The biggest problem in our homeschool is me

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

When we first started homeschooling five years ago, I thought I had it all figured out.

I had a school room with a lovely, perfectly organized set of books, curriculum, and manipulatives. I had a bell, all set and ready to ring for start time, break time, and lunch time.

It was going to be amazing.

And it was.

For exactly one day.

Then reality hit. My children did not do well in a school environment. It was one of the reasons they were no longer going to school. So why was I trying to recreate that exact environment in our home?

The answer?

I am consistently the biggest problem in our homeschool journey.

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I don’t say this with shame or regret. This isn’t about beating myself up.

In fact, as I type this, I am smiling, shaking my head, and thinking of all the ways that this has played out in the past five years:

  • Like the time I was convinced that my sons needed to be in classes at least one day a week, so that they could be social and learn from a better teacher than me. (Let me just repeat what I already wrote: A school environment did not work well for my children. It was obvious. But I am a slow learner, and apparently really like spending money on registration fees and classes that we will only attend for approximately two weeks until I remember why we pulled them out of school and homeschool in the first place.)
  • Or the time I thought I really needed to add knitting and crochet to our curriculum. (Because that is what every prepubescent special needs child needs – to try desperately to complete a fine motor skill task that even his mom can’t do.)
  • Or the time I was sure that if we started school every day by 8:30 a.m., we would somehow be more focused and actually learn all the things. (Incidentally, reading this post by Kris completely changed my mind on this one, but not before enduring many frustrating mornings trying rush my children to comply with a schedule that made no sense for our family’s needs.)


As I reflect on these examples, and about 34,000 more, I am learning that most of the time, the biggest problem I have in homeschooling my children, is me.

It never feels that way in the moment. In fact, while my expectations have very little to do with my reality (and if I am honest, are more about comparing myself to what everyone else is doing), I am most likely to blame my children.

Sad but true.

“If they would just ___________.”

(Fill in the blank here: wake up earlier, do what I am asking them, not be so resistant, sit still for a few minutes, let me read the lovely read-aloud, not ask me seven times for a snack, just complete the math worksheet so we can move on, etc., etc., etc.)

Too often, I think if they would just be the learners I want them to be, instead of the ones that they actually are, I would be an amazing homeschooling mom.

And it helps no one.

Because the truth is, this has nothing to do with me being amazing.

It has nothing to do with my children doing what all of the other homeschool kids seemingly do so well.

I am learning that homeschooling is about helping them learn in the ways that actually work.

It is about helping them feel confident and excited about the world around them, despite their special needs and the barriers they face in that world. 

This is about ditching my expectations of how homeschooling should be, and instead leaning in to what it actually is for us: audiobooks in the car, spelling tests in Minecraft, YouTube videos in bed on a sick day, heading to the park and letting my son move and play while I read aloud, and writing stories on the windows with washable markers.


None of this is how I think it “should” be. None of this matches the picture I have in my head. And yet all of this is how my children learn best.

The more I embrace the creative, out of the box, never a dull moment boys that I have been given, the easier this homeschool gig becomes.

They learn more. They enjoy my company, and I theirs. They engage in the world. They are excited to learn.

And that matches my expectations for our homeschool perfectly.

Do your own expectations ever create stumbling blocks in your homeschool?

About Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is the creator of Not The Former Things, a blog dedicated to homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. She loves finding out-of-the-box ways for out-of-the-box learners to thrive. She is the author of two books, Special Education at Home and Everyday Autism. You can follow Shawna and Not The Former Things on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.


  1. Wow-I have been homeschooling for ten years and this is the first blog post that has stopped me in my tracks-thank you!! Every homeschooling mom should read this, print this and remember these wise words.

  2. Yes. This. I think this is something every homeschooling mom on the planet can relate to. And, I’m glad the morning routine post helped. 🙂
    Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: How to Make a Cookie in a Cup: An Easy Kitchen Activity for Kids

  3. I just love this! It sounds exactly like our homeschool journey. The more I tried to it like “everyone else”, the more it backfired. I’ve learned you must do what works for your individual kids and family. Thank you for the reminder!
    Erin @Nourishing My Scholar’s latest post: A Week in the Life of Unschoolers

  4. It has taken me so long to learn this – and honestly, to continue to learn it. But, I am grateful for the relief that comes from just doing what we need to do, and not worrying about what I thought it should be like.
    Thank you for your comment!
    Shawna Wingert’s latest post: When Mommy Is The Problem

  5. This is definitely something I need to keep relearning. It seems like I forget it, five minutes after I have figured it out. This a a great reminder to evaluate where we are at and if what I am doing is working for our family right now.
    sarah’s latest post: Things I am loving in October

  6. Kelly Brown says:

    Oh my gosh…thank you so much for a perfectly-timed post! An hour ago, I just sat telling my husband how overwhelmed at am with life & homeschooling! God must’ve led me right here because it was EXACTLY what I needed at this moment! Thanks!

  7. It really is ME. And I desperately do want to blame THEM! Honestly when something doesn’t go right I will think about what the kids did wrong to ruin it. Dear goodness. They have special needs and I need to come to terms with that and teach them where they are..which is indeed why we did this in the first place. Apparently I’m a slow learner too!
    Stephanie’s latest post: Jesus’ mom: a woman we adoptive moms can relate to.

  8. Loved this post!
    9 yrs & counting and I’m still struggling with getting out of my kids’ way & allowing them to have fun & learn!
    I think if more moms used this method it wouldn’t feel so daunting or impossible to homeschool their children.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. So glad you shared this, I’ve come to exactly the same realisation. We don’t officially start homeschooling until 2016, but I’m grateful to be learning from your experiences right from the get go.

  10. I applaude the strength of parents that have the ability and knowledge to homeschool their autistic children. However, what do parents do when the child is refusing to learn and no amount of anything tried works? And do you plan to keep your child in homeschooling through the 12th grade? I know some parents of autistic children that refuse to give any type of vaccination shots due to thinking they are the reason for autism in their child. Is this the norm of thinking? Also is it the norm to refuse any assistance from various agencies that might have any helpful ideas for an autistic child whether the help comes with knowledge or possibly monetary assistance? I am trying to learn what the majority of feelings are about some of these issues. Again, I applaude your energy and love for your child. I look forward to anyone that would share their thoughts and/or experiences concerning the questions I have asked about.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you so much for your questions, Sarah.
      Here is how I will answer, although I am certain it is likely different for every family. My son is learning, every single day, in ways that I never thought possible. Although he refuses to do some things in a more “traditional way”, he has made progress every single year. I plan to homeschool him for as long as he likes, and as long as I see benefits of our life working for him long term.
      Part of why this works for us is that we do have a team of “assistants”. Doctors and therapists inform my approach to homeschooling him as much as they do our medical plans.
      I hope this helps. Please feel free to email me directly with any additional questions or concerns.
      Shawna @NotTheFormerThings’s latest post: Living In Survival Mode

  11. I can so resonate with your experience. It took me years to come to a place of ownership for my own issues in our homeschool. And wrote a letter to first time homeschool moms to help them think through some of the challenges they would face in their first year so that they wouldn’t have to struggle through some of the hard parts like I did. The main point is that the first year is more about figuring yourself out as homeschool mom than it is about actually schooling your child.
    Cara@TheHomeLearner’s latest post: October: Things Liked & Learned

  12. I’m so glad to come across a homeschooling mom’s blog with an autistic child. I also home school and have a beautiful, sweet autistic child who is a joy to teach… when in the right mood. Sometimes I do wish my kids had a better teacher. Because of our upcoming move to the US, I have been entertaining the thought of other types of schools: private, public, special, coop style. So many more options for us! This post has made me rethink a bit and consider that maybe I can and should continue to teach my kids. even my autistic one. I really love learning along side them. Sometimes, though… it’s just really hard. Thanks for the post!
    Cinthya T.’s latest post: A Reverse Culture-Shock Story

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