Why is Homeschooling So Hard?

Brooke Cooney

I’ll be the first to admit it; I have contemplated (and threatened) to send my children to school. I think I will refrain from telling just how many times I have contemplated that scenario this year alone.

I’ve come to the realization that homeschooling is a job rewarded mostly, or should I say, hopefully, in the long term. I worked in a brick and mortar school for six years. I was employed by the local public school system as a speech-language pathologist and therefore paid for my patience in teaching other people’s children reading strategies, language instruction, and how to correctly articulate r, l, and s.

Today, my diligence and patience in teaching my own children are frequently rewarded with whines of "do I have to?" and "this is too hard, I hate school." Yes, I have read countless numbers of homeschool books, and yes, we have great days where learning is like a Disney movie complete with singing birds and hopping bunnies. However, most days, if I am gut-level honest, home education is a job that doesn’t birth accolades and paystubs for my dedication, tenacity, skill, or lack thereof.  Most days, I am faithful because I feel God has absolutely called me to such a task and to not submit in willful obedience would be to disobey God’s calling on my life. Further, a lack of obedience here would for me, at this time in our journey, be akin to my oldest saying, "this is too hard; I hate school." Effectually, I would be giving up simply because I didn’t want to do the hard thing.

With little social interaction with other adults, no monetary return for my work, no checklist that ever stays checked off for more than a day, and very little quiet space for my mind to concentrate, I have to ask myself, why am I and other parents joining the homeschool movement and what motivates parents to continue home education year after year?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that as of 2012 there were 1.7 million homeschooled students in the US. That is roughly 3.4% of the student population. The three top reasons surveyed parents indicated their choice to homeschool were: (1) concern about the environment of other schools; (2) a desire to provide moral instruction; and (3) dissatisfaction with academic instruction with other schools. Religious reasons followed as a close fourth.  

I love to learn. I love knowing what my kids are learning, and I desire to teach them a Christian worldview in every facet of academics. I want to be there to see them grow and to celebrate their accomplishments. Honestly, I am redeeming my education while educating them. However, I keep discovering that my Type A personality really desires tangible return for my labors. I so easily forget the daily blessings of affection, shared interests, books, and character development.

I’ve seen plenty of bumper stickers which boast, My child is an honor roll student, not to mention the occasional social media posts praising little Johnny and Suzy for reading Plato at age four. Kids in traditional schools whether public or private receive grades for their work, report cards every 6-12 weeks, and parent-teacher meetings where strengths and weaknesses are addressed and progress praised.

What does that leave for the home educating moms and dads? I would be hard pressed to buy a bumper sticker for my homeschooled students. Personally, I am not the bumper sticker or stick figure family decal type. Additionally, I am not dolling out grades and report cards. Yes, we celebrate successes with rewards and encouragement, but that still leaves me with these questions:

How do I measure and celebrate success in home education? What daily, tangible rewards can I cling to?

Then again, I am not really sure these are the ultimate questions.

I am reminded of something my grandfather shared with me after the passing of his 93 year old mother, “We can never really pay back our parents except for raising our children in the right way and being good parents to them.”

I think he is right. I don’t remember rising to call my mother blessed until college. All those times she and my dad supported me, taught me how to do new things like tie my shoes, drive a car, or balance a check book weren’t instantaneously rewarded for them. Rather, it was my walking in obedience to what they taught me--sometimes after walking in disobedience--that was the reward for their diligent work as parents.

I believe it is the same for home educating parents. I have the incredible privilege of watching my children grow and learn on a daily basis. It’s simply that sometimes I watch the progress so intently that I miss the bigger picture of growth right under my nose. For example, when my four year old learns about the Table of Contents and assures me there is one in his Bible. He diligently looks for it until he finds it. Or the day he woke up and magically could write his name. Or when my six year old bemoans reading for weeks only to return from a trip to grandma’s where she is now reading that box of Bob Books like it was the easiest thing on earth. It took us weeks of diligence and tenacity to see this fruit, but the fruit came even amidst my despair and thoughts of yellow school buses dancing in my head.

The ultimate lesson I am slowly learning is one that has been passed down in Christendom for thousands of years: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9, ESV)

Here are five tangible ways to help you see the bigger picture:

1. Take advantage of interruptions to your day. There may be a gold nugget to discover with your children.

2. Say a prayer of thankfulness to God when those breakthroughs occur. Don’t pray silently; pray aloud with your children and ask them to pray as well.

3. There are plenty of scripture references that address home education. Find them, write them on note cards, and place them in key areas for constant reminders that God has called you to this.

4. Take breaks as needed. Times of refreshing for you and your students allow opportunities for important concepts to seep in during playtime and real-life experiences.

5. Talk with other homeschool parents. Sharing our struggles and joys maintains a healthy perspective and adds to our authenticity as friends and co-laborers with Christ.

I would love to connect with you and hear your thoughts on this topic. You can reach me on Twitter @LBrookeCooney or Brooke Cooney on Google+.

Publication date: October 24, 2014