“Isn’t homeschooling stressful?”
If you’ve been asked this (and I’m guessing you probably have), you may have responded with something like the following:
“Homeschooling is an amazing opportunity! “
“You get to have an active role in your kids’ learning and lives. ”
“The ability to personalize your kids’ education is amazing!”
Is all of this true? Definitely. Homeschooling can be wonderful.
But, is homeschooling stressful?
Yes, it definitely can be that, too!
In fact, homeschooling can be incredibly stressful. Balancing home and education has its own unique variety of pitfalls: bad attitudes and dynamics, different learning styles and needs, and the various demands of work/school/living all tangled up under the same roof. Every homeschooling parent has bad days (or weeks, or months). If you are struggling with a stressful homeschool experience, these 10 strategies can help you figure out how to tame some of the tension.
1. Change Up Your Schedule
The first and biggest thing I’d suggest doing if you are having a stressful time with homeschooling? Change your schedule. Stress often reflects our attempt to force something to work that simply isn’t clicking right. Often, the thing that isn’t working is our schedules. For a more in-depth discussion of re-working the homeschool schedule, check out this article: Is Your Homeschool Schedule NOT Working?
For now, here are some examples of tweaks you could make to your schedule:
- Start your homeschool day differently. For instance, maybe start with exercise or independent reading instead of diving straight into workbooks.
- Try night schooling. Especially if your homeschool family has two working parents, or your children are night owls, doing school in the evening may be helpful change for your lifestyle.
- Take more breaks throughout the day. Do something physical, creative (or just relaxing) if your day feels like it needs a break.
- Take a day “off” every now and then. If you have a busy school day of extracurricular activities, considering taking that day “off” of school and making up for it another day during the week (even during the weekend).
- Plan more field trips!
Regardless of whether you are having stressful homeschool day (or a stressful month or year), changing up your schedule can provide a little bit of instant relief because it’s a bit of a “vacation from normal.” However, if your homeschool has been stressing you out for awhile now, make sure you give any major schedule changes at least a few weeks to see if they are truly helpful.
2. Set Smaller Goals and Use a Reward System
Even for adults, it can be really hard to keep plodding along in our work with no breaks in sight. No matter your age, it helps to know that you can complete the task at hand. Then, when you do so, you’ll feel so much more successful and capable of handling the next task. Each success nourishes the next and helps positive attitudes to grow.
If you are dealing with a lot of stress and frustration from an overwhelmed homeschooled student (which is probably also stressing you out) then it may help to set some smaller, more attainable goals.
This is especially true for subjects that don’t come easy to that student. For instance, if one of the reasons you decided to homeschool your child was because she struggles in math, then this might be a subject for which you set some smaller goals. Check out the below example of smaller goals you could set in this situation!
Examples of Small Goals for a Student Studying a New Math Concept:
- Memorization/ ability to discuss the concept.
- Can follow along with the example problem and explain it to you.
- Solve problem, using the new concept, with help from you.
- Walk you through a problem that uses the new concept by telling you each step.
- Independent and succession completion of problem/s using the new concept.
Everyone likes to hear that they are on the right track. Another benefit of setting smaller goals is that it gives you more opportunities as a homeschooling parent to acknowledge the hard work your kids are putting in and the progress they are making!
Finding a Reward System that Works for You:
While words of praise are great, sometimes another type of reward system can encourage your child to work harder and with a better attitude. Reward systems, especially if they are used consistently, can also provide some structure to your homeschool.
I don’t mean you have to bribe your child with money or anything like that (I mean, you can. Let me know how that goes, will you?)
However, if you really need to motivate a student to work towards a goal, establishing a reward system can be a great help.
Personally, I think that the best reward systems have two parts. Firstly, they reward the child’s small, bite-sized successes. Secondly, they continue to motivate the child to strive to complete a bigger, overcharging goal/reward.
For example, with my young daughter, my husband came up with the idea of using pirate coins and a treasure chest.
At the beginning of each day, she gets a list of a few tangible, achievable goals. She receives verbal praise every time she completes something on the list.
When she completes the entire list, she gets a pirate coin.
Every Saturday, she has the option of buying something from our homemade “treasure chest,” with her pirate coins. Right now, while she’s little, its full of small toys. As she gets older, we’ll probably add special privileges and things that fit her age.
For a teen, maybe your reward system looks as simple as: “When you finish all your school by noon, you get videogame time.”
No matter what kind of reward system you choose to create, the point is to find ways to positively reinforce your child’s successes and to do so in a consistent way. This can help de-stress your homeschool by adding structure and encouragement to small, everyday tasks.
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but it’s also amazing for our mental and emotional health! The endorphins you release when exercising can offer a mood boost and increased concentration… which might be just what you need to de-stress your homeschool environment. Exercise can also be a bonding activity for both you and your child/children!
If you don’t already, consider integrating a form of exercise into your homeschool day. You can use it as a ritual to start the morning in a good mood, to relax at the end of the day, or to take a much needed break in the middle of study time. Here are a few ideas for how to integrate some exercise into your homeschool day.
- Walking or running together is a great practice to do as a family. It’s also free and you can take it with you anywhere!
- Yoga is a wonderful choice to help you (and/or your children) de-stress and refocus. Thanks to the many wonderful yoga instructors on Youtube, you can often find great routines to do in your living room (at no cost). Some yoga workouts are only a few minutes long, which makes them perfect for a little “brain break.”
- Biking is a perfect family activity as well. If your family likes to travel, you can also make biking tours a part of your homeschool culture.
- Dance breaks are one of my personal favorites ways to insert some exercise right in the middle of an ordinary school/work day. Dancing is perfect to pull out for a brain break, or to shake things up in everyone is in kind of a funk.
- Sports are a great way to help your homeschooler make friends, get excess energy out and learn about working with a team. Check with your local recreation center to see if they have a good option to get your child moving and having fun. Often, they offer a huge variety of activities and teams in which your child (or children) can get involved!
4. Get Creative
Like exercise, creative activities can help elevate moods and minimize stress! The process of creating art has many benefits for critical thinking skills and for mental/emotional health, as well.
There are also many, many ways to incorporate art or creativity into your homeschool. For instance, you could sign up for membership with with Sparketh, which would give your family 2 student accounts with unlimited classes to share and learn from. You could also consider using creative projects more frequently in courses like English or history. It’s amazing what a difference a little bit of creativity can make in a stressful environment!
One of the reasons homeschooling can get stressful is because of the pressure that the primary homeschooling parent may feel. Full-time parenting can be hard enough, but homeschooling adds a whole extra load of responsibilities to the mix. If you feel like a slave to homeschooling, then it can definitely take the joy out of your journey. And when the teacher is always stressed and resentful, then chances are the kids will start feeling that way, too.
There’s nothing unusual about feeling this way some days, but if the sense of sole-responsibility is a constant stressor in your life, the most logical thing to do is share some of that responsibility with others. Maybe it’s time to let go of some control and delegate some of the teaching responsibilities in one (or more) of the following ways:
Get your spouse involved.
In two-parent homes it seems more common than not that the task of homeschooling falls to one parent…and that is usually (though not always) that parent is the mom. And then, once curriculum and routines have been established, it can be kind of hard for the dad to get involved (even if he really wants to.) If this sounds like your family, and you’d like it to change, sit down with your spouse and brainstorm some easy ways to hand over some control. It could be something as simple as letting dad playing some educational games with the kids in the evening, or take over teaching his favorite subject. This may throw a wrench into the rhythm of your day for awhile, but it can definitely relieve some pressure and help your family feel more cohesive in the long term.
Call on extended family.
Are you close with your extended family? You don’t have to ask grandparents, aunts or uncles to teach lesson plans or grade papers (though you might be able to). However, you can definitely ask for their help in less direct ways. Maybe someone in your family could watch your kids while you work on lesson plans, or drive your daughter to her music lesson, or be a “guest lecturer” about a particular topic. There are a lot of indirect ways to ask for homeschooling help, and your extended family might be more willing than you know!
From these online art tracks designed for homeschoolers, to upper level academic courses offered by sources like Abeka, there are a lot of ways to enhance your homeschool (and delegate some of the responsibility of teaching) through quality internet resources.
6. Let Your Older Children Help the Younger Ones
By asking your older children to help work with younger children every once in awhile, you are giving the older children a chance to review and practice their communication/instruction following skills, in addition to helping the little ones learn. This might not work for every family, but it has worked really well for a lot of families that I know. If you have children with a large age gap, it’s worth a try! Also, if you’re looking for more ideas on how to homeschool children of very different ages, check out this whole article on the topic here (it contains a collection of tips on this topic from veteran homeschooling parents).
7. Loosen the Reins
If you have a student who is upper elementary or older, he or she might be ready to start doing more independent learning. Most homeschooling curriculum is at least somewhat self-guided. Consider loosening the reigns a little bit for your older learner/s and see how they do with a bit of independence. You may have to help them get into the swing of independent learning and keep them accountable, especially at first. And you’ll still need to work with them on trouble areas, etc. However, switching over to more independent learning is a great thing to do when your homeschooler/s start getting older. Self-discipline is also a valuable skill, which many homeschoolers are able to learn through independent learning!
Note: Looking for more specific ideas on delegation? check out the “find your tribe” section of 5 Tips for New Homeschooling Parents.
8. Change the Atmosphere
You live at home. You school at home. Sometimes you just need to get out of house. If you are looking for ways to de-stress your homeschool environment, it may be as simple as changing the atmosphere.
Sometimes this is as simple as going outside. Take some flashcards and a few books. Grab an old blanket. Regularly getting some sunshine can easily become a beneficial part of your homeschool routine.
Sometimes going to a completely different physical location can also help you get into “work mode.” This is as true for adults (homeschool teachers) as it is for kids (homeschoolers).
For instance, my mama-in-law (AKA my Homeschool Mentor) recently told me that she loved to go to the coffee shop or library for school time because, in addition to helping the kids refocus, it also made it easier for her to self-study and to get lesson planning done (away from household distractions)
As a work-from-home mom living in a super-old farmhouse, I can also attest that it can be tough to focus when there are a million things constantly demanding attention at home. Getting a change of scenery can be good for everyone! While you may not be able to go somewhere else every day, consider heading outside or to a different location at least once a week.
9. Claim a Quiet Time
Do you ever just think your homeschool would be a little less stressful if you had some quiet time to think?
My first job out of college involved teaching a classroom of energetic young boys with learning differences. It was a really fun teaching job, but it was stressful. There was also a lot of noise.
About halfway through my first year of teaching, I realized that we all needed some quiet time on a regular basis. I started setting a 30 minute timer after lunch and claiming it as “reading time.” Each of the boys had a box of fun books they were interested in, and they were free to take that box and claim a spot in the classroom (could be in the reading area, at their desk, under their desk, wherever). Sometimes we would even make a reading fort or something.
And I would read, too (although for the first several times we did this I was honestly monitoring them more than reading). However, we found our rhythm much more quickly than you might think, and “quiet time/reading time” became something that everyone looked forward to. Now, did the kids in my class always read super educational stuff? Nope, definitely not. This was the time to engage fully in the powers of Captain Underpants or whatever else they wanted: a time to enjoy reading what they liked (which I think is really important for kids).
And it was quiet, which I think can be really important for everyone’s sanity, sometimes!
10. Stay Positive And Think Big Picture
It can be too easy to focus on how things have gone wrong, especially when we are feeling stressed out or incapable. In homeschooling, the stressful days can make you doubt your choice to homeschool in the first place!
Sure, there might be things you need to do differently with homeschooling. However, it’s equally important to recognize the many things that you are doing right. Try making a daily list of the positives:
- What has your child learned: academically, developmentally, emotionally?
- Where did you see progress?
- Did you discover something that needs to be addressed that would have been overlooked in a larger classroom?
- What are some things you are grateful for about homeschooling today?
- Did you get to help your children discover more about who they will be?
- Did you get to travel together or try something new together?
Ultimately, a bad day in homeschooling just that: one bad day. Tomorrow always offers the chance to try again and make changes. Looking back at your “why” for homeschooling, in addition to noting the positives, may also help you gain some perspective. Thinking about that “why” may help you see the “big picture value” of what you’re doing!
I realize that staying positive is easier advice to give than to take. However, being able to look for the good is truly valuable. In homeschooling, it can also help you figure out what you need to keep doing right!