Why Your Homeschooler is Crying (And what to do about it)

Confession: Somebody cried in our homeschool this week and SPOILER ALERT:

it wasn’t me…this year 🙂

It wasn’t our preschooler.

And it wasn’t our kindergartener.

It was our 8-year-old.

Wait, Aren’t Tears a Sign of Homeschool Failure?

Are you struggling with homeschool tears, anger, and frustration? Is homeschool just not working out? Find out why the tears are normal, the 5 typical reasons why they happen, how to handle the tears, and why they can be an unexpected blessing!

I used to think that.

The first time my daughter started to cry during a homeschool lesson, I thought, “Well, that’s it. I knew this homeschooling thing wasn’t going to work. She would never be crying in real school.”

It took a lot of effort and self-control on my part to learn how to handle tears and other signs of frustration.

I have come to realize that tears (and other strong emotions) are teaching moments and can be their own blessing in homeschooling

I’ll explain why it’s a blessing in a moment, but first let’s talk about…

Why Kids Don’t Cry in “Normal School”

Student trying not to cry in traditional school

You probably think that your homeschool is a failure because you don’t remember anybody crying in the school you grew up in.

There is a reason for that.

Traditional school is a completely different social atmosphere. It is not a safe place to express emotions.

Kids that cry are ridiculed and ostracized.

Emotions have to be stuffed down until the child is in a safe place to let them flow – usually when they get home.

Don’t believe me?

G0 ahead and ask your kid why they don’t cry at church, play dates, sports practices, or co-op classes.

I asked my kid that and she blurted, “Moooom, that would be sooooooo embarrassing!”

There you go.

Your kid cries at home because it is an acceptable, safe environment. Not because you are a terrible teacher. 

What to do when your homeschooler cries (or has an outburst)

Well obviously we don’t want our kids to be crying all day, so let’s talk about the steps to take when those emotional storms hit:

1. Pause School

Don’t cancel school for the day, but do take an immediate break.

If you try to continue pushing the grammar lesson or math problem, you are just going to exasperate the situation. More importantly, you dramatically increase the chances of YOU having an outburst.

That is a homeschool situation you want to avoid like the plague.

You need to remain calm and neutral at all times.

2. Find out why your homeschooler is crying

Homeschool student crying

There are 5 main reasons I have found that cause my kids to have breakdowns during a lesson.

It is often NOT the reason they are saying they are crying.

It is really important for you to use the break to figure out what exactly the problem is, so that you can fix it.

  • Low Blood Sugar:

Kids need to eat pretty regularly. It is very easy for moms to be buzzing around the schoolroom and bouncing between kids.

You don’t realize how much time has passed and how hangry your kids are becoming.

Or maybe you do realize how hungry they are, but you just want to finish one more lesson before stopping (guilty!).

Bad idea. Feed the people and that last lesson will go so much better.

  • Lack of Sleep:

If your child had a bad night’s sleep or got to bed late, be gentle with them in the morning. They can still do school, but be understanding.

A combination of lack of sleep, and an accidentally missed snack break was actually the culprit that brought my daughter down this past week.

My husband was out of town, so there was no adult to tell me to put the kids to bed. We stayed up way too late playing card games and eating fudgesicles.

Anyhow, I didn’t realize how much that late-night affected my little 3rd grader. Once we paused school, had a snack, and played a game of Uno to lift her spirits – she was right back at it and finished the day with flying colors.

  • Just Need a Break/Overwhelmed:

As homeschool parents, we may have our eye on the prize and get really focused on checking things off our list. We may inadvertently push our kids too hard and they start to become overwhelmed.

You might also have a kid that is super motivated and wants to plow through the day as fast as possible. Initiative is good, but their minds still need pit stops to perform at their best.

Regular 15 minutes breaks are a great thing for kids to look forward to and depend on. Encourage your kids to move around and play during these breaks – not just watch a screen.

Gross motor movement is a huge help to get their brain back in gear for the next set of lessons.

  • Development Not Matching Expectations:

This is a tough one and can be difficult to pinpoint.

My daughter cried way too much in our first year of homeschooling because I just didn’t realize she was not ready to learn math facts.

Her brain would just not bend that way. I had to back off.

Fast forward to this week, and she just easily completed a math fact exercise I gave her – 97/98 problems correct! And she even smiled when it was done!

If you think this is the issue for your child, start reaching out and researching other options for what your child is struggling with.

Continuing to force your kid to do something he can’t developmentally do – whether it’s early reading, math facts, writing skills, memorizing, etc. – can have far-reaching effects down the road.

  • Teacher/Parent Conflict:

This is oh so common, so don’t feel bad about it.

The issue is that you have to parent your kids while also teaching them.

It is really rough on your kid to receive a consequence for poor choices, and then have to sit down with the same person who handed out the consequence and do a lesson.

If you think this is going to be a hurdle for your homeschool – please, please, please read “How to Reset Your Homeschool Day” It speaks very specifically to this issue.

Why Homeschool Tears are a Blessing

homeschool mom comforting crying child

Please don’t miss the hidden gem here.

If your child is tired, hungry, needs an extra break from lessons, or is struggling to complete a lesson in “normal” school…what do you think is going to happen?

Will the teacher bring out a snack tray? Tell the class to take a break because Johnny needs one? Offer a cot for a nap? Adjust the curriculum requirements to your child?

Um, nope. Teachers can’t customize their classrooms to your student.

But your homeschool can!

When your homeschooler cries, know that you have a unique chance to meet them where they’re at and help them work through their struggle.

You have also provided a one on one situation where it is safe for your child to cry and express how they feel (something they would probably stuff down at school to avoid ridicule from their peers).

Even the teacher/parent conflict has become a blessing to us. My daughter and I are so much closer after taking the time to really talk through certain issues and understand each other better.

If she were in school, those talks wouldn’t have happened, and I know we would not be nearly as close.

Recap Why Your Homeschooler is Crying

So if the emotions start flowing – Pause, Find the problem, and Take joy in being the one to solve it!

No longer allow yourself to feel like a failure because your child is working through something.

You are the solution – not the problem!

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Read Next:

Looking for tips to be more consistent with your homeschooling? You are in the right place! I am excited to share with you all my best tips for staying motivated, energized, and consistent with homeschooling my own 3 kids.


  1. Does not work for a 4 year old. I keep asking her, “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Why are you crying?” and she literally cannot explain why. I think she’s frustrated that she can’t do it or that she will get in trouble if she makes a mistake. I have explained over and over that it’s ok to have mistakes, that she won’t get in trouble. I’ve aknowledged her feelings saying it’s hard to learn new things and sometimes scary. It makes no difference what I say or how i say it. We have a melt down everytime no matter what when I teach her anything new.

    1. Shannon, Thanks for dropping a comment. I agree with you that this would be very difficult to do with a 4 year old. In my experience of homeschooling, I have found formal school work to be ineffective and even damaging during the preschool years. There are exceptions if a kid has a strong desire to learn. I write extensively about this in “Why I Quit Homeschool Preschool.” There are research articles listed there about early learning and updates about my own children who have soared academically after being allowed to just play during their early years of school.There was a reason school used to *start* with 1st grade, but now kids have to endure Kindergarten, Pre-K, and preschool. https://www.thesimplehomeschooler.com/why-i-quit-homeschool-preschool-and-what-i-do-instead/

      1. I would agree. The issue might actually be “Development Not Matching Expectations,” meaning we think because our child is 4, they should be able to handle preschool curriculum. If school is making my child cry every day, I would back off and reevaluate. Is it the curriculum style? Is it that my child really isn’t ready for school? Am I expecting too much of my child?

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