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How to Stay Sane While Homeschooling

Strategies for Making Homeschooling More Manageable for You

By Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

When families start homeschooling, they may think that they are merely making an educational change. However, those who have already begun the journey know that it is more like a lifestyle transformation—affecting everything from how you spend your time and money to how you find “teachable moments” in everything you and your child do together. Homeschooling is a mindset, a lens through which to interpret what your family experiences, and homeschooling can bring a wealth of benefits for you, your child, and the rest of the family!

You may be very excited about homeschooling if you haven’t started yet, or you may be glad that you began homeschooling if you are a veteran homeschooler. However, you must also know that homeschooling can bring challenges, moments of trial and error, and days when wearing the hats of both parent and teacher is simply exhausting. Don’t worry! You can find reassurance from local homeschoolers who have “been there” or encouragement through the support of your extended family, friends, or other networks. Plus, there are some strategies you can use to stay sane while homeschooling!

Managing Homeschool Expectations

Planning Your Homeschool Year for Sanity

Knowing What to Do When Things Don’t Go Well


Homeschool Expectations

Managing Homeschool Expectations

When you think about “homeschool management,” you may think about how to run your homeschool—how to provide effective instruction, keep good records, and generally satisfy state homeschool laws. All of these tasks are crucial to your success, but in order to do all of them while maintaining your sanity, you must also be able to manage homeschool expectations for yourself, your child, and the rest of your family:

  • Managing Your Own Homeschool Expectations: When many families begin homeschooling, they try to recreate what is essentially “school at home.” They attempt to follow a school schedule and may incorporate many of the typical “school” tenets (e.g., desks, whiteboards, textbooks, raising of hands). Then when something doesn’t feel like school, there is misplaced disappointment. Parents, too, often set unrealistic expectations for themselves as “superteachers.” Rather, you should expect that there are no perfect lessons and that you will simply do the best you can and provide your child with the love and support that only you can.
  • Managing Your Child’s Homeschool Expectations: Children who were formally in public or private school may also share the expectation of “school at home” and may need some help transitioning to homeschooling. Some children may expect that homeschooling will be easy, with no rules, tons of field trips, and lots of days lazing around in pajamas doing a little work here and there. As a homeschool guide, you need to set your child’s expectations for behavior, effort, and rigor.
  • Managing Your Family’s Homeschool Expectations: Sometimes family members begin with or develop misunderstandings about what homeschool days are like for you and your child. They may request that you handle all household appointments, family obligations, and chores since “you’re homeschooling; you’re home; you have time.” What they may not understand is the extent to which your days are filled with planning, instruction, assessment, and recordkeeping. You may need to have a family meeting to discuss how homeschooling’s flexibility does not necessarily translate to idle time.

Homeschool management of expectations can be a critical piece to maintaining your sanity and may require that you both revisit goals and remind yourself and others what homeschooling is like and can be. When reality is closer to expectations, you and your family will feel accomplished and happy… and sane!


Homeschool Expectations

Planning Your Homeschool Year for Sanity

Once you know the goals of your homeschool and have set realistic expectations for yourself and your family, you need to plan your year of homeschool as if your sanity depends on it—because it does! Here are some steps that can help:

  • Find a homeschooling method: In order to improve your sanity, make your homeschooling method work for you. Find a homeschooling method that aligns with your purpose for homeschooling. This way, your goals remain central to everything you do. For example, if you decide that you want a secular homeschool, you can avoid curriculum and materials that are faith-based and may require review and modification on your part. The same applies if you would like to infuse your religious beliefs into your homeschooling.
  • Determine a homeschooling budget: While homeschooling, the last thing you need to worry about is whether it is costing you too much money. Working within a predetermined homeschooling budget can help as you prepare for the year, attend homeschooling conferences, or browse the Internet for resources. Remember that there are a lot of free and low-cost educational resources out there and don’t forget about A2ZHomeschooling’s own free Explore Resources. In fact, you can homeschool for nearly free!
  • Choose a homeschooling curriculum: Before you begin, or whenever you need a change, choose a homeschooling curriculum that will help you keep your sanity. To do this, you will want to learn where to get homeschool curriculum and then choose a curriculum that both matches your teaching style (and the time and effort you have available) and your child’s learning profile (how your child learns the best). Do research, especially if you are homeschooling special needs. Trying to force a curriculum to meet what you need will take extra time and effort, and that may not be helpful as you try to reduce anxiety 
  • Create a homeschool schedule: One of the most crucial pieces to maintaining your sanity as a homeschooler is to create a home education schedule that works. Think about the most productive times for you and your child and make a schedule that addresses all your obligations. For example, if you are homeschooling while working from home or homeschooling while working full time, plan a schedule with your work needs included, or make adjustments in the schedule if you are a single parent who is homeschooling. If you are homeschooling multiple children, plan for blocks of time to work with each child individually and then arrange for group learning when you can. Also, include a homeschool planning schedule so that you don’t run out of time to make the right plans to keep you sane!
  • Plan for easy recordkeeping: Think ahead how you will maintain the records you need to meet your state’s homeschooling requirements and to prepare for your child’s return to public schooling or entry into college and career. Avoid scrambling to fulfill reporting requirements, update report cards, or create impressive transcripts or portfolios by keeping attendance records and progress notes along the way. Talk to other homeschoolers for ideas and adjust your recordkeeping system as needed.
  • Involve others in your homeschooling: Remember that you can avoid losing your sanity by collaborating with other people and organizations. First, find out, based on your state homeschool laws, whether someone else can homeschool your child or if there are restrictions imposed by the law. Ask if other adults in the family or even older siblings can take a role in your child’s homeschooling (e.g., get the grandparents involved or an older sibling who can read with your child). Connect with other families through a co-op to share responsibilities, enroll your child in a virtual school or support program, or hire a homeschool tutor. Try using an online curriculum, like Time4Learning, that can provide some independent learning while you complete other tasks, or enroll your child in homeschool programs through local organizations (e.g., zoos, museums) or in individual online classes through platforms like Outschool. All these possibilities can save you some time and effort in ways that you know still benefit your child’s learning.

If you take the time to plan your homeschool year with your own sanity in mind, you can avoid a lot of the frustrations that can otherwise sabotage your homeschool. Remember that planning time is not wasted time!


Homeschool Expectations

Knowing What to Do When Things Don’t Go Well

Don’t you wish that if you just followed a few homeschooling rules, all your homeschooling days would be calm and productive? Unfortunately, other than adhering to state guidelines, you may find that there are no tried and true homeschool rules that work for all families. That individuality is, essentially, the point of homeschooling. You can use strategies like those suggested above, but you will still have homeschool days when your sanity is tested. When that happens, you need to have ideas for how to get back on track. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try another way: Sometimes your child simply isn’t understanding what is being presented or is in no mood to learn. This can be frustrating for you, but you do have options as a homeschooler. Consider changing the setting (try learning outside), the method you are using to teach the material (try something hands-on), or the way you are trying to assess whether your child understands (try using verbal or active ways for your child to demonstrate learning). Keep track of how your child learns best (for some go-to methods) and add some variety to lessons to keep both you and your child engaged. Remember you can adapt your homeschool to your homeschooler!
  • Take a break: You can regularly schedule breaks, which is not a bad idea, but you can also take a spontaneous break when homeschooling is not going well. Remember that the day is flexible and that adding a break may be better in the long run if you want to reset your child’s behavior or try again later with a difficult learning task. If your child is feeling particularly frustrated, consider taking a break and then following up with some confidence building before beginning again. Remember that giving yourself a break can be just as crucial to your child’s learning.
  • Try another day: Although you may not want to make a habit of this, occasionally you may be better off simply “calling it a day” either with a certain task or, in extreme circumstances, shutting down the homeschooling day altogether. In the latter case, of course, your child needs to understand that the time must be “made up” on another day; however, sometimes this reset can jumpstart your homeschooling effectiveness and keep you where you mentally need to be.
  • Collect Plan B strategies: Start a list of educational activities that relate to your child’s curriculum but may involve more independence (when you need a break) or more fun (when your child needs a break). For example, create a watchlist of relevant documentaries on Curiosity Stream or a list of educational videos from YouTube. Write down learning games or educational apps that can be used to fill time in a productive and fun way or list educational audio activities and educational podcasts that will build academic skills or knowledge. Think of field trips you can take at the spur of the moment or simple activities in the yard that can break up a difficult day. Having some sanity-saving strategies at your fingertips may make all the difference in your homeschool!

If there is one universal truth to homeschooling, it is that homeschooling is not inherently easy. When you are homeschooling, you are taking on a huge responsibility—and that is if you are homeschooling one child. Homeschooling multiple children at once can be even more challenging, but setting expectations, planning for sanity, and knowing what to do when things go sideways can help ensure that each homeschooling day is a positive experience for your entire family. 

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3 Responses to How to Stay Sane While Homeschooling

  1. yangkuki on May 27, 2021 at 3:38 am

    i’m in need of a solution to this, really good luck!

  2. fredluis721 on October 23, 2019 at 12:23 am

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    • Andrea Dillon on October 24, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      Thank you for your kind words.

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