Top 8 Real Life Homeschool Struggles
Are you wondering, “What are the hardest things about homeschooling?”
Or maybe, “What are the biggest homeschool struggles?”
I used to wonder the same thing when I was still thinking about homeschooling!
There are so many blog posts out there that show a rosy, sweet, ideal vision of home education…but is it really like that…every day? (spoiler alert – nope!)
It’s hard to believe, but we are coming up on our 5th year of homeschooling.
Not surprisingly, I have had to learn a lot and work through a lot of challenges to make homeschooling effective for our family.
I want to share those real homeschool struggles and show you an honest look at what I actually don’t like about homeschooling.
This is not one of those bait and switch posts by the way.
You know what I mean.
We have all clicked on a post that says something like, “5 Reasons You Should Never Homeschool.”
And the reasons are things like “You don’t like the idea of giving your child a customized education, you don’t like relaxing mornings reading books over breakfast, you don’t like having more time with your family, etc.”
Nope, this is a real, honest, gritty look at the homeschool struggles I face…and why I do it anyway.
Top 8 Real Life Homeschool Struggles
1. Throwing Away All the Projects, Activities, and other School Work
So this first homeschool struggle might sound like a small thing, but it is actually what inspired me to write this post.
It just feels wrong to trash so much of my kids’ work…but I can’t keep it all. I don’t want to end up on a homeschooling special of the TV show “Hoarders!”
Things that are cluttering up my tiny classroom that need to go in the trash soon: art projects, spelling tests, writing assignments, notebooking projects, maps, timelines, and math worksheets galore.
I imagine that a school teacher has an easier time ripping down the bulletin board items at the end of the year.
For a parent, though, it is so much more personal when you worked side by side with your kid to create these projects.
(**I live in a state that does not require me to keep detailed records and portfolios. We are required to show “progress” at the end of the year with a standardized test or a note from a licensed homeschool evaluator. Your state might be different with what you have to keep.)
2. Too Busy Cleaning to Have Time to Clean
Homeschool moms across the world struggle with this – I am sure of it!
A house full of homeschool kids is LIVED IN.
I spend so much time cleaning up after meals/snacks, vacuuming up craft supplies, policing up math cubes, restacking library books, and emptying my revolving laundry basket.
I often do not have the time or energy to even think about more complex cleaning tasks – like baseboards, windows, ceiling fans, and bathrooms.
I used to have a great system of cleaning a little bit every day, but homeschooling can make your life and time quite unpredictable. That system no longer works, and I am searching for something more effective.
In the meantime, I am in a daily fight with myself to put down the cleaning supplies and be present with my child while she works through a math problem.
It’s harder than you think.
3. Time for Myself
My first year of homeschooling I asked a group of much more experienced homeschool moms how they find time to exercise and connect with friends.
I was nearly laughed out of the room.
Apparently, the answer was that you just don’t. Attending to your own needs is just another thing that is sacrificed to your kid’s education.
I have definitely struggled over the last couple years to have a consistent workout routine because I have to wake up pretty early to fit it in.
My best friend and I connect regularly using the Voxer app (basically leaving long voicemails) because that’s about all we can manage with our schedules.
I don’t even talk to my own family on the phone as much as I used to.
So much time is devoted to school, school prep, extracurriculars, playdates, trying to fit in one on one time with each kid, and connecting with my husband – there just aren’t very many hours in the day now.
4. I Have to Maintain the Pace with Homeschooling
Putting your kid in “normal school” is essentially like putting their education on a treadmill.
You just have to keep pace with dropping them off and picking them up and the machine takes care of the rest.
Homeschooling is like putting your kid’s education on an elliptical – my most treaded cardio machine.
You are responsible to set and maintain the pace that is effective for your child to learn – and keep it going.
If you go too fast, your kid gets burned out and starts to hate learning. If you start to slow down and lose momentum, your kid may start to fall behind.
Myself and many other homeschool mothers agonize over this pressure and the decisions that come with it.
Is this the best curriculum? Is my kid meeting their full potential? Should I push harder? Do I need to pull back? Is my kid where they need to be?
The responsibility on my shoulders and effort to keep that “elliptical” going week after week can be intense.
Compared to a private school, homeschooling is a drop in the bucket. But compared to a free public school – it will bend your budget.
Between curriculum, co-op expenses, supplies, and field trips, we have spent thousands of dollars over the years.
We have had to become very intentional about our budget and choices so that we can afford homeschooling for our three girls.
I will admit that I have thought about how nice it must be for my neighbors. They just scoot their kids out the door and they walk down the street to the public school – free classes, free books, free, free, free.
But then I remember that we don’t have to buy book bags, lunch boxes, all the stuff on that ridiculously long school supplies list, donations to all the fundraisers, and we don’t have to deal with buying “school clothes and shoes.”
Maybe we’re breaking even? Yep, I’m gonna go with that.
6. Multitasking Teaching Multiple Ages
I realize that I had it pretty easy while I was only homeschooling my oldest child for 2 years.
Today I have my oldest in 4th grade, my middle child in 1st grade, and my youngest child coming up quickly into a full kindergarten curriculum.
Balancing the ages, needs, and abilities of three different ages presents a significant homeschool struggle for me.
For their core work (reading, writing, and math) I work independently with each of them – rotating through them until all their work is done. I am often eating meals and snacks while working with them because I don’t have time to take a break.
We do enrichment subjects together (history, science, music, art, P.E.), and sometimes that works beautifully, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Keeping their attention and keeping them on task can make me feel like I’m walking a tight rope and herding cats at the same time!
I am frustrated that I have less one on one time teaching because I feel like I am constantly switching back and forth between them…while also keeping my younger kids out of the sharpie bin.
7. Balancing Mom Hat vs Teacher Hat
I have had other homeschool moms I don’t even know mention this issue to me, so I know it is all too common.
You see, my “mom hat” is on when I hand out consequences for poor choices (disobedience, snatching toys, attitude, whining, hitting, etc.).
I have no problem walking from that interaction to the classroom, putting on my “teacher hat,” and pulling out a spelling workbook to start school for the day.
My kids…not so much.
They have crossed arms, grumpy faces, and an attitude that says, “You can make me sit in this chair, but you can’t make me learn anything.”
Kids have a real hard time recovering from discipline and getting into an attitude of learning with the same person that just sent them to their room, put them in time out, confiscated that toy, or gave them a stern talking to.
Sometimes an entire day can be derailed because of this! I honestly find it exasperating as I see time ticking away and the entire day going off track because of a bad attitude.
8. Motivating My Kids to Get School Work Done
A close cousin to the hat balancing issue is the struggle to motivate my kids to just do their work.
I saved it for last because it truly is the homeschool struggle to top all homeschool struggles.
It is an ever present issue when you are dealing with kids who just want to play and are not interesting in sitting down to look at math problems, spelling words, a beautiful poem, or reading charts.
I feel like I have to really hype up school because my kids will always have half of whatever my enthusiasm level is.
I have had a lot of success with a reward chart system I developed (You can read about that here).
That chart has helped us a TON – I actually don’t know where we would be without it.
But there are still days where my kid is dragging herself into the classroom and I can just tell it is going to be an uphill kind of day.
I have to really work on my own patience and anger when we have days like this. I can easily get frustrated and that doesn’t help anything.
So, why am I still homeschooling?
Why do I keep doing this?
Simply put…because it’s worth it. The benefits of homeschooling FAR outweigh the struggles for me right now.
When I take the time to look at what I am giving my children with a home education…all of these stresses and struggles start to fade.
Yep – I don’t like throwing the projects and assignments away…but I also cherish the fact that I am the person who saw every moment of the effort that went into them.
Yep – it drives me nuts that my house is messier than I would like it to be…but I don’t think I will regret that the baseboards and blinds took a backseat to my kids’ education and character building.
Yep – I don’t have much time for myself…but if my kids were in school I would be at a job during the day. I would probably have even less time to get to the gym or grab a coffee with a friend than I do now.
Yep – the responsibility and pace of their education is no joke…, but there is no teacher alive who would pour over the details of my kids learning the way that I do.
Yep – the homeschool journey tends to be expensive…but I trust that God is watching over that investment and blessing my efforts.
Yep – multitasking between my kids is my newest homeschool struggle…but it’s definitely not the first thing I’ve had to conquer. With time and patience, we will all adjust to the new normal.
Yep – balancing my teacher hat and mom hat with my kids is definitely something I don’t like about homeschooling…but I am so thankful that I have all day to teach them about godly conflict resolution, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love.
Yep – motivating my kids to do their work takes all of my patience and self-control some days…but I imagine a lot of moms say that about homework, projects, and studying too.
Recap Homeschool Struggles
Yes, there are things I don’t like about homeschooling! It’s okay to admit that!
You don’t have to love it all to be a “good homeschool mom.”
Be encouraged today, Homeschool Mama, and know that you are not the only one out there with baseboards and a treadmill that are both dusty!
Share in the comments the hardest part of homeschooling for you right now – it might be a release to just type it out and admit it!
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Thanks for this, Lauren! We are starting our first full year of HS (I pulled my first grader out in January of last year) with a 2nd grader and 6th grader and it has been rough! Your blog has been so encouraging for me starting out-I so appreciate your humility and authenticity!
This was a great article! I love your honesty and could totally relate. We are finishing up our 5th year of homeschooling as well. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!!
Tiffany, Thanks for the comment and encouragement! I poked around your website and it is beautiful! Well done!
Have you tried minimalism, it helped me a lot as a homeschool mom and just as a mom in general, I hate cleaning up ( to be honest I’m pretty lazy haha) but after I minimalized my house and decluttered, it was just so much better and easier, and I had more time to do other things. I followed the Marie Kondo method when I minimalized, and her method for folding clothes is a life saver when you have little kids, they stopped pulling all of the clothes out of the drawer when they were looking for what they needed/wanted. And they enjoy it being clean too. 🙂