In which I tell you how I really feel about homeschooling

When I started homeschooling, I encouraged myself by thinking that I wasn’t the first one to do this. Not the first one to homeschool with an infant. Not the first one to homeschool with toddler twins. Not the first one to homeschool with a large family. Not the first one to homeschool 4 different grades. Not the first one to homeschool kids who don’t want to homeschool. Not the first one to homeschool outgoing, extroverted kids with two volumes settings: loud and louder. Not the first one to homeschool children with a lot of energy and big feelings. Not the first one to homeschool with a husband who works long hours and cannot help with homeschooling. Not the first one to homeschool without my family’s support. Not the first one to homeschool in a language other than English. Other people have done it, right? So it has to be possible. Well, I’m not so sure anymore!

It’s getting lonely at the top. I see people quit homeschooling every week for one of the reasons I listed above. And when I hit the Internet looking for help, I find people with any combo of one or two of my challenges but never all of them. There’s Sarah from Amongst Lovely Things who has toddler twins and recommends lowering expectations. But expectations can only be lowered so much when you are homeschooling highschool. We lowered our expectations so much this year, we nearly dug a hole to China. I wish I could curl-up on the couch and read to everyone from the grade 10 chemistry text book but THEY WON’T STAY SEATED!

And then there’s the lovely — lovely! — Kendra from Catholic All Year who has a large family and gets by being pregnant, breastfeeding and homeschooling by having naps and exercising. And how do naps happen? By putting the baby and the toddler down for a nap at the same time and then giving the other children a quiet activity to do. This makes me want to cry. My almost 4 year-old twins have not napped since they were 2-and-a -half and a quiet activity for the  four youngest means that I have to physically restrain them, usually by sitting on one and keeping the door closed on the other. It’s great. We have a quiet time daily to the sound of children howling “HOW MANY MORE MINUTES?” every 30 seconds. My husband thought I would feel better if I exercised so we started getting up at 5 am — because that’s how early we have to wake-up if we want to wake-up before the kids. Since we have teenagers who are up until 11 pm, it gives me 5 interrupted hours of sleep on which to keep my wits, my household and my homeschool running smoothly. It gives a brand new meaning to the quip: “I’m in no shape to exercise” believe it or not.

It’s not that I’m jealous of people who have children who are temperamentally disposed to sit down and stay quiet. After all, my four oldest children were pretty easy. But it does make me realize that homeschooling is not going to be easy for us and sometimes I’m a big baby and I shake my fist at God and say: “If you were going to call me to large familyhood, why couldn’t you have sent me the kids who slept in my fourties instead of my twenties??” (then God laughed and sent me twins who didn’t sleep for 15  months and stopped napping at 2.)

And then there’s Julie from Creekside Learning who has a ton of great suggestions for homeschooling with a busy toddler underfoot. Julie adequately describes my life when she writes:

But when he was not-quite-two, I typed “how to homeschool with a toddler” into a search engine and found things like this:  “Give your child a copy of the worksheet your older child is doing so he will feel included.”  That was good advice but it was just not going to work with my super-active, sweet boy. He was the kind of toddler who tore up worksheets with his teeth, spit them out and looked at me like “What else ya got?”

Julie makes realistic suggestions for the mere mortals but she has 3 children total and I have 3 children *under 4*. And 4 different grades to teach. And 11 people to feed. And a house to keep from getting shut down by public health authorities. We can’t explore our way through algebra outdoors by counting puddles and spiders. Homeschooling at odd hours is impractical for the elementary school aged children who are tired after the twins are in bed and having a slack year will only work as long as it’s an exception, not your way of life (see “homeschooling highschool” above.)

(As I was writing this, I saw Ève apply something to her face from the corner of my eye and I asked “What are you doing?” She answered: “Putting my make-up.” I asked “With what?” She replied: “Butter.”)

There are so many “turn key” homeschooling curricula allowing lucky parents to crack the books open and let the magic happen. Some even have teacher assistance and tutoring. But all these wonderful options would require us to give-up on French instruction. So I’m still here, fighting my way through a makeshift French curriculum while guarding the fridge and making sure the twins don’t set the house of fire. My homeschool days start early and end late and my kids are even less thrilled about homeschooling then they were when we started (which brings the enthusiasm level down to “cadaveric”). Onward and upward!

Are we going to keep homeschooling in light of this difficult first year? In a nutshell, yes. For all the difficulties that we have faced, we have also seen positive changes in our children that we want to see blossom. I can see that the challenges associated with parenting 3 year-old twins are temporary and age-related. I can also see that many of my challenges are due to learning to homeschool and the process of “deschooling” . My teenagers are still affected by the homeschooling stereotypes they have heard while attending school, especially in the year prior to our move to homeschool. They are also not as independent and autonomous as they would be had they been homeschooled from the start. Part of my problems with homeschooling — and the reason why other homeschoolers with large families have better success — is that I have children who should be old enough to work autonomously but don’t. When my teenagers run our of work or encounter a problem they cannot solve, they revert to school mode and stop working. This means that all 7 children present at home during the day need me to be physically present by their side while working or living. That’s not a normal occurrence in large homeschooling families unless they have children with special needs. My children, especially my teenagers, have yet to take responsibility for their learning and their socialization. They are quick to criticize what I throw at them but in true school manner, have not clued-in that they can affect change by getting involved. There is still too much room for improvement to call it quits at this point.

I always tell parents that they need to raise their children with the end-game in mind. When I look forward, I like what I see. I can imagine the fruit before it matures and the fruits of homeschooling are the ones I want to harvest.

(As an aside, if you have suggestions that don’t involve hiring a butler, a maid, a driver and a governess, feel free to shoot them my way.)



17 thoughts on “In which I tell you how I really feel about homeschooling

  1. Great post. I think deschooling takes a lot of time, personally I think it has taken the last three years for me up deschool! Question: have you ever homeschooled in the past? If not, why not? Just curious about your transition.

    1. Hi Carol! We homeschooled for 1 year when my two oldest children were in kindergarten/grade 1. I had four children under 6 and I found it too hard. I was very anxious and depressed at the time and it was just too much. I still struggle with some of the same fears (minus the post partum depression, thank God!) but now that my children have been in school, I know how much they learn (and don’t learn) in school so I’m better at calming those fears.

      We’ve always had friends who homeschooled through the years and really liked what we saw. We liked the idea of homeschooling but we thought it wasn’t for us: for all the reasons I listed in my post. But it came a time where we asked ourselves: if we know what is good for our family, why aren’t we giving it to our children? And are we going to regret trying or regret not even trying? So we launched. But our children were lukewarm from the start: they really enjoyed school and were very successful academically and socially. For many years we felt like “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but being socially successful in today’s world is a double edged sword. Children learn a lot through socialization, and it’s mostly bad things. We really felt that we needed to turn the tides and raise them in an environment where large Christian families were more the norm and less the weirdos. I was tired of fighting on all fronts against the culture, i wanted to have a whack at it, see if I could do better than the school system.

      Academically-speaking, it’s not too hard to do in the elementary years. It’s more challenging in the high school years. But socially-speaking, I already see improvement in my children. We’re happy with homeschooling but it’s been a tough first year.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! Sometimes all I read about homeschooling in its attempt to be encouraging, can be discouraging and make me feel like, “what am I doing wrong?” …yet I know many of our circumstances (and personalities ) are different. We have 4 children under 3.5 (including almost 8mo twins) plus my husbands 17yo who lives an hour away. We juggle making sure he is the best Dad he can be to ALL his children and that takes him away from home some days. His job requires long hours and he’s usually up by 3 and gone by 4 (or 5am latest). His hours are long, unpredictable and extremely physically demanding. He will not be able to be very involved in homeschooling, but is supportive though our extended family (and 17yo) “don’t get it”. We live in a super liberal crime ridden area that limits our ability to “free range parent” so all of the children are within a few feet of me all day and are very creative with new and improved ways to express their creativity (your images didn’t shock me in the least …nor the butter). I taught before I left to stay home with my own children and no matter how many rabbits i pull out of my hat, they do not have the same influence on my own children. Due to the area we live in, we are trying to renovate another (safer and bigger) house (a 100 yr old fixer upper) and are currently juggling 3 mortgages. In the next 3 years alone we will be renovating (one totally gutting) 2 houses, selling two houses, moving, schooling, my husband will have to undergo a minimum of 1 major surgery that will put him out of work and require much care as will my mother who will be unable to walk for months (and was my one source of hands on support). .. all with a bunch of very littles with huge personalities. Nearly everything in your list above had me nodding. Thank you. I also see the long term goal, though and will keep moving forward with that goal in mind. Prayers for you my friend that each year improves!

    1. Thank you for your message! What a busy time if your life you are going through. It’s really nice to feel like we are not alone. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers too.

  3. I say it takes a village. Invite other moms over to spend time with you during the day. Sure, it’ll mean even more kids in the house, but at least it’ll also mean another adult to talk to? Another adult to keep an eye out for the one heading for the back door, or planning mischief in the bathroom? Another adult to just watch everyone while you take five minutes to be ALONE in the bathroom? As introverted as I am, I always feel better when friends come over and hang out with me and my kids with no judgment on the state of my house or expectations of being fed or even said hello to.

  4. Co oping with other families has always been a part of our homeschooling. It has looked very different one year to the next, and some years it has been a greater help than others. But what it has always provided was a source of accountability for the kids so that they would try to do their work independently even when stuck – because they were more inclined to try to complete it for another person besides me. As your older children become more independent it will become easier. Another help for me was to schedule older children to work/supervise young ones (even one on one) for 15 minutes during the day. It makes the older kids a bit more responsible and independent and the younger kids feel like they’ve gotten special attention and their own time. I’ve got 8 kids – the two eldest will be seniors this year. I NEVER wanted to homeschool but saw the goodness in it. And I surely NEVER thought we would homeschool all the way through highschool. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve gotten two this far! Anyway, best wishes and a prayer from one beleaguered mom for you and your kids.

    1. Thank you for your good wishes and prayers! We started attending a coop last winter and I have to say that it was immensely helpful. Not just for the relief (for me!) but also to connect with other homeschooled kids (for them). We had decided against attending coops right away because I was concerned with over scheduling. But the benefits sure outweighed the logistical challenges.

      Scheduling the older ones with the littles are something that we are working towards. We have a really negative dynamic going on right now where the teenagers mishandle the little ones (either by being too impatient or too rude) and cause meltdowns that I then have to defuse, leaving me with more work than I had before the teens started “helping”. I think that turning this around will be instrumental in making my days go more smoothly. We’re a work in progress.

      Prayers back at you and wishing you a good year ahead. 🙂

  5. You had me at “But expectations can only be lowered so much when you are homeschooling highschool. We lowered our expectations so much this year, we nearly dug a hole to China.” This may not have been the inspirational fluff I thought I needed as I face the next school year with four school-age kids and three more or less “adult children” who are somehow all turning out to be living at home next year, but it was definitely the comic relief I needed. Thank you!

  6. Salut! J’habite en Colombie-Britannique (originaire du N.-B.) et je fais l’école à la maison avec mes 5 enfants de 6 ans et moins. Il existe des cours à distance, qui proviennent de la France, mais qui sont super bien présenté, avec suivi ou non, mais toujours avec UN PLAN DE COURS. Je suis les cours Saint-Anne. Il y a aussi ceux du Sacré-Coeur, l’école Ker Lan, … bref plusieurs. On ne peut effectivement pas faire l’école à la maison sans support!

    1. Merci! Le cours Ste-Anne est vraiment très intéressant. Je vais y re-jetter un coup d’œil. Cependant, je crois qu’il arrête à la 6ieme si je me souviens bien. Mais je vais regarder ça pour mes petits de l’élémentaire.

      1. Ce sentir seule au monde n’est rien d’amusant. J’étais bien contente d’apprendre qu’il y a maintenant plus 100 000 homeschoolers en France! Si vous cherchez des cours pour le secondaire, il y a les cours privé CEFOP (Saint-Dominique et Saine Maria Goretti) qui en offrent et qui m’ont été recommandés. Il y en a sûrement beaucoup d’autres (Legendre?). Vous connaissez sûrement le sîte de Rémy et Cécile? (… Oh et le Khan Academy qui est gratuit et offre des vidéos d’enseignement bilingue sur tout. Bon courage cette année! Vous avez une si belle famille. Cheers!

  7. Hi, Véronique! This is the first time I read your blog (it was linked in a Facebook post by a friend). I haven’t read any of your more recent posts yet, so I don’t know if the situation has improved, but my first reaction was, “You need a Time Timer!” I seriously don’t know why every parent on the planet doesn’t own one. In your case, try using two. You shouldn’t have kids in the next room constantly asking when they can come in. Instead, you set the timer and when they ask you, you say, “Do you see any red on the timer? Yes? Well then, your time’s not up!” When you have a group of kids sitting down for homeschooling, you set the timer (for example, in 15- or 20-minute chunks) and no one is allowed to stand up until the timer rings. You’d be surprised how kids respect the timer (more than the parent, even though it’s the parent who controls it)!

    The only difficulty is that you already have a large brood and it’s easier to introduce the Time Timer to younger kids (the idea might meet with resistance from older ones). But who knows? Google “Time Timer” and you’ll know what I mean. By the way, it’s applications are limitless. Like showing a child how much time is left during time-outs (definitely increases compliance) or putting a limit on an outing (“We have to leave in 10 minutes”).

    1. Thank you! I like the idea of the timer! I have to admit having very strong doubt that it will make a dent with my particular gang but they have surprised me in the past. They do very well with a set routine and schedule so who knows?? Thank you again, I will definitely Google it. I haven’t been posting to this blog lately but I have a Facebook page called “Fearless Family Life” where I post updates while I try to launch a newer, better blog.

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