8 Ways life got easier when I started homeschooling

A big barrier to homeschooling is that it’s very easy to envision a major downside: no more free babysitting. But it’s harder to imagine the upside. We have more examples in media of gay couples raising kids as a normal setting than we do of homeschoolers raising kids in normal settings. So it’s hard to imagine the upsides, but there are plenty.

Here are eight ways my life got a lot easier when I started homeschooling:

1.  No more grouchy mornings
It used to be that I would force myself to wake up before the kids because I had to get dressed and get breakfast ready before they woke up because they were so impossible to deal with to get up and to school.

And then they would wake up and say they didn’t get enough sleep, and I shouldn’t wake them up, and they want to play before school, and they want to eat something different than I made them.  So every morning I would wake up really unhappy, and the kids would wake up unhappy, and then it would be harder and harder to wake up because we all knew we were waking up to unhappiness.

If you homeschool, everyone just gets up when they want to get up.  So everybody gets up happy.  If they don’t want to get up, they lay in bed.  One kid gets up, lays in bed and reads for an hour.  I get up, check my email, and my other son dresses himself, or his Build-a-Bear, or both, and everyone is happy.

2.  No more rushed meals
School takes up so much time and dictates so much of the schedule that meals have to be squashed into the perfectly allotted time for meals if you eat together as a family.  If you homeschool, there are no rushed meals because you can move the meal time around to accommodate everybody’s schedule.

This also means that the kids are home, so they can look in the refrigerator and eat what they want, but if you’re rushed and have to make meals before the kids get home or if you have to make meals that you’re going to send to school, there’s no telling what the kid is going to want to eat at that given moment because kids are picky eaters and control freaks.  So meals go much easier when everybody can eat them calmly and pick what they want to eat.

3.  No more clingy kids
The most scary thing about homeschooling to me was that my youngest son, who is emotionally needy, would hang on me all day and I wouldn’t have a life.

Once he knew I was going to be with him all the time, he stopped caring if I was talking to him or if I was playing with him.  He just likes to go and check in and say one thing to me to make sure I’m still there, and then he goes back to do his own thing.

And the biggest homeschool revelation for me of all is probably that most kids are not naturally clingy.  They’re clingy after being sent away eight hours a day.

4.  No more parent guilt
I had huge guilt about how I was parenting when I was making a lot of money.

Now, after people get over the shock of you telling them that you homeschool, invariably their response is, “Oh, that’s amazing that you do that.  I could never do that.”  Mostly that’s because they don’t know how easy it is, but it’s really nice reinforcement that you’re doing a good job as a parent.

But even if I didn’t get that, I don’t have any parent guilt because I canceled my whole life to make sure that my kids could stay home with me, and I built a new life for myself around the fact that the kids are home.

So I have guilt that I don’t go to the gym or I have guilt that I talk on the phone while I’m driving, but I never have guilt that I’m not paying attention to my kids.

5. No more homework trouble
If you stop doing forced learning, then you don’t have to do homework, because homework is telling kids to stop their life and do what someone else wants them to learn.  If you let kids learn what they want, then they naturally choose to do their learning and you don’t have to sit next to them and check their learning.

Self‑motivated learning is naturally right because they’re picking what to do.  Also, self‑directed learning happens all day long.  You don’t have to set aside time and have to schedule for self‑directed learning.  As Sugata Mitra says in his Ted Talk about self-driven education: “The human drive and hunger to learn, to create, and to grow is powerful.”

6.  No more inability to sit still
This should be a tirade about 11% of grade schoolers in the US are on ADHD medicine so that they can sit still at school, but The Week reports that the medicine doesn’t even help change the kid’s behavior.  But I’m not going to rant about that.

What I’m going to tell you is that if you homeschool, you don’t need to ask kids to sit still because they choose the way that they want to learn.  Some kids will choose to sit still while they learn and some kids will choose to move around while they learn, but everybody is an effective learner when they’re doing self‑directed learning.  There’s no argument about needing to sit still.

7.  No more difficult bedtimes
Kids naturally want to go to bed at the same time every day and they naturally want to wake up at the same time every day.  We know this about all people.  We all have natural body clocks.

The problem is that we schedule kids’ lives so that they can’t accommodate their natural body clocks.  They’re accommodating a school clock.  Once you take the school clock away, kids will find their natural time to wake up in the morning and they will find their natural time to slow down at night.  So bedtime just becomes part of the family rhythm when the kids slow down.

8.  No more searching for time to have sex
It’s no secret that people who have kids have less sex than people who don’t have kids, and the reason for this is that the scheduling is so tight.  If two people are working all day outside the home and the kids are going to school all day, then family time has to be squashed into very short periods, and marriage time and family time have to be the same thing, which means you can’t have sex during that time.

If you have family time all day because you’re homeschooling, then there’s a lot more time in the day to accommodate sex time even if one person is leaving the home to work all day.  You don’t have a contest between marriage time and sex time if you have homeschooling.

It might seem unbelievable to you that so much of my life has become easier because I’m unschooling. But, in fact, the Journal of Unschooling reports that among families who unschool, their number-one problem is dealing with criticism and doubt from the general population about what they’re doing, but the rest of unschooling was actually not that difficult for the family to implement.

33 replies
  1. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    Like anything in life that is new for you, there is a period of adjustment during which you learn by trial and error. Being a homeschooling family is no different. But over time, as the errors become less frequent and the lessons are accumulated, and you just get better at the whole process, yes, it becomes easier and easier.

    Back in the olden days, when you were more of a newb, Penelope, some of us old-timers commented in response to your “homeschooling is hard” posts that it will get a lot better as you work on it and through it. I am so glad to see you getting to that point.

    For you, and for anyone and everyone that has reached this point, may I humbly advise you to keep trying and making errors, keep exploring, keep experimenting, keep learning, keep working at getting even better. Because my experience is it gets better than easy, it gets fun. And then it gets even better; it gets to be the greatest thing you could imagine ever having done with your life.

    And at some point–as it has for my family–it gets to being the well of your fondest memories. So while you have this precious time, make it the best you possibly can.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The comments that people gave me at the beginning of this blog – telling me things will get easier. Those were so incredibly helpful. It’s what gave me the courage to keep going, really. It’s not all from inside myself. A lot was from the support I got here.

      At the beginning of this blog, so many people told me I was crazy to launch a second blog. It’s so much work. I can barely write one blog. But it turns out that it’s so easy for me to write on this blog because the community is so important to me.

      Every homeschooler needs a lifeline. This blog is mine. Thank you for all the comments. They mean so much.


  2. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Hey, that last sentence (paragraph) does not look quite right…

    “when they homeschool families who unschool”

    “not that difficult for the family to implement who are schooled.”

    Is this a cut-and-paste error or am I not understanding something?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes. Error. And so annoying to me because the research was so interesting to me. Okay. Fixing. Thank you for telling me.


  3. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    “Why homeschooling is easier” is a good topic.

    I have also found things to be easier in many ways once we homeschool. I know that many of the improvements in our lives stem from my son getting enough sleep now. He could not sleep to 8:30 AM, as he usually does now, and still go to school. He’d be out there at the bus stop right now, grumpy, bleary-eyed, and underfed. He could not possibly get 11-12 hours of sleep a night, as he does now. This appears to be what he needs, and it’s got to be good for him. A constant state of sleep deprivation – from which a majority of schoolkids suffer – is terrible for your thinking and your emotions. Kids are just learning how to work with them both, and they can’t ever get ahead of them if they can’t get a good night’s sleep.

    The biggest change for us, however, is one of the principal reasons we made the change: violence. I used to dread picking up my son (or meeting him at the school bus) because more often than not I would hear something awful (punched in the face repeatedly by three boys, shoes stolen, backpack thrown out the bus window, shirt ripped, etc.) I used to feel anxiety every time the phone rang during the day, because it might be the nurse’s office. “Well, we’ve got the blood stopped…” is not what you want to hear about your child, and I heard it on the phone more than once. After school come the half-sympathetic, half-curious calls from other parents. And then you meet the standard stonewall of denial from the school. It was not bullying; it was never bullying. Boys will be boys.

    I do not miss any part of this. No failure, no amount of grumpiness or laxity on my part, could equal the damage caused to my son by the stress he was under in school from regular physical violence, compounded by the ass-covering incompetence of the adults in charge.

    Our family’s rate of sickness has also gone down markedly. We all had lice three times from school, and haven’t had lice since he left school. We all used to get sick every few months, with whatever he picked up at school, and we rarely get sick anymore.

    And to tell the truth, here’s another big one: better friends.

    One of the things that bothered me about school friends (besides the idea that kids were or should be his friends just because they were put in the same class, and we needed to invite them all to his birthday parties) is the way that school pits kids against one another from an early age. Sometimes kids are real friends, but more often they are frenemies.

    There are a limited number of seats in the gifted programs or at the exam high schools, a limited quantity of special opportunities to go around. Ambitious kids and families are constantly checking out the competition. You’re friends as long as you don’t score above them and threaten to take their seat. This is something that gets worse as time goes on and the kids get more into it, culminating in competitive preparation of college applications (subtext for the Hunger Games).

    As a homeschooler, my son’s friends aren’t all the same age, don’t do all the same things, and feel little sense of competition with each other. Some are better at one thing and some at another, and they all try to help each other and celebrate each others’ victories. They get together at their common points and work collaboratively. They are real friends, who he trusts and who I trust, and I believe that as years go by their friendships will only grow.

    So my big four things I don’t miss about school would be:
    1. Sleep deprivation
    2. Violence
    3. Illness
    4. Frenemies

    That’s just too great a price to pay for the pretense of education they put on, or the free daily childcare.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I experienced the problems of violence, too. The last day Zehavi went to school was the day he told me he spent recess sitting next to the playground supervisor because he was so scared of the big kids.

      I had never thought about the frenemies issue, but it really strikes me as true. School is all about competition so it makes sense that you’d never be happy for your friend for doing well. And in school collaboration is cheating, so succeeding *with* your friends is rare.


      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        While I think that homeschooling and unschooling are great, the frenemies thing doesn’t ring true to me. I suppose it depends, but I went to an honors public high school and made some really close friends. We weren’t in competition with each other, and we *were* genuinely happy for each other. I don’t think school is inherently competitive; it’s just that some schools are competitive.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Ugh. Lice. I don’t know what I would do. Shave everybody’s head bald, I guess.

      We have a friend with bedbugs right now. She has been unable to get rid of them for months. I can’t even think about it. I can’t stop thinking about it.

      So glad things are better for your family.

  4. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I needed this post this morning. Just came back from a weekend with the in-laws. After almost 8 years of successfully homeschooling their three grandchildren, I heard the comment, “Well, I mean, are you going to have them tested or anything? What about dissecting animals? How do homeschoolers do that?” And like a balloon with a leak, I suddenly felt myself sinking. After all this time, the suspicion and misunderstandings are still there. Our kids are bright, engaged, polite, funny, inquisitive. And still, the questions…

  5. Julie
    Julie says:

    This was a great one, so true. Even though we don’t unschool, life is easier. It is almost nine and my teen is still snoozing. The school wake up time is really a killer when they get to adolescence.

  6. Tracy Flanigan
    Tracy Flanigan says:

    I am really looking forward to sleeping in next fall. Our current kindergartener will be HSing with her older sister starting this fall. We struggle getting up at 6:45 for school right now. We’ll still probably get up at 7:00, but it won’t be the alarm clock waking us up. That makes all the difference in the world.

    Oh, and no more homework. Yippee! Why do kindergarteners need homework? Well, at least she now knows what B&M school is like, so there shouldn’t be any ideas that the grass is greener on the other side … at least for a little while.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Your point about how you’d wake up at 7am anyway is so true for my family as well! We wake up early but we do it because that’s what feels right to us, not because we have to. When we had to for school it was so hard for me.

      And it’s similar for learning as well. We all learn just fine if we can do it how we want. When it’s forced it feels bad. Like waking up to an alarm.


  7. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    I think that this list is really true, but I don’t know that if I approached any of my traditional school-friends, they’d see these things as good, or reasons to HS. Maybe just the homework one. These are really natural lifestyle shifts that have happened to us as homeschoolers, although we never put our kids in school in the first place, so maybe more accurate to say that we’ve always had.
    The mornings! I can’t imagine the grumpiness. Just this morning I was up at 6 for my run, back around 6:50, and my husband and I had an hour to read, talk and eat breakfast together while our kids were sleeping. The neighbors were hauling their kids to school around 7:50, and my kids didn’t even come out of their rooms until about 8:20 in their PJs, they were busy playing with each other and then got hungry. Then they ate, and proceeded to do art and play for the next two hours with me helping them at times, and then also sitting nearby reading. We’re relaxed, taking our time, engaged in our own thing, and around each other. Definitely a much better morning than me freaking out because we’re late, or whatever.
    Sarah M

  8. Heather
    Heather says:

    As a homeschooler, the only thing I’m constantly surprised at is how offended or disheartened other homeschool parents get to surprised reactions or questioning of their choice to homeschool. I have never met a single person I liked or thought was cool who questioned my choice. Lots of questions about what it’s like, sure, but never about homeschooling as a concept.

    I use all the questions that come my way as an opportunity to tell the doubters my own view of their questions. I think many questions are genuine curiosity and not necessarily hostile. If a question is hostile, I think I would regard it as common rudeness, nothing more. And who wants to converse with a rude person? Gently put them in their place and move on.

    Here’s my list of favorite reasons for homeschooling:

    My kid eats really good food.

    She’s way more relaxed than she was when attending public school.

    We trust each other more.

    We like each other more.

    We laugh a lot.

    My daughter can try out different personalities, clothing styles and uncool interests without criticism. She can let her freak flag fly.

    When we argue, we have time to reconnect and move on from the argument.

    I get lots of compliments on how polite and kind she is (away from home anyhow).

    I don’t have to try to fit in with the PTA crowd anymore.

    My family doesn’t have to pretend to keep up with the local Jones’ anymore. For us that means “No thanks” to sports we’re not interested in, going to the mall and end-of-school parties we’d rather not attend.

    I may even put the Darwin sticker back on my car.


  9. Jana @ 333 Hand Lettering Project
    Jana @ 333 Hand Lettering Project says:

    My favorite comment. I could never do that. I always want to say-ya-you probably couldn’t. But that would be a bit snarky and rude.

    And truly, I think most people can homeschool and most kids are better off at home unless they are being abused or neglected.

    • Heather
      Heather says:

      I do THINK ‘ya-ya you probably couldn’t’…

      I have a friend who is incredibly gracious and unassuming, with never a harsh word to anyone (and I like her anyway.) She lives in Baltimore city and caught a guy peeing in the alley next to her house one night. She told me about it and said she told him to “Piss off outta here you stupid bastard!”
      I said to her “Really!?! You actually said that?
      She said “No but I thought it.”


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Jana, I agree! I think people tell themselves they couldn’t so that they don’t have to feel guilty that they are not doing it.


  10. Anna Louise
    Anna Louise says:

    This is an outstanding post!! Right on the money!! People assume it’s so hard but heck it is SO MUCH EASIER.

    And for me I would add –
    I don’t have the listen to abrasive teachers complaining about my kid.
    I don’t have to figure out how to get my kid to jump through the school’s hoops, I can do what’s right for him.
    He actually has time to read a book now that he doesn’t have hours of worksheets consuming his free time.
    We can travel any time of year! Freedom is sweet!
    My stress is 95% less since I pulled my son out of school! My health has never been better! Praise God!
    And, no private school tuition anymore! Financial freedom, yay!

  11. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Getting enough sleep is the biggest benefit in my book. Well rested kids are happier and healthier. I recently read a research study out of Denver that finds that homeschooling adolescents get on average 1.5 hours of sleep more than their traditionally schooled counterparts. That’s huge!

  12. mh
    mh says:

    It’s late and I’m sleepy, but here’s another reason:

    School is full of mean-spirited, petty, competitive people. And those are the teachers.

  13. karelys
    karelys says:

    I have found out, by experience, that people tout the quality vs. quantity time principle only when they have no quantity to give (or don’t want to).

    As much as quality is great everyone needs quantity of time. Some things cannot be forced but just need time. Like kids finally feeling the rhythm and getting accustomed to it. Then they feel comfortable and trust the parent(s). Like me, who needs time to unwind and finally feel comfortable. Sex is very important to me. And when I feel rushed and like the day snowballed on me it’s heartbreaking that I want to have sex but I just don’t feel a connection to my husband so I can’t. I just can’t.

    This weekend we went away with the family and spend lots of time together. A new bond was formed just by virtue of being together long enough to feel comfortable and see everyone at their best and not-so-best.

    Many people tell me that if I wanted to start a business I would do it. I just have to want to bad.

    I see this same sentiment regarding homeschooling.

    Some people can’t because their mind hasn’t shifted so from the point in which they stand they can’t do it. Just like I can’t figure out a way to go out on my own to make money. I haven’t crossed the bridge mentally. I really want to. I am willing to pay the sacrifice. But there’s something holding me back. I can see the shift happening slowly like it happened with homeschooling.

    Let’s not be judgy. Some parents can’t homeschool because they would need to demolish their mental paradigms and rebuild them into something new to be able to understand that they can. Sort of like the in the Matrix when Neo finally makes the jump. I am sure we were all at that point before we fell in love with homeschooling.

  14. karelys
    karelys says:

    I just re-read my comment. Yikes! it looks all disjointed but whatever. I’ll re-read before posting next time.

  15. Robert
    Robert says:

    Another way life got easier: no more spending precious time performing inefficient fund-raising activities for my child’s school

    Not that the schools didn’t deserve some extra funding, but the fundraising efforts I’ve seen or been involved in ended up being worth very few dollars per hour. This is time I could have been spending with my family after a long day or week of work, or enjoying the company of other parents without being distracted by all the work of some creative but time-consuming and minimally money-making fundraiser.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I don’t know how I forgot this one. Oy. Any successful fund-raiser would be run down as making poor parents feel excluded. The arguments that used to happen about how elitist it was to just ask parents for the money, I don’t miss them.

  16. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    This, of course, is only feasible if one parent has the means to give up a career outside of the home to homeschool their children. And if that parent is sufficiently educated enough to make the homeschooling work.

    • Liz
      Liz says:

      Melissa you wrote, “This, of course, is only feasible if one parent has the means to give up a career outside of the home to homeschool their children.”

      Melissa, I recently quit my high paying Govt. job to be a SAHM whilst my graduate husband is the sole income earner for our growing family.

      We also bought our first home one week after I quit my job. We did this knowing that our income would more than halve and our regular dinner outings would cease and more time would be spent enjoying our new family home.

      A family can only afford to homeschool if they live within their means.

      I have plenty of friends who “cannot afford” to homeschool. This is because they have two expensive cars to pay off and a big new house. Their cost of lifestyle dictates how they choose to educate their children.

      You also wrote, “And if that parent is sufficiently educated enough to make the homeschooling work.”

      For what it’s worth, I never finished high school. I did not go to university.

      I was offered my first “real job” at 22 working for a Federal Govt. agency where I was the youngest and least educated person in the office. I was surrounded by “educated” people who showed me that a university education doesn’t teach you a whole lot.

      This isn’t to boast.

      I’m just kinda over hearing people say “but you’re not qualified to teach your kids” because I haven’t been “educated”.

      I know a lot of idiots with fancy pieces of paper.

  17. VegGal
    VegGal says:

    As of today I have 19 days until my daughter starts kindergarten. I’m actually so disheartened, because I just do not want to have to live by the school schedule for the next 9 months. All of my family (sans husband) is telling me this will be for the best because she will enjoy having so many friends, and I will enjoy having a break; except how will I have a break with 2 younger boys to chase around? This year has been the first year of having kids that things have been a lot easier for me because the rest of life has been less stressful and I finally had money to spend to keep the kids busy and out of the house during the winter months, and as the summer days dwindle to and end I find myself waking up each day thinking “what am I doing sending her to school? I’m going to hate the schedule, homework, attitude she picks up from classmates, etc.” I almost need to stop reading your blog, just so I don’t keep reading everything that I kind of already know in my heart.
    Anyway, this is about the only place I can post this b/c on Facebook I’d get reamed by everyone I know in support of PS.

  18. Ana
    Ana says:

    I’m a 32 yr old divorced single mom with 2 children and have decided to homeschool this year. I’m just starting so I feel overwhelmed but I feel like the right thing to do. I’m adjusting to this new routine and letting go of the “quilt” of enjoying my kids being home in a safe environment. I pulled them out of our nieghborhood because kids act so inappropriate and the school staff I think they are so overwhelmed with bad behavior they think it’s normal. Just one example.. I volunteered one morning because my daughter had been telling me she didn’t want to go anymore because she was being bullied .So I went in her classroom to volunteer and came out of there so depressed. One girl student was chasing the others around the carpet area and spitting water on them! Their teacher got on the school phone and called the principle. You know what I did? I reached over and removed the bottle from this little girl and told her “this is not how we behave in school”. These and many unseen bad behaviors happen in school I just couldn’t do it anymore.

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