Homeschooling’s not as much work as you think

I am trying to be more conscious of what is different about my life because I homeschool and what would I be dealing with anyway even if I didn’t homeschool.

For example, last week I was at cello camp with my son, and I noticed that the place was split between stay-at-home moms (lots of homeschoolers) and moms who work full-time who took a week off of work to do cello camp. We were all doing the same thing: eating terrible food, wondering how to get the kid to practice better at home, and furtively checking email during lessons.

The last week was hell, by the way, because the hotel room we had was full of bed bugs. In case you don’t know, I have already faced-down an apartment full of bed bugs in New York City, and I nearly lost my mind. (Here’s the story). So I had a panic attack when I realized that my son and I were covered in bed bug bites. But then I went into bed-bug mode: Plastic bags around everything that can go in the dryer on high heat. Throw out everything else. I even decided that since I was going to get rid of the car soon anyway, I was getting rid of the car now. After all, you cannot put a car in the dryer.

So look, I could write a treatise on bed bugs because I have now dealt with them twice. But my point is that the worst thing that has happened to me in months—the bed bugs—is independent of homeschooling.

And I think that is how most things are. Homeschooling seems hard, but it’s really simply parenting that’s hard. Marriage is hard. Getting out of the bed in the morning is hard, too, sometimes.

Homeschooling is really hard on the days that life is really hard. But I don’t think homeschooling makes things harder.

And the converse is true as well: I just received the insipid Pottery Barn kids back-to-school catalog. As a homeschooler, I am totally sick of the glorification of sending kids to school carrying all their own stuff (in Pottery Barn backpacks and thermoses, of course) like they are going off to war. It’s alienating to me because I want more people to be like me so we can all feel like we’re raising kids with similar values.

But I used to have the same problem with the Pottery Barn catalog when I sent my kids to school: I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for them because they didn’t have matching Star Wars backpacks and lunch boxes.

The Pottery Barn catalog is upsetting whether I homeschool or not.

Bed bugs are totally disgusting and make me panic whether I am homeschooling or not.

I think we underestimate our ability to parent and run a household and run our lives because we think we are already at the edge of what we are able to do. I don’t believe homeschooling makes anything harder, though.

A lot of people tell me they read this blog because they want to homeschool, but they don’t think they can do it. But I want you  to know that if you are parenting now, and sending your kids to school, you can parent and not send your kids to school. The biggest problems in your life will not change—they’ll still be the biggest problems. And just like all parents—whether you homeschool or not—you will have a list of stuff that is not one of the biggest problems, and you will ignore it.

17 replies
  1. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    Great Post, Penelope! As a homeschooling Mom of 2 who’s never public schooled, I have days when the kids are cranky and fighting, and I think sending kids off to school while I run errands or take a bubble bath sounds like heaven! But then I have days where we’re all cheerfully cleaning, enjoying a field trip to the Symphony or cuddling and reading together, and we can play with Dad in the evenings ‘cuz we don’t have homework, and I know that this is my bliss. So maybe, it’s just a matter of choosing which combination of things in your life are going to be hard and which are going to be easy. Having kids home all day in some ways may be harder than being home all day without kids. But then having time to bond, build relationships, and have relaxed afternoons and evenings as a family can also make life easier and less stressful in a lot of ways.

  2. karelys
    karelys says:

    I want to post a comment that adds something great to the conversation but I can’t because I am at work. Just stopping by to say I read your other post and this one and both of them are great!

  3. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Hey! You have a link to the hotel on TripAdvisor, but I don’t see any reviews mentioning bedbugs. Did you post a review? If not, please do so. Bedbugs are so so so disgusting. I have experienced bedbug problems 4 times (only once where I was living, thankfully, but even in a hotel, they are hell!) and I would love to see this kind of information on TripAdvisor.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I thought about posting to some sort of bed bug registry. But the thing is that any hotel could have a room with bed bugs, and all the other rooms could be fine. (No one else at the cello camp got bites besides me and my son.) So it’ not that informative to have a registry. And, after a hotel finds bugs in a room, that room will be the cleanest room in the place.


  4. CS2010
    CS2010 says:

    I’ve made an observation recently, and I think it’s the main reason why so many parents don’t want to homeschool. I see a lot of parents not accepting their children and their personalities as they really are. It’s as if parents wished their kids turned out differently, and they can’t stand being around their own children.

    What’s even more strange is the kids are a direct reflection of what the parents are like, yet the parents spend all day degrading and talking down to their kids, when the kids clearly possess similar personality traits as the parents.

    If you can’t accept yourself or how your kids turned out, you’re not going to want to homeschool them. Some people find it hard to love their own children.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      As of late I am thinking a lot on why parenthood is so hard. My (not full) conclusions is that we live in a culture where individual personhood is above everything else. Therefore, when you are in a relationship with a person that requires so much of you and requires so much change then you get divorced. Or if you are a parents then….well it sucks.

      So with kids it sucks that they cry and are clingy and want to sleep in your bed and want your attention 24/7 and that what’s better for them (for example homeschooling) goes against the advancement of your personal goals (like career/making more money).

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        I am not particularly career driven, but I get these urges to do “my own thing” –even having embarked on home schooling in 2010.

        I read Ayn Rand many years ago, which introduced the idea that the best thing “for all” comes from what is doing the best thing for oneself. (I.e., martyrdom is a handicap, not a strength). I cannot reconcile this with parenthood, however.

        Doing what is best solely for me would send my kids straight back to public school. I’d be so occupied with my workouts and various jobs and reading edifying articles and detailing my house.

        Then again, perhaps what is *best* for me is not to be sucked into the importance of a career–which makes working for others the surrogate for a family–where one nurtures ideas/products/others rather than one’s own offspring.

        I’m talking in circles now.

        • karelys
          karelys says:

          Very satisfying circles!

          You know, I love a clean house. It makes me feel so much better and happy. I instantly feel a mood boost and I get really lovey dovey when my house is clean. But it sucks that it gets dirty after one day and no one pats you in the back. At work, as much as I don’t love my job, people say “good job!” and some clients are happy to see you and your effort CAN make a difference in someone’s life and they feel it so they are grateful.

          I see how being a stay at home mom or homeschooling mom can take a toll on people. No one says “thank you!” all the time if at all. And you gotta do it all the time, there’s no break.

          Maybe if there’s a way to make it work for your own satisfaction while for the good of the kids/family would make everyone’s life a little easier.

          I like your circles. They bring my lose ends into circles too!

  5. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I like this post. I don’t know if homeschooling is harder because we’ve never done anything else. I do know that sometimes it’s easier because of all of the things we don’t have to worry about or do. I can’t imagine even attempting to get a child to do homework, for example.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      or to rush to be on time for someone else’ schedule (the school’s) and try to commit to your own schedule.

      I feel that as it is, our lives revolve around other people’s needs and expectations (if you have a job that’s an easy one to figure out!).

  6. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    Fantastic post! I keep wondering whether I’m doing something wrong because homeschool is just so much easier for us than school ever was. We’re always fed the line that anything worth doing is hard, which makes anything easy feel like it must be trivial.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Susan, yes, it is a comfort, so thank for letting me know.

      When I started homeschooling, I thought the hardest thing would be to have to deal with my kids nonstop, all day long. But in fact, its a pleasure, (and this is coming from someone who absolutely has no inclination to be a stay-at-home mom.) In fact, the hardest part of homeschooling is that most of the world thinks I’m nuts for doing it. So your comment does make me feel good. Thanks, Susan.


  7. liz
    liz says:

    I love this post too (except for the bedbugs). We just finished our first year out of school and I think life is easier, actually. No more horrible morning rush and afternoon tiredness.

  8. Ron
    Ron says:

    Homeschooling isn’t hard. School is hard. My dd-14 was homeschooled until this past year. Then, we put her in a nice, private school. Great school. She loved it.

    But it wasn’t easy. You have to get up early. Homeschoolers are used to sleeping in, mostly. Then, it’s a big stressful rush to get everything together and get it in the car and go to school. There were forms and forms just to get into school. And tests and meetings. Financial aid- huge hassle.

    Then, meeting with the principal. Meeting with teachers. Practices for the school musical, school swim team, etc. Then, the homework. There was homework all evening, every evening.

    It was stressful and my dd got sleep-deprived. She became irritable. We no longer had the close relationship. She ignored her parents. Her friend would skype her at all hours of the night, so we had to take her computer away from her.

    She was busy 24-7. Between school, extra-curriculars and homework, there was no family time. Every evening was geometry, violin, English, French, Latin, chemistry, physics, etc. No more relaxing evenings. No more family time or talks with parents. She handled it well, but it was too much. It is a crazy lifestyle and we decided we didn’t like this stressful lifestyle.

    Homeschool is easy in comparison. We are bringing her back home now for a relaxing year of homeschooling.

  9. Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)
    Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) says:

    This post was the closest to giving me more sympathy toward the idea of homeschooling. And if it’s working for those who do it, I am so-so-so fine with that. For my household, it would not be ideal. First, I use the time my daughter is at school writing & working on household chores, neither of which I want to do when I’m spending time with her. Second, I enjoy that she is being introduced to alternative opinions — particularly ones with which I disagree — because we can discuss right & wrong, fact & opinion, me & you, us & them… etc. I don’t feel confident in my ability to fairly present other perspectives, because I am extremely opinionated. School provides this suggestive thinking pot. Third (which is actually just an extension of my second point), when we go over school work, I supplement what she is learning with deeper lessons. At school she is only pushed to read one grade level higher than where she’s at, while at home she is able to pursue much higher material. At school she finds out what kind of arts she she likes, while at home I can only afford to try one kind at a time, so what she likes best is what we pursue. At school, she is only able to devote a certain limited amount of time to math skills, while at home we have time to work harder on the areas with which she has the most trouble. Of course, I’m also the weirdo mom who emails the teacher & communicates regularly with the school staff, so I’m extremely involved in her education. In this manner, I believe I’m giving her the best of both — a bit of homeschooling, but access to the village, too. I don’t know that this would work for everyone, but it’s what works for us. I would never, ever say that anyone SHOULD do it *MY* way. The best way of all is the one that works for each child, period. If the child is blooming then the mom is doing something right. Penelope, your boys look as though they are thriving quite decently, so I’d say you’re on the right track. My daughter is thriving decently as well, so I’d say I’m on the right track too. There is no one BEST way except that which appeals most to a family’s lifestyle, when it comes to parenting & education.

  10. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Wow! This post really makes me feel a bit better about some of my daily stresses. I always feel like my life and responsibilities are pulling me in ten different directions. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I have a large amount of responsibilities that I take on because of my husband’s career. I have chosen this life, but I all too often feel like I’m failing. I enjoy my kids being home with me and I know it is what is best for them and for our family. I guess at the end of the day, I’m still doing a better job than public school.

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