Homeschool progression: first you question your judgment, then you defend it

Someone just called child services on me because I am not properly educating my kids. So here’s a pictures of my kids playing video games. At the time I took the picture because it was so nice to spend the evening with the boys sitting in the living room together. Looking so grown up. Now I’m using the picture to let everyone know I’m not backing down from the education I’m committed to giving my kids. And let me tell you: they are awesome at video games.

The person who called child services must be someone who knows us pretty well, because they had the contact information for our cello teacher. She received the first call from child services to ask what she knew about our family.

I tell myself the person was only being concerned for the kids’ well-being. And whoever called child services was not trying to be mean.

Even in the face of a visit from child services, I am more confident than ever that homeschooling is the right way to go. Mostly because I’ve been reading so many guides for applying to college and every single guide has the same theme: get good grades, yes, but you need to have more stuff than just good grades. And all that more stuff all happens outside of school. Which is to say that the differentiators among college candidates is what they do at home. So the more time you have at home, the more you can differentiate.

The books I’m reading put a big focus on summer because non-homeschooling kids have to cram pretty much everything into those three months. Homeschoolers have a huge advantage here. The college admissions books are, actually, the best advertisements for homeschooling I’ve seen so far.

If only I had known that when my kids were younger. I would have had much less self-doubt.

I do a lot of phone calls with parents who need just a bit more reassurance to make the leap to homeschooling. Or a bit more confidence in their commitment to keep going with it. It’s so rewarding to help other parents with this because I needed so much help myself. And one of the best places to get help was here, in the comments section.

So I am publishing an email I received last night. And I hope you will each take a moment to write some words of encouragement to the woman who sent it. We can’t change the whole education system, but we can change the lives of individual kids, one family at a time, by supporting each other when we waver.

Dear Penelope,

I chatted with you last year because I was considering homeschooling my now kindergartener. I’d had him in preschool part time but have been homeschooling this year rather than send him to kindergarten. He started out happy (he hated preschool), but now has been wanting to go to school.

I felt guilty because most of our days are spent at home we do a few activities, then he plays (mostly Legos and Minecraft). But he spends most of his time playing alone or with me. I don’t feel good letting him play Minecraft so much, but I honestly am not a good playmate. I don’t get into setting up crafts and planning play dates like other moms do.

I think a lot of my worry is that I haven’t found other kids for him to play with. No boys his age in our neighborhood. And most weekday activities we’ve gone to are geared to 2-3 year olds. I participated in a local homeschool group for awhile, but it didn’t really click (basically I didn’t like them, and my son didn’t find kids he really liked either).

Everyone I ask agrees he should go to school. I think it may be best, and found a small private school that I feel is better than most I’ve looked at. Our deadline to enroll him for next semester is Jan 4, so I’m trying to make a decision.

I wish I had the support you mentioned in a past blog post. But I don’t have a friend or mentor who can tell (or show) me that what we’re doing is ok, that I’m not hurting my son by keeping him home.

It was easier when he didn’t want to go. I like our schedule. I like having him home with me where he’s safe . But I’m afraid that I’m being selfish and overprotective. I don’t want my son to be a weird, sheltered, lonely child who can’t take care of himself. 

So I guess I don’t really have a question for you, I just am looking for some support. And maybe some reassurance that I’m not totally fucking up my kid.

48 replies
  1. Stacy
    Stacy says:

    When reading this article I felt like this mom took the word right out of my mouth… I’m in the exact same place with my almost 6 yr old daughter. I wish we could form a group together! I’m sorry you are struggling with this. I’m going through it too. I wish you and your little boy the best of luck! And thank you for writing this. I finally feel like I’m not so alone in this craziness!

  2. Carol
    Carol says:

    For the woman who wrote: Let him go to school for a few years and pull him out later. That’s what we did with our son and it has worked out nicely. In the early grades, they get to spend a lot of time with other kids. The basics of reading, writing and math are fine to learn at school. Once they get too regimented and your kid feels stifled, then you can pull him out. He’ll appreciate being homeschooled once he gets a few years of regular school under his belt.

  3. Sue
    Sue says:

    I hope more people comment. This is exactly why I’m sending my almost 5yo to kindergarten next year. I’m also terrified I’ll ostracize him if I homeschool him in a town known for it’s great school system.

  4. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Dear mom-who-wants-to-homeschool,

    Homeschool, don’t homeschool, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is figuring out how to love our kids unconditionally. This is hard when most of us don’t know what that’s like. So you need to start with unconditionally loving yourself.

    Stop beating yourself up about being a playmate or being selfish or overprotective or whatever.
    Stop reproaching yourself for not being like ‘other moms’.
    And stop constantly questioning & doubting yourself.

    You can handle it! I recommend ahaparenting blog posts for tips on radical self-care. Just do what it takes to be kinder to yourself & the rest will be fine.

    And rest assured you are not totally fucking up your kid.

  5. Anna
    Anna says:

    Everyone has rough patches. Instead of forcing yourself to regularly get him out the door to school, force yourself to get him more friends. Take him to the park. Take him to Cub Scouts. Take him to a co-op. Go to the library. Host play dates. Offer to babysit same age kids. It may feel uncomfortable for you but he deserves friendships and at least it will be on your terms.

  6. Joy
    Joy says:

    This is from a Smithsonian study from the 1960’s on “The Childhood Pattern of Genius.” This is the three-part list of common elements found in the lives of the 20 geniuses who were studied:
    1. They were given a maximum amount of free time to spend exploring, and very few places or things in the house were off limits (from banging on the piano to hammers and nails).
    2. They had highly responsive parents who spent time answering any questions they had or helping them find the answers.
    3. They spent a minimum amount of time with people their own age.

    Do a google search if you want to read more about this. Hope it’s helpful. I was a mostly unschooling Mom who is about to graduate my second child from high school. Hang in there, you can do it!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Love this comment! Where is the research that says kids need to play with other kids at that age? And why do we assume whichever classroom a kid is in will have kids they want as friends?

      I sent my youngest to kindergarten, and he had a best friend. But that friend turned out, a few years later, to be wildly inappropriate, and I realized classroom friendships are a result of proximity not shared interests.


      • Lauren INFJ Bishop
        Lauren INFJ Bishop says:

        And if you think back to the “one room school houses” of yesteryear, they were filled with kids of all ages.

        I read an article awhile back about how being with kids of the same age is actually the reason for a lot of bullying. Without the natural hierarchy that comes with age, kids make one by fighting for the dominant position. A natural, age based hierarchy creates peace, connection and opportunity for each aged kid to bring something to the dynamic. The older ones nurture, protect and teach the younger ones. And the younger kids entertain and bring a sense of wonder and joy. That always stuck with me, and rang true…

      • Steve
        Steve says:

        Pretty much all childhood friendships are based on proximity and shared interests. A homeschooled child is friends with the neighbor because he’s two doors down. He makes friends with other kids in his homeschool group because they’re kids he spends time with. He’s friend with kids in his soccer team because they share that interests. Six year olds don’t get into deep relationships regardless of educational choice.

    • Crystal
      Crystal says:

      Exactly! Only in modern society are we told our kids HAVE to be with other kids their exact age. It isn’t natural and it certainly isn’t how the “real world” works. My friends range in age from 8 years younger to over 10 years older than myself!

      If you’re concerned about friendships, which I also struggle with, make that your goal like someone said above…to find him some friends. It might take a while to find a group or activity that clicks, but you’ll find it. Library is a great place at that age since so many have weekly activities that the same families go to. Maybe also look at nearby museums or aquariums, etc. And if he’s into sports, team sports are a great way to make some friends. Locally we have a homeschool orchestra, so if he likes music that might be a good idea. And look for a new co-op. We’ve gone through our share of different ones. You may have to try a few of them before you find one you like, or you might find out that co-ops aren’t for you. That’s okay too.

      Please don’t feel bad because he “wants to go to school.” Remember that kids that young, and even well older, don’t know a thing about what they really want or need. We’ll be facing something similar as we’re about to move 4 hours and my oldest who is 15 is already lamenting having no friends. Ugh, the pressure! You can do this. Follow your gut and ignore the naysayers. They don’t know or love your son like you do.

  7. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Is there a retirement community nearby? Do they have a Grandparent Program where kids can pair up with an elderly person for weekend walks and checker games? Does a local college have a mentoring program pairing students with children? Some of my children’s deepest friendships are older people….

  8. Elizabeth des Roches
    Elizabeth des Roches says:

    Please, please don’t send your child to school unless YOU KNOW it is the very best option for him/her! If you feel uneasy, pushed or generally helpless about your homeschool choices then it’s time to sit down with yourself & make a decision.

    You are your child’s parent, you are the one your child chose to raise them & your child needs YOU to stand up for them. Not choosing to step, wholeheartedly, into the homeschooling OR schooling life but waffling back & forth, makes everything harder for you & for your child.

    If you are lucky enough to live in a country where homeschooling is legal (there are many where it is NOT!!) and you have at least one person in your life, whether that’s your partner,someone you know in your area or even online, you can join the growing revolution of home-education. We are the ones nuturing the creative minds of the future – and we’re having a good time doing it.

    So often, parents come to me (I’m a homeschool coach specializing in Hands ON Learning) telling me they can’t figure out how to homeschool. But what they are usually NOT saying is that they are afraid to be responsible for their child’s education !

    What if you took a moment & reviewed what your child has already learned from you – how to speak, eat, dress themselves, walk, play and even, just being with others (aka socializing). These skills are FAR more important than academics, when you think about it. Of course every child needs a good education but that doesn’t look like it used to in the 20th century.

    My homeschooling goals are to raise children who LOVE learning, know how to do it on their own & then have ideas for using their knowledge to make a difference in their lives & in the world.

    Take heart – teaching your child is your right & they deserve the best you have to give them !

  9. Jessie
    Jessie says:

    Stick with homeschooling for the rest of this school year. You haven’t given yourself or your son enough time to discover a rhythm or make sense of this new journey.

    He says he wants to go to school but only because he wants something different than what is happening now. See if the two of you can work together to discover a solution.

    It sounds like you might be a homebody. I was going to recommend a school year of field trips – to the post office and it’s inner workings, the fire station, police station, animal shelter, horse farm, an artist or musician….maybe you could watch “documentaries” of these places if you prefer to stay home.

    You can enroll him in school but I think you will find a different type of unhappiness there. You’ll figure it out one way or another. Believe in your ability to make the best decision for your child. I do.

  10. Sarah Faulkner
    Sarah Faulkner says:

    It’s also hard for kids to transition to being at home. I think, if you can afford privet, why not hire a sitter? Put up a notice in the co-op you attended, and hire one for for 1-2 times a week. With my sitter, her job was to come play with my kids and do fun crafts, because I suck at both.

    Also, sometimes you have to teach kids how to play by themselves. Every time he is bored and wanting you to play, give him a small chore. He will learn to entertain himself. Then, make sure you connect later when you are ready, and doing something you like. Also, if Minecraft time bothers you, have chores he has to do to earn Minecraft time.

    Despite Penelopes research, I am against video games at this young of an age. I have noticed being around video game kids vs non, the video game kids struggle with imagination play, and self entertaining. It seems to even out around age 8-12, and I don’t notice as big of a difference.

  11. Katie
    Katie says:

    We have sent our kids to public school for elementary and are planning to pull them out for middle school. They are so excited to be pulled out. I say we are homeschoolers who supplement with public school. It’s been the right choice for our family and our kids. I am wondering if the emailer lives in a small town. I grew up in a small town and there were a handful of homeschoolers…. but church or sports teams were about the only way to connect. One idea would be to contact your local school and see if your son can participate in after school clubs or even attend for certain classes or time per week. In our state, your neighborhood school is required to let homeschoolers participate or attend part time. I think similar laws are often called Tim Tebow laws, if that helps you search.

  12. Luna
    Luna says:

    You were c list famous so maybe they want attention
    Much more likely, JEALOUS! your son is a star. Your other son is
    Clearly quite bright. So the obvious motivation was jealousy. You brag a lot about the cello so you dug into someone clearly. Maybe also a Music tiger mom.

  13. Luna
    Luna says:

    Ps homeschooling is LONELY for solitary folks.
    You sound solitary. But I feel that family love is primary.
    If you have a tight family there’s no better foundation. I had my first real friend age 11. Before that was rather meaningless. If you can’t deal with lonely and you’re not a social butterfly homeschooling isn’t a good choice. Frankly I think it’s bonkers not to try. It’s the easiest thing to undo. Kids adjust fast if they don’t have a learning difference.

  14. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    I agree with Tracy: “Homeschool, don’t homeschool, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is figuring out how to love our kids unconditionally.”
    You sound like a wonderful, loving mom. Listen to your child; he’ll help you find a way forward. And remember no decision is irreversible. If he wants to try school, he can always change his mind later. What matters is that he feels your love and your respect.

  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I would recommend having some discussions with your son. I’d ask him to recall why he hated preschool. I’d ask him what has changed between then and now and why he wants to go to school now. By asking him a bunch of questions and listening to everything he has to say, you may learn a few things that you could do to improve his homeschooling experience. I would guess he’s feeling like he’s missing a lot of things by not being in the same room/building as other kids his age. However, he should be reminded that a lot of the time he’s around other kids that it’s not his decision or other kid’s decisions as to what they do with that time. That’s determined by the teacher and the school for the most part. It would be nice if you could find a homeschooling group you and your son like although I think if you were able to find one or two other homeschooling families that were experienced and supportive it would be sufficient. Whatever decision is made, your son should be a part of it and be in agreement.

  16. Emily
    Emily says:

    I homeschool my kindergartener and my 3 yo. I felt isolated and didn’t love my options for homeschool groups, so I started my own. For us, our differentiator is that we’re inclusive and only do official Meetups in one (large) suburb. The group is less than 5 months old and we have a nice core group of weekly regulars along with another handful of families who attend sometimes. (We have 37 families signed up.) It’s working well for my little extroverts. No, we’re not best friends with all of our members, but we set the pace, tone, and agenda. It’s great. Try it. We use and it was the best $30 I ever spent on my kids. If I stepped away from leading the group tomorrow, I would still have some strong friendships and many connections to show for stepping up and starting the group. Set yours up over break, don’t immediately publish (Meetup will send you a discount code), and publish in early January when everyone’s looking for new beginnings. If its a no-go, first grade starts in September and you’ll know you stepped out of your comfort zone to try to make homeschooling work. And like others have said, it’s not a permanent decision to go to school. You’ll be one of the super attentive parents always reevaluating what’s best, so you’ll see opportunities and problems that more educationally complacent people miss. Good luck!

  17. Alice
    Alice says:

    Honestly, making/keeping friends is the number one (and I would add only) concern/compliant by my kids. I have six. One is “graduated” and the rest are basically unschooled. They are from 9 to 18 years old and are very close. I’ll hear about wanting friends sporadically, so we’ll join this or that and it will eventually fizzle out. I think a lot of it is this idea that a best friend has to be of the same age/gender/classroom, etc. that’s just part of our culture. I agree with other who suggest boy scouts, or playgroups or something, just to get that social interaction. I find the romance often wears off pretty quick and they find that they don’t have to be like everyone else.

    We did send to younger 4 to school for a couple of years mostly due to these fears. I hated it every day and so did they. BUT, it gave them that time to be “normal” to see that it’s not all that.

    I know all too well the fear of screwing all this up, but know that there are times you will feel that way and times you will feel like the best parent on Earth. Good luck! Follow your heart.

  18. Jennefer
    Jennefer says:

    I’ve been reading through your recent blogs here the last couple of days. This blog was one of my big inspirations to homeschool my kids, but I haven’t kept up to date the last year or two. My oldest turned 5 over the summer so this is his kindergarten year. I feel like I’ve been defending my decision to homeschool for years to everyone who wants to know why he’s not in preschool. Because he doesn’t need it. That’s why. Ugh.

    Anyway, I’ve come back and am catching up on your blog because I’m wanting to re-inspire myself. Connect with like minded momma, if only virtually and invisably. I wasn’t planning to comment. Just reading your stuff helps me a lot.

    But now I’m commenting because I just want you to know, I think you are an amazing mom. Your kids are lucky to have you. I want to say I’m sorry you are going through all this but I’m not sure that’s really the right response. Know that I’m thinking of you and wishing you well. And thank you so much for writting this blog. I love it. It helps me ferl less alone. I sure hope it does the same for you.

    Much love to you.

  19. Work Conquers All
    Work Conquers All says:

    “Labor omnia vincit”

    Stop fence-sitting and take action!

    Honestly your letter sounds like, “Homeschooling isn’t as effortless as I would like so guess I’ll just put him in school for the rest of his life. ”

    If you can’t find a group you like, start your own! Of course it’s work – but this is your kid you’re talking about. Join and start a group on there. Populate it with search terms that describe the kinds of homeschoolers you want to connect with. Let technology (and keywords) do the people-finding for you.

    Make one day per week your personal “field trip day” – no excuses, no skipping – and plan a month’s worth of outings at a time. You can visit a local dairy to see how cows are milked or how milk is pasteurized. You can visit a local grocery store and take a tour of the back where all the shipments come in. Go get an annual pass at a local museum and get to know the docents. Sign up for an adult cooking class and let your 5 y.o. tag along and help. Life is fun! Model curiosity and engagement for your kid.

    Make one day per week your library day, and go to the library during school hours. You’ll eventually start seeing other homeschooling families there – they are the ones with school-aged kids in the children’s section during school hours! Talk to them. Introduce yourself.

    Join a local homeschooling Facebook group and post that your kids’ into Legos and Minecraft and looking for homeschooled friends. (If a group like that doesn’t yet exist, be the one to start it.)

    Buy a bunch of used Legos off Craigslist and start a weekly “Lego build” meetup group where the kids can get together once a week and collab on builds together.

    Get Skype for your son’s computer so he can voice-chat with friends while they play collaboratively on his realm.

    Find homeschooling conventions and conferences happening in your area. Force yourself to be social and talk to people. Get phone numbers and email addresses. Network.

    On the days when it feels difficult to motivate, tell yourself to treat it like a job. You can’t skip out on a job when you’re having a low-energy day or feel shy – so don’t do it for homeschooling, either.

    Focus on being more interested (in the world, in how things work, in other people, in building homeschooling relationships) and interesting (it’s sometimes hard to be engaging and meet new people when our lives are boring, make us bored and we feel low-energy with nothing to talk about…work on that!)

    Homeschooling is not easy, but it is simple.

  20. jessica
    jessica says:

    No matter which it is, it’s about initiative. The choice isn’t all or nothing. There are plenty of play classes, art classes, sport classes for his age outside of school. If you are in an area with decent private schools finding other children is possible. It’s not about what’s just best for your kid, you need to be able to handle things well. What’s the roadblock here?

    How big is your local personal community?

    And Penelope, social services (children’s services) in terms of welfare concerns (wellbeing) is under a different remit than educational concerns. Make sure they don’t convolute the issue.

  21. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    So sorry to hear about the strange events happening!!

    And it’s so weird too because homeschooling is legal in PA as it is in all 50 states. There are more guidelines one has to follow in PA, as it’s not as simple as it was in WI.

    Also, it’s very easy to find your son’s cello teacher’s information. Anyone could have found it.

    To the letter writer:

    How would homeschooling lead to your son becoming a weird, sheltered, lonely child who can’t take care of himself? I homeschooled for the last five years before my kids decided to go to school and they are self-directed, self-sufficient, independent, decisive, ambitious, go-getters each with very divergent paths. They are who they are. Homeschooling or school, doesn’t matter.

  22. Luna
    Luna says:

    How old are they now? They both look post puberty and big!
    Piling on the letter writer. She needs SUPPORT. I get annoyed when people say homeschooling a toddler or even k. It’s called being a parent then. You don’t really feel educational pressure when it’s a 4 year old. And if you do take a serious step back. I have a PhD from Dartmouth. At age 4 I went to school like two days a week and messed with goo. Kindergarten was low key too. No one suffered.

  23. Luna
    Luna says:

    I homeschooled my kids bc one has PDD and he wasn’t learning. He’s still very behind in Speech but has some academic excellence. He’s not independent for a ten year old and I feel guilt like maybe it’s homeschooling but the school made him more needy and dependent than anything. You always think you’re ruining Kids but for every plus to school there are more negatives. My opinion but I observed my son at school. Try doing that. My two daughters are very studious and so easy to homeschool. Half my day I let my son game it up and half we learn. It’s hard. I unlike Penelope cant fit work in but my husband is a dr so we’re aok financially. I spend at least 2.5 hours working with my son to get one solid hour of learning in. Sunday’s I prepare all the curriculum. My daughters do projects. We have one weekly math and they do review solo and tap me if I need help. I majored in English and minored in American history and I’m really strong in both. My husband is there for science in the eve and if math gets too hard. I often need to watch videos because I honestly can’t figure something out. I’m
    Good at math but if you don’t use it you lose it. We do one extra curricular activity per kid because I’m not a cab driver. And it gets too busy. When they drive they can add all they want. I could never be a Music momager. I hate commuting. My son hasn’t met anyone in his class but he’s shy and only talks about video games to other kids. He’ll get there. He’s close with me and Dad. Has two adoring sisters. And a cat who hates us all. It’s a warm busy loving alive home and I always say one stressful day is one stressful day. It’s not your whole life.

  24. Christine P.
    Christine P. says:

    We’re not at the point of making schooling decisions for our kids but it’s coming up fast. I was talking with an older lady with grown kids recently and she encouraged me by reminding me that whatever we choose, we don’t have to be locked in on that. She has three kids and said that they did public school, private school, and home school — different for each kid, and different year-to-year. It’s okay to put your kids in an out of school, and to play things by ear. Don’t be afraid to be flexible!

  25. Donna
    Donna says:

    Our first year when my son was in kindergarten was the toughest. Both he and I were deschooling and adjusting. I regularly said out loud he was going back to public school. But I hung in there till the end of the year. Then I said I’ll just try one more year. It got easier. Now hes in 2nd gtade and we both love it. Im also now homeschooling my 1st grade boy. I agree with other posters to stop waffeling, commit for the year, then check in with yourself and your son again. You will not mess him up. Family is way mote important than peer friends at his age. KTG is not even required in my state. Good luck!

  26. Kerstin
    Kerstin says:

    Almost two years ago I felt like my homeschooled daughter needed to be around other homeschooled girls roughly around her age. I started a scouting group (in this case Frontier Girls, which also has a co-ed/boys version called Quest Club) and offered the meetings in the late morning to cater to homeschooling students. I advertised in local homeschooling Facebook groups, and even though it started with just a few girls, within a year we were full. I feel like almost any need you see in your child can be filled in the homeschooled community, but you many need to be the one to get the ball rolling. Chances are there are several homeschooling families facing the same situation as yourself.

  27. Mindful + Mama
    Mindful + Mama says:

    My very gregarious daughter went to kindergarten but I brought her home for first grade. I made this decision selfishly. My son was 5 by then and ready to begin kindergarten, but I knew he would struggle in that environment. I had an infant in arms and decided it would be crazy to try and homeschool one kid and send the other to school. I kept them all home. 6 years and 4 homeschoolers later, it’s the best decision I made. Obviously they are their own playmates, but there specific likes have caused us to seek out other groups of kids. I’m an introvert and it was painful at first. The confidence to like my decisions, and who I am as a parent definitely didn’t happen over night.
    Someone wise once said that if you homeschool, and you don’t freak out on a regular basis about all this shiz, you’re probably doing something wrong. So, hang in there, you’re on your way.

  28. Biplab Poddar
    Biplab Poddar says:

    I like this so much :) :) :) I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces.Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.
    Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy., I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.

  29. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Homeschooling or unschooling is hard not because of the doing of it but because we are going against the grain.
    Once you decide to unschool you realize you disagree with most of the mentality everyone around you holds dear.
    Disagreeing with people on personal values drives a big wedge and the feeling of disconnect is so painful.

    I don’t know if this will work for your child, but I plan on enrolling my children in classes and such that most kids do after school.
    If they like it, great. If they don’t, they’ll tell me.

    I think it’s an easy way to connect with other children who have similar interests. At least until they figure out a way to pin point their own.

    I think that being a successful adult at handling your own emotional and self-actualization needs really soothes the harsh transition into unschooling. And it’s a GREAT modeling for the kids.

    Let them be uncomfortable in the transition. You don’t have to take care of it for them. Just empower them to know they have it in themselves to take care of the social life they’ll shape for themselves. So they can try things and see if they like it or not.

    We are more afraid of discomfort than how difficult it is to actually wade through it. That’s why I haven’t gotten a tattoo. I have low pain tolerance even though I had babies at home in the water. Birthing doesn’t give you an option to stop. I am afraid I’ll start a tattoo and can’t finish it and I’ll have a half started doodle in my arm.

    Unschooling should give you and your child the freedom to try new things until you get to know yourself better. In school you have to show up and not fail. Stick to the program. Their program. Uncomfortable or not you have to keep going or be left behind.

    Getting comfortable being uncomfortable and lost is super valuable to growth in both adults and children.

    That’s all I have to say to offer comfort and peace of mind to the mom from the email.

    • Tracy
      Tracy says:

      Love this, Karelys. I hope you helped the mum in the email too, but if you didn’t, you certainly helped me a lot today. Thank you.

  30. WrenX
    WrenX says:

    Penelope, I hope everything goes smoothly with child protective services. It’s such an underhanded move to contact those people on the grounds that you disagree philosophically with the parent. Hang in there.

    As for the new homeschooling mom of the Kindergartener, join some online groups (Well-Trained Mind forums, and the Sonlight forums are two I can recommend) and make more effort to do local meetups or park days. It took me at least two years of homeschooling before I found my community, but now I teach there part-time, and my son is staying right now with a family we are deeply close two because of our community. Hang in there. If you would not expect to reach maximum effectiveness in one year at a job, then don’t expect the same of yourself in one year of homeschooling.

  31. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    What a waste of CPA’s time. Why not let them get on with the necessary work?

    Dear uncertain homeschooler,

    No-one can give you a guarantee. Not a school, not another homeschooler, not yourself. There are no guarantees of success in anything.

    I am a mostly asocial introvert so we stay home most of the time. I have five children who have never been to school. They are complimented on their social skills wherever we go. None have ever asked to go to school.

    I’m also not interested in entertaining my children. I don’t organise activities (unless it’s something I want to do). That’s why I had five. But they’re excellent at entertaining themselves. I just make sure they have the equipment and supplies they need.

    I think that googling ‘deschooling’ would help you a lot.

    If you would like a mentor, find one online. There are lots of really supportive Facebook groups where you can ask whatever you like and get a huge range of varied responses.

    Remember that you can be honest about school. You can point out other children are locked up in school while he’s free, laugh at their boring workbooks while doing something more interesting. If everyone else is trying to sell school to him you NEED to do this. It’s counter-brainwashing.

    Hope that helps,

    P.S. Enjoying your child and not putting him in terrible situations is not sheltering – it’s good parenting.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      But what happens when cps comes? Do they leave with the power to decide that your kids need tested? Is that their right?? It’s so unfair

  32. Omaha1
    Omaha1 says:

    We do plan to homeschool my granddaughter but thinking of sending her to a nursery school a couple days a week. She is only two. But we took her to a Christmas party and she was pushing the other kids around (physically pushing them off of chairs). I told her not to do this but she has no idea how to play with other kids. What do you think of this? There are no other young children in our family for her to play with. The youngest close relative that lives nearby is 31 years old.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Omaha1, you may be able to get some ideas from reading this article – – written by Amy Morin who is a psychotherapist. The article references a study done by researchers from Penn State and Duke University which highlights the importance of social and emotional skills. Three months ago, Amy Morin, had a book published titled ’13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success’. It has 19 customer reviews on Amazon and all of them are rated 5/5 stars. The book is referenced in the article above. I can’t vouch for it as I haven’t read it but I think it’s worth looking into.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      2 years old is a little young to be expected to know how to play with others. The way toddlers learn is being around & watching others, and not other same age, but others who have the skills she should model. Varied-age groups can have the toddler tag along and help or at least defend themselves somewhat. Same-age kids aren’t as skilled yet.

      I’m thinking you’ll have an easier time of teaching her yourself rather than hoping a nursery school teacher will be able to handle it. In my experience, I’d usually prefer things to be handled differently. Sometimes you get a gem of a teacher, but still there are other kids they have to deal with at the same time.

      Talking to toddlers about their feelings doesn’t seem productive to me. There is more to work on before this pretty sophisticated cognitive emotional phase. Toddlerhood is a time for imitation so make the most of it. A good stern intense, “We don’t do that here,” from a stranger can be helpful once in a while too.

  33. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    All of your concerns are real. And valid. But put him in school and you could fill 5 more paragraphs with concerns and worries about what’s going on there every day.

    There are some great points in this comment section-scroll through and write out a list of everything that is encouraging.

    You are not going to find the support you need from people that don’t homeschool. So stop asking those family and friends that never experienced homeschooling what they think-cause they will always say you send the kid to school-that’s what they did and people LOVE relating to others with similar experiences.

    You will worry and feel parenting guilt about your son-enrolled in a “better” school or homeschooling. Nothing will fix that.

    Start connecting with families that are homeschooling-of course you don’t have the support yet. You’re so new into the journey. You need to seek the support out. Google ‘homeschool support groups’ in your area and attend. Our first year homeschooling we didn’t know a single homeschool family-not one(Our family actually did public school for 6 years. So 2 kids got to experience public school and 2 have never been). Three months in to that 1st year I was craving some connections with people that were doing what we were doing. And I slowly built up a group of friends for myself and my children. One group is just for mom’s, once a month. A mom hosts and we sit around, chatting about our successes and failures-all the while feeling safe that the remedy is not “send them to school if you’re struggling”. And the other group is for all ages and doing all those things that are the fun things in school-field trips, ski days, art classes. These are all planned by the parents. I really love outdoor activities and history so I plan one of those trips a year and the other families fill in the gaps. We don’t go to everything but it’s fun to pick and choose. And all because I googled ‘homeschool support groups”. It wasn’t easy to find these groups. I had to search and then have the courage to attend events where I didn’t know anybody. But over the years, we’ve developed true relationships.

    And my absolute favorite piece of advice would be to seek out mama’s who have gone before you, have children way older then yours so that you can witness that it all works out. And who they’re gonna be, they will become that. If you’re worried about him not being able to take care of himself, make sure you give him those life skills. Public school will not do that for you.

    We’re on year 6 of homeschooling and for the first 2 years, we played the game of “we’re just trying this out for this year”. It comforted others around me just as much as it comforted me. I had an out if we needed. Now there’s no turning back.

    I hope you find peace in your decision.

  34. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    We are in our third year of homeschooling. I also work as an educational consultant and trainer of teachers in reading intervention. That irony is not lost on me, but I am grateful that my children had private instruction for their foundational skills in reading. I ask my sons if they want to go to school (they did attend a cooperative school the first year), and for now they say no. We chose to homeschool out of need, but as they progress it is hard to argue with the evidence. As they approach their ninth birthday, I am glad we stuck it out. They are both avid readers and see a story in their minds as we read to them at night. They enjoy arts and music, stopping at the piano each time they walk through the living room. They are not afraid to learn something new or challenge themselves. I read so many books about development and learning in the first eight years of childhood, but as a mother, I also am watching it happen. They are confident and love to learn. Will we continue to homeschool? I see a hybrid situation as they get older. Our local schools allow kids to enroll in the classes they want beginning in middle school. The perfect solution I see is a way to attend collaborative museum type learning environment or camps with other kids. They are involved in ski clubs, soccer, and a homeschool literacy class at the public library. We will be interjecting more of that as we move forward. We do coffee shop meetups with other families to play board games, like chess and Minecraft, and park play. It started with one other family and now we have 6 families that communicate via a private facebook page. They don’t need socialized learning at five years old, they need free time to play, to interact with other children and the natural world. We all have doubts. We all wonder if we could do more, or should change something. Whatever you decide, nothing is set in stone you can change your mind and do something different. Nothing is perfect, but the foundations gained in early childhood homeschooling cannot be ignored. Good luck – go with your gut:)

  35. Monica
    Monica says:

    Penelope – if you continue to have any issues with child protective services, due to “not properly educating the kids” I highly recommend the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) . The group has 30 years of experience defending home school families against those who try to coerce them through legal and child protective services into more traditional schooling. Protect your right to home school! Absolutely worth every penny, and then some.

    To the letter writer: I realize I’m writing way past your Jan. 4 deadline, but I recently found some information and thought I’d share, since you mention “a lot of my worry is that I haven’t found other kids for him to play with.” There is research that indicates a child benefits much more from being primarily “attached” (ie, in a close, dependent relationship) with adults than with children. Many current social challenges are due to “peer attachment” – meaning kids find their comfort, values, identity and other deep needs met by other children, rather than parents or an adult care giver. For a variety of economic and technological reasons, our culture has encouraged this, rather than emphasize the importance of the parent-child relationship.

    Read and research “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Dr. Neufeld and Dr. Mate. Whether you choose to home school or put your child into a traditional school, your relationship is the most critical component you can give to your child – not friends. Cultivating our relationships with our kids is the harder path at times, but very well worth it.
    Best wishes on your journey!

  36. MakingSense
    MakingSense says:

    Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by homeschooling. I google my problems. Your blog always pops up.
    I am a homeschooling mother to my 9 year old autistic (Aspergers) little girls. I have four children. My almost 6 year old is in public school kindergarten right now. She will start homeschooling next year. My almost four (possibly on the spectrum), and 2 year old are at home.
    I live in a state that requires yearly testing. We are so far behind where she should be in homeschooling. She learns at her pace, with lots of questions in between. My biggest fear is some government telling me I’m doing it all wrong.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  37. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This comment is to let you and others know there are still many unenlightened people who are unfamiliar with homeschooling and its benefits including overseers in government-run schools and our representatives in government. However, their ignorance does not mean their arcane rules and regulations should not go unchallenged or allow further ones to be imposed. I’m referring specifically to homeschoolers in New Hampshire who are fighting proposed bill HB 1263. It’s a step back from rights that homeschoolers gained in 2012 that would restore third-party oversight of homeschooling.
    The following was taken from this article – – “Prior to 2012, the state had a fairly robust system of monitoring homeschooling. Parents of home-schoolers were required to submit their annual year-end assessment results to their so-called “participating agency.” That could be their local superintendent, a licensed private school or the state Department of Education.”
    Since the 2012 changes went into effect, the assessment results are private. Those results, along with a portfolio of the child’s work and a reading list, must be maintained for a minimum of two years, but there is no third-party review.
    HB 1263 would restore the requirements as they existed prior to 2012, including a provision that home-school programs could be put on probation leading to termination if children fail to perform at or above the 40th percentile on a standardized test or do not meet expectations “for age and ability.”

  38. Francesca Thomas
    Francesca Thomas says:

    I can’t beleive that your boys are still using the old Nintendo DS or DSX consoles.

    My son did have a DS and a DSX console through most of 5th through 7th grades, but he soon graduated to the PC where he now plays MMORPG games all day every day when he is not sleeping…

    I had to pull him out of high school in the 9th grade because he was not coping with the lack of hands-on subjects – English, Maths and Science all in the second semester. All he was required to do was to sit there and twiddle his thumbs while the teach droned on and on. There was nothing for his hands or his brain to do!!

    He also still reads a lof of manga as well – and he is homeschooling.

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