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Friday, March 21, 2008


Calling It Quits

There are many reasons why people decide to start homeschooling their kids. But what prompts a family to stop homeschooling?

Last summer some friends of ours decided to pull their two boys out of public school because they were frustrated with the quality of teaching and worried about the negative influences of certain bullies on the playground.

The parents were enthusiastic about homeschooling and the possibilities for learning. I warned the mom, who would be the primary teacher, that the first year was a tough time of adjustment to a new and very busy schedule.

She had it under control, she told me. She was organized and ready.

Within the first month she voiced her first minor complaint to us, about how much time it was taking her older boy to finish some of the assignments. My main piece of advice to her was to relax and be flexible about the work. Homeschooling shouldn't be rigid. I like to encourage fun learning and discovery.

We heard from our friend off and on over the months, and it was always the same refrain. "They're falling behind," she'd say. "We work from morning until night and the boys are starting to hate school."

I didn't know what to say, so I just offered simple words of encouragement and continued to tell her, "The first year is difficult. You're learning how to be a teacher, and your kids are figuring out what's expected of them. Most of all, you have to learn how to be flexible."

I thought she'd turned a corner in the new year when we didn't hear anything negative for the first two months. Then, out of nowhere, I get an email from her. Not only has she completely soured on homeschooling, but she won't even finish the year. She marched her boys down to the local school and re-enrolled them with just two months left in the semester.

In her letter, she explained to me why they were quitting:

"I'm VERY burnt out. I am so tired of spending every day going over teacher manual after teacher manual (on and off the computer) and trying to keep up with the boys' work. I've gotten so burnt out that I've decided that we are not going to continue homeschooling.

I'm also missing having some time at home without the kids. I've just found that everything I do is for someone else and it's exhausting. I have been stretched so far in so many directions that something had to change, and quickly.

I finally had to admit that I can't do it all. Not unless I could figure out how to get more hours into a day, and I don't know anyone who can do that."

Let her reasons serve as a warning to you if you're thinking of homeschooling. It is not a decision to be made lightly. Taking on the role of teacher to your kids is a major life changer. You have to give up a lot of personal time.

For some people, that's just asking too much.

For me, it's a privilege and a joy to be my son's teacher. I can't wait until next year, when I'll have my daughter at home as well. We're going to have the best learning environment possible. It will be challenging and fun for all of us. You won't be hearing anything about me calling it quits.



OpenID sunniemom said...

It is also a warning to those who are trying to reproduce school at home. If school was such an abysmal failure that you removed your kids, why use the same methods that hoovered in the classroom at the kitchen table?

Every parent I have met that tried home education and 'burnt out' was doing just that- using mountains of curriculum and trying to follow the TE lesson plans (as if teachers in school do all those things in the TE, puhlease) and they went at homeschooling as if it is a sprint instead of a marathon. Pace yourself people!

4:18 AM  
Blogger Melany aka Supermom said...

Firstly: THANK YOU. The CD actually made it here in one piece ^_^ Even if the cover did not The boys are loving listening to your music especially since we have never heard most of the songs!

I think I have said before that I completely take my hat of to you. Homeschooling DOES take up a lot of time and you must be totally committed. You do a great job from what I read.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Ed (zoesdad) said...

It's not too far removed from the decision to be a stay at home parent. It's not as easy as one would think. That being said--

My advice to any parent is know your limitations. I tip my hat to any parent that undertakes a home schooling regime. Largely because I know I couldn't do it.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Dana said...

That's tough...homeschooling is tough and particularly that first year. I was similar to your friend, but luckily I learned to chill before I either gave up or drove my children insane!

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In today's society, if I had my children all over again I would do as you are, if I could financially I mean. I have seen the results from a few home schooled children that come by here regularly and from your son, it shows big time. Keep up the good work and stop by anytime with them. The Stickman

9:35 AM  
Blogger creative-type dad said...

I don't think I could ever do it. Unless I had no other feasible alternatives.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Katrina said...

It's definitely a decision to make after much thought and consideration! You're a great encouragement for those who are thinking about it, for sure, since it's clearly working so well for your family. :)

2:20 PM  
Blogger Word Tosser said...

It is like most things with kids...
some can do it.. some can't. It isn't a reflection on the person so much as it is just one can and the other can't. Kind of like trying to each your kid how to drive. Or play an instrument.

But homeschooling if you can manage it.. is so rewarding in so many ways. It is hard to judge which one benefits from it the most... the parent or the child.

As I posted on my blog a few days ago, the sad thing I read was how California passed a law against non teacher, parents homeschooling. How sad. 99.9% of the children I have met that were homeschool was way ahead of his/her counter part. And their parents were not teachers by trade.
Public schools are for those who don't have the moxie to homeschool. And I would be one of those people, that couldn't.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Our first year homeschooling, there were more than a few days when I was ready to throw in the towel. I had to do some serious adjustments to my daily expectations. Basically, I had to learn to relax, and bring a bit more fun and wonder to the process. My son has enjoyed this year better than last because of the changes I made to how I teach.

6:30 PM  
Blogger MarmiteToasty said...

Some I presume think that homeschooling is maybe just a few hours and then their is still time to do the housework etc.... your doing a grand job..

a fanks over on Twaddle :)


4:45 AM  
OpenID brettdl said...

I would probably home school if it weren't for the pesky need to make a living.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Neonalune said...

Great point. I plan on homeschooling my little one from the get-go. I already know what it's like not to have any personal time so I guess I don't have any expectations in that regard! I do feel like it's my job as a mother to have to give up most of my personal time to raise a healthy well adjusted I didn't get that when I was growing up. My only question is when to start. I guess after I get her potty trained maybe we can start on the algebra?

6:39 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

We are trying to decide what to do about school next year. When I brought up the idea of homeschooling, the boys were all for it. If that's what we do, I'm glad to know that there are others out there to go to for advice.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Lisa M said...

It's true that homeschooling is a tough road to follow the first year. I couldn't do it with my kids. They really need to get out and go to school with their friends. But there are positives and negatives to both home and traditional school. I try to do a little homeschooling on weekends and breaks from school just by getting the kids out to do things that are so fun they don't realize they are learning. Even pruning our fruit trees is a great learning experience!

5:04 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

//I had to do some serious adjustments to my daily expectations.//

There's the key. If your expectations aren't flexible or realistic, as seems to be the case with the mother in the OP, you'll fail.

Simple as that.

4:24 AM  
Blogger jugglingpaynes said...

How unfortunate. But every parent needs to do what is important for their family. I had a similar situation with a friend who gave up on homeschooling. I tried to reiterate the importance of relaxing the first year and learning how your children learn, but she could not get her head out of the school model. You are a good friend for supporting her through her experience. You did all you could do.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Katey said...

Sad! She needed to de-school those kids for at least the first year....We are on our 2nd year and LOVE IT....can't say I didn't think about that big yellow bus once or twice then we would have a day like today KNex allllll day and it was bliss!(not all days are KNex days) Makes it all worthwhile

9:56 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

WOW. I wonder if it were just the mom freaking out or if things would have been different if she were connected to some other HS'ers.

What are you going to say when she complains how rotten the public school is next month? LOL!

PS Sunniemom, your comment was such an encouragement to me. Great way to start the day :]

3:32 AM  
Blogger Marbel said...

I never had to go through this as my kids never went to school. Still, we have days when I long for the bus to come take my kids out of my hair. It is sad that this family had such a bad experience homeschooling. I would say that the mother was very unprepared, despite her thoughts to the contrary. I hope school, the 2nd time around, works for them.

4:27 AM  
Blogger FatcatPaulanne said...

It's sad really. She turned to you for advice. You gave excellent advice, which she completely ignored and then the kids have to suffer for it.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Denise said...

The same thing happened to my SIL, who started homeschooling even before I did 4 yrs ago, but this year put all but her youngest back in public school. I tried helping her to see outside the box, sent her info and links, but she still felt she had to lecture and teach each class for 6 different grades each day like the P.School, and says she just doesn't have the "teacher's mentality".

It's not about the teacher.

10:51 AM  
Blogger kat said...

I'm so grateful that I learned about homeschooling even before we had children, it is so much easier to start at the beginning. When my oldest was 6 we started homeschooling, it only took 20 minutes a day. Now with 3 doing school and 2 little ones it takes several hours go get through the bookwork. If I had jumped into it after several years of sending them away, I don't think I could have handled it either. But it has been such a gradual flow in our home that I can manage.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Goodness, that's exactly why I chose to homeschool. I can't do it all, but needing to helps us all, as a family, be more disciplined and focused on what we truly need in our lives.

9:04 AM  

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