Inside: Thinking about quitting homeschooling? Maybe you’ve seriously considered it, or maybe you’re desperate to find a way to make it work. My top three reasons to quit homeschooling, plus three ways to pivot if you want to find a way to continue.
I was standing in my living room, overwhelmed by really big feelings of despair. How could I keep on homeschooling this way?
I was still battling postpartum depression after having my fifth child.
At my lowest, I regularly stepped outside with the baby because I just couldn’t handle the normal chaos of four kids in our 1200 square foot home. I was dealing with intense anxiety and depression.
I just couldn’t see how anything was going to get any better.
And then, when I was finally starting to claw my way out of PPD, my dad passed away unexpectedly. The grief sent me crashing back down again.
We didn’t really have a support system, and I couldn’t seem to pull it together no matter how hard I tried. I was *this* close to pulling the “send them to school” trigger.
But then March 15, 2020 happened. And alongside the rest of the world’s parents, I didn’t have a choice anymore.
Like it or not, I had to keep homeschooling.
Pushing through the initial pandemic got me to the summer. Somehow, I made it to the other side of when I probably should have quit homeschooling, and now, thankfully we’re loving our unschooling lifestyle.
So when is quitting homeschooling a good decision?
3 Good Reasons to Consider Quitting Homeschooling
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The decision to quit homeschooling is a very personal decision, one that should be made with a lot of thought and discussion with your partner, if applicable, and if they’re old enough, your children.
I can’t make the decision for you, but I can offer some thoughts as a mom of five who has been homeschooling for almost eight years now and thought about quitting a couple of times.
Here are my top three reasons to think about quitting homeschooling.
(Confession: I kind of cheated on #3 by making it a catch-all. You’ll see.)
1. You, the primary homeschool parent, do not want to homeschool.
If you are the parent shouldering the majority of the homeschool responsibilities, and you don’t want to homeschool anymore? It’s time to think about quitting.
I’ve seen too many moms in particular roped into homeschooling – or continuing to homeschool – because their husband wants them to homeschool, or their religion suggests it’s the best way to educate children and keep them away from “worldly influences”.
Or maybe your peers are all homeschooling their kids, which can be potentially isolating if you decide to send your kids to school one day, instead.
(This can go the other way, too: if your friends are sending their kids to public school and you’re homeschooling. How you decide to educate your kids changes parent friendships. Not enough people are talking about this.)
The truth? The benefits of homeschooling won’t make up for a parent who doesn’t want to be homeschooling. I’m also betting no child wants to be homeschooled by a parent who hates homeschooling and would rather be doing anything else.
If you don’t want to be homeschooling, and your feelings haven’t changed after months or a year, consider quitting.
2. Your child doesn’t want to be homeschooled anymore.
If your child hates homeschooling and is begging to go to school, consider sending them, with this caveat: first, find out why your child wants to go to school.
If your child is young and begging for school, they might be obsessed with riding a school bus with no seat belts or having a backpack and a lunchbox. You could probably easily satisfy those curiosities – one trip to Target and the closest city (for the bus) should do it.
Or there was one time a neighbor friend tried to convince my son to go to school. His selling point? The points-based rewards system that gave you credit at the school store.
When I filled my kid in on the 15-minute lunch and recess in a 7.5 hour school day, he quickly realized it wasn’t worth the trade. All talks of school ended.
(I didn’t even need to do a pretend school day: sit at a desk most of the day, keep your shoes on, and ask permission to use the bathroom for seven straight hours. If your child is younger, you could try this first, so they’re aware of the realities of school.)
It’s natural to be curious about school! It’s such a huge part of our culture: it’s in every book, tv show and movie.
But if your child is older, maybe 10 and up, and genuinely wants to give school a try for academic or social reasons (or because of homeschool-related conflict at home), it’s time to strongly consider it.
Will school meet needs you cannot meet while homeschooling? Are you in an isolated area with few opportunities for in-person socialization?
Are you and this child butting heads constantly? Does this child love the routine and structure that school offers?
Especially if your child is a teen, help them weigh the pros and cons. Hear them out: strongly consider their reasons for wanting to go.
And you never know. Like my friend Mary’s teen, they could try school for a week and decide it’s not worth it, and her child even tried a school tailored to her specific interest – the arts.
Or, like my friend Marta, author of 18: An Unschooling Experience, the benefits school offers in their unique case (playing competitive high school sports) could outweigh the cons.
3. You are no longer able to homeschool, for any reason you deem worthy of quitting.
Your mental health and your physical health matters. Without you, there is no homeschool. Period.
If you are crying every day, thinking “I don’t want to homeschool anymore” regularly, or struggling to get up in the morning because you know you’ll have to homeschool (even if you want to homeschool), it’s time to consider quitting.
If you are going through a physical health crisis, and sending your kids to school for a year will help take the load off of you? Do it.
Homeschooling affects marriages, too, and no one talks about it. If your marriage is struggling, maybe sending your kids to school for a year could give you the break you need.
There are so many negative memes about school, like “I’ve seen the village, and I do not want it raising my children.”
Fair. But if you have NO village and NO support system, sometimes school can be a good enough village for now (or if you’re lucky, you might discover it’s an awesome one).
With finances, there are definitely options. People work from home, work part-time, or even in extreme cases, move back in with family in order to keep homeschooling through a financial crisis.
But maybe you don’t want to do any of those things. Maybe financial stress is too much for your mental health. That’s o.k.
Maybe you love your work: it makes you a better, happier parent. Or you are a single parent and cannot find work from home options that pay the bills.
Ultimately, physical/mental health and finances play a huge role in your ability to be a present, fully-engaged homeschool parent. Struggles in any of these areas should not be brushed off or taken lightly.
Remember: you don’t need to defend your reasons for quitting homeschooling to anyone, and you don’t need to feel like a failure.
Related: 9 Flexible Work from Home Job Options for Homeschool Moms
But I Don’t Want to Quit Homeschooling. What Are My Options?
You’ve thought through everything above, and quitting still doesn’t sit right with you.
You really want to make homeschooling work, but how? Here are a few possibilities…
1. Consider unschooling.
I can’t NOT make a plug for unschooling, mostly because transitioning fully to unschooling has made continuing to homeschool doable for our family. I had to do a TON of deschooling, but it was worth it.
By ditching traditional homeschooling completely, our schedule is much more flexible. I have more breathing room for myself, and for work and personal interests.
My kids are thriving following their interests, and because I’m not forcing them to do mindless busy work or learn things they’re not interested in right then, I have great relationships with them for the most part.
If you’re curious about unschooling, read a few of THESE unschooling books or listen to one of THESE unschooling podcasts. Also, I describe the differences between unschooling and homeschooling HERE.
If not unschooling, there are so many creative ways to make homeschooling work. Things like…
- Finding new curriculum
- Homeschooling year-round
- Co-ops for certain subjects
- Relaxed homeschooling
If you want to keep homeschooling, think outside the box. A change or two could make it doable.
Related: What If My Child Refuses to Do School Work? 5 Questions to Consider
2. Explore the world of full-time work plus homeschooling.
There’s a great big world out there of parents balancing working full-time and homeschooling. The homeschool in the hours they aren’t working.
If your biggest needs are personal fulfillment and/or personal finances, this could be a great option.
Curious how they make it work? Check out Jen’s site at Practical By Default.
Jen also hosts a Facebook group specifically for working homeschool parents with 20k members. There are so many great ideas floating around that group: join and listen/read for a little while to see how they do it.
Related: How to Work from Home and Homeschool – 10 Essential Tips
3. Look into child-care options.
Sometimes, the hardest thing about homeschooling is being with your kids all day with no breaks. Is this just an introverted homeschool mom problem? You tell me.
Or maybe, like me, you love homeschooling your older kids, but if you have to play pretend one more minute with your preschooler(s), you’re going to scream.
Every time I ask myself if quitting homeschooling would make things easier for me, I come back to the fact that my biggest challenge is actually my youngest, and putting everyone in school won’t solve that.
We recently transitioned to my husband working 32 hours a week, instead of 40. It was a combination of his work stress needing to decrease and my childcare + inability to work stress needing to decrease.
Now I get child-free work time (my work fills me up), and his work stress is more manageable.
Even with him working less hours, we’re both probably experiencing parental burnout, so I’m looking into occasional babysitting for my 4-year-old, especially, who needs/wants constant interaction. Meeting all of her social-emotional needs can be exhausting.
Other parents I know have swapped childcare with another parent, utilized their local boys and girls club or joined the YMCA which offers free childcare (even if you’re not technically working out).
You Might Also Like: A Realistic Homeschool Mom Cleaning Schedule
If You Decide to Quit Homeschooling, Please Don’t Feel Guilty & Definitely Decenter School
Homeschool parents end up on posts like these often because of the guilt. They want to quit, but they feel guilty about quitting.
Please don’t feel guilty.
If quitting is what’s best for your family as a whole, your kids will be o.k., especially if you “decenter” school on purpose.
What does that even mean? Decentering school simply means not assuming school’s priorities for your child need to be your priorities. You don’t need to “bring school home” if you don’t want to.
If you don’t think grades matter all that much, you don’t need to make them matter.
Same with standardized testing: you can opt your kids out of standardized testing altogether. According to FairTest, “Eight states have laws that allow opting out; no states have laws prohibiting it.”
If you’re against elementary school homework, respectfully inform your child’s teacher that your child will not be completing the homework. School takes enough of their time, and research shows homework at that age does more harm than good.
You’re the parent. You can set boundaries and make school work for your family if you need/want to.
Weigh the options, make the best decision for your family as a whole, one year at a time, and stick to your family’s values within your own unique circumstances.
That’s all any of us can do.
Read Next: The Pros and Cons of Unschooling – Some Brutal Honesty
I needed to read this today. Our homeschooling year so far has pretty much sucked. I’m going to watch the movie…not tonight, but I am going to watch it!
Thanks I was about to give up. My son is NINE and doesn’t write his name (can but WON’T) and has about two outbursts every day. If he had his way, he’d been in the lake 365 days a year, I can see the obvious thought but we have freezing temps from October to May, so that’s NOT an option. I have been praying for enough self control for him to at least do half time at the private Christian school, but they can’t handle and neither can the public school due to his meltdowns. It’s cheaper to home school, my husband says, but I have been pitifully TERRIBLE at it. I had great success with our daughter until she went to high school and she graduated tenth in her class and in the top ten percent in the state and country. But my son is a totally different and really hard By the time his older sister was his age, she was writing short stories, essays, book reports, doing paintings, knew most hymns, had read 90% of the Bible, was doing simple Algebra, was practically an expert at rock identification, cow, cat, dog, and other animal breeds, understood human anatomy and physiology and “sex ed” from PERSONAL STUDY, had read Moby DIck and the unabridged version of Robinson Crusoe for the first time, and was cooking meals, mending her clothes, crocheting,and a mild temperament and could babysit children. My son is the polar opposite. He failed first grade at a private school, though he got an A in music (singing or instrument playing runs through both sides of our family), he has daily rages twice a day, doesn’t fully communicate though he’s shown amazing improvement over two years ago, and has the basic maturity of a 4-5 year old and the mental understanding of a 7 year old, though sometimes with his mood swings that seems to go back to age 2-3! Other times he will say something profound now and then that shows us his understanding is NOT REALLY age 2-4, like the “experts” in our lives claim. He really benefitted from being in school part time but they want 10,000-20,000 per year while at even the public school they say he HAS to have a FULL TIME attendant and being in SPECIAL ED. and that would cost us at least several thousand per year, even if its not 10,000 or more and they would ask for him to be put on meds, if “appropriate”. If appropriate? They pretty much said they would demand it by what they said. We feel like we’re between a rock and a hard place. Shell out LOTS of money and do 25-50% at home anyway, or accept drugs and indoctrination and personal blame for having such a child and whatever else they can think of that I’ve “done wrong” (believe me, for me that would be the EASY PART!) and permanent special ed with the possibility that they won’t really try to teach him anything. I would PREFER the private school with teaching at home, since that seems to work best, but the private school wants lots of money for trying and possibly also by now wants him “on something”. I guess what I am really asking for is PRAYER more than anything. I also had Babiosis and Lyme disease last year and am about to turn 50, so I am not as spry as I used to be. I am working on it but it only adds to all the difficulties. It would seem like a MIRACLE if my son could attend Christian school and I could volunteer there and work a part time to supplement OR be able to teach him like I taught our daughter at home. And some time alone to CLEAN the HOUSE and organize things like the rest of my family likes would be AWESOME, but I NEVER really get to, because I am always in charge of SOMEONE. If not him for an hour or so, then I am working with my mother in law on the weekend 1 or 2 outings. It hurts that I am not like my mother in law was, or my grandmothers, who either worked and could get things done at home and raise kids at the same time, or could home school perfectly well, like some of my friends and make some money for the husbands at the same time. I find myself these days barely able to even homeschool and keep up with just the laundry, beds, meals and dishes!!
I am so sorry life is a struggle right now. Praying! Battling illness is so tough, even without all the challenges you mentioned. I know several people with chronic Lyme’s and it’s no joke. One recommendation I do have would be to point you to Brave Writer. I love everything they have to offer! You can start with Julie’s videos on the Brave Writer Channel and everything else you can find HERE. Facebook has proved to be such a great support for me through meeting other like-minded homeschool families and trouble-shooting different challenges. The other is a book recommendation: Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him. It’s by Sally Clarkson – I love her and she homeschooled all her kids all the way through and one of her kids – Nathan – had some significant learning disabilities and other struggles. They wrote this book together now that he is on the other side and a self-sufficient, successful adult. I hope it encourages you today!