Homeschooling stress can sometimes be your worst enemy and make you throw up your hands and declare, ‘The children are going back to school, now!’ Some situations can be very stressful, especially when parents are new to home education. However, homeschooling doesn’t have to be a nightmare. In this article, parents learn what creates stress and what relieves it. Getting on top of homeschooling stress can mean the rest of your children’s educational journey is pleasant and fulfilling.
By studying nine homeschooling mothers, researchers, Jennifer Rathmell and Gail Collins, identified the top five things that cause homeschooling stress. They also studied what parents could do to avoid these stressors and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Top 5 Things Causing Homeschooling Stress in Parents
Although there are many things that can cause homeschooling stress, researchers identified the most common stressors below:
- Overwhelming responsibility
- Dealing with their homeschooled child’s behaviour and [lack of] motivation
- Confusion over finding the ‘right’ curriculum
- Stereotypes and stigmas over homeschooling
- Distractions and extras
The same study identified what helped home educators flourish in light of the above stressors they experienced. These are the things that they found that resolve homeschooling stress in parents:
- Control and freedom (which counteracted Stressor #1 – overwhelming responsibility)
- Poignant moments (which counteracted Stressor #2 – dealing with their homeschooled child’s behaviour and motivation)
- Having the right curriculum (which counteracted Stressor #3 – confusion over finding the ‘right’ curriculum)
- Supportive spouses (which counteracted Stressor #4 – stereotypes and stigmas over homeschooling)
- The greater homeschooling community (which counteracted Stressor #5 – distractions and extras)
When parents managed to find the silver lining to the stressors above (that is, they found the good in the situation), their stress could be greatly allayed. If the event was handled successfully and recovered in this way, great satisfaction was often felt. On this point, the researchers, Rathmell and Collins (2013) explain:
For instance, “dealing with bad behaviour” was wearing on a homeschool mother, and yet the same situation provided an opportunity to “communicate family values, teach, and train” which was a primarily flourishing and positive aspect of home education. What seemed to be an initial reluctance is what I believe to be an inner tension of categorizing any facet of homeschooling as completely stressful. [Source]
The same frustrating situation was seen by participants as stressful, yet rewarding if opportunities were taken to make the situation positive.
The Problem of Overwhelming Responsibility
Homeschooling stress in parents sometimes manifests with a vengeance once parents begin homeschooling. They feel an enormous amount of responsibility to educate their children well. This responsibility – which other parents hand over to school authorities – is felt acutely as home educators compare their children to those in traditional school settings.
Responsibility to progress their child’s education as well as provide effective socialization opportunities are felt keenly.
The Solution to Overwhelming Responsibility
Having control of this responsibility empowers homeschooling parents. When parents can ‘do whatever they like’, the restrictive enslavement to a restrictive curriculum or way of life is no longer felt.
Home educators don’t have to stress about bad schedules, ineffective teachers, or undesirable school environments. They can choose who their children socialize with and what time they socialize.
Dealing with Bad Behaviours and Lack of Motivation
The Problem of Bad Behaviours and Motivational Issues
Dealing with bad behaviour and lack of motivation in our children is a cause for considerable discouragement and homeschooling stress in parents.
Homeschooling parents may be surprised to learn even traditional educators get worn out by the demands of constant discipline and correction in the classroom (in fact, disciplining students is one of the most significant causes for stress in teachers).
Because homeschooling parents spend far more time with their children, the temptation to ‘snap’ at them is stronger and reveals our sinful hearts to our chagrin. (Of course, our children also know how to push our buttons better than anyone else!).
Failure to deal with bad behaviour effectively can lead to burnout (again, this happens to classroom teachers with ‘low classroom management skills’).
The Solution to Behaviours and Motivational Issues
Even though a homeschooler’s behaviours and lack of motivation might be frustrating, parents can teach their children wisdom about how to behave better and be more motivated. Parents can effectively disciple and mentor their children which were an enormous encouragement to home educators.
The joy of learning together also provides great encouragement as parents model their Christian worldview to children (this can also be taught in specific programs like the BJU Biblical Worldview curriculum). This mentoring and discipleship creates great joy. Parents can expose their children’s negative attitudes and create unity. Researchers concluded, ‘This opportunity seemed to reduce the stress of misbehaviour and discipline.’
Confusion Over Finding the ‘Right’ Curriculum
The Problem of Finding the Right Homeschool Curriculum
Discovering the right curriculum is one of the biggest decisions homeschool parents have to make. It is one of the problems faced early in a person’s homeschooling journey.
While the internet provides great resources and options in terms of curriculum, the internet also easily overwhelms homeschooling parents – especially new homeschooling parents. For educationally untrained parents, navigating the seas of homeschooling curriculum can be overwhelming.
The Solution to Finding the Right Homeschool Curriculum
When parents find what they consider to be the right curriculum, stress on this head can be mitigated.
For instance, if children are studying with a math curriculum they find too challenging or unsuitable, changing the curriculum to a better or more tailored program can fix the problem and decrease homeschool stress in parents.
Homeschooling gives parents an opportunity to meet their children’s needs with more freedom as they use different teaching methods and curricula.
Homeschooling Stereotypes and Stigmas
The Problem of Stereotypes and Stigmas
When you homeschool, you’re going outside of the mainstream. Rejecting the status quo brings opposition from those who support the status quo or ‘the way everyone else does it’. This can create a lot of homeschool stress for parents.
Much of the opposition comes from friends and family whose opinions many home educators respect.
Criticism over homeschooling can cause parents to feel less confident and more defensive about their educational choices. Talking to people who don’t understand your educational choices may also cause a great deal of awkwardness.
Unlike mainstream school parents, homeschooling parents feel the need to justify their method of education as it is not the status quo.
The Solution to Stereotypes and Stigmas
Having the right people around you to encourage and guide you can reduce the stress that is related to stigmas and stereotypes about homeschooling.
A supportive spouse is important for unity and educational success in the homeschool.
Other homeschooling parents can also be a tremendous encouragement to home educators; their mentoring support can be the difference between sinking or swimming.
I’ve also found that knowing how to lovingly and gracefully defend and promote homeschooling among critics can turn detractors into advocates!
Distractions and Extras
The Problem of Distractions and Extras
Distractions, while parents are trying to teach their children, can be stressful and discouraging for homeschooling parents.
The presence of small children makes teaching especially painful at times as parents have to teach around naps and feeding times. When parents can’t teach during these times, they might fall behind in the curriculum. This creates further homeschooling stress in parents.
Many extracurricular activities also create stress as parents must travel (sometimes long distances) to make the activity happen. This may feel particularly stressful when children haven’t finished their core homeschooling subjects(such as Maths and English).
The Solution to Distractions and Extras
Encouragement, despite falling behind, can be gathered from homeschooling co-ops (places where extracurricular activities often take place), blogs or other homeschool parents.
These co-ops can help parents with teaching core subjects and give encouragement to drowning home educators.
Extracurricular activities like field trips can also help parents with their homeschool stress as they see their children enjoying their day and making educational progress.
Social support was noted to be very powerful in countering stressors related to distractions and extras.
Your Homeschooling Stress
Given the problems and solutions we’ve discovered on this page, write down what your problem is. Compare your problem to the list above and see if you can find a solution to your stressful homeschooling situation.
My PROBLEM is: __________________________________________________________________________________________
My SOLUTION is:__________________________________________________________________________________________
Conclusion: Don’t Put Up with Homeschool Stress!
You often don’t have to put up with homeschooling stress. There seem to be plenty of effective ways to avoid stress in the home. Make sure you follow these methods and see if they work. You can also ask other, more experienced homeschooling parents about your problems. Remember to keep evaluating your homeschool and hit the ‘Don’t Panic’ button when you need to.