The Truth About Homeschooling: What I Haven’t Been Telling You


When I look back at all of the posts I’ve written about homeschool so far, I think I’ve sugarcoated it a bit. I think it’s important to share some of the bad with a good because goodness, I wouldn’t want someone looking in at my experience and thinking I have it all under control. Let me break it down for you as best as I can from a personal perspective, as to not put all my kids’ business out there.

At the moment. I’m struggling.

I’ve left the rat race of “being on track/ahead” of grade level, yet I’m constantly trying to determine how we measure up. And I’m stressed about getting “behind.”

I’ve mapped out our lesson plans for most of the school year (in pencil because plans change). We’re doing a month on Greek Mythology, a month of science experiments, and a month of black history. I’m trying to take it easy but simultaneously going into crazy mode. As in, we still do homeschool on Saturdays, holidays and some Sundays. When I’m out of town for business I leave a plan for my husband with post it notes, pre-dated worksheets and FaceTime checkins.

Instead of moving forward with math right now I’ve decided it would be better to go back a little with a different curriculum and reinforce what we learned last year. No biggie, but I the nagging voice inside tells me I need to hurry it up. In an attempt to “get all the things done” I’ve cut out co-ops, regular play dates, and things that turned me on to the idea of homeschool in the first place. 

A homeschool day in the life. Our homeschool routine.

Last year I planned history lessons around trips to Washington D.C. and geography around our sailing to the Bahamas. This year I’m swamped with work and I don’t have a single trip planned with the kids. But that’s not even a huge deal. There’s one thing in particular that’s driving me absolutely crazy. Reading.

Of all the subjects reading has been my biggest struggle. We’ve been working on it and made huge strides but I’m still waiting for that big lightbulb moment when words become easier and more clear for her and less of a torture hour for myself. I even hired a tutor this year to help. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve been going round and round with this for over a year now. I’m constantly telling myself not to stress about it. She’ll get it. Just keep reading to her! But the demons in my mind tell me I’m the problem. She’s never going to get it, and it’s all my fault.

My son can’t grasp scissors. I mean we are working on that but until a few weeks ago I didn’t even realize that was something he couldn’t do. He doesn’t like to color, write, paint or anything of that sort, but he wrote the letter ‘T’ the other day and I about lost my mind.

My husband and I are seriously considering having both of the kids go to public school next year. I never wrote it off completely. My son will be in kindergarten. And seeing how he listens to everyone better than he listens to me, it may be for the best. Lil’ J will be in third grade and though she’s incredibly bright I wonder how she’d measure up. My worst fear is putting her back in school after two years at home and have teachers tell me she’s behind all of her classmates. I hate admitting that but it’s true.

She can name half a dozen Olympian Greek gods and tell you what they do. Give you a wealth of knowledge about great white sharks, black history and former presidents. She can do math without using her fingers. And she can comprehend and recount in detail what you just read aloud from a novel way above her reading level. However, the idea of reading The Cat and the Hat stresses her out.

I’m trying to power through. We’re still trying to read 365 books together this year, though we’ve been swallowed up in dozens of chapter books lately so I’m not sure we’ll make it before we ring in 2018. A chapter from Percy Jackson and the Olympians at bedtime is my biggest piece of leverage all day. She LOVES reading together. She loathes reading. And if I’m being honest it’s not that fun for me either.

I do have one tiny glimmer of hope. A couple nights ago things started to change. Instead of picking a random book I thought looked “easy enough” for her. I picked a book she knew and loved. The combination of knowing the story and loving it motivated her to not only give it an honest try, but keep at it. She didn’t quit when she normally would and she was actually having fun.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I am crossing my fingers that we are about to have a breakthrough. I checked out some graphic novels and am looking for other books she’ll find interesting. Even and almost especially if, they’re above her current level.

When it comes to having time to think, my kids are often interrupting my thoughts. I’m rarely alone, yet it can still feel so lonely. I absolutely love the extra time I get with them. The AH HA moments and instilling the qualities we find important. But it’s not all easy. It can be stressful, and hard and scary. I’m just a mom over here trying to make the best of it.

I just wanted you to know.

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  1. I really like and appreciate this post becaue I was definitely getting the vibe that you had all of this on lock and I was wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t cut it. I had a very brief adventure into homeschooling when my oldest was being bullied in 6th grade and I had to pull her out of school because the school wasn’t taking it seriously. For a week I tried and I had no idea what I was doing and felt like I was drowning. I definitely felt like I wasn’t what was best and worried about teaching the “right” things and how I would be judged. (Where we live you have to register to be a home-school family, and the county workers come check your progress and look at the work you have been doing on a regular basis.) It was a terrifying feeling, although it didn’t last long because the school finally stepped up and we were able to send her back.)
    Also, I wanted to mention something about the reading struggles. My other daughter started struggling in first grade. By third grade she was pretty behind, and disliked reading aloud. The school reading specialist had been to a conference regarding Vision issues that aren’t caused by poor vision or any leaning disability. If you google Dr. Michael Kotlicky and Vision Therapy you can read about it. It’s issues with things like convergence that can make learning to read a struggle. We had my daughter evaluated and sure enough she had a couple of issues that were holding her back. She did 6 months of Vision therapy in 3rd grade and she no longer struggles.

    1. Oh man Cha, I’m SO sorry I gave you that impression. Don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy many aspects of homeschooling but it’s definitely not a breeze. And adding my son’s dynamics into the mix and ACK! It has been interesting this year. I’m so sorry your little one was getting bullied. That’s absolutely horrible. I can’t imagine diving into homeschool when I wasn’t even planning on it. You are an amazing mama for taking that on. And thanks for the tip on vision therapy. I’m definitely wondering if something else might be up but also trying not to overreact. Maybe I’ll have her evaluated just for peace of mind if nothing else.

  2. I have a 4th grader in public school, and while he is super smart and can be a whiz at so many things, it has been a struggle to get him to enjoy reading and writing. He actually likes the concept of writing but would much rather do it via computer. I would have thought he’d be an avid reader because he has always loved knowledge and asking questions and really digging into topics he loves, but I just can’t seem to get him to care. I tried reading some of my favorite books from that era to him (James and the Giant Peach, The Cricket in Times Square, plus someone recommended The Indian in the Cupboard), and he seemed to enjoy them, but still no luck getting him to do it himself. He loves the Wimpy Kid movies but has no interest in the books. He just doesn’t understand how reading could be fun. To be fair, he has ADHD (controlled well at school with medication), so part of it could be that he just can’t bear to sit down and be interested for very long. It was sobering when we got his first ELA test results back and he aced the math but was just barely meeting standards for the reading comprehension portion. I find myself wondering if that was one of the days he forgot to take his medicine, or if he still can’t focus that well with it for a task like that. I think every kid has their own learning style and pace, and you’re right–she will get it. It’s just hard to watch them struggle.

    I also have a 4yo that I recently realized has a VERY hard time holding a pencil correctly. I couldn’t help but wonder if daycare was working on that at all, as I never had that issue with my first son. I gently remind him as much as I can, as it is definitely impacting the quality of the letter tracing he does. At this age his brother was having us spell big words so he could write them, and this one barely recognizes letters, let alone writing them on his own. But I’ve seen improvement over the last couple months, which gives me hope he’ll get it, too.

    Hang in there…all at their own pace! (And keep in mind that schools aren’t immune–my nephews just switched because they found out their private school was letting their kids fall a lot farther behind than they would have ever expected!)

    1. Man oh man! Ok well first let me give you some encouragement. My little sister HATED reading. She’s now 12 and just in the last year she’s reading non-stop. Everything she can get her hands on and she’s loving it. She could read, just didn’t want to. So I understand that struggle. My daughter also loves when I read to her, and you know, sometimes I think that’s more important. At least at this age, plus it’s creating a great bond, right?

      I guess it’s natural for all of us to worry. I wish I could turn my worry-meter down and relax. Sometimes I think of how I was raised and it calms me down a bit. I turned out ok. haha.

  3. First, (((hugs))) to you and know that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. I think every conscientious homeschool parent struggles with comparing their homeschool children to children who go to public school. That’s completely normal, but can also be depressing…LOL!! I’ve been homeschooling kiddos who learn differently for over 7 years and I still struggle with doubts that we are doing the right thing. Then I take a step back and look at the progress, confidence and their happiness! It’s been amazing to watch them mature and grow into who they are both academically and personally. That being said, some kiddo progress at a much slower rate than their “peers” and that’s okay!

    Even after doing this homeschooling gig for so long, I STILL find myself questioning our decision to homeschool EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Thankfully, my kiddos laugh at my indecisiveness (fear?) and always tell me, ‘No, thanks, mom. We’re good!’ In the end, whatever decision you make will be the BEST decision for YOUR family. Blessing to you and yours! 😉

    1. I have to remind myself of that comparison quote ALL the time! I’m so glad your kids love it so much. I really hope that my daughter and I can get it together and have fun again. I’ve been such a drag lately. But I’m glad (and sad?) I’m not alone. Thanks for your wise words!

  4. You’ll find that the bar in public school is seriously low. So don’t worry for a second that your kids won’t be good enough.

  5. When i was young i too struggled at first with reading, and excelled in mathematics, spelling, history, geography and Greek mythology(thanks to the game Age of Mythology). What I’m trying to say is that not all students excel in each subject, some have more difficulty in one over the other, and when you see this happen computer games can help. They helped me. I struggled with reading from grades 1st till 3rd then all of a sudden, I was reading non stop. Every and any book I can find; cookbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries et cetera. Phonetics really helped. Games with phonetics. If your kid is a visual, auditory, repetition learner. I really recommend these phonetics games :

    I wish you good luck in this journey!

    1. Tova I appreciate this SO much thank you for sharing. Oh my goodness my daughter loooooves mythology right now. It’s fun for us to enjoy together. I’m excited for her to get to where she’s wanting to read nonstop. I know she will. I guess I’m just a little impatient.

  6. It looks like you are doing school at home. Have you ever thought about Unschooling? She may not be biologically ready to read. Why the rush? Because of your fears and need for her to keep up? If you switch to unschooling you may find yourself enjoy homeschooling much more AND you may have a much better relationship with your children because you won’t be forcing them to do things you want them to do. Here are a few resources:

    1. Thanks for sharing these resources Hannah. We are doing school at home and I haven’t really thought much about Unschooling. I mean occasionally I’m like “ok you guys figure it out today… play outside and learn something!” but I haven’t done a lot of research into the philosophy. I’ll definitely check it out and see how it could help with this. Thank you!

  7. My daughter is in the first grade and pretty much all they do is reading. She is at at 6th grade reading level because they just do it so much. They do some science but I’d like to see more as she’s super interested in science especially life science. She’s at a higher third grade math level so not behind but not as advanced as reading. There are kids in her class that don’t know English, and are at an AA reading level. The teachers are used to seeing all levels, for example my daughter does a few days reading groups with a fifth grade teacher (as high as they go). Anyway, don’t worry about it!! It’s a process, it takes time. I couldn’t homeschool but I do work with my daughter everyday for one hour, which is as much as I can do :). Good luck with whatever you decide, my daughter’s school encourages the kids to just go outside when they get home, apparently that makes them smarter, so once we are done with hw, I do just that haha. They do recess 3x a day, so lots of play there too. I know a grown up who was unschooled and he is forever upset at his parents for doing so. He thinks they should’ve guided him more.

  8. I just went through all your stuff about homeschooling and nodded my head the whole way. We put my son in homeschool last year while I was pregnant (he went to public pre-k), and I spent yesterday fretting and sobbing about whether or not we are doing the right thing. This post is so relatable. I stress hard about teaching reading. My son cannot use scissors, he hates to write (cries about it, actually), and he hardly listens to me. We feel what we did for kindergarten was the right thing for him at the time, and I am now questioning if that will remain for first grade. I cry and stress and wonder just like you do. It is not easy!

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