I Could Never…

It is the ultimate irony that the number one comment I hear about homeschooling is, “I could never do that.”  As if it’s really hard.

I’m not saying it’s so easy.  Sometimes it is really hard.  Sometimes it’s a struggle.  Some days I worry I’m getting it all wrong.  Sometimes the kids do completely boneheaded things and it’s hard not to feel like there’s no one else to blame but me.  Sometimes the kids make me nuts or they cry or I long to be away from them and do something else.

However, most of the time, it’s pretty good.  Because here’s what I think must be really hard: being a school parent.

I’m not trying to be facetious when I say that I have no idea how school parents do it.  How they manage to fit anything school into a day or make sure anyone is well-rested with a school schedule, or manage to get dinner on the table.  It boggles my mind when I hear about school kids who seem to do nearly as many activities as my kids do: soccer, violin, scouts, etc.  When do they fit it all in?  How do they help the kids through it?  We get a lot of social time and see friends nearly every day.  But on those days that we’re busy most of the day, we come home so beat we all grumble at each other and I have to be careful of overtired tantrums.  For school kids, that’s every single day!  How in the world do they do it?

And then there’s the complete insanity of schools today.  Most elementary students get less than 20 minutes of recess a day in the United States.  Because of the focus on test prep, many schools don’t teach any real science in elementary school now.  Despite the fact that studies clearly show that homework makes no difference for kids before high school, many schools continue to give out hours worth of homework every night.  I could go on in this vein, but the basic question is, how can anyone stand all this?  We all agree that these things are wrong.  So how can they take it without going completely insane?

When I hear about the bureaucracy in schools now, it makes my head spin.  We never had to send supplies or pay loads of money for fundraisers when I was little, but these things are apparently par for the course at most schools now.  There’s very little flexibility with missed days, not even for illnesses, where parents must get doctors’ notes for every single time in some places.  How can anyone stand this stuff?  Some stories I’ve heard sound positively Kafkaesque.

All that is why, when I hear someone say, “Homeschooling must be so difficult,” I want to say, “Oh no.  I think being a school parent must be much harder.”


12 thoughts on “I Could Never…

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more!! My mind boggles with the stress of it all. I know what my calendar looks like, I can’t even image a school parent’s. I know my kids have a hard time understanding why the school friends they have are never available for fun. It really sad IMHO. These kids are run to death with it all and then parents wonder why their children are misbehaving. Kids need down time and empty time. They need it to discover themselves and their own interests.

  2. absolutely! I feel the same way. my daughter is lucky enough to be able to do (quite a bit of) dance on top of piano and church activities. there is no way we’d be able to do this much with a school schedule. my middle son ( a spectrum kiddo) went to full-day special needs preschool for a year, and it was hard. in fact, if the other kids had been in school, i don’t know how we would have swung it. then he went to mainstream kindergarten (for one semester). and it was WAY hard. forget his nightmare experience, just keeping up with bi-weekly, weekly, monthly homework, and the reams of paper brought home regularly… it was hard to keep up. and i’m a pretty on top of it parent! he was also so burned out by the end of the day. school + kids activities + lunches + homework = harder than homeschooling!

  3. YEP! That’s what I think all the time. I gave up when I had one in pre-K and one in daycare and I thought “I cannot do this”. If it’s going to be hard work, let it be hard work where I’m surrounded with my kids learning things, not arguing with school administrators and stuff.

  4. I totally agree! My daughter was on a dance team last year, and the days around recital time were brutal — rehearsals from 3:00-10:00 for 3 week-nights in a row, a recital Friday night and two back-to-back recitals Saturday. We struggled with the schedule, and we didn’t have school those days (we had finished for the year, and if we hadn’t, we would have take those days off). Many of the little girls had field day at their schools that week, so came directly from spending the day running around to 7 hours of dance rehearsal. The older girls had final exams. I have no idea how the kids and parents did it. I know there were a few meltdowns backstage from the younger team members (DD’s age — 7). How do parents keep up with both school and activities? Some of these school kids are in more activities than my kids (dance + soccer or dance + basketball). It’s insane! I know I couldn’t keep up with that pace!

  5. I absolutely agree. Our lives are hectic and full enough withOUT school thrown into the mix! I cannot imagine having to get the kids up, fed, dressed, and all that 5 mornings a week; having our evenings focused on homework rather than family time; parent-teacher conferences and school events; trying to work in outside activities; and so on. Homeschooling is not easy, but it does seem easier than all that!

  6. I’m with you… and to that I’d add that I think it would be very hard on me to have no control over my kids’ education. It would bug me so much to have to go along and “support the teacher” in response to Accelerated Reading, fuzzy math, half-baked projects, discipline policies, etc.

    1. That would be the hardest on me too, Rivka. The scheduling, while I totally don’t get it, I’m sure that in the end, I could manage to adjust. But I can’t imagine I could ever adjust to the lack of control in the face of so many things I think are downright wrong for kids.

  7. I was talking to a mom today who wants to homeschool, but her husband is an elected official who worries about how it would ‘look’ for his kids to be removed from the local school system (she’s working on him). Anyway, I said something about one day being our busy day each week, but that when we got home, we were done and could crash because we didn’t have to worry about homework or early rising the next morning. She was quiet for a minute and then said, “Yeah… that’s just one more thing I really wouldn’t miss!” I don’t know how PS moms do it, either.

  8. I have a 6yo in public school. From my perspective, it’s not school that makes things hard, it’s *my* work schedule. She’s out every day at 2:30, but I work until 4:30 or 5. Having those extra couple of hours would make a big difference in terms of ease of scheduling, but I really love my job and need it for my own mental health. (I tried staying home for a year and was consistently unhappy.)

    We really haven’t had issues with the things people mentioned above (knock on wood). I’ve heard the same horror stories and I’m sure some of them are true, but that’s not the normal situation for everyone. Yes, there is homework, but literally 5-10 minutes a day takes care of it with no problem at all (which I realize may just mean we’re really lucky with our school’s homework policy). Yes, my daughter is in scouts and 2 sports, but we consciously schedule things so that the sports are only on Saturday mornings, and scouts is 1 hour, 1 evening, every second week. Our other evenings are normally calm family time. My daughter has several hours of “downtime” to just mess around and play after school each day before I even get home. The kids are in bed every night by 8-8:30, and that never seems all that difficult. There are many days when getting everyone fed, dressed, and out the door on time in the morning is a struggle, but that’s because I’m an owl and not a lark– if *I* got up half an hour earlier mornings would be calmer. Cooking a family meal at home every night (which we do) means careful planning and shopping every weekend, but again this is because *I* work, not because of school.

    This is getting long-winded, but I really think these hectic-life issues are not because of school per se, but other things– extracurriculars that truly are optional and parents’ work schedules. We all like to find “laundry lists” of reasons whichever type of schooling we’ve chosen seems better for us, but in the end we’re just choosing what we want to do (or what we have to do) and making that schedule work. I think it’s really the control issue Rivka and Farrar mentioned above that makes the fundamental difference, combined with family members’ specific personalities and emotional needs. Everything else is just a side issue.

  9. I totally agree and I have said it to people before too. That lifestyle looks so much more stressful than our own. In a similar vein are the people who tell me that they couldn’t stand to be around their kids enough to homeschool. I wonder if they could, if they were not only dealing with children in the most stressful parts of the day — the out the door rush, the after-school emotional release period, the tired rush from activity to activity, the bedtime battle. Stressed out kids are not fun to deal with (just like stressed out adults) but kids who aren’t stressed? Now they’re lots of fun.

  10. Parenting is always a challenging job, no matter what the path. I also homeschool and one of the things I love the most about it is being able to choose our life pace. People always say the same to me—”I could never do it”—but knowing my particular strengths and weaknesses, this is a much more peaceful life for this family! As we take this journey, I am constantly surprised by what unfolds. I started out because I believed in natural learning and allowing kids more play time in a less structured environment. And I still believe in all that. But the amazing unfolding has been how homeschooling ideas and concepts have seeped into all areas of our life. I never could have foreseen this kind of enrichment I and am so grateful!

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