The Reality of Homeschooling

The Reality of Homeschooling ~ Home Schoolroom

Once I got over the horror of the idea of homeschooling I read a lot of books and blogs and fell in love with the concept.  I donned my rose-colored glasses and forged ahead with a plan to homeschool my children.  I had visions of how it would go, formulated from heart-warming stories and lovely photos of this unique lifestyle.

Here are some of the dreamy myths I created in my head, and the real-life picture of homeschooling in our house:

Myth #1  The Warm Fuzzies of Homeschooling

I lived our days in my head many times as we finished up my daughter’s 2nd grade year in public school.  I envisioned days spent curled up (by the fire in winter, on a blanket under a large shade tree in summer) with classic books, my children gazing at me with rapture as I imparted the wisdom of the ages.  Our days would follow a warm and comforting pattern, without any of the frenzy of today’s world.  Our house would be filled with gentle voices, loving embraces, and of course always be tidy.  Laundry would never pile up and all our meals would be made from scratch.

The Cold, Hard Reality

  • We do love books but I hardly think I’ve ever been the subject of a gaze of rapture.  Sometimes their minds wander when I’m reading and I have to re-read a section.
  • Homeschool families struggle like most do with keeping a sane schedule in this crazy-busy world.  There are so many wonderful activities that keep us running (church, co-ops, classes and lessons) not to mention all the normal household errands that sometimes it’s harder than you think to schedule in the home part of homeschooling.
  • Don’t get me going on the house!  We are home much of the time, but often quite busy, so my house looks like a natural disaster scene more often than I’d like.  The sheer amount of paraphernalia of homeschooling astounds me–microscopes and math manipulatives, paints and pencils, binders and books.  I’ve had everything from caterpillars to chicken bones on my counter.  As we move through subjects on a busy day my desk looks like this:


But there are beautiful moments in the midst of chaos.  The books we’ve shared have become part of our family bond.  We are the keepers of our schedule and can decide on priorities and be flexible to what suits our family best.  My kids have the unique vantage point of being home to see that there is no fairy who cleans the house, stocks the fridge and puts away clean laundry while they’re at school so participation in chores is mandatory.

Myth #2 Homeschooled Children are Superchildren

Once my children were homeschooled, I was sure they would greet me in our schoolroom with glee each morning.  “What will we be learning about today, Mother?” They would have extreme interest in every topic, and clap their hands when I broke out the grammar workbook.  They would hug me and thank me and tell me I’m the best mother and teacher ever.  They would cheerily do their schoolwork and help with chores, and of course never quarrel with each other.  They would be National Spelling Bee champions, have perfect SAT scores, and attend college at 15.

The Reality about Homeschooled Children

  • Well, it turns out that they are still children–my children–now that we homeschool.  I wouldn’t say they greet me with glee every morning.  I do often elicit a grin (or eye roll) with my favorite morning joke.  {As soon as I hear the bus I yell out:  “Kids!  It’s the bus!  Hurry or you’ll miss it!”}
  • Sometimes their first question is phrased more like: “How much do we have to do today before we have free time?”
  • I’ve had friends say they couldn’t homeschool because their children wouldn’t listen to them or their children would fight all day.  And the truth is, sometimes our struggles aren’t over reducing fractions: they are about attitude.
  • I’ve yet to hear one of my kids say, “Hey Mom, thanks for giving up hours a day so I can have an education tailored just for me.”  I’m quite sure there are very few children who, as kids, are always grateful for the sacrifices their parents make for them.

But I am fully convinced that a focused education exactly at their level and catered to their learning style does help them reach their full potential.  However, their strengths may not be in every traditional academic area.  The real benefits I’m seeing aren’t about test scores but are found in children who are well-rounded with strong family and community ties, an ability to relate to all age ranges, time to pursue individual interest and talents, and the freedom to develop at their own pace.  And when there are issues of the heart, who better than a me, their mother, to work through those issues with them?

I’m holding out for the thanks.  I hope that someday, perhaps when they are parents, they’ll have some good memories of this homeschool life and give me my hug then.

Myth #3  Homeschool Moms are Superwomen

I was sure I would greet each day with a smile as sun streamed in my window and the birds serenaded me.  I would be dressed and have an actual hairstyle when I skipped downstairs to tackle housework, diagramming sentences and meal planning (all at the same time).  I would remain smiling, tender, and loving all day, helping each child in turn.  I’d tuck them sweetly in to bed at night, curl up with a good book or turn my attention lovingly to my husband and fall asleep peacefully to enjoy a night of sweet dreams.

The Reality: Homeschooling is REALLY hard.

  • It’s more like I stumble out of bed and head for the coffee maker.  I hold up my hand to my early riser, who is attempting to engage me in a lively conversation about his weird dream last night, and mumble, “Mommy needs coffee first, buddy.”
  • I lock the door when I shower or get dressed and sometimes spend a few extra minutes just hanging out so I can be alone.  There are times I ask my kids to stop talking for a few minutes because I feel like my head is going to explode.
  • I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons during the last two years–and one of them is that sometimes I’m the one with the bad attitude bringing down the school day.  Or the one who didn’t clean up the dishes or fold the laundry when I should have–I must lead by example and often I fail.
  • It’s hard not to get bitter or take any complaints or bad attitudes personally when I work so hard.
  • I had a friend tell me she was surprised homeschooling suited me because she’d be pulling her hair out.  The truth is that I often forget to use my soft, gentle voice.  I’ve even threatened to send them to school.  I daydream of dropping the kids off and having SIX HOURS to myself.
  • Sometimes when bedtime comes I am talked and touched out and just want to be alone.  And most nights my brain is firing away on some issue and I end up with odd dreams that are rooted in my anxieties.

The Reality of Homeschooling

When I make the joke about the bus, I’m truly grateful they aren’t on it.  Whether I’m swelled with pride over what they’re accomplishing or requiring an assignment to be re-done because they didn’t do their best, letting them skip ahead because I know they understand or spending extra time going over a skill that isn’t solid yet,  I’m so glad to be with them.  We have deeper family bonds.  I have reawakened (or discovered anew, I think) the joy of learning and love sharing the adventure with them.  We have more control over our family’s priorities and more freedom to structure life to suit us.  The tough parts only make us stronger.

Homeschooling isn’t perfect because we aren’t perfect.  Those flaws my kids and I had before we started homeschooling?  They’re still there.  We’ve even noticed a few more as we spend all day together.  It’s the hardest job I’ve ever worked at, and it looks like a long road ahead of us.  I have to keep steady on our path, try not to trip or let the important things fall through the cracks, and keep my eye on our goals.

The bloggers of iHomeschool Network are sharing their stories of real-life homeschooling today.  Comparison kills contentment, and we know it can be hard when you read blogs not to feel that other moms really have it together.  As bloggers we try to share ideas, resources, and encouragement but want to make sure no one thinks any of us are perfect.


12 Responses to The Reality of Homeschooling

  • “I was sure they would greet me in our schoolroom with glee each morning. “What will we be learning about today, Mother?”
    LOL! I had the same sort of lofty visions when we began.

  • Great post, Heidi, and so true!

  • Joan says:

    Oh, this warmed my heart today! I was talking with a mom at our local curriculum fair about our relaxed approach and she said to me, “Oh, thank you. I saw (representatives from large Boxed Curriculum Company) and I thought, in my head, that is what I imagined my kids will do, sitting down with their books at their little desks each morning, but do you see them? They don’t sit for 5 minutes!”

    It made me feel good to be able to tell her that most of us have those ideal visions when we start, but that it’s OK to toss them aside and have some fun, some mess and a whole lotta imperfection! :)

    • Heidi says:

      I agree, Joan! Toss those ideals and live a real life with our kids! I’m pretty sure I’m not the ideal mother. :)

  • I adore your myths. They sound a whole lot like what I thought homeschooling would be, too! Ha! But it’s still good! Enjoyed your “imperfect” post!

  • Rebecca says:

    Love your very sweet and heart written post. It’s always good to see that the grass is just different – not better or worse.

  • Cher says:

    LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this post! I have been having doubts about continuing to homeschool after my first half year long experience with my first grader. I will have a kindergartener next year and have been thinking about putting them both back in school. I am afraid to make mistakes and squelch their love of learning by my occasional snappishness, disorganization, etc. Your post helped me realize nothing is perfect, but simply being together doing school and life together is worthwhile.

    • Heidi says:

      I’m glad it helped, Cher. Keep on keepin’ on with the rest of us snappy, disorganized homeschool moms! It is worthwhile.

  • Tricia says:

    I absolutely love your opening “Once I got over the horror of the idea of homeschooling I read a lot of books and blogs and fell in love with the concept.” It can certainly be terrifying! Wonderful take on imperfections – and that our children aren’t ‘supers’!

  • I am a homeschool mom from the Philippines. Thanks for sharing this article… it speaks of our homeschool here too :)

  • Alexandra says:

    Thank you for sharing…. my kids are 3.5yrs and 21months old and I’m still finding my homeschool groove and trying not to be discouraged.

  • Maria J Gaston says:

    Thank you Heidi. Although this information was posted over a year ago, it’s still helpful. This is my third year teaching my 8 year-old son, a fourth grader. I pulled him out public school due to bad experiences he was having with students, as well as teachers. This information really encourages me to keep going. Thank you, Maria

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Hi, I'm Heidi and I homeschool my two sweet kids. I want them to know that learning is an exciting lifelong adventure! We love great books, unit studies, notebooking, lapbooking, and hands-on learning.

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