Homeschooling protects against parent burnout

This is a guest post from Karelys. She is one of my favorite commenters. And it’s amazing to me that she writes guest posts when she has a brand new baby. 

Plenty has been said about the merits of homeschooling (even if it’s just done as simply as transferring traditional classroom material to the home), but even more about unschooling or self-directed learning. It’s just clearly the best way for children to learn.

It’s thought of as hard-to-pull-off, especially if you’re not jumping for joy at the thought of staying at home with your kid.

But I don’t think anyone is saying how good this move is for the parent, and the family’s lifestyle. Homeschooling is best for the parents, too!

My husband and I chose to do a home-birth with both kids. After realizing it was best for the kid from a nauseating amount of research, I was terrified of the pain and basically doing something that wasn’t that common—people still wrinkle their eyebrows at the idea.

But the way a mother experiences birth is incredibly important for many reasons. Having a completely smooth labor leads into quick recovery. Breastfeeding is hard work. You know what it’s like. You know what it’s like to not be healthy emotionally, mentally, and physically and trying to transition into motherhood.

Hardly any mother has the luxury of complications because hardly any mother can just lay there until she has fully recovered. Hardly any mom can tell life to pause for a second. Many mothers have to go back to work, take care of a toddler that is possibly feeling left out, and deal with a whole new household dynamic.

So the choices around labor and birth are not only about having a healthy baby, but creating a confident, beaming, healthy mother as well.

Homeschooling is the same.

It’s about the parents’ marriage. It’s about having autonomy over your time to say “Whatever! We’re taking it easy this week because life is crazy.” Or, “You kids watch TV and eat cereal because we need to focus on the marriage today so you can have a secure family life.” Or maybe, “Do what you must and pitch in for this family because today we have to work extra long hours to make sure bills get paid.” Or even, “Today you kids take one for the team because parental sanity is super important as well and I’m going to focus on what makes me healthy.”

How often can you do that when you’re tied to school?

How often can you say “No school today because I NEEEEED to sleep in and no one make a peep before 10 am!”?

How often can you say, “We’re not worrying about homework today because I had an emotional day and we all need to curl up in the couch and hide under blankets and watch movies”?

You just can’t.

So sure, the things you give up can be challenging to let go of. But there are many perks. Like putting your own life as a parent first. Because you’re the well your kids draw from.

It’s amazing to me that no one sees that right away. They all see “going crazy from having kids in the house all the time.” Or they see reduced income.

I see freedom and autonomy over my time.

77 replies
  1. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    We just got back from a 5 week trip to Costa Rica where we spent the whole time together as a family, basically doing what homeschoolers get to do all the time. My daughter was sent extra work so she wouldn’t be behind when we returned, and she ended up being 2 weeks ahead of her class. The trip was a real eye opener for me. I was already considering homeschooling my youngest, but was daunted by having to spend so much time with him. It turns out all that togetherness made him more independent, and it was great to let my girl decide how much work to do each day, which wasn’t a lot.

    I want to repeat the trip again next year, but my girl is staring grade 7 next year, and there is so much more expected of her. I am resentful that someone else can decide what is best for my family, when we can travel, how much time we can spend together, etc. I feel that if more families begin to do what is best for them, and homeschool, or take the kids out for extended periods, society will have to become more accommodating, and it will initiate a huge shift in the way we live our lives. At least, that is my hope. Not only would we be doing what’s best for the kids, the couple would become stronger, which is also clearly the best thing for the kids. the more I read from this site, the stronger I become in my convictions. Great post Karelys.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Oh Stephanie we’re in the same boat! we’re shooting down to Mexico right after the superbowl (because of course).
      It’s not as harsh of a winter as usual but after a string of not good news the gloomy sky is so depressing.

      My husband was coming out of an interview and I said “wanna go to Mexico? I know we don’t have money but here’s how we can do it (…).”

      We’re not going as tourists but as travellers and scouting the place to see if we’d like to move there when the toddler is 5 to actually get it.

      It’s a science town by the beach. I’m so excited to dream up homeschooling the kids.

      I used to be afraid that I wouldn’t provide a rich enough environment because we’re not wealthy or super educated by old standards. But I see we got something great to offer: grit, creativity, and a refusal to live life in a way we don’t agree with as much as knowing how to be interdependent.

      Traveling is a great eye opener and it’s amazing to unshackle the kids from schedules for that opportunity. Your daughter could feel isolated in the beginning because school is all she knows, but there’s a great globe wide homeschooling community she could be a part of.

      Let us know how it goes!

      • stephanie
        stephanie says:

        Oh Karelys,
        The world is the teacher! You will see that you need so much less in other places to keep the kids engaged. So much less world noise. So many amazing life experiences. The boy of our friends who were there with us cried upon his return to school. I think he said something about how the monkeys were education enough. You will be fine!!!!
        Good luck. We may be on the plane right after you.

    • Heather Bathon
      Heather Bathon says:

      Hi Stephanie!

      My husband, daughter (homeschooled) and I are heading to Costa Rica Feb. 1st for a month – I would love to talk to you about your experience. Can we do that without hijacking this post?

      Tx, Heather

    • CeeBee
      CeeBee says:

      I remember what a BIG DEAL! it was in school if your parents wanted to vacation mid-school year. It seemed you had to write into the school principal and ask permission to take your child on a family trip and keep on top of school work, etc. What a load of crap. Now, my husband and I probably wouldn’t take our kids out of school for a week to eff off at Disney, unless it was an extended family trip. But would I take my kids to Europe or South America or where ever I please for a month? You bet your ass I would. And no, I would not ask permission.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        I just want to chime in here. I enjoy culture outside of America infinitely more than IN america. I enjoy the people more, the routines, the less is more philosophy, the history and simpleness. I enjoy the opportunities more in America.

        I’ve taken the kids to Lanzorate, Spain; Aldigir, Morocco; London, England; and Dubrovnik, Croatia this year.

        When I first sign my kid up for private school, I realized that the cost of the ‘schooling’ was the same as if we were just constantly traveling and exploring the world. So we do that a bit more now.

        The kids like it to an extent, but they, at the end of the day, prefer to be home learning growing and being a part of their community :) so we will probably hold off more trips for a couple of years or just limit it to once a year.

        • karelys
          karelys says:

          I am concerned about whether or not the traveling will sit well with the kids too. I’ve heard kids need lots of stability. But I don’t know if they’ll take the travelling as instability or what.

          For that I am trying to craft ways to earn money that can work here or there, wherever we go really. I want to be able to make it here if we’re going to stay put.

  2. Krysten Traylor
    Krysten Traylor says:

    Thank you for your post. I’m currently a SAHM of a two year old and pregnant with our second due in April. I love that even now with being home all day I can decide we need a movie day. One of the reasons we plan on homeschooling is for the freedom of setting our own schedule.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Congrats on the baby!
      Come back and tell us how it goes :)

      It’s amazing that as little as toddlers are they grow up fast once they have a baby in the household and assume responsibility.

      One thing I keep noticing is how homeschooling allows you to let the kid learn first what’s most important to thrive in life and it teaches them to reach out for knowledge they need according to how their lives change.

      I think of how currently my life works. I don’t remember most of my schooling. But if I need new knowledge (like bookkeeping) I go get it. Why can’t kids have the freedom to do the same?

  3. Brian
    Brian says:

    I have a friend who’s a farmer. One day, in the winter, he did his chores then came in and had a nap in front of the fireplace. So it’s not like the freedom we’re talking about is exclusive to homeschooling. It’s what was natural before the 9 – 5. We’re not trying to create something so much as re-claim it.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:


      When life seems too difficult I think “how do people in other countries do it? how did people do it before the life rhythm that seems normal now?”

      My goal is to find work that I can have flexibility of time with it.

      I’m not into farming but I look around and see too many jobs using up space and incurring overhead costs when the majority of people would be happy being independent contractors in exchange for flexibility.

      You can have your health insurance if I can choose to work at 3 am when I can’t sleep.

    • Krysten Traylor
      Krysten Traylor says:

      My grandfather has been a farmer or the son of farmer his whole life. He made the point the other day that people used to work harder but they had more free time. I think we as a society need to reclaim our time and decide as families what is most important to us.
      I love your thought of reclaiming something that used to be normal.

      • neversummer
        neversummer says:

        We are farmers and the benefits to children are immeasurable. Yes we get to set our own schedules, as soon as chores are taken care of, animals are fed and the farming is done. Right now my two and a half year old and I get up early eat breakfast with my husband before he heads off to the mandatory job in town, then get bundled up and go out to drive the feed truck to feed the cows and calves, grain the horses, feed the chickens and play. Life moves at a much slower pace, which doesn’t mean that we aren’t busy all the time. Children learn about hard work and responsibility while getting to play/work outside all the time in all weather without constant supervision.
        My two year old has a pet cow and goat and chickens along with the usual cat and dog plus a horse of her own, that she will be old enough to ride some day. The only thing she can’t have is a fish, they are way too much work. A little backwards from the usual.
        Still not sure if we will home school. Our local school has a total of about a hundred kids. Some classrooms have two or three kids, talk about personalized schooling. Of course around here homeschooling is also pretty normal. Either way the small town and farm community bands together to completely support the children.

  4. Tex
    Tex says:

    Great article! Both my children were born at home and both are homeschooled. If I’m not careful, I can be a very anxious person; and, home birthing and homeschooling have allowed me to curtail much anxiety. Both experiences significantly lowered the volume of the loud and overwhelming static of well-intentioned outside influences (school and medical personnel) and allowed my husband and me to make sound decisions for the benefit of our family. If we need guidance, we know how to seek it out with intention and an open-mind. We don’t have to sift through as much unsolicited advice, and this brings me great peace.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I never thought about that. Most of the time I just smile and unless I really need to, I offer a soft reply to opposing opinions. Having to defend my choices in front of people who are not curious but just critical is exhausting.

      I have an amazing family that is so helpful with kids but we’ve had to roll up our sleeves and say “here are the rules of engagement…I know you’re not used to treating me this way but if we’re going to be neighbors this is how I expect you to treat me amd in return I’ll treat you the same way.”

      It would be much easier to live away from family in that aspect. But we weighed the options and chose to give up living in our home half an hour away to become neighbors with my mom so we wouldn’t have to do it all on our own. And so far the exchange is worth it.

      I like that homeschooling will save me mental energy on the front of constantly battling opinions that people try to shove in our lives.

      • Rosebud1
        Rosebud1 says:

        I can relate to the fact that justifying your choices can be exhausting. I put my child on a special diet to combat her allergies and asthma. I have had to explain to numerous people at her school justifying my reasons. Like why I would prefer the teacher not give her gummy bears. The school has said they would like a doctor’s note to support this request. I feel like by sending my child to school I have given up the right to decide what she eats, and she is seven years old! I have noticed also that she is sicker than usual this year in Grade 1. I think it is because she gets nowhere near enough exercise and fresh air, and is packed into a small room with twenty other kids. Also, I think homeschooled kids have the opportunity to be more productive. I think I could spend more time teaching my daughter to do practical chores like cooking and cleaning if the school did not eat up the majority of her day. I used to teach Kindergarten and Grade 1 and was amazed by how many of my students did not know how to do simple chores like wipe tables, or was their hands thoroughly. I think parents these days are deferring to the school for all aspects of their child’s training and development.

  5. Jenn Gold
    Jenn Gold says:

    I love this post for many reasons but mostly for the most basic one – Freedom. I’m from the Caribbean and being an INFJ, I knew this rat race wasnt going to be good for my kids. I could have sacrificed myself but not my kids! Mine are 3 yr and 18 mths and it is absolutely exhilarating. Its just as you described here too. Freedom to just be. I love this post Karelys.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Jenn I’m an INFJ too and I love America because it has given me something that I’m convinced I can’t get anywhere else. But the rhythm of life is a bit fast for myself. That’s probably why I live in a small town and won’t move unless there’s a good reason for it.

      I want my kids that life is different in other nations and that they experienced history differently than the text books paint it as (Cuba anyone?).

      I want them to know that life is not just one way.

      When we got our papers my dad moved us up north because the heat in Arizona makes him very unhappy. I thought it was so strange. Before that I thought only work was a good reason to move to a different place.
      But he made that choice because he knew he could be a better parent in a place where the weather agreed with him more.

      I think there are cultures that are more in line with personal values and people should make an effort to live there if they can. I couldn’t do Sweden even if it’s wonderful maternity leave. Too much government for me. But I could see how that’s someone cup of tea.

      I want to be your friend on Facebook and drool looking at pictures of living in the Caribbean!

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        You could do the government thing I.e. Sweden if thats what your culture already had engrained.

        I lived in Europe for a while and what struck me the most is that because government takes care of so many ‘what ifs’ in life that the people have more of a sense of personal responsibility, more reserved.

        Just my thoughts on it.

  6. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    I enjoyed your post, just thought I’d play devil’s advocate a bit (unlike Penelope’s regular blog, commentary on the homeschool posts are a bit too agreeable to generate discussion)

    If the argument for homeschool is getting to pick movies days and leave-me-alone-days, can’t that be accomplished simply by being a housewife and sending your kids to school? That way they’d even get educated on your rest days.

    i fear that a lot of people unconsciously choose to homeschool because they really just want to leave the world of work, and see homeschooling as a more respectable out..”i don’t just stay at home..i do the toughest job of all and educate my children, etc.”

    do you think there is any truth in that?

    Also, although I haven’t done extensive research on the topic, it seems there are very valid arguments against home-birth, namely safety. The positives seem to be more subjective measures like comfort and privacy.

    what did you learn that swayed you the other way?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’ll chime in here. I was too old to do a home-based birth. I was high-risk and on top of that, we lived in a 400 square foot apartment on the fourth floor of a walk-up. So it seems incredibly impractical to be stuck in that space during a long labor. We had a 100-year-old bathtub with questionable coating on it. We did not have a bed — only a pull-out sofa.

      The home-based birth movement makes lots of assumptions. That you are rich, that you have access to space to walk around, that you can get your other kids out of the house because you have a support system, all kinds of things that aren’t true for everyone.

      But then that’s true of the homeschool movement as well — it makes assumptions about family stability.

      So anyway, I’m not a fan of home-based birthing. But I try to post guest posts from people who say stuff I wouldn’t say, because, as you mention, Vanessa, dissent makes for a better conversation.


      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        I did have a large wood floors living room and lived a couple blocks from the hospital and had access to a midwife with amazing training.

        With my second one I lived in my mobile home (14×16) and my mom kept Murphy for the night.

        Both times we rented the huge tub. The kind that horses drink water out of.

      • Di
        Di says:

        I love this because your response sounds so much like the naysayers of homeschooling. What I ‘hear’ from what you wrote is – I don’t trust myself, I don’t trust my child and I don’t trust the process. Of course there are people for whom home births and homeschool are not the answer but I believe they are in the minority. Don’t get me wrong, you couldn’t pay me to give birth at home and I wouldn’t remove my son from mainstream schooling unless he requested it. I just need to work out how crazy it is that, for me, being absolved of responsibility is preferable to doing what’s right.

        • Vanessa
          Vanessa says:

          Could I teach math, science, geography and a whole mess of other non-traditional subjects not taught in school? Most definitely. Could I do it better than a teacher in a class of 30? Again, I agree. But, when I have children I’ll be sending them full-time to a French immersion public school. Living in Canada, the bigger advantage is being bilingual not deeper knowledge of any academic subject.

          Plus, despite the fact that I personally found the academics of school uninspiring growing up, I have lots of fond memories of the sports team, cross country races and friendships formed during those years. The growth from the ancillaries of a public school education make the decision easier.

          Also, my misgiving towards home-birth has nothing to do with not being able to trust myself. From what I can gather from the process it takes more than self-assurance to deliver a baby.

          • Di
            Di says:

            Hey Vanessa, my comment was in reply to Penelope. I completely agree with you and I’m pretty confident I’ll stick with public school. That being said there’s a little part of me that believes all the things you mentioned could be provided in a homeschool environment and another part of me that wonders how important they really are? That’s obviously why I hang round here!

            As for child birth, if you and your baby are healthy and your pregnancy is low risk you may not need much more than self assurance. I certainly hope this ends up being the case for you.

          • Sophie
            Sophie says:

            regarding the comment about French immersion in Canada. You may want to look into Francophone schools because if you do not speak French yourself, you will assume that French is taught in French immersion. What I witness here (western Canada) is that French immersion is mostly taught by people who speak English as a first language and have SOME knowledge of French. Usually sad to witness. Actually an insult to French when you speak it as a first language.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I was looking for an alternative to just being a number when I was pregnant for the second time.

      I was pregnant and lost the baby. It was extremely painful and scary and the entire hospital experience left me feeling like I was more scared to give birth than anything.

      I carefully chose a dr. the next time based on recommendations and same thing. I wasn’t getting paid at work the hours it took for the prenantal visits. It was a lot like school, I got there on time but they were very late and I just felt like a number.

      I started researching whether or not I would choose medication. I didn’t even know homebirths were a thing. But I found my midwife and researched her qualifications. Later on I figured out I was eligible for a home birth, and a lived a couple blocks from the hospital so I was okay with it.

      I never thought about your question regarding not working and using homeschooling as an excuse. I think most people who can swing having a stay at home parent weigh the benefits as better than the loss of income. And that remains even as kids go to school.

      I’m thinking it’s possible you’re new to the blog because the argument for homeschooling is not days off. It’s quality of education and freedom to learn. But it’s always discussed in terms of the benefits for the kid.

      Choosing to birth at home was the realization that the well being of kids cannot be separate from the well being of the parents. So we haven’t explored much about the benefits to parents and the marriage that homeschooling can bring. And it’s time for that.

      If we as parents are happy and healthy then the kids have more stability to grow healthy and make the best of their freedom to learn,

    • Emily
      Emily says:

      Does it (always/sometimes/never) matter what someone’s motivations are when it comes to homeschooling? What if the parent originally chose to leave work to homeschool, as you said, because it is a more respectable “out,” but fell in love with homeschooling? Someone’s motivation might also change over time, too, depending on the individual’s homeschooling experiences.

      I don’t know the answer to these questions, but they are interesting to consider.

      On a really practical level, I don’t know anyone who has left a career to homeschool, so I don’t know what someone’s motivations might be for doing that. Most of the people I know who homeschool were stay-at-home parents already or part-time workers.

      I had a c-section; it definitely was not my first choice :-/

      • mh
        mh says:

        Emily, yes. People’s reasons for homeschooling change over time.

        We started homeschooling my oldest because his spark just… went out. Most days, he was miserable.

        Days he would wake up cheerful and eager (normal), I hated to send him to school because I wanted to spend time with him when he was like that: normal. I finally began keeping him home on his happy days, and I told the teacher why. She insisted that she might like to spend some time with him when he was cheerful, too.

        We didn’t last much longer at school with that child. I figured, how could homeschool possibly be WORSE than shelling out $7000/yr for private school and having the child be miserable? Only one more semester, and we quit school altogether, for the whole family.

        Now that we’ve been doing this a while, I look at our reasons, and while still similar (I enjoy my family and they are learning a lot more than they would at school,) the reasons have morphed, and probably still will.

        1) My kids have big hobbies/activities, and being free during the day makes them more fun to pursue.

        2) Character training.

        3) Freedom to set our own schedule. If the kids are so inclined, they work all day on their interests. And if it’s beautiful outside and they want to work in the garden or go ride bikes, that’s fine. They see the regular rhythms of adult life, and they are learning and growing up.

        4) Academic excellence. There really is no comparison. If you want to raise a high achiever, one who is not reliant on a teacher to tell them what they will be graded on, then homeschool is the way. This also goes for musical kids and athletic kids.

        5) High quality coaching. Because your kids are available during the day, while all the other kids are trapped in desks.

        • Emily
          Emily says:

          Thanks, mh! I was homeschooled as a child (grades 5-12). My son is only 2, but we are considering homeschooling. It’s so helpful to hear about other people’s experiences!

          I completely agree about the academic excellence/high quality coaching. Because we were homeschooled, we had a flexible schedule. One day a week, my parents loaded all four of us up, and they drove to the next town over for us to have piano lessons at a local college. I received a full tuition scholarship to a major public university in my home state to study piano, and I am not sure this ever would have happened had I not been homeschooled and had such a flexible schedule to 1) attend the lessons each week, and 2) have enough practice time. With four children and one piano, we had to schedule every day for all of us to complete our practicing. My parents also took lessons for awhile, and we sometimes played duets with them. It was fun!

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I looked at research and talked to people about their experiences.

      What swayed me was that the benefit of staying in the hospital (very small risk of complications) versus the risk that comes with staying at the hospital didn’t make it worth it because of my situation.

    • Theresa Deitche
      Theresa Deitche says:

      I wanted to comment about the first part of your post. So, I’ve been wanting to homeschool my children for about 3 years, I fell in love with the idea for many reasons. However, I have 3 kids ages 5,4,&3 and my entire family is arguing that it’s going to be too tough for me, and that I’m going to need the break that the school days give me. I have been debating back that it would be easier to teach 3 kids at home than have 3 different teachers, with 3 different sets of homework. Anyway, this year I gave in a sent my 5 year old to school, my 3 year old to half day pre-school for speech, and my 4 year old to speech for 2 hours twice a week. I know it would be different if the all started and finished at the same time at the same school, However, I spend each morning wakeing them up, getting them breakfast, and out the door, and then I pick them up look through their backpack and figure out what homework they have (working on letter sounds, begining reading books), and being an anxious person, even with alarms set, I still start to watch the clock an hour before pick-up time. All of this is enough for me to realize that it was much more relaxing if we could wake up and move slowly through most days, working on activies when we wanted and watching tv in between.
      In summery, yes in theory they can be educated while I relax at home, but there are still things that are required to be done each day to get them to school that keep me from being able to relax very much.

  7. Theresa Deitche
    Theresa Deitche says:

    I actally don’t undestand some of this post. Are you saying that by not having a home birth, or breastfeeding, we mothers are lapped in luxery of never having to know struggle?
    If that’s the case than I’m angry at Penelope for allowing this post to be so judgmental, and narrow minded. Also, I’d have to say than you haven’t acutally listened to other people, and instead fell victim to relying on research alone.
    Parenthood is full of complications, end of story.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Raise your fit in the air angrily! ;)

      I’m not sure if I want to give a real answer or just a joke…

      My post is about how the benfits for the kids have been established and its obvious that it’s best for the kid to not be flooded with narcotics as the kid is trying to be born if you can help it, and it’s best for the kid to have freedom to learn and a personalized education.

      But for the parents, we rarely discuss the benefits. And it’s nuts! we must do so because parents and kids aren’t separate, we’re a unit. We have to move forward as such.

      • Theresa Deitche
        Theresa Deitche says:

        So, that makes a lot of sence in the idea that it’s not great for babies to be exposed to more than they need to be. And I think that’s true when you weigh what the mom actually needs and what the medical world tells them they need.
        Here is what I don’t understand in your article.

        “But the way a mother experiences birth is incredibly important for many reasons. Having a completely smooth labor leads into quick recovery. Breastfeeding is hard work. You know what it’s like. You know what it’s like to not be healthy emotionally, mentally, and physically and trying to transition into motherhood.

        Hardly any mother has the luxury of complications because hardly any mother can just lay there until she has fully recovered. Hardly any mom can tell life to pause for a second. Many mothers have to go back to work, take care of a toddler that is possibly feeling left out, and deal with a whole new household dynamic.”
        It sounds like your saying that by birthing in a hospital, having and epidural, and formula feeding you are being luxurious and will not know the pain and harword it takes to be a mother.

        • Melissa
          Melissa says:

          Wow. That’s not how I interpreted what Karelys was saying at all. I think she was saying that moms don’t get time off, even if they feel like crap.

          So extra care needs to be paid so that moms feel as good as possible because that will strengthen the family as a whole.

      • Theresa Deitche
        Theresa Deitche says:

        I guess it’s hard to convey a whole message in just one post, but guess that’s why I”m wondering why you wrote about homebirthing, and breastfeeding in the mannor you did. It sounded more like you added it because you wanted to convince us that you were right and we are wrong, rather than that we have to think about the choices we make even while they are in the womb, and during infancy.
        I bring this up, because I though about all of this, and came to the conclusion that my mental sanity wasn’t stable enough to support either of these decisions, and I realized that it would harm my babies to have a mom who was more unstable than need be. Then again after reading Penelope’s blog for almost a year, I chose to send my daughter to kindergarden for the same reason, and now after a much needed break using the only daycare I could afford I plan to homeschool my 3 children next year.

        • Karelys
          Karelys says:

          I chose to write about homebirth and breastfeeding because since it wasn’t normal around me it was a very deliberate and super researched decision.

          I stayed home with my baby for six months. Everyone assumes that mom know how to be moms naturally. I was going crazy and had terrible post partum depression. So I got a job. Baby was in daycare for 4 months. Once I was stabilized enough we shifted gears and husband became the stay at home parent.

          I chose homebirth because it seemed obvious that it was good for the kid. But it wasn’t until I was well en route that I realized how you birth matters so much! Moms having a good experience rather than a traumatic birth is essential for well being.

          I was willing to do it for the good of my kid. Just like I was willing to homeschool for the sake of my kids. But it wasn’t until we gave up half our income and we were in the trenches that we realized the tremendous benefit to the family.

          And when people talk about homeschooling as an excuse to not work it never occurred to me because I’ve always been the person that has sacrificed good health and fun for working hars. But shifting gears and the paradigm shift to prepare for homeschooling has shown me how essential fun and rest and good health is for a good life not just for academic learning.

          • Theresa Deitche
            Theresa Deitche says:

            Ahh, Ok I actually understand now, Thank you for clarifying. What’s funny is that now that I understand I realize I was being senstive to what you were saying because I’ve made different decisions based on keeping me, as the mom, happy and healthy. I’m still coming to terms with knowing that as unconvential as some decisisons can seem to other people, as a mom I actually know what is best.

          • AP
            AP says:

            I tried a homebirth with my first baby and it went to hell. I ended up at the hospital and TWO days later had a c-section. My doctor was phenomenal, though. He was very kind and said he was sorry my homebirth didn’t go as planned. I grieved over the loss of my homebirth and hoped to try a homebirth with my second. My second pregnancy ended up a twin gestation and they had a rare complication, so I ended up delivering them early via c-section (again!! Grrr!). It was very traumatic, but I learned a great deal about my marriage during both births (I learned it sucks). So, I almost feel like it was meant to happen the way it did. Although I did grieve over the loss of my homebirth, now that 10 years have passed, I don’t feel that the way I birthed my kids matters. They are here and they are healthy. I’m happy for that. As an aside–breastfeeding was really easy for me. I truly enjoyed nursing all three of my kids. It was the birthing that was hard. Go figure. Even though my homebirth attempt wasn’t successful, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from birthing at home. I don’t regret my decision at all. My step mother birthed two children at home with no complications whatsoever. So, to each her own.

            We don’t currently homeschool because my husband is against it (yes, I’m still married to him. I’m a glutton for punishment). But, I can tell you that my kids are bored at school. My daughter writes “I’m bored” all over her tests. When I asked her why she does that, she said she finishes before everyone else and has to wait silently until everyone else finishes the test. She is not one for remaining silent, so she protests by writing “I’m bored” all over the test while she waits. My son is gifted in math and science, but struggles with writing. So, he is bored because he is not challenged in those areas, but he’s also very frustrated because he needs more time and help with the writing. He also gets picked on because he isn’t athletic. My other daughter isn’t challenged enough either. There is very little recess. And my kids go to a pricey private school, so it isn’t just public school that is boring for kids. We will end up homeschooling sooner or later, but for now, it is what it is.

            Anyway, I have lots more to say, but this is quite a long read. So, I’ll sign off. ;)

  8. Amy
    Amy says:

    We’ve been unschooling since we pulled our oldest out of public school in 2008. When he was little I loved that we could go on business trips with my husband, go attend S.T.E.M. conferences that we wanted to go to, go visit family when the opportunity came up and when we got the chance to go to Puerto Rico for an extended period during the regular school year it was no big deal.

    Now that he’s a freshman in high school I love that he can job shadow during regular business hours when ever he wants. That he can spend time on his chosen course work, then have time to work on creative projects, still have time to work at his little business that started 4.5 years ago and have time to spend with his friends.

    Our younger two children are almost 6 and almost 4 years old, unschooling seems to have worked amazingly well for them too. The almost 6 year old started fluently reading out of the blue a few months before turning 5. The youngest recently started reading some words to me randomly when she sees them.

  9. Heather
    Heather says:

    Homeschooling has allowed me to have a guilt fee social life. I like to have time with my friends and sisters without my kids and to go on dates with my husband. Prior to homeschooling, these activities had to be limited to about 1-time per week because my kids would get super clingy and needy (their first signs of not enough mommy-time) if I was gone any more than that. Now, they are home with me all day, so I can go to dinner and movies and whatever else comes my way with my friends guilt free. My kids interact with me all day long, so have no problems with me being gone for a couple hours several nights a week. Huge win for homeschooling that I never anticipated!

  10. Scotti Gray
    Scotti Gray says:

    I love this post. I thought I was going to die in the one and only “real” (read 8 to 5, paycheck every 2 weeks) job I’ve ever had in my life. As a kid, I had to be bundled up and deposited at the bus stop by 7:30 a.m. every single day. It was ridiculous. As an adult, I haven’t been up at 7:30 in years. I started every single weekday of my childhood out of sync with my natural rhythm. It’s so sad what we continue to force upon ourselves and our babies.

  11. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I usually totally agree with your comments, but I am in abject disagreement about this post. You have identified that freeing yourself from the demands of a kids schedule is what prevents burnout, but I feel confident that it is the school schedule isn’t causing burn out; it’s the work schedule + the kid schedule no matter what the kid schedule is.

    Remember when you were newly married and had no kids. It was easy to balance two schedules and still have time for each other. At least that’s how it was w/ me and Rob.

    Now that we have 1 kid not in school and 1 career and 1 Full Time Student we are constantly evaluating whether or not it makes sense for me to stay home even while Rob finishes school.

    I think the thing that prevents parent burn out is the time to devote to parenting which is aided by homeschooling, but impossible with 2 full time careers.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I didn’t know this before as my childhood was always dictated by adults on how it should be spent. As an adult I discovered autonomy with my time is imperative. what causes burnout for me in this case is two or three unwavering schedules.

      When we were first married I hardly slept. Too many plates in the air and cutting back on sleep was the way to fit everything in. Now that my husband stays home things are a bit more flexible. Emergencies are not catastrophies because someone with expertise can handle it (it seems to me that my husband knows everything under the sun but I may be blinded because I get ragey when the printer doesn’t work and he fixes it without problems).

  12. Her
    Her says:

    Normally I adore anyone Penelope adores, but this just didn’t resonate with me.

    Forget about the home-birth/home-school analogy. Really, who cares, we all give birth one way or another, whatever works for you.

    But this –

    “We’re not worrying about homework today because I had an emotional day and we all need to curl up in the couch and hide under blankets and watch movies”?

    We ALL need to curl up? Um, how about you suck it up buttercup? Because YOU have a rough day its ok to dictate to your kids to shelter you from the world? Who is the parent and who is the kid, and what kind of behaviour are you modelling? Its like using kids as a shield against an abusive spouse, huddle around me in bed so he doesnt beat me kiddos! We can all see how that is wrong and damaging to the kids right?

    Its homeschooling for all the wrong reasons.

    • Anne Marie
      Anne Marie says:

      Reductio ad absurdum.

      Seizing upon the use of the word ‘all’ as a means to equate the *freedom to determine one’s own activities* with *abusive and neglectful parenting* is a bit much.

  13. Lisa @ Four Under Six
    Lisa @ Four Under Six says:

    I like this because I think you’re right. It IS also about the parents and the family as a whole and that is so often overlooked. We aren’t homeschooling right now but are in serious discussions about it for next fall. This is one of the pluses for me – we’re in control of our lives and we have a say. The family comes first and homeschooling will allow us to do that.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      After the adjustment period, also known as de-schooling, it will feel like every day is summer vacation. :) YMMV, but CA (my state) is very easy to unschool.

  14. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Lots of nitpicky commenters today. Hrm, oh well.

    Today was a holiday here in the US and I didn’t really even know it because we aren’t in school where entire lesson planning happens around all the different federal holidays…every.single.year.

    I like how this next generation is making these connections with their kids so early, like home birth and attachment parenting. Basically my birthing and feeding looks very different than what you experienced. Somehow I still ended up being a radical unschooler even though I started out being a very traditional parent. My kids required more from me.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I’m blown away by how I didn’t set out to do things differently and here I am. I didn’t even know there were different choices. My life was dictated in every detail that I didn’t even know you could be radically different and not have to be a hermit.

  15. Amy A
    Amy A says:

    I homeschool (and homebirthed) because I want full responsibility for myself and my kids.

    With full responsibility, I decide our schedules, lifestyles, and which hoops I will jump through.

    There is tremendous pressure in school (and birth hospitals) to give up ones desires, beliefs, and personal-responsibility to strangers and mysterious powers-that-be. That is something I have been unwilling to do. And yes, all that above would burn me out quickly.

    It’s not all happy-happy-joy-joy; but at least I really can’t blame anyone else for it not being that. Which also means it’s in my power to make it better.

    The result, my benefits: much healing and growth. And kids who understand personal-responsibility, self-empowement, self-respect, self-trust, conscious-living (including not blindly conforming), gentleness and love–which they’ve learned decades ahead of me.

    So, ultimately, the sense of a job-well-done, and it being due to stubbornly and adamantly doing it my way, makes it all worth it to me.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I have no idea what birthing in a hospital is like. I am sure it’s not all horror stories. But I got a glimpse of what things would be like when I had surgery (stones in the gallbladder).

      I was in horrible pain. Pain medication was offered to me like it was candy. I asked several times if there were any side effects I should expect and I was not all there (mostly sedated). The nurse said “it’s perfectly safe!” and before I could think anymore and say I word she had injected it in the IV drip.

      Everyone knows that no medication (not even natural stuff) is free of side effects. But I couldn’t consent well informed because 1) nurses were in a rush, 2) I was in so much pain, 3) I was sedated all the time and couldn’t think clearly, 4) I was scared and not well informed about my condition and couldn’t think clearly, 5) the white coats made me feel like they did know everything and I could just give up any responsibility of my choices to them and it was really hard to stay logical in front of that temptation to give in.

      When I went home after 5 days in the hospital and I had to be in charge of pain control and I realized how painful it was to have several small incisions across the muscle wall in the abdomen, I was first convinced that recovery from a C-section must be hell and how scary it is to give up your responsibility of choices to others because you are the one that has to deal with the aftermath (even if the doctor’s are held accountable. You’re still suffering the pain of others screwing up.).

      I disliked that at the hospital staff would come in and out and take my blood and put stuff in my IV without first asking. And everything was in a rush. I couldn’t weigh the pros and cons and consent. Or they would ask me to sign things and I was making my best effort to understand what I was signing for but it was easy to see how many people just give in and sign without understanding.

      I think school has a similar effect. The white coat effect. The taking away from responsibility effect, until something goes wrong then it’s the parents fault.

      I asked the doctors if my condition would have a negative effect in my breastmilk and in the baby. They swore up and down that it didn’t. But when I went home and breastfed my new born after I swore off all pain meds in favor of breastfeeding I noticed how different her health was.

      I felt angry that the doctors were the ones that should know everything there is to know about the condition and told me several times everything should be fine. But I knew it wasn’t. And when I took things in my own hands I noticed the big difference.

      • Amy
        Amy says:

        I’m sorry you had such a negative experience at the hospital. Not all hospital experiences are like that. I hope should you ever need another surgery that you are able to find a place where the staff is willing to work with you.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          I mean, I think the lesson here is not to blindly trust anyone because of who they are at work.

          I had a horrible first birth experience. And a fantastic second. All hospital.

          Once you start getting what you personally need and demanding that of others (self-respect, on my end anyway) things change.

          As an aside: One of our closest friends is a surgeon who flies all over the country doing operations, apparently he sees the best care given at hospitals in Tennessee.

          • karelys
            karelys says:

            yes that was my point :)

            I have a friend whom I respect so much. She’s a great nurse and is making headway in her studies in midwifery.

            I love how she supports moms. She tells them “it’s about weighing the pros and cons and assuming the responsibility that comes with all choices.”

            She’s never about dissing moms that feel more secure birthing in a hospital. She never pretends like it’s better to do it a certain way. She’s all about giving the facts, helping the mom figure out what’s best for her situation and then working on making sure that whether it’s hospital, home, or birth center that it’s the safest way it can be.

            During my first birth I didn’t even know what I needed and how to ask for help. I loved the second one. Just as blindingly painful. But I was in charge. I knew how to ask for help and what to ask. I was tuned in to my body and in the drop of a hat I could tell if something went wrong.

            I could tell natural labor “good” pain from the “there’s something wrong” pain. And I was secure in the people that I had around me.

            Two midwives and my husband. No blinding lights. No distracting noises.

            It worked just like I needed to and I was walking around to wave goodbye to my dad fifteen minutes after delivering the baby because I felt that great thanks to how everything unfolded.

      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        None of that surprises me, unfortunately.

        My first birth was in the hospital. I arrived pushing as I walked through the driveway (after 20 hours of laboring elsewhere) since I didn’t want them to have much say in my experience.

        The nurses told me not to push before I got to the midwife via wheelchair (broken water and all). Doula whispered in my ear it was okay to push regardless of their instructions.

        I had to push in bed to meet their “meconium in water” protocols. I wanted to push standing up.

        I was asked about breastfeeding data (when, how much, which side) by the nurses. I was so nervous about keeping track of it for them that for months later I kept a log, around the clock.

        When I took a bath while my husband was holding the baby, a nurse showed up and gave baby her oral vitamin K (as I requested instead of shot) without me there to be able to hold and nurse the baby instead of baby screaming with a stranger.

        I had to remain on high alert so the staff wouldn’t take my baby away from me for tests which they kept telling me to needed to be done.

        After about 38 hours without sleep (including labor time away from the hospital), I finally had my husband guard the room so I could sleep for an hour before we got outta there (hindsight, I should have left a couple hours after birth). We felt like prisoners.

        And this was a pleasant, empowering hospital birth. Misc. staff came into my room to see who had created such an amazing birth because word got out fast.

        If I hadn’t done my research and made up my mind, I would have lost my power, control, and choices very easily and in a flash.

        Oh and I was harassed by an ob/gyn I saw for a prenatal appointment because I was asking questions about hospital policies and procedures to prepare for birth. She was insulted that I didn’t just let her do her job. After that appointment I switched to a different midwife team, and to a hospital 20 miles further away. Even then I had to research everything they told me, and be firm about not wanting invasive procedures at appointments.

        Yeah, investing in parenting (from birth through homeschooling) has made me tough and no-bullshit–protecting, revering and honoring what matters to me. I can’t afford to be burned out for long, there’s too much at stake. I can’t imagine anything else teaching me this and so much more.

      • mh
        mh says:

        Recovery from a C-section is really not that big a deal. It feels like your intestines will fall out when you sneeze or laugh the first week, but you just hold a pillow over your belly.

        Having a baby makes abdominal surgery more of a blip than a life-trauma. C-section saved my baby’s life.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I had 3 c-sections, first was emergency that saved my daughters life. I had forgotten about the pillow, sneezing – laughing thing. Not good when you have a spouse who cracks jokes all the time.

        • neversummer
          neversummer says:

          I remember my insides wanting to fall out for a good month afterwards. Maybe it’s just me worrying in anticipation of my second one coming up in about a month.
          Home birth was not an option for me, we are a good forty miles from the nearest hospital and I’m to old (mid thirties). On the first child my water broke at thirty weeks and I got to spend two weeks at a hospital almost three hours from home. The stress was incredible. They saved our baby and had a great NICU it was a good thing for the baby. It was the worst experience of my life.
          We have made it past that point with this second child and I am looking forward to having my second c-section in our small local hospital where we know most of the staff and go to church with our doctor. People say care is better in larger cities and maybe it is in very serious cases but I will take small town personal care for smaller things any day.

  16. Kirsten
    Kirsten says:

    Homeschooling offers more freedom, but I disagree that it is a clear path to less burnout, at least with older kids. I loved being home with my children when they were little—it was not easy, but life was simple and I rarely doubted what I was doing was best for us all.

    My perspective has shifted some as they’ve grown (they’re now adolescents). There is not the constant demand for my attention, but the concerns and conflicts are far more complicated, with paths that aren’t always obvious. Already today I’m struggling to get one kid to complete the task that HE set out as a goal—unprompted—but one that I have scheduled around and funded. Do I hold him to it? If so, how? Or let him off the hook? Wait until he decides again he wants to do it? How much of my own time should I give over to this project?

    Lots of moments like this. I would make the choice to homeschool again, but I definitely get burned out — and there are no month-long vacations in my future.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I worry about this often too. Because relationships are relationships and they tend to burn me out when I can’t figure out how to fix the problem soon enough.

      The one thing that I am relying on is the autonomy over schedule. Not that I see free time anywhere. I am unemployed currently and I get up early and go to bed late and there’s so much to do always. But there are days when if things are nonessential then I can pause for a sec and take a breather and take care of myself so I can continue taking care of my family.

      • Heather Sanders
        Heather Sanders says:

        I agree with Kirsten, homeschooling DOES offer more freedom. It would be hard for anyone to argue with that statement. What I specifically wanted to comment on is the second part of Kirsten’s comment–that despite this “freedom” the path to less burnout isn’t clear.


        I’ve homeschooled eight years now. Between my three kids, I’ve now covered all grades, K-12th. I think it is fair to say I’ve faced burn-out on more occasions than I’d like to admit. I’ve spoken with parents who homeschooled twice as long as I have who would agree.

        The path to a burn-out free homeschool environment isn’t clear because its dynamic. As parents, our needs change and our kiddos aren’t any different; as they mature and develop, their needs change significantly too. At times, our needs don’t match up, which means I may suffer burn-out. For instance, I may need to drive several hours a week for my child to attend a foreign language class for dual high school/college credit. I have freedom and autonomy over scheduling, but unfortunately it doesn’t give me the “pause” to escape burn-out that particular semester. So, I mentally try to adjust the weights on the scale, recognizing it isn’t forever, and I am working with my child toward a goal of theirs.

        Karelys finds the autonomy over scheduling gives her the “pause” she needs to escape burn-out; for now, anyway. Later, her escape may be different–like when I used the two hours my daughter was in class to eat at a restaurant, uninterrupted while reading a book. Bliss. My husband would call my purposeful mindset adjustment a wise reframe. I’d agree because it worked.

        We do what works.
        Therein lies the freedom.

  17. wally
    wally says:

    Wow. This is timely for me. I just wrote a post about not quitting homeschooling. It can get really hard. And I sometimes forget these good things you wrote about. I remember last year, stressing in the morning, getting ready for school. My 6 year old not wanting to go back to school she loved it but not so much that she wanted to be there all day, 5 days a week.
    I have wanted to quit so many times, send her to school. But I am sticking it out.
    And it has been great for our family, And I need to remember for my Marriage as well.
    Thanks for this post.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      This morning Murphy (my toddler) woke up in a BAD MOOD!
      My husband is more adept at handling that than I. I go outside without a jacket in hopes the cold air will hit the reset button. A few times sometimes.

      I am working really hard at trying to make more than enough money so he stays at home because I don’t want to be the one staying at home. He handles the bad parts so much more gracefully than I.

      When Murphy turns 3 there’s a gymnastics class he can join. I think he’ll like it and will give him enough social time but not too much to overwhelm him.

      I am hoping this will be a good break without being required to jolt the family at 6 am to get ready for school and work and breakfast and everything.

      But I don’t know what we’ll need when we get there. I am working really hard at positioning us so we will be able to take the options rather than being cornered into no options.

  18. Cris H.
    Cris H. says:

    Love. this. so. much. Thanks to both Karelys and Penelope for posting.

    I hate that I feel the need to talk about how hard it all (homeschooling) is so either the person you’re talking to doesn’t feel bad for sending their own kids to school or out of fear that if you’re honest about the freedoms you enjoy and take you may be perceived as neglecting the responsibility you’ve taken on to educate them.

    Love the mention of the benefits to a marriage. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about that (and I am a serious blog addict) so kudos to you for original content and touching on something that truly is an amazing part of the choice to keep your family intact.

    Congrats on your little one!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Thank you!

      I try to think of what will happen when we’re an older married couple and our kids don’t live with us anymore. I want us to have a solid and great relationship.

      I think a healthy marriage makes kids feel secured.

      So if I mess up in the education front, or giving them opportunities, or guidance and discipline, at least I want to model a great marriage to them. Because that’s one of the most important things that we’ll do in life. So they can figure out career when they are of age and maybe what I model for them in the professional front will be obsolete.

      But modeling a good marriage never runs obsolete. Relationships are always the same through the ages. Being nice to your spouse and figuring out how to make each other happy never goes out of fashion.

  19. RB
    RB says:

    This post resonates with me because it’s exactly how my four siblings and I were educated. My sister and I had inordinate amounts of unstructured play and unofficial learning as our younger siblings were born and life unfolded. We learned about math percentages in the grocery store and had our “health class” asking where babies come from and what is that black thing on that baby’s belly (umbilical cord). Not that everything was pure bliss in every moment all the time, but when it wasn’t, we, as a family, had the freedom to react appropriately.

    Every year we re-evaluated: should this particular kid go to school and if so, how much? I took one class at the high school and the rest at home, racing through to graduate on my 17th birthday and do overseas internships with money I had saved. My next two siblings traded freedom for homework when they chose public high school. My third sibling does a mix of tech school and The Great Courses at home. My youngest brother goes to a private school for math and humanities and does the rest at home. Always, the goal was freedom, autonomy and life-long learning.

  20. Stef
    Stef says:

    I have so many thoughts and feelings on this topic, as one who had given birth at home and to plans to homeschool. Instead of writing a novel, I will just say that I agree that doing what’s right for the mom and other family members is also important when making big decisions related to child rearing, no matter what is decided is best for that particular situation. It isn’t enough to think of the child alone, because a child doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Preserving familial harmony and striving to meet each family member’s needs will ultimately create a healthier environment, benefiting children anyway. I’m glad you have found that you also benefit from some of the big child-rearing decisions you have made for your family so far, and that you have the confidence to exist outside of the box to find the best option for your situation.

    I love your unique perspective and presence on this blog, and if you ever decide to establish your own blog, you could start with all your comments and posts here as fodder.

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