not alone.
Once you’ve identified the source of your frustration, the second step to overcoming it is realizing that you’re not alone. When you’re suffering through those feelings, it’s easy to think that everyone else has it all together and no one else has ever felt this way.
That is just wrong. Homeschooling mama, we’ve all felt that way at one time or another. Even the holier-than-thou moms who won’t admit it. Homeschool burnout and doubt are pretty much an inevitable part of homeschooling.
I’ve had friends put their kids in school because the bickering between siblings was driving them crazy. I’ve had friends enroll in school the one kid who needed more help than Mom felt capable of giving – or put the other kids in school to focus on the one. (For the record, in every case, the kids came back home for school.)Homeschooling mama, we’ve all felt exhausted, burned out, or defeated at one time or another. Even the holier-than-thou moms who won’t admit it.
You may be in a place where there is no homeschool community, and your family is far from supportive. Perhaps you feel that there is no one in your corner and you’re doing this all alone.
You don’t have to feel alone. If that describes you, check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Facebook Community. You may just find your people there.
3. Make adjustments to your homeschool.
Once you’ve identified the cause and accepted the fact that you’re not the only homeschooling parent in the history of homeschool who has felt like such a dismal, exhausted failure, it’s time to make adjustments.
If you’re exhausted, you need a break. We switched to year-round homeschooling when I was at my most worn-out. It sounds counterintuitive, but it was a huge sanity saver. We did six weeks on and one week off, so there was always a break coming up before too long. The curriculum we used (Trail Guide to Learning) centered around six-week units, so there were always new books when our break week was over.
If you’re already doing year-round schooling, you may need to take an extended break. We did year-round for several years, but the last couple of summers both my kids and I have wanted a long summer break. We went from starting in mid-July to starting in mid-August. That long summer break has been so refreshing!
It may be your daily schedule rather than your yearly schedule that needs some adjustment. If you’re trying to cram too much into a day, you may want to give loop scheduling or block scheduling for some (or all) of your subjects.
Alternately, you may be stressing because you feel that you aren’t doing enough or lack consistency. There are some simple ways to tell if you’re doing enough in your homeschool. And if you’re not, that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible homeschool parent. It just means it’s time to make some modifications. That’s okay.Once you’ve identified the cause and accepted the fact that you’re not the only homeschooling parent in the history of homeschool who has felt like such a dismal, exhausted failure, it’s time to make adjustments.
Loop and block scheduling may be helpful for those struggling with consistency, too. Other options are co-ops (even just a small co-op with friends), online courses, or computer-based classes.
If it’s your curriculum that’s driving you batty, it may be time for a change. And the change may not be the one you want to make. A few years ago, my teens let me know that they wanted to use workbooks.
Workbooks? Are you kidding me?
This hands-on, unit study kind of mama couldn’t imagine anything more boring. However, it’s not my education. So I bought the boring-looking things – and discovered several surprising benefits to using workbooks.
We only used them for about a couple of years before switching back to our more eclectic blend of curriculum, but they filled a need that the kids had at the time.
Before you change your curriculum consider if you can make any adjustments so that it’s a better fit for your family. However, if you’re exhausted from trying to tweak your curriculum, it’s probably time to toss it.
The important thing is to do what works for your family. I was always a fan of unit studies that allowed me to teach my three kids together as much as possible. However, I have friends who found it much less stressful for them to use a workbook approach. Workbooks allowed each of their kids to work at their own level. They were each able to work independently enough that the moms could weave in one-on-one time with each.
If you need something laid out for you so that you don’t have to spend lots of time planning, get it. Do you need the freedom to follow a more interest-led approach? Give it a try! If you or your kids need the structure of a school-at-home style, go for it!
Do what makes sense for your family.
Problems like attitudes may prove more challenging to adjust. Sometimes bad attitudes are caused by other issues, such as a schedule that’s too demanding or curriculum that isn’t a good fit. There could be unidentified readiness issues or learning challenges. Or you may need to address some character issues.
Sometimes it makes sense to step back from academics for awhile and deal with the underlying causes of bad attitudes. Consider the possibility that you may need to reconnect with your kids as their parent and not their teacher.
If your child is feeling isolated or alone and really doesn’t have many friends, you may need to make some adjustments to your schedule, arrange some playdates, or sign her up for some extracurricular activities. Sometimes, we have to be intentional about helping our homeschooled kids forge new friendships.
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, you just feel defeated and want to throw in the towel. You’re not alone. Be willing to assess the situation and make some adjustments, and you will get through this. And, my guess is that you’ll be grateful that you didn’t quit.
What do you do when homeschooling makes you feel like you want to quit? Leave some encouragement or advice for a mom who’s there right now!
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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.