Preview: These strategies can help you overcome three common roadblocks that prevent many families from having a successful homeschool!
Have you felt like you were failing your children? Maybe you’ve thought that homeschool lessons should be going better than they are. Or, perhaps you wonder why no one is enjoying school time.
You are not alone. I’ve heard this frustration from many homeschool parents—newbies and veterans alike. It happens to all of us at some point.
But what can you do about it? In this article, you will learn about three common roadblocks homeschool parents encounter and how you can overcome them.
- What is a successful homeschool?
- Roadblock #1 – Trying to implement what works for other homeschool families
- Roadblock #2 – Worrying that your homeschool looks different
- Roadblock #3 – Not knowing what change to make in your homeschool
- Bonus: How To Not Feel Overwhelmed By Obstacles In Your Homeschool
- Bonus: 5 More Things That Might Be Sabotaging Your Homeschool
What is a successful homeschool?
I know you probably want to dive right in, but before we do, there’s something important we need to do first. Can you guess what it is?
Yep, we need to define success.
If you don’t know what success looks like, you won’t know when you have a successful homeschool day or year. If you have a homeschool mission statement, you’ve probably already answered the following question: “What will you consider a successful education?”
With your homeschool mission statement in mind, let’s talk about the first roadblock preventing you from achieving homeschool success.
Roadblock #1 – Trying to implement what works for other homeschool families
Talking to other homeschoolers is a great way to learn about curriculum and activity options. And it can be super helpful when you need to solve a problem. Why re-invent the wheel?
But, there is a danger in applying what others are doing without first running it through your decision-making framework (a.k.a. your homeschool mission statement). What others are doing may not help you meet your goals and objectives. It may not be a good fit for your family.
One of my coaching clients, Jodi, was struggling with this. She tried to implement the Charlotte Mason philosophy in her homeschool. She read the suggested books, mimicked the schedule, and used the methods and strategies recommended for her children’s ages. And she was frustrated!
She told me that she just couldn’t figure out how to fit it all in. She always felt behind. And worse, neither she nor her children were enjoying school anymore.
As we talked, I learned that Jodi was trying to do what was recommended for their homeschool lessons, but the reason it wasn’t working for her family was that she couldn’t stick to the traditional five-day-a-week schedule due to her husband’s work schedule. To alleviate stress and help everyone enjoy lessons again, I suggested the following three steps.
- Make a list of your basics. This list should include subjects you need to cover or activities you need to do every day. Keep it short and attainable. This list will be what you follow when your husband is home or the day is just crazy.
- Make a list of a full school day. This list should include the items on your basics list and additional subjects you want to cover or activities you want to do when you can complete a full school day. Again, keep this list attainable. Aim to work through this list three days a week. If that is not possible, spread these subjects out over more days if needed.
- Make a list of supplemental subjects. This list can include subjects such as art, picture study, composer study, poetry, etc. As you have additional time on any of your school days (or a Saturday/Sunday if you all want to do something), you work on the next item from the list during whatever time you have available. Rotate through the list, and eventually, you will be able to cover all of the subjects.
Jodi began implementing these strategies, and they helped her feel more in control of her homeschool days. She split her subjects down into days that would work for her family. Now, she can decide which list they’ll work through depending on her husband’s work schedule. And it’s helping them make forward progress instead of always feeling behind.
Roadblock #2 – Worrying that your homeschool looks different
It’s hard to choose, but if you asked me what my favorite benefit of homeschooling is, I’d probably have to say the customization. I love that I can plan lessons and use resources that meet the needs of my children. Some examples of how I do this include:
- I only plan 20 weeks of content each school year. The remaining 16 weeks allow us to take advantage of trips, field trips, and special interest studies.
- I allowed my daughter to use a high school level science curriculum as a seventh-grader. Because she was interested in the topic, the human body, she was motivated to work hard. In the beginning, we had to modify our expectations of how quickly she would work through the material and even how much she would understand and remember.
- I delayed introducing written narrations with my daughter, who was still struggling to read.
- I schedule lessons for the morning only so that my daughters have plenty of free time in the afternoon to pursue personal interests and passions such as multiple musical instruments, electronics, historical fashion, historical re-enacting, and sewing, even in high school.
But by taking advantage of this benefit and customizing my children’s educational experience, our homeschool looks different than any other homeschool I’ve seen.
The most common reason I’ve seen that causes parents not to have the confidence to provide a customized educational experience for their children is fear.
- They are afraid their children won’t be prepared if they deviate from the norm.
- They fear condemnation from friends that they are doing something different.
- They second guess their decisions and curriculum choices.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine. Stacy and I met at church. When her daughters were in first grade and pre-K, they began contemplating pulling them out of public school to homeschool them. While our daughters participated in gymnastics class together, we talked. She asked a lot of questions about what homeschooling was like and how we handled different situations.
At the end of that school year, they chose to homeschool. Stacy was brave and did something different than many of her other friends, whose children were still in public school.
Over the next couple of years, she found her groove. Our conversations changed from the basics of how to homeschool to discussing different educational philosophies and curriculum options. She chose to use some of the same resources and methods that I use, some that other homeschool friends use, and others that were different from anyone else because they worked for her children. Again, she was brave and made choices that were right for her family situation and her children.
One day, she told me hesitantly that one of her daughters would be going to public high school the next school year. She was initially concerned about how her homeschool friends would react to their choice to abandon homeschooling in favor of public school again.
I knew they had not arrived at this decision lightly. Stacy and her husband prayed and considered this option for more than a year. Instead of condemnation, I rejoiced with her that they were brave enough to seek God’s will and do what was best for their daughter.
They weren’t abandoning homeschooling; they were choosing the right circumstance for their daughter. Stacy’s daughter began her educational journey in public school, switched to homeschooling, and then finished in public school. That was the right journey for her.
You know your child best. The right educational setting and curriculum options are what works for your child, and those choices will probably look different than anyone else’s child. They may even look different for each of your children.
How do you make these decisions with confidence? I may be sounding like a broken record at this point, but when you use your homeschool mission statement as your decision-making framework, you can make these decisions with confidence. You’ll know what you want to achieve, and you can choose the path that will help you accomplish your goals.
Roadblock #3 – Not knowing what change to make in your homeschool
I remember the day my daughters and I were at my mentor’s house. I listed off problem after problem we were facing.
- The girls left shoes in the living room.
- School books were strewn all over the house.
- They didn’t turn the lights off when they left a room.
- When they did clean up, they left stuff.
And the list went on. I ended by saying that I didn’t know what problem I should tackle first.
My mentor thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t think you have a lot of problems. I think you have one problem. They are not paying attention. If you work on developing the habit of attention, you’ll also address all of these other concerns.”
As I thought about it, I realized she was right. They didn’t “see” the shoes, books, and toys strewn around the house. They didn’t “see” that the lights were on. They were absorbed in their world and didn’t really “see” the world around them.
As soon as we got home, we started working on developing the habit of attention. We were already practicing oral narration during school lessons. Now I added additional opportunities to practice noticing things.
- When we went on a nature walk, we listened to see how many different sounds we heard. Or, we went on a scavenger hunt to see how many nature items we could find.
- Instead of calling them back and telling them to finish cleaning up when they left items in a room, I called them back and asked them what they saw. Then, I asked them to put away the things they listed off. In the beginning, they needed help “seeing” some of the leftover items.
- We examined “one small square” of our yard. (Check out the book, One Small Square, to learn more about this fun activity!)
With practice and consistency, they did develop the habit of attention. And it made a big difference! They started putting away ALL of their stuff and turned off lights when they left a room. They even noticed when others were having a bad day and found ways to help out.
This principle is called The Domino Effect. Do you remember setting up dominoes in a row and excitedly knocking down the first one? What happened?
The rest fell in rapid succession. The force of one domino caused the next one to fall and the next and the next.
You can apply The Domino Effect in your homeschool too! Consider a challenge you are facing in your homeschool. Is that the root problem, or is it a symptom of a larger problem?
You can use the following steps to apply The Domino Effect in your homeschool.
- Make a list of everything that is bothering you. What problems are you encountering? What frustrations do you have?
- Take a deep breath and take a step back. Remove yourself from the nitty-gritty of homeschool life for a moment so you can see the situation from a 10,000-foot view.
- Look at your list with fresh eyes. Do you see a pattern? Could you solve several problems by addressing a larger one? This step is challenging at first. It may be helpful to discuss this list with your spouse, a friend, or mentor. They are removed from the day-to-day challenges and can view the situation with fresh eyes.
- Make a plan to address the larger problem you identified in step 3.
- Watch the dominoes fall!
How To Not Feel Overwhelmed By Obstacles In Your Homeschool
Have you noticed homeschooling often feels like being in a refiner’s fire? There are days it seems you accomplish no schoolwork because you spend the whole day addressing character issues—yours or your children’s. This is frustrating when you already have so much to do and want to check things off your list.
Instead of allowing this to overwhelm and frustrate you, embrace these moments. In episode 6 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, I share four tips for embracing your time in the homeschool refiner’s fire and how it is beneficial in the long run.
Four tips for embracing challenging situations
- Recognize this is an investment.
- Build margin into your schedule.
- Be a helper, not an adversary.
- Seek input from your spouse.
The story of the refiner’s fire:
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’ (source unknown)
5 More Things That Might Be Sabotaging Your Homeschool
Are any of these sabotaging your homeschool?
- Being too busy.
- Doing what everyone else is doing.
- Trying to check off the boxes.
- Having too much stuff.
- Not focusing on habits and character.
Listen to the podcast as we take a look at each of these and how they might be affecting your homeschool.
Links and resources mentioned in this episode
- Why I Turned My Smart Phone Into An Antisocial Phone
- How To Help Your Children Feel Heard and Understood
- 7 Simple Ways To Show Your Children You Love Them
- Math Manipulatives and Games Suggestions
- Developing Your Strong-Willed Child’s Ability To Obey
- 5 Tips To Train Your Child In The Habit Of Obedience
- Teach Your Child To Obey Through Games
Are you struggling with any of these roadblocks?
You can overcome them! Try one of the strategies above to overcome your obstacles to a successful homeschool.
Don’t know what step to take next or which obstacle you should tackle first? With personalized homeschool coaching, we can work together to identify and make a plan to overcome the roadblocks keeping you and your children stuck so that you can achieve your homeschool goals and enjoying your homeschool experience.