“After 10 years of homeschooling, my husband told me that he thinks I’ve never really been cut out for homeschooling. Do you have any advice?”
Ouch. A worried homeschool mom, feeling like a failure, asked me this question. Over the last few years, I’ve learned that even when we feel completely alone, that’s rarely true. Knowing that other homeschool moms (or dads) out there have found themselves in this situation, I wanted to share my response with all of you.
I haven’t experienced this, but I thought about what I would tell a friend. If we were sitting at my kitchen table having a glass of sweet tea together, this is what I would say to you.
Consider the status of the relationship.
First, I’d ask, how is your marriage? What is your husband’s usual personality? Is he usually supportive and encouraging or negative and critical?
Is your overall relationship healthy or strained? Do you disagree about other aspects of marriage, parenting, and household management?
If my husband were questioning my ability to homeschool, I’d respond differently based on the answers to those questions. As I tell my kids, consider the source.
If my kids and I love homeschooling, I’d feel less inclined to worry too much about the comments of a chronically critical spouse. You probably need to address marital strife before homeschooling issues. In the same way that we sometimes make parenting issues all about homeschooling when they’re really not, we can do the same with marital problems.
On the other hand, a typically supportive husband with no reason to lash out about homeschooling is going to get my attention. I’d take his concerns seriously and want to discuss them.
Listen to your spouse’s concerns.
Next, I’d suggest that you listen to your spouse’s concerns as objectively as possible. Try not to get defensive. The non-teaching parent often has a different perspective since he’s not involved in the day-to-day teaching. That may make it easier for him to see areas that need improvement.
Do you seem stressed out to your spouse? Does he see you arguing with your children over schoolwork? Is he expressing concern about the parent-child relationship? Perhaps he notices areas of academic weakness or limited social interaction.
Listen to what he is saying. Ask questions to make sure you really understand his concerns.
Consider your children’s desires.
Then, ask your kids how they feel about homeschooling. Yes, parents ultimately have to make the decisions that they think are in their kids’ best interests, but I do try to take my kids’ input about homeschooling into consideration. I want to take seriously any concerns they may have.
In a situation where a family has homeschooled for a while, and one parent doesn’t feel that it’s the best choice, I’d definitely want to know my children’s thoughts, especially once they’re at or near high school age.
If the kids feel that homeschooling is meeting their needs, as the teaching parent, I’d want to fight for the freedom to continue. If both my kids and my spouse felt that homeschooling was not meeting their needs, I would want to look for alternatives or begin to make immediate course corrections.
Evaluate the concerns and brainstorm course corrections together.
Next, evaluate your spouse’s concerns. Are they valid? Maybe you are stressed about school. Perhaps you could improve the way you interact with your kids. Maybe there are some academics weaknesses that you need to address.
I recommend that Christian families pray together and seek God’s wisdom and guidance.
If you remain convinced that homeschooling is the best option for your kids, brainstorm with your spouse. Look for ways to address his concerns and make improvements in your homeschool and/or your relationships.
Look for the causes of stress. Consider taking a teacher in-service day or carving out some time alone to recharge.
If you find specific academic subjects challenging to teach, look for alternatives. Consider joining a co-op (or forming a small one with a group of friends), dual-enrolling at your local community college, signing up for online courses, or hiring a tutor. Look for better ways to homeschool difficult subjects.
Take a hard look at your relationship with your kids. If necessary, look for more positive ways of dealing with anger and frustration. Work on improving communication skills. Learning effective communication and conflict resolution skills is a vital life lesson for kids and adults.
Schedule some just for fun days into your calendar so that your kids see you as their mom, not just their teacher.
If their social interactions are truly limited, find ways to help your homeschooled children find friends. Consider joining a book club, trying scouting, or planning a regular hang-out time with friends.
Finally, consider counseling, either as a couple or on your own, if the fault-finding goes deeper than homeschooling. Discover better ways to communicate and revive your friendship with your spouse.
If counseling isn’t an option, seek a trusted friend who will listen and support you. I’m praying for you!
If your spouse has ever told you that he didn’t think you should continue homeschooling, what did you do? Do you have any advice to add?