So, you’ve been stuck at home for eons (ok, months) with your kids and you feel like jumping off the bridge right about now. Step away from the bridge! I’m here to talk you down. Whether you are a homeschooler and you chose to stay at home with your kids, or you are now schooling at home due to the pandemic, or some other situation, you may reach critical mass at some point. That point where everything seems loud, overwhelming and you just want to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry. And not just cry, ugly cry. It’s either that or you’re ready to run out the door screaming and jump off that bridge!
It’s ok. We’ve all been there. Sometimes we have this perfect image in our head of what being at home with our kiddos and teens is going to be like. You can picture it; the perfectly tidy Marie Kondo/Martha Stewart/Joanna Gaines home. Your children curled up on the couch reading and doing their schoolwork with excitement; listening intently to their teacher over Zoom. Your husband comes home to a warm house with clean kids, schoolwork done and supper is on the table. Then you all have a fun family game night with a hot cocoa bar and bedtime snuggles. Then you have time for yoga, workouts, meditation, and face masks. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
But here you are, crying on FaceTime to your bestie while the kids are refusing to do their reading, your teen is back-talking you, the dog won’t stop barking, the sink is full of dishes and you can’t get to the store to make supper (or you’re waiting on your grocery delivery that should have shown up two hours ago), you’re days behind in schoolwork and everything just feels out of control. Makes me dizzy just thinking about it. But you’re not alone. Parenting is hard. Homeschooling is hard. Being a wife is hard. Life is hard and super confusing right now. So what do we do when we’re ready to quit?
Well, I’m going to talk to you from my own personal experience as a homeschool mom. I homeschooled my kids all the way from preschool through high school. I’m not saying that to brag, but to let you know that I’ve been there, more than once. (I’ve never homeschooled through a Pandemic, but stress, is stress.)And yes, there have been many times that I wanted to quit. I’ve always told moms that homeschooling isn’t for the faint of heart. Yes, it is rewarding, and yes, I would do it again, but it’s hard. And whether you are a homeschooler, or schooling at home due to a pandemic or other reason, you may hit critical mass more than once during this season of your life. So here are my words of wisdom.
First, breathe. Take a deep breath, or ten, and try to remember that it’s probably not as bad as you feel like it is. Perception is everything. Our perception isn’t always reality. Stress has a way of skewing our thoughts. So, let’s put things in perspective starting with your house first and cleaning and all that stress that goes with that. Grab that cup of coffee and take a moment to breathe while you read on.
I always felt like no matter how much I cleaned or didn’t clean, my house was a disaster. I would cry over it and get so frustrated. I saw other homeschool moms’ homes and couldn’t believe how spotless they were and why couldn’t mine look like that? I felt like I could just never keep up with homeschool and my house. But you know what? Recently my kids (now young adults) have told me that they always felt like our house was clean. Yes, the laundry may not have gotten folded for a few days, and the sink may have been full, but they didn’t see that laundry sitting there as a mess. They saw that mom had a little more time for them. They told me their friends always wanted to come to our house because they felt warm and welcomed, not because it was spotless. I still automatically apologize for my home, even if it is clean when someone comes over. My son’s girlfriend told me, that I needed to stop apologizing for living in my own home and she’s right.
It’s your home, you live there (like, life happens in your home) and you need to decide on what is ok for your family. Maybe you’re trying too hard, or your expectations are too high for this season in your life and that is ok. Talk to your hubby and see if he can pitch in more. Reevaluate chores for yourself, your hubby, and your kids. Maybe you’re expecting too much from them and yourself, or too little. Decide what must be done on every day and then beyond that is a bonus. In other words, if you can’t sleep at night if there are dishes in the sink, then assign someone to make sure that gets done. If you can live with vacuuming once a week instead of daily, then do that. Choose what you can reasonably accomplish right now and don’t worry about the rest or what anyone else thinks. This is your home, not theirs. Your home will be more warm and homey to your family if you are not constantly stressing about accomplishing every little detail every day and you’ll have more time for them and yourself.
Are you using a chore chart? For me, this was a must. I know they can be a pain and trying to stay on task can be challenging, but if you find one that works for you and your family then they can be a great help. Evaluate your chores and make sure they are age-appropriate and that you are giving each person the appropriate amount of chores. Follow through with them and reward them, even the teenagers and yourself for jobs well done. Motivation works wonders sometimes.
Is your house still driving you crazy? Is it that there are things that are really driving you nuts or is that you’ve just been cooped up too long? If it’s the first reason, take a good look at your home and pick a project. What is something you can accomplish that will make your time at home better and easier for you and your family. It doesn’t have to be something huge, it can be something as simple as cleaning out a closet to have more storage. If it’s the second reason, then maybe you need a change of location. I know we’re all in various stages of lockdown, but even a few minutes outside can change your perspective or even give you some inspiration.
Next, let’s talk about schoolwork. As much as I loved homeschooling, I didn’t love it every day, every month, or even every year. Some days, months, and years are just harder than others. I always told people when they asked me how I liked homeschooling that it was like any other job. You have days when the boss is great, days when the coworkers are awful, and days that are just boring, great, etc. Homeschool isn’t any different. If you are having that season, or day, or week (I keep hearing the Friends theme song in my head!), month, whatever, remember that this too shall pass. It’s only for a season. Keep repeating that. There were more times than I can count when I would call my mom, my hubby, or my bestie and just cry that I couldn’t homeschool anymore.
I felt like the kids hated me, they hated homeschooling, I was ruining their education, they wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t do their schoolwork and everything was just awful and it was all my fault. Do you feel like that? Take a breath. Step away and regroup. Shut everything down for a little bit and take a breather. If you can, send everyone to their rooms, including yourself, and take a few minutes, or a day if you can, and just breathe. Usually, it’s nowhere as bad as we think it is. Our own perception is so much harder on ourselves and even on our kids. One thing to remember, especially if you are in your first year or two of homeschooling (or you are suddenly doing virtual school) is that this is all new. It’s new to you, your child, and your husband if you’re married, even your child’s teacher. So cut yourself and your children a little slack.
So what do you do when you want to throw in the towel, the homeschool books, or virtual school in this case? The first thing to remember is that your relationship with your children is the most important thing. I’m not saying don’t do school because you want to be best friends with your child. Not at all. I’m saying that sometimes, just like with anything else you need to evaluate what is going on. Is the work too hard for your child, is it too easy? Maybe they’re really bored, which can be ok sometimes. Are your expectations a reality? Are they having a hard time adjusting? Are you? Maybe there is something else going on that is causing friction with you or with your child. Try to figure out the root cause if you can.
Take some time and hit pause, pray, and step back. Maybe you just need a breather. Can someone else help you out for a bit? Can your hubby step in, or a grandparent, or a friend as a substitute teacher for a little while? Sometimes other people can be a breath of fresh air. Take a look at your relationship with your child, is everything ok? I know that everything is super stressful right now and kids feel it and get stressed too. So make sure that the pandemic isn’t the only thing they’re hearing about and you for that matter. How often are they listening to the news? Maybe you need a change of scenery. Take school to the park, the coffee shop (if it’s open). Do school with a friend (make sure that they haven’t been possibly exposed). Get creative! School doesn’t have to be the four walls of your home (unless your like down).
When you take kids out of a public or private school to homeschool, one of the hardest adjustments for some can be getting used to being a class of one. They’re used to being in a room full of other kids, seeing friends in the hall, etc. So consider doing some of their schoolwork with a friend or a few friends. We call that a co-op in homeschool speak. It can be for one subject or a few. Take turns teaching it, or if it’s virtual, then maybe they can listen to the teacher together and do any projects or work together. Again, be creative. Maybe meet as a small group at a park.
Remember when I said the relationship is most important? I mean it. A lot of us veteran homeschoolers will tell you that in the first year or so of homeschooling, use that as an adjustment period and work on your relationship first. Do school as you should, but work on that relationship because whatever that was before you started homeschooling, it will be magnified as you homeschool. In other words, do what school you are required to do, as simply as you can so that you both aren’t completely stressed and you can work on building your relationship.
As your relationship grows then you can do all those extra homeschooling things you wanted to add in. The same is true if you are doing virtual school. You’re all home with each other for more time in the day than you’re used to. It takes some adjustment on all sides. Now is a great time to work on your relationship with your child and your family as a whole. If you need to call in the professionals; a pastor, a counselor, etc. If anything comes out of this time as a blessing, it will be that we have had the opportunity to reconnect with one another as a family.
The same can be said even if you’ve been homeschooling since the beginning. Sometimes, you just need to do what you have to do, so you can work on what you are going through at the time. Maybe that means changing to a less rigorous curriculum or changing your teaching style. One day when I was having a really hard day, my kids were saying how much they hated school. My heart sank. I cried. I’d poured years into homeschooling and trying to make it a good experience for them and I was broken. Then one of my kids looked at me and said don’t take it personally. But how could I not take it personally? Then they explained, think of it this way, it’s school. Whether we were at public school, private school, or this, it’s still school and we’re at that age where we just don’t like it anymore. It’s not you, it’s school and there are those kids that just don’t like school.
Well, as weird as that sounded, it actually took some pressure off of me. Granted they were in high school at the time, but it did make me realize, it wasn’t because I was a bad teacher, or I was terrible at this homeschooling thing, no, it was just school itself. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy and sometimes you just don’t like it. Now that never excuses bad behavior and you definitely have to address those issues but at least you know it’s not you.
Make sure you’re not letting your kids walk all over you. Take care of behavioral issues, they will not magically go away. Sometimes we don’t even realize those adorable little cherubs are sweetly stomping all over us until we try to get them to do a writing assignment. So make sure you are addressing those issues and that will help tremendously. It might be a pain at first, but it’s always better to take care of those issues earlier than later. And if it’s a teenager that you’re dealing with, you have to deal with it or else you’ll have an adult that will walk all over you and everyone else.
Also, make a plan, even if it’s a loose plan for your day. Having a schedule is a huge help. Prioritize what you have to absolutely get done in school. You have to get this lesson in math done, but if you don’t get this extra activity sheet done then that’s ok. Plan your week and what lessons you want to accomplish. Having a plan of action gives you direction and keeps you from spending the morning trying to figure out what you’re going to do. And guess what? You weren’t able to stay on plan today? That’s ok, there’s always tomorrow. For virtual school, include it in your plan for the day, better yet, the students’. They may get a plan from their teacher and that’s awesome, but what about including chores, lunchtime, and free time? Teach them to use their time wisely.
Take some time for yourself. Practice self care in some form daily if you can. Pray, do devotions, meditate, anything that helps you start your day on a good note. Make time to get some exercise, and get outside if you can for a few minutes each day. It makes a world of difference! Our kids tend to feed off our emotions, so if we can help alliviate our stress, then it will help our kids too. If you’re an empty vessel, you can’t pour anything out. So, it’s vital that we find a way to get refilled and it’s ok to put ourselvels first at times. Talk to someone if you need to, a friend, a pastor or a therapist if you need to. Remember you are not in this boat alone, reach out to a mom that’s been homeschooling and I bet she’ll be more than happy to help.
So let’s recap…
- Decide on what chores really need to be done
- Assign those chores to the appropriate aged person and follow-through
- Choose a project that would make life at home a little easier
- Do what you absolutely need to get done for school each day
- Use rewards for chores and school
- Take school outside, the park, to a friend’s house, or start a co-op
- Get help with subjects you or your child are struggling with
- Realize some kids don’t like school so don’t take it personally
- Address bad behaviors and work on relationships
- Practice self-care
- Talk to someone
I hope this helps if you are struggling and you find yourself ready to just give up on homeschool or school at home. Don’t give up, you can do this. Remember this is only a season, things always change and usually for the better. It’s never as bad as we think it is, so step back and take a breather and things will look better in the morning. How is your homeschool doing? Leave me a message in the comments!