Have you hit a wall in your homeschooling and it feels like it’s just not working? Maybe you were talking to another homeschooling parent, reading an article about a high-achieving homeschooler who just got a full ride to an Ivy League, or listening to a shiny podcaster who seems to have it all together. And now you feel like a failure. You wonder if it’s time to overhaul your entire curriculum/approach/schoolroom design.

Or maybe you’ve already been feeling like you’re barely holding your homeschool together and the dam just burst.

I wish I could reach through your screen and give you a hug (or a cup of coffee/tea if hugs aren’t your thing).

Lots of homeschooling parents have felt this way, are feeling this way, or will feel this way. It’s normal. It’s not EASY when you find yourself there, but it is normal. You’re not alone.

And there are ways to get to the heart of the matter and figure out what to do next.

First, get your kiddos occupied—even in front of a screen if that’s what it takes for you to get a break and get in a better head space. (No shame here, screens can be a very helpful tool in moderation.) Then go to your happy place in your house with a snack (protein and dark chocolate are my go-to) and some water (because hydration helps), and just breathe for a few minutes.

When you feel a bit more even-keeled, consider the following:

  • Are you just having a discouraging moment? Sometimes you are. Maybe your homeschool is working just fine, but you got distracted (and discontented) by the shiny, new thing you saw. Don’t let the comparison game get the best of you.
  • Do you (or your kids) just need to take a break to get into a better head space? If you can’t take a break right now, how about tomorrow or the weekend? Schedule and make a break happen for you and consider how to work in small, regular breaks here and there over the course of the school year. Mental health for homeschool moms is important. It’s not just a nice thing to squeeze in, it’s vital.

But what if it’s more than that—deeper than that?

First, is this even about homeschooling? Your homeschool is an easy target to deflect marital, parenting, and other issues onto. If you realize after some honest reflection that this is not about homeschooling, seek help from appropriate outside sources (friends, family, clergy, community resources, medical professionals, etc.).

If you determine homeschooling is what’s been eating you, then here are some helpful things to hopefully get you to a better spot. Sometimes homeschooling is just hard. But it shouldn’t be hard every day. That’s a sign something needs to change.

  1. Are you taking regular breaks? You need small, regularly scheduled breaks from your kids as a parent, especially if you’re wearing the extra hat of teacher. Happy, well-balanced mom = happier everything.
  2. Why did you begin homeschooling in the first place? You could have one or several reasons. Are these reasons still valid for you? When you feel discouraged, it helps to reaffirm why you are homeschooling.
  3. Do you have realistic expectations? Are you a chronic over-achiever and trying to cram too much into your homeschooling schedule? Are you expecting too much from your kids and yourself? It’s good to dream, but make sure your expectations are practical and achievable for everybody.
  4. Is your curriculum a good fit? Maybe this is your third year homeschooling and suddenly the straight-out-of-the-box science curriculum isn’t working for your child anymore. Maybe they are bored or too challenged. Whatever the reason, consider trying something else. It’s okay to change things mid-stride, just allow space for bumps during the transition.
  5. Is your child struggling? Maybe you’ve discovered a gap in their learning, found a rough spot, or realized they may need to be assessed for a learning disability. Whatever it is, consider how to change something to accommodate where your child is at and what they are able to do. This doesn’t mean we stop challenging our children, but that we meet them where they’re at and encourage them first.
  6. Do you need to organize your homeschool differently (or bring organization to it for the first time)? As a sort of slacker homeschool mom, I find too much routine and structure suffocating. However, some basic organization and a simple, flexible routine is very helpful for my kids. And certain personalities really need a structured environment to thrive. Everybody benefits when clear expectations and guidelines are communicated (with reminders too!). Is your child not a morning person? Then try starting school after 10 or 11 in the morning. You’re homeschooling! You can have that flexibility without any guilt.
  7. Is there a motivation problem? We all have days where the kids don’t want to do school. Or maybe it’s a particular subject they don’t want to do. That’s when incentives come in handy. Play is powerful motivator for elementary aged kids. My eight-year-old daughter likes to play Minecraft, so I let her play the game for half an hour after she gets about halfway through her assignments for the day. Going outside for breaks or exploring the wonders of your local library and parks can also be great incentives to get schoolwork done.
  8. Are there outside factors at play—and are they ones you can change? Sometimes there are circumstances unrelated to the homeschool that are getting in the way of school happening. If it’s temporary and you can’t change it, roll with it. But if it’s more permanent (like having a baby), then cut yourself some slack and flex as you can. Figure out what is the minimum that needs to get accomplished with school and reward your kids (and yourself!) when you go beyond that. Get outside help if you can from friends and family.
  9. Do you just need to try something new? Maybe you’d benefit from homeschooling in a different location? Could you build in child-directed hours throughout the week? Would background music help or distract your child? If you tend to have a very book-heavy curriculum, what are some physical, hands-on activities you can do? When was the last time you took a field trip (I know it’s hard with multiple littles—try teaming up with another mom, especially one who has older kids)? Give your child some say in what order they complete their subjects, or let them pick between assignments on a particularly heavy school day. Remember, learning isn’t about finishing every single assignment in the book. Kids who enjoy what they are learning are more likely to retain it.
  10. Do you have community? This probably shouldn’t be the last question you ask, but I want to underscore its importance. While homeschooling is parent-led, it’s not a solo endeavor. Families who homeschool within a greater community of other homeschoolers and homeschool-friendly people and organizations have support, resources, encouragement, and assistance to strengthen them. The day my daughter goes to co-op is my breather day. She gets experience in an institutional setting and has opportunity to learn in community with other kids and from other adults besides her parents. If you don’t have community, I encourage you to connect with a local homeschool group. If you do have community, make sure you’re tapping into frequently. Having a friend or mentor who is a few years ahead of you on the homeschooling journey and accepts you for you is incredibly valuable.

Once you’ve identified the issue(s), brainstorm with someone else who can help you come up with possible solutions. Then start making small, measurable changes, giving yourself grace for bumps in the road. Transitions can be rough on kids, but hopefully, figuring out the changes that need made and taking action will reap benefits for your kids, yourself, and your homeschool. If you find yourself stuck, remember that you’re in charge of your homeschool. As long as you’ve met your state’s homeschooling requirements, you can tailor your curriculum, homeschooling times, style, and even place.

Want more help? If you’re an HSLDA member, you can call and speak to an educational consultant for advice tailored to your situation.