What Can You Learn from a Homeschooling Dropout?

It’s May, and the defectors are amassing. If you’ve slugged through a year of school-time misery, it’s time to reassess and do some problem-solving. Today I’d like to share four insights from former-homeschoolers that I find helpful for parents struggling with school decisions.

#1: Homeschooling changes the rhythm of your day.  It’s the all-day drizzle versus the afternoon thunderstorm.  When kids go to school, early morning is a whirlwind, then the house gets quiet.  In the afternoon the storm hits: Homework, chores, dinner and activities consume family life until bedtime.

For some moms, the craziness of the before-and-after-school shifts is a small price to pay for a few hours sanity to get something done for a change, or to be able to let the babies be babies until the big kids get home.  Others of us love the drizzle – the steady flow of shared artwork, curious questions, and the chance to live together side by side. It boils down to a personality difference.   It’s okay to be the mom who just likes it better one way or the other.

But sometimes reality trumps personality, bringing us to point #2: You can’t do two things at once.  You can get a lot done around the house while homeschooling, but it’s very hard to do work that requires focused attention for long periods of time.  Even if the kids really do finish their school work in two hours, the trickle of needs drips all day long.  For moms who work from home, the physical reality of having the kids in the background can create stressful conflict.  There are moms who do it, but it requires discipline and sacrifice.

Which reminds me of #3: Homeschooling does take discipline. Even relaxed-schooling and unschooling parents have to put forth an effort to allow learning to happen. For some moms this is easy, but many of us carefree spirits struggle with self-discipline — there’s always one more urgent reason to put off school until later.  The more challenges you have in your daily life, the more self-discipline can be a struggle.

If you want to homeschool, “I’m not disciplined” isn’t a reason to give up on homeschooling before you even try it.  If you’re struggling, reach out for help with accountability, whether that’s peer support, homeschool co-ops, enrolling with an oversight organization, or sending your child to classes taught by someone else.

But some moms discover they just can’t get the support they need.  It’s okay to be the parent who took a risk, gave it a shot, then evaluated and changed strategies down the road.

And then there’s homeschooling’s dark secret, point #4: Not everyone likes homeschooling.  When I tell someone we’re homeschooling, if they aren’t convinced I’m ruining my children, the praise can be effusive – I must be some kind of superhero.  Well, no, I just happen to enjoy it.  But there are superheroes in the homeschooling world: The moms who do it because they must.  Given the choice, they’d put the kids in school – but they don’t have that choice, not for this child or not for this year.

Those of us who love homeschooling – despite the difficulties – should not feel threatened by that.  We don’t need every mother in the nation to love what we love.  What’s best for our family is not measured by what’s best for the next door neighbors.

We carry out our mission as the primary educators of children by making the most of the personalities, abilities, resources, and limitations God has given our family, this year.  What’s going on in your life this spring?  Do you need to make some changes for the coming school year?  Have you had to make difficult school decisions in the past?  I’d love to hear from you.

Copyright 2012 Jennifer Fitz

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