HOMESCHOOLING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.
There are abusive parents in this world. There are selfish, self-centered parents. There are parents with anger management issues, alcohol and drug addictions or otherwise unsafe home environments. These people should not be homeschooling.
There are also single parents working multiple jobs, parents with serious afflictions or disabilities, and parents who can't read the newspaper, let alone a classic of literature. These parents will probably not be homeschooling either.
Now, yes, God is a God of miracles, and He can take any situation and turn it around. He can provide ways and means we would never have thought possible for bad parents to become good parents, for good parents to become better parents, for great parents to get the breaks they deserve to allow them to pursue homeschooling if God is truly calling them to do it. I believe that with all my heart.
But the fact remains: homeschooling is not for everyone.
Scared yet? I hope so. Because, as a homeschooler, you're going to face a lot of hard, scary things. You're going to have to build up your courage and face them.
Ready for the brutally honest Top 10 Harsh Realities of Homeschool?
Let's get to it!
Just as I came up with the Top 10 Joys of Homeschooling, I've also written down the 10 worst parts of it. Yes, there are downsides to the homeschooling life. I tell you these things, not to discourage you from homeschooling, but to prepare you for the reality of it. Too many homeschool writers paint a lovely, idyllic picture of the endless blissful days of homeschooling, because they want so much to encourage people to choose homeschooling.
The problem with that is this: not all days are perfect. Most days will have at least one little problem that arises. Homeschooling will not suddenly turn your family into perfection, it will not make your children instant angels or instant geniuses. It is work, hard work, work and stress and strain.
Here goes my Top 10 countdown of the harshest realities of homeschool:
Time, and lack of it. I made up a little saying that goes like this: if motherhood is a full-time job, homeschooling is the overtime. Homeschool requires great amounts of your time. Not just the hours in a day you spend teaching your children, but the hours of planning, of researching, or preparing. Many things that normally take up your time will need to be cut back, or shelved entirely. This might even include things you do or classes you teach at church. If God is calling you to homeschool, then He understands that you'll have to cut back on these things and in His infinite wisdom, He already has plans for who will fill that spot while you focus on your own family.
If may, however, be something as simple as time for watching TV or playing video games. It may be that you need to cut back the time spent on hobbies, crafts, sports, or yes, even personal reading and writing.
The fact is that homeschooling requires a great deal of your time. In an average Monday - Friday week, for me, I spend 45 hours sleeping (that's 10 pm - 7 am), 30 hours "schooling" (9 am - 3 pm), 6 hours (give or take!) reading, researching, and planning for school, 25 hours doing other "family stuff" (cooking, eating, cleaning up, doing laundry, reading together, taking walks, visiting relatives, playing games together, etc.). Then of course there's "Mommy/Daddy time." In a five day week, there are 120 hours, and I've just used up at least 100 of them, without a single bit of "me time"!
And then of course there's the fact that at the end of a long homeschool day, sometimes you're too tired to think straight even when you do get time for yourself!
It sounds pretty awful, doesn't it?
But really, once you prioritize your commitments, and realize that family comes first (after God, anyway!), once you learn to let go and enjoy being with your kids and doing things for them, you really don't miss "me time" at all....
9. Taking Over Your Home
It's usually pretty easy to spot a homeschooler's house. They're the ones with maps and charts and artwork all over the walls instead of pictures and posters. They're the ones with overflowing bookshelves and books stacked against the walls and on the tables and the kitchen counters! They're the ones with Warning signs on the refrigerator, because you never know just what sort of experiment might be...er..."processing" inside.
Just as homeschool takes up your time, it also takes over your house. From the homeschool "stuff" that is everywhere to the cleaning that gets neglected and the laundry that piles up. Now, this is not to say that homeschoolers are dirty people! But when you're caught between dusting the furniture or agreeing to read your six year old that book about bugs "just one more time", you weigh your options and find the reading more important.
Lots of the homeschool writers and speakers of today, I have noticed, live in large houses with lots of land. Most homeschoolers in the real world do not. We live, all 5 of us (plus my mom now!), along with 2 cats and 2 hermit crabs, in a 1200 square foot, 3 bedroom house on a regular city lot. Most of you are probably in similar situations. Most homeschoolers don't have separate rooms just for homeschool stuff (though I know a few that do). Your "stuff" will be everywhere. Your home will probably never grace the pages of Better Homes & Gardens, and Martha Stewart will never sing your praises.
But your children will, and isn't that more important?
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'till tomorrow,
for babies grow up, much to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobweb-dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep
8. Bad Things at the Worst Times
It's the law of homeschool. Bad things will happen. And sometimes they happen at the absolute worst times.
Like when you're at the park, answering some curious parent's question about socialization, assuring them that homeschool children know perfectly well how to act in social situations, and your 4 year old picks that very moment to knock over two kids and yell, "Ha, ha!" as he pushes his way to the front of the line for the slide.
Or like when you're sitting at a restaurant having lunch in the middle of a school day, and not two minutes after the waitress compliments your kids' manners and you reply with, "Thank you, they're homeschooled," not TWO MINUTES later, your daughters start fighting across the table, spilling a drink, sending silverware clattering to the floor, and drawing disapproving glances from everyone around.
Then there are the other kinds of bad things at the worst times. Things like your youngest getting a stomach virus the same day your oldest's much-anticipated new gymnastics class is scheduled to start. Things like downpours of rain on the day you had a grand outdoor field trip planned. Like when Grandma stops by for a surprise visit (loaded with candy) when you've just gotten your over-active kids to quiet down for awhile. Like when your husband loses his job - your only income - right after you've just spend $2000 on homeschool books. Or when you end up with a difficult pregnancy and required bed rest at the beginning of the school year.
Things happen. It's life. Sometimes it really stinks, but you have to grit your teeth, grin, and bear it!
This too shall pass!
Homeschooling can be ex-pen-sive. Now, I know there are families that practically live off of freebies - printable worksheets and library books, etc. I've even done it for awhile, myself.
But, at least for me, free worksheets and downloadable books just cannot compare with the feel of a real, solid book in your hands. And, while I love the library, there are some book you just want to own, to keep by your bed - or your children's beds - to pull our whenever you want and read all over again.
So, homeschooling takes some money. Even the freebie-lovers have to buy paper and ink to print out all those wonderful free resources.
The amount spent on homeschool varies by family, some spending just a couple hundred a year and some spending one thousand plus per student each year.
Katy's 6th grade curriculum - grand total - $870 - ouch!
And, unfortunately, money doesn't grow on trees, but it's got to come from somewhere. This usually means cutting back on extras - less eating out, less new clothes, scaled-down Christmases and birthdays.
There will be times when you'll have to decide between those gorgeous new shoes and new history books, and sometimes it is an oh-so-hard decision to make!
But in the end, when you truly consider the lasting value of what you're spending your money on - your child's education - you realize that it really is priceless.
Your second grader can barely read. Your 10 year old still hasn't memorized his multiplication facts. Your teenager has gone hormonal and won't let you read her journal entries anymore so you're really not sure if she's really writing anything at all. And your two year old just threw up. On the cat.
You're tired, very tired, and you begin to wonder....
"Am I even cut out to do this homeschool thing?"
"Are my kids actually learning ANYTHING?"
"Am I doing more harm than good?"
That is when a couple of little critters called Doubt and Uncertainty come creeping up on you. They join forces with Self-Pity (after all, you are so tired) and the ever popular Comparison Trap, and boy, are you in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!
There are lots of things to be concerned about as homeschoolers. What non-homeschoolers don't realize is that all those things they wonder about homeschool - socialization? academics? - are things that homeschool parents think about, too.
I have heard people say that they wouldn't want to homeschool because they wouldn't want the full responsibility of their child's education. And what a responsibility it is!
And there will be times when, as a homeschooler, you will wonder if you're really doing the right thing by taking on that huge responsibility. New homeschoolers have that feeling a lot. Even the very best veteran homeschoolers feel that way sometimes.
I think the best solution for dealing with feelings like this is to find a homeschool mom who has successfully homeschooled a child through graduation, and seek out encouragement. Get to know her. At first she may seem like a saint, after all she must be perfect to have made it through to the end, right? Wrong! And she'll tell you about all the mistakes she made along the way, and all the doubts she had. Then you can think hey, if she messed up sometimes but still managed to graduate a smart, well-rounded kid, then surely I can to!
Rinse and repeat as necessary!
You've probably seen them on TV. Those shows and TV movies about the homeschool parents who secretly abuse their children. Or the parents who shelter their children so much that they don't even know how to look a stranger in the eye. Or the parents who train their kids to be religious zealots of some extreme cult church.
Are there really homeschool families like this out there? I suppose there might be, though I personally have never known any. But if there are, they are few and far between, the exception and not the rule, and far from what a normal homeschooling family is like.
You might think that, in today's oh-so-tolerant and oh-so-enlightened day and age, that surely, surely, people don't really think that homeschoolers like that any more, do they?
Think again. Despite the fact that there are now at least 2 million (a conservative estimate) homeschooled kids in the USA, despite the mounting evidence that homeschooled kids do better than public schooled kids both academically and socially, there are still people who think all homeschoolers are suspicious, with family secrets to hide or secret plots being planned. At the very least, they think we must surely be raising backward, bumbling, anti-social idiots.
It might be a friend, a relative, or your next door neighbor. It might even be (gasp!) someone from your church.
If you homeschool, I guarantee that at least once (and likely more than that) during your homeschool career, you will come across someone who swears you are in some way ruining your children's lives, even they have absolutely no idea what real homeschoolers are like.
People love to criticize homeschoolers. I'm not really sure why. Now, there are people who will ask legitimate questions out of real concern or honest innocent curiosity. You should do your best to answer them honestly, openly, and kindly, although it does get rather tiring explaining that yes, your kids do have friends and no, they are not locked in the house all day.
But then, there are certain other people who will critique, question, and otherwise attempt to tear you to pieces with the intent of trying to either make you look bad, make homeschooling look bad, or just make you feel either like an idiot or like you'd like to bite their head off, just as soon as you retrieve your own cranium from their jaws!
These are the people that will drive you crazy.
No matter how intelligently or patiently you try to answer their rapid-fire attack, it will do you no good. They aren't really at all interested in what you have to say, they are only interested in trying to make you look bad and discredit homeschooling altogether.
I don't know why some people are like this. Obviously they have some issues of their own that they need to work on, and they're avoiding their own faults by trying to find yours.
Will it kill you? No.
But is it pleasant? Definitely not?
Will you have to buck up and deal with it anyway? Yep.
3. Needing Support
With all this craziness of homeschooling going on, you're going to need reinforcements. Ideally this support comes from your husband (or wife, if Dad does most of the schooling). If you're blessed enough to have a supportive spouse, thank God for him (or her!) every day.
But the fact is that a lot of women don't have supportive spouses. Some have husbands who think homeschooling is great as long as it doesn't interfere with their schedule. Some have husbands who think homeschooling is "women's work". Some have husbands who don't want them to homeschool. And some don't even have husbands.
If you are a single mother, or a mom whose husband is no help, you will have to find support elsewhere. It could be a friend, a relative, someone from church, or a homeschool group. The fact is that you need support from somewhere. You need a listening ear, a helping hand, an encouraging word, and sometimes, a shoulder to cry on.
You should not have to go it alone.
OK, so now you have very little time for yourself, your dream home looks like the library threw up on it, your kids have just embarrassed you in public, your sister is telling everyone what a horrible mother you are, your neighbor is sure you must be abusing your kids, your second-grader can barely read, and you don't even have the extra money to buy chocolate to make it all better.
Homeschool, while eliminating a lot of worries and stresses you might have, has its own little problems and stresses to add in.
Sometimes you will feel like screaming. Sometimes you'll feel like crying. Sometimes you'll just feel like throwing your hands up and saying, "I quit! I can't do this anymore!"
And then you'll have to get up the next day and do it all over again.
Homeschooling your kids can be STRESSFUL.
Time to suck it up, mommies. No pain, no gain, right?
1. Attacks of Satan
The previous nine Realities all have one thing in common: they are all instances of attacks by the devil himself.
Remember number one of the Joys of Homeschooling? It was "Knowing You Are Doing God's Will."
Well, if you are doing God's will, you can bet the devil will be coming after you with everything he's got.
He will use the words and actions of other people against you. He will use trials, trouble, and temptations against you. He will even use your own emotions against you.
He will use every trick he knows to plant doubt, fear, uncertainty, anger, disharmony, embarrassment, self-pity, exhaustion, incompetence, and every other negative thought he can think of into your mind and heart and body.
My mother has always said that you know you're doing what's right when Satan attacks you like that, because if you're not doing something that worries him, he won't be bothered with you.
Now what could worry Satan more than parents fervently, passionately working to raise the Godly young men and women of the future?
So the number one Reality, hard as it is, is also a sort of reward, because if you're facing it, you know you're doing something right.