homeschooling mom looking frustrated

Solutions for Your Homeschool Struggles

Homeschool struggles are real. There are days, and sometimes seasons, that are filled with challenges.

Even though you know that homeschooling is the best choice for your family, and a choice you made intentionally, it doesn’t mean that every homeschooling day is going to be filled with sunshine and rainbows.

Homeschooling is a journey – with highs and lows – and it’s important to realize that struggles don’t mean failure. Struggles exist in every part of our lives, from relationships to work to education. Your homeschool is no different.

Having a vision for your homeschool is important! I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with reminders of your ideals and your goals for homeschooling (vision boards are amazing, and I’m a big fan of journaling and gratitude as well), but even with all the vision and planning, there will be days where it feels like everything is going wrong.

Below, I'll share some homeschool struggles that are common, strategies to work through tough seasons when they happen, and some ideas to prevent struggle and bring more peace to your homeschool days.

Common Homeschool Struggles

Struggling woman with her hand on her head.
If homeschooling is a struggle right now, you're not alone.

Life Happens: Unexpected Crises

A sudden illness in your family, a community tragedy, the loss of a pet… these unexpected big changes can throw a wrench in your homeschool plans. We all get our share of these negative events – I think it’s important to recognize these times will happen and make a plan for them, instead of getting thrown when something pops up.

The solution? Plan for these times and know that they will happen. On days that you are sick, or one of the kids is sick, or the weight of what’s happening in the world is just too heavy, plan for reading aloud and watching a good documentary on Netflix.

  • Print off some coloring pages and get out the colored pencils and crayons.
  • Have a tea party with the stuffed animals.
  • Play some video games together.
  • Stay in your pajamas, have some groceries delivered (including favorite foods!).
  • Know that learning is still happening.

Think about how you’d like your kids to remember these times when they look back. I hope that my daughter remembers that during difficult seasons, we were together as a family, supporting each other and choosing to indulge in some cozy, simple self-care. I hope that what she learns is that we have to take care of ourselves well during hard days.

Homeschool Struggles: Replicating School at Home

Trying to replicate school at home, whether it’s setting your schedule from 8:00am to 2:30pm, using a big box curriculum chock full of worksheets and busy work, or expecting your kids to maintain good attitudes while sitting at the table and being instructed by mom all day, for us at least, was the road to struggleville.

School works at school. But it’s a system that you can’t really bring into your home and expect to work. For our homeschool, interest-led learning has been the way out of the struggle.

Oh, we started out like everyone else. Since we left public school halfway through the school year, I had a whole system ready to finish off first grade for my daughter. It involved an online curriculum, plenty of arts and crafts, PE, and science experiments.

In my head, I thought my 7 year old would just get how much better this was than school for her. I mean, sitting at the kitchen table, with snacks, and we could be done in just a couple hours! She’d have the whole day to herself afterwards! What’s not to love about that?!

A homeschool mom struggling with a tween daughter's attitude.

For the first month or so, things were pretty good. My daughter did indeed love that “school” was done more quickly and was a little more efficient. She liked the personal time with me. But pretty soon, it all became drudgery again.

I began to realize that her energy around her interests was nearly endless, but forcing our way through just because someone decided that all first graders should learn a certain set of details on each subject just led to resistance.

We could learn about sentence capitalization and punctuation just as well writing about Pokemon than some random writing assignment in a curriculum.

Be willing to let go of some of the structure and build around your kids' interests.

Overwhelm Land: Mom is Doing Everything

There’s a stereotype out there of the harried homeschool mom, who is part maid, part cook, part schoolteacher, part chauffeur. Trying to manage everything on your own is one of the quickest ways on to the struggle bus.

I don’t believe homeschool is solely about academics. One benefit of having your kids at home is that they can take part in everything that “home” is. Cook together, clean together, make shopping lists together, run errands together. Older kids can learn about bill paying, banking, and taxes.  

Yes, mama, I hear you. It’s easier to do things yourself than to involve little hands (and tween and teen ones too). Start small. Start with one job that each child can learn to do independently and well!

For us, having a neurodivergent child who needs extra support and instruction, we started with unloading the dishwasher. It’s a task that has a beginning and end, things go the same places every time, and it can be done independently. We are now working on folding and putting away laundry.

You might think that kids just absorb this kind of knowledge through living in a family. But all the “Adulting 101” courses I see now say otherwise. Having kids take a real ownership in helping run the house (not just “chores”) can help spread the load so mom isn’t bearing the burden alone.

Managing Many: Kiddo Age Differences

I have an only child, so I’m not going to pretend to be an expert here. However, I know that parents often get overwhelmed when trying to maintain a full, big-box curriculum with multiple ages. When you have a large family with big age gaps between oldest and youngest, do as much learning as you can together!

I think the best path forward for any size family is to tailor your approach to curriculum and the schedule for your days.

One of our homeschooling friends uses Ambleside Online, a free Charlotte Mason curriculum website. Families can do art, music study, and read-alouds together while tailoring other work to the level of each child. My friend works with her “early riser” kids on things they need individual help with in the mornings. When everyone is up, they work on shared subjects together.

Another friend has worked hard to build her kids’ independence at mealtimes. They know what food is available and can cook basic meals for themselves for breakfast and lunch, freeing her up for 1-on-1 homeschool work. Was it easy when the kids were tiny? Nope (we still talk about this!) – but now she has space in her day to work on her DIY home projects or build her side hustle.

Do what works for your family. My kiddo is a late riser and slow to wake up, so our learning times are in the afternoon and I don't layer on any expectations for morning beyond personal care, pet care, and breakfast.

Take a look at your best energy times, when your kids are most happy and relaxed, and start building a rhythm that works just for you.

Calendar Chaos: Busy Busy Schedules

This is honestly one of the biggest homeschool struggles I see in my circles. When you are not in school, it seems like there would be endless amounts of time! But schedules fill up fast, and it’s so, so easy to suddenly find yourself with obligations most days of the week.

With that kind of schedule, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. In our homeschool, we have at least 2 weekdays we call “at home days” (we’re actually happier when there are 3) and this gives us space to rest and recover.

A fridge filled with sticky note to-dos is a reality for some homeschool moms.
Simplify as much as you can. Even if it means saying no.

The answer here is pretty simple. Do less.

I know. There are a lot of learning opportunities out there, and as your kids get older and discover their passions it might mean the schedule has to fill up some (one friend has a daughter who is passionate about ballet and takes class 4x weekly). But make those choices intentionally and wisely.

Your time is precious – and although our society doesn’t acknowledge it, our kids need rest, self-care, and time to just be.

A quick story here: recently, I stepped down from all of my volunteer obligations and a small part time job I had. Although these things fit well during the past couple of years, this year things changed. I felt increasingly pressured to keep all the plates spinning, and realized I was not as available as I needed to be to support my daughter's interests.

Additionally, I was on edge a lot of the time and found myself giving snappy or impatient answers. This is not the atmosphere of love and joy I envisioned for our home and homeschool.

From the outside looking in, none of what I was doing looked like huge commitments. My job was 10-15 hours per week, usually early mornings while kiddo slept. My volunteer commitments were a couple monthly meetings, singing at church, and some events around the holidays. But all commitments have an emotional weight – and that weight was taking a toll for me.

A beach in Washington.
Less outside commitments. More of what feeds your soul. For me, it's the beach.

More Common Homeschool Struggles

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Help! I'm drowning right now. What can I do?

I'm sorry you feel overwhelmed right now. I've been there.

Take a step back and simplify things. I mean, radically. Whatever you can cancel, drop out of, or let go of – DO IT. Without guilt.

Identify your family's strengths and interests and focus on those.

Consider this season's homeschooling to be trips to the library, interesting documentaries on Netflix, getting outside, and learning to help mom around the house (life skills).

Relax about the screens – seriously.

Give yourself a season of recovery and re-evaluation. There is no behind.

I feel alone in homeschooling. How can I find community?

Finding community as a homeschooling mom can be tough – I hear you. It seems like everyone around you is sending their kids to school and your FB feed is filled with school achievement pictures.

While it may seem like you’re all alone, there are ways to find community.

Facebook groups have been a great source of connection for me. This is a great way to connect with people who understand what you’re going through – search for groups in your local area, or your state. If there aren't any – start one! I guarantee there are other moms out there longing for community too.

Local meetups or co-ops are a great way to meet people, too. We like the simpler, more free-play kinds of get togethers like park days, movie nights, and gaming groups.

Don't be afraid to start a park day or board game meetup if there's nothing you can find in your area. I did this when we first started homeschooling and we met some great people!

My child is neurodivergent and has unique support needs.

Mine too! You're not alone.

Many parents of children who are neurodivergent, such as those with autism or ADHD, wonder if homeschooling is a viable option for their family. The answer is a resounding YES. For many of our neurodivergent kiddos, the traditional school setting may not be the best fit – or may even cause trauma.

Here are some of the things we found homeschooling helped:

– not having to sit still and/or make eye contact
– not having time constraints on finishing work
– not being constantly asked to work on struggle areas
– working on strengths and interests
– tailoring curriculum to asynchronous development
– working gently on a growth mindset
– using my daughter's best time of day for schoolwork (it's not 8am)
– lots of breaks
– no scoring or comparisons

Unschooling Every Family: Embracing Neurodivergent and Disabled Learners is a fantastic FB group to learn more about how to stop approaching education from a neurotypical perspective and embrace each child's learning style and support needs.

Am I screwing up my child?

Short answer: NO.

Will your child have the same skill sets as a child who goes through public school K-12? Likely not. That's OK. Those kids have learning gaps, challenges, and imperfect families too.

There are a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling. One of the biggest is that you have to be a “superparent” to do it. You have to have all the answers, be able to teach everything, and know how to deal with any problem that comes up. This is simply not true.

You are the facilitator. The finder of resources. The hirer of private teachers and mentors. The Googler, the researcher, the strewer of ideas and opportunities. You do not have to teach every subject. There are curricula, YouTube videos, local people, and library books to do that.

Providing a loving, positive environment, modeling the love of learning, and caring for your child's mental health… I believe those are the most important goals in a homeschooling family.

You're doing great. Reach out for help when you need it and keep growing and learning yourself!

How do I stop comparing my child to public school peers?

Comparing your child to other kids is a pretty natural habit, but boy can it do a number on your head and your relationship with your child.

One of the ways I work to overcome this habit (yep, I do it too) is to focus on your own child's strengths and celebrate their accomplishments.

No two children are alike. Homeschool kids are just plain different from public school kids – because the environment they live every day in is different.

Try not to put too much emphasis on academics. Really. Especially in early elementary! Kids are learning all the time, and can soak in a years' worth of public school content in a given subject in a couple months when they are interested and focused.

If you want to get out of the public school mindset, one of the best things I can recommend is to read some John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. Your world will be forever changed and you'll come to a new place of peace about deciding to homeschool.

Tell me about your homeschool struggles in the comments below – and let's work through the hard things together!

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