Because this is a homeschooling blog, I do generally try to discuss the positive aspects of homeschooling.
But I’ve noticed something lately, and I want to talk about it today. What I’ve noticed is a lot of homeschooling parents who say that they feel they can’t complain because someone will tell them to send the kids back to school. These statements come in varying forms, such as:
The youngest kept taking off his diaper, and climbing on boxes of books and we got no school done. But I can’t complain to anyone other than you guys, because if I do, my husband will tell me to send the kids back to school.
The kids were cranky from the second they got up, my oldest spilled a whole gallon of milk on the kitchen floor, and I ended up yelling at all of them. But if I complain, my mother’s going to tell me I shouldn’t have started homeschooling if I couldn’t enjoy every moment with them.
There seems to be this myth that because we choose to homeschool, we enjoy every last thing our kids do, good or bad. That we never want a moment away from them, or lose patience with them, or get frustrated when they do something wrong/inappropriate. That if we do want a moment away, lose patience, or get frustrated, it’s a sign we shouldn’t homeschool – or proof that homeschooling is a “bad” thing.
Regardless of what others would have you think, it’s okay to get annoyed, to get frustrated or lose patience, to want a break, to wish you could have just an hour by yourself to read or shower or watch a TV show or just breathe while you stare at the wall. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your kids, that you aren’t cut out for homeschooling, or that homeschooling is a “bad” thing for your family or any other. It means you’re human.
Here are some of the downsides I’ve found to our homeschooling.
- It can lead to arguments. My kids share a bedroom. We all share a bathroom. We do some subjects together, despite the fact that they’re in different grades. Because they’re only 2.5 years apart, they have many of the same friends in our homeschooling group. All this togetherness is good, but it can also lead to frustration and a desperate desire for some alone time that leads to squabbles between the two of them. Some days, it’s nothing but fights all day long, and I feel like a referee, trying to break them up before they actually hurt each other.
- I’m never alone. Ever. My kids are getting older, but there are still days when I swear, the only way I get any time alone is when I use the bathroom or take a shower. And even then, sometimes they’ll stand outside the door and talk to me. Doctor’s appointments, bank trips, grocery shopping, outside, inside – the kids are almost always with me. I’m an introvert, so sometimes this can really get to me. There are moments where I wish I could leave them home alone so I can go to the doctor or run to the grocery store by myself and just get it done, not to mention have a few minutes alone.
- My workload is doubled. I work from home, but my work is entirely self-motivated. I have no boss to set deadlines for me or make sure I get my work done – it’s all up to me to make sure I put my butt in a chair and get my work done. But my work isn’t just my writing (or the photography I’ve recently begun exploring as a potential income stream). It’s also the homeschool work – planning, teaching, checking work, trips to the library, field trips that take away an entire day where I can’t work on my writing or photography. I have to work hard to find a good balance between working on my writing, my photography, homeschool work, and spending time with the kids just for the sake of spending time with them. Or figuring out how to kill two birds with one stone – using a field trip as an opportunity to take a bunch of pictures, for example. Sometimes, I feel like I’m always working, and other times, when I do something fun, I feel like I’m slacking off and not living up to any of my responsibilities.
- People quiz the kids. This has tapered off quite a bit for us. I’m not sure if it’s because my kids are getting older, or if it’s because most of the time now, the people we see are people we’ve known for years and therefore, have known for a long time that we homeschool. But especially with younger kids, you’ll find that people – strangers in line, librarians, neighbors, even friends and family – will quiz them. And the worst part is, it’s not even logical quizzing – it’s not asking a 4th grader what 12×12 is, it’s asking a 1st grader what the main causes for World War II were and what prompted the US to get involved. Really? And naturally, when said 1st grader gives them a blank look, the quizmaster leaps into the air with a finger upraised and yells, “Aha! See, I knew your child wasn’t learning anything!” or something to that effect, anyway. The quizzing would be annoying if the questions were age/grade appropriate, but they really piss you off when they clearly expect your kid to know things that are way more advanced than another child his age would know. Yes, sometimes kids are advanced, but how would this stranger know that? He doesn’t.
I’m sure you, if you have more than a month or two of homeschooling under your belt, have your own list (short or long) of things that you see as being the downside of homeschooling.
Generally speaking, these downsides aren’t enough to make us give up and put the kids back in public school. But when we’re made to feel like we can’t ever complain because someone will tell us to “just put the kids back in school then,” they build. They become bigger and bigger issues until we begin to see them as constant things instead of minor, and rare, annoyances.
As single parents, I think sometimes it’s even harder on us, because we often end up under even tougher scrutiny: we have the ex, and occasionally, judges and lawyers, guardian ad litems and other officials watching what we do. If the ex isn’t supportive, then usually his family isn’t, either, so you have a whole group of people that are automatically against you and everything you do. If you live with family while you get back on your feet, or get any kind of financial help from someone else, you might feel like they’re waiting for you to slip or fail completely, so they can withdraw their help, demand you put the kids back in school and support yourself completely – even if they’re not actually doing that.
It’s time to stop feeling guilty, or worried about what people might say if you complain. When people complain about their jobs, we don’t tell them that they should quit and go back to school for something else (well, okay, sometimes we do, but it’s usually not our first response). When people complain about having bills to pay, we don’t tell them they should have continued to live at home and let Mom and Dad pay the bills. And if we were in either of those situations, and someone did tell us that, we would realize how ridiculous that response is.
And telling us to put our kids back in school because we complain about one bad day, week, or even month, is just as ridiculous. Yes, putting our kids back in school could solve some problems – but it would also create a whole host of others. But we don’t need to explain that, nor do we need to feel guilty about our decisions.
If you’ve had a bad day and feel the need to vent, do it. And if someone tells you that you should put the kids back in school – ignore them! Don’t take their words to heart, don’t let them get inside your head and make you doubt the decision that you made because you know it’s what’s best for your family. Maybe you can’t just completely ignore them, but you can give a cool, polite, “Thanks, but that’s not going to happen.” and move on.
Yes, we make the decision to homeschool. Just like people make the decision to take the job they later hate, buy the house they later realize needs way more work than they thought and leaves them drowning in debt, or move to the state they eventually realize sucks just as much as the one they left behind. They all get to complain about the bad parts of their decisions, so why can’t we? Every decision that every person makes has its downside, no matter how great that decision otherwise is – there’s always going to be one thing, no matter how small, that isn’t so great. Homeschooling is no exception.
Now, I will add this disclaimer: If what you’re getting is, “You know, you complain all the time. Maybe you should send the kids back to school, because you sound really unhappy.”, then maybe you should consider what you’re being told. Not that you should send the kids back to school, but that you’re complaining all the time, and thus, sound really unhappy.
If you are complaining and unhappy all the time (or a good portion of the time), then maybe some reconsideration is in order. Maybe it’s time to consider whether you have unrealistic expectations of your kids and/or yourself, whether you’re trying to replicate school at home, whether you’re using materials that aren’t effective for your family, or whether you need to get out more or stay home more (depending on which way you go).
There are many times, in this blog, that I suggest finding other parents who homeschool – this isn’t one of those times though. You wouldn’t be expected to go find a group of lawyer friends to complain about being a lawyer, or a group of people who all bought a house in a neighborhood that’s deteriorating to complain about the value lost in your home. And you shouldn’t have to find homeschooling friends to complain about a bad day homeschooling. It’s not necessary for someone else to be in your exact shoes to empathize with the fact that you had a rough day and need to vent. If you’re truly surrounded by people who all want to suggest you put the kids back in school when you vent, you don’t need homeschooling friends. You need better friends, period.
It’s okay to admit that there’s a downside to homeschooling. It’s okay to vent when you’ve had the occasional bad day, or even a bad week or month. If the people in your life make you feel otherwise, then think about changing who’s in your life, rather than giving any serious consideration to their insistence that you should send your child back to school.