Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
“My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy.”
I cried. At least once a day. For years.
No, I wasn’t suffering from depression. Nor did I have a chronic eye watering condition.
I was homeschooling.
Five years ago, Steve and I made the “official” decision to homeschool. It was scary, of course–a move into a completely unknown world.
But our hearts, souls, minds and spirits pointed in this direction so we stepped out.
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The educational philosophy that resonated with us most, Leadership Education, advocated delayed academics in the early years–letting children learn through play and allowing their own internal motivation to direct their education. We would “inspire, not require” instead of following a rigid program.
“Our kids are so lucky,” I thought more than once. (And still do.)
Not having to spend our days entrenched in an impersonal institution, we would all be so happy with our growing freedoms together.
Except we weren’t.
“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Now that I think back, the struggles make perfect sense. I lacked a solid understanding of child development, and I had a five-, four-, and three-year-old. I had no family in the area to pitch in when needed and a husband who often traveled for work.
I didn’t have battles over academics, true. And that’s good–because I just wouldn’t have been able to handle any more battles.
I spent all day every day teaching my little ones about character and kindness, settling sibling squabbles to infinity and beyond, emptying my introverted mama cup only to desperately look for ways to fill it again before the next wave of exhaustion hit.
Photo by Gisela Francisco
“I can make it until bedtime. Just until bedtime,” I would coach myself, when thoughts of the next decade pressed in upon my tired mind.
We did all this each day and then–like goldfish in a bowl–we’d wake up and do it again the next, without a lot of fruit to display for our efforts.
Each day a step of faith.
Not that these were miserable years, mind you. They were just….hard. I blogged throughout them, honoring the struggle and counting blessings at the same time.
I learned a ton about looking for the good, changing my mindset, taking responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, and moment-by-moment decisions in the process.
And in the midst of the hard, I also questioned myself deeply. If I was really on the right path would it feel this difficult, I wondered?
So I researched and visited schools, looked at the options, cried some more.
And each time my heart led me right back home again. Into the hard. Right where I was meant to be.
Photo by Wapster
It turns out I wasn’t doing anything wrong; I was living the life we had chosen. The life we deeply wanted. The best life God had for us.
Out of my comfort zone in a major way, but with deep faith, an incredible husband, and a firm conviction of the rightness of what we were doing for our family, we persevered one day at a time.
“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.”
~ Edith Wharton
I share this today because some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re wondering where you’ve gone wrong–while your son isn’t reading or your daughter still throws tantrums. You’re questioning if you could really be a good parent and feel the way you do. The parent guilt weighs heavy.
Here’s the truth: Homeschooling is hard and sometimes it will feel hard. This could mean it’s time to make a change, but not necessarily. It could mean that you’re right where you–and your kids–need to be. It’s supposed to be hard.
Five years later, I’m now homeschooling an eight-, nine-, and ten-year-old. We still have plenty of challenges, being imperfect people walking this life journey together, mind you. But in the past two years we’ve turned a corner.
All those seeds of kindness and compassion I spent years watering have started to bud and flower. My incredible children have started to fall in love with learning, and that is a joy to watch. I have more time these days to fill my own well, too, with writing and reading and study.
It’s true, these days I am happier. But I never would have gotten here if I hadn’t been there.
Each step, each day, each moment–entirely worthy of the struggle.
I’ve learned that happiness rarely comes when you seek it. Instead it brushes against your shoulder when you’ve stopped looking. When you’ve started to value doing what’s right over your own personal satisfaction.
When you can live in the moment without analyzing it to death and find joy in your children whether or not they’re “performing” according to your standards or anyone else’s.
My happier ever after began long ago, though I couldn’t see it at the time.
And looking back, I’m so, so grateful that I didn’t give up.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Jamie’s new book, Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy.
“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
If you found this post helpful, subscribe via email here to receive Jamie’s FREE ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom!
I love these brutally honest homeschooling posts because they help me to see that I’m not deficient- just human. Too many people try to paint such a rosy picture of their homeschool, leaving out all of the bad stuff, but that’s not what encourages. It’s posts from the heart like this, so thank you.
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Shelly — I agree with you! More people need to write posts with REAL images of homeschooling. It isn’t always easy.
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YES! I feel like you opened my head and pulled out my thoughts. 🙂 Homeschooling is DIFFICULT, but I think when we get past our previous notions of “happiness”, things do get easier and better. And let’s face it – anything worth doing brings sacrifice, right?
Thanks for this – glad I stopped to read Simple Homeschool today!
Thank you for being truthful. Homeschooling is hard, and it is work. After 18 years of homeschooling, I am being more truthful with myself and others. Sometimes you do just have to slog through a rough patch, but other times it is a signal to shift gears and make a change. That is the point I am at, and it is hard on my homeschool mama pride to admit that.
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Yes . . . we are 11 years into homeschooling, and only now am I beginning to throw off my doubts and fears and move confidently through my days. I’ve been happy all along, just so uncertain. It was hard. It still is hard. Harder than it is possible to describe. But it is also slowly filling me with a peace, joy, and sense of wonder that are equally difficult to describe.
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Caroline Starr Rose
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Thanks for sharing, Jamie. Mine are still little (2.5 and 6mos.), but as my friends begin packing up their children for preschool I often question our own decision to not. Especially on the days when I’m in the throes of the chaos of having small children, I wonder if I’m cut out to be their central influence and primary teacher. After consideration, prayer and more research (and often encouragement from people like you) I always come back to a resolute “yes.”
you spoke exactly what I needed to hear today in order to keep the home fires burning. Thank you, thank you, thank you. for being who you are…exactly. and sharing that with the rest of us. I will keep this blog post near and dear to my heart.
much love and light back ‘atcha, sister!
Thank you for the encouraging words, Jai!
I so appreciate you and what you share in this blog. This is my first year homeschooling and I know in my heart it’s the right thing for us, but when it’s hard ( which it is a lot) I doubt myself and our decision. When I read your blog though, I feel encouraged. Thank you for your honesty.
Lovely post today–so encouraging.
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This post is so honest and inspiring. As someone just starting out on our homeschooling journey I often wonder if I can do it. I know it’s what we are meant to do, but I relate to what you say about wondering where I’ve gone wrong when the kids do or don’t do things. I figure there would be these issues, if not more, if they went to school though. Anyway, I’m glad I’m not the only one crying most days! Thank you!
This is the perfect post……I so needed to hear this Jamie. Thank you!!
Laura Grace Weldon
This is what’s missing in so many books and articles, the wider view you so honestly share. It’s easy to fret about the moment, to extrapolate the worst from a current problem, to doubt ourselves—when all the while it has to do with seeds we’re planting. Thank you for this. Sharing!
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That’s so encouraging to hear, Laura. Thank you!!
Thank you. So very, very, very much. Truly, thank you.
You’re doing a great job, Kristi. Your kids are blessed to have you.
Thank you for your honesty. So needed to read this post today! Days are hard, we will struggle, but there is joy in the journey!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It seems one of your posts always speaks to my heart whenever I questions my sanity. My children and 2 and almost 5, and we are praying about having another. Every day is hard, I cry a lot and my husband is convinced that I must be depressed or maybe homeschooling isn’t the right path for ME, rather than the children. I’m an introvert mama who feels like I can’t ever truly recharge. I spend most of my days breaking up fights and cleaning up spilled food. Snack time is my nemesis and it comes multiple times a day. (By this I mean the begging for food as though they are starving every 2 hours during all the daylight hours). I wonder how we will ever accomplish any “real” learning. My kids love to be read to one on one but if both are involved it degenerates into a fight. I tell myself maybe it will be easier when they are older and then when I’m really down I question my fitness as a parent in general, let alone a homeschooling parent. Thank you for helping me realize that it doesn’t all have to look a certain way or be easy to be right.
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“my husband is convinced that I must be depressed or maybe homeschooling isn’t the right path for ME, rather than the children”
Bethany, I’m glad you mentioned this. I can remember Steve and I having the same conversations a few times. Thankful for those hubbies looking out for us as mamas, AND supporting us as we seek to persevere as well!
Thanks for this post! Please know that your encouragement and insight has helped my perspective and you’re doing a great work in changing lives for the better. I really admire your candid words. Most people do paint a rosy picture of their homeschooling lives, and I find myself doing it too…I think in part to deter those that might poo-poo my endeavors to teach my children at home. I don’t want anyone else trying to discourage me, I do that enough myself! LOL But I am resolved and blessed by our choice to homeschool, and we are seeing the fruits of our labor 🙂 It is kinda like gardening. Lots of sweat, tears, dirt, and grit to invest for the harvest and beauty that we know will come. Thanks again!
Gardening a beautiful analogy, Sarah, and there’s nothing like when it’s finally harvest time!
I feel so grateful to have found someone like you who is further down the path than I, looking back over your shoulder and calling “It’s going to be okay!”
Yep, we all need that. I have mentors further down the line now that I still call on when the moments of panic arise!
I love the words “eptying my introverted mama cup”. I often have problems with my kids lying with me at night in bed. I finally figured out, THEY aren’t INTROVERTED. I can’t stand all that touching…LOL. I don’t let it bother me now, just step back mentally and observe. And when I can’t take it anymore, send them to their own beds. Or tell them I need time – I love them – but I just can’t right now.
With ones 6, 4, and 2, I am constantly reminding myself that we are planting and watering seeds right now. Very occasionally we’ll see a tiny sprout poke through and give us just enough encouragement to keep nurturing, watering, and tending. Thank you for your words. I’ve no doubt our children may question our methods, beliefs, and theories (and I welcome the questions!), but they’ll never question our love and devotion. 🙂
Jamie, you are my favourite homeschool blogger, your quiet honest words are like a balm to my fears and doubts. And you have got me started on my own Leadership Education journey. I thank you.
Could you tell us what “inspire not require” looks like in your homeschooling day?
Thank you so much, Bronwyn. I wrote about inspire, not require here: http://simplehomeschl.wpengine.com/inspire-not-require/ Hope that helps!
I’m feeling this so much today. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. It encourages me to keep pressing forward.
Thank you so much for this wonderful post . I just read it and felt as if a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders. Answered prayer! Thank you!!
Really enjoyed this post today, I feel the exact same way. Thank you.
I love this post! We had been homeschooling in FL (because the schools suck and the homeschooling community in my area rocked!) but just recently and extremely quickly moved to Northern CA (DH got his dream job). My husband suggested we send our older girl to a Waldorf charter school two blocks away. I immediately fell in love with the school environment on a campus tour but reluctantly agreed to send her there (she is 8 and placed in second grade) . I still feel in my heart that we should be homeschooling…..maybe in the future…..my DH feels it would be easier on me if we send them to school…. In some ways, sure! In most other ways……not so sure. This last move was incredibly tough (three moves in the last two and a half years and not military, just insanity…) We moved away from ALL friends and family, into an “unknown wilderness”. It has been alright so far but quite the struggle. I miss my daughter while she is at school and so does her five yr old sister.
One day at a time…..
Bless you, Eva – that sounds like a lot of transition for all of you! It sounds like you are a beautifully in-tune mama, so just keep your feelers out for any signals your daughter may give of stress or it not being the right fit for her. It could be that it’s the perfect choice! Either way, you’ll know. xo
Thanks for this post, Jamie! I am a homeschooling mom in the Philippines and most days I felt the same. Now into our 5th year and we are starting to see some ‘fruits’ in our children’s lives. Looking back, I am glad we sticked it out. Glory be to the Lord who sustained us!
I am so thankful I read this. I haven’t even begun homeschooling “officially” yet (I begin this fall kindergarten) but the three girls I am raising sometimes is more than I think I can handle without adding schooling into the mix! Days are long and hard but I hear the years pass quickly. Want to instill a love of learning in my girls.
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I was coming downstairs to cry tonight…..and FELL down on my knees unintentionally….on a hard concrete floor. I was already a mess because of LIFE no going the way I wanted it to. I laid on the floor and cried for a while. A little for myself, a little out of anger and little out of total overwhelm and frustration. Then I got up and eventually made it over to my computer and sat staring at it for a while. I decided to look up simple mom (I have no idea why because I don’t come here!!!) and your post was waiting for me.
I needed to hear this tonight as I am on the verge of quitting everything I have started and feel like I can’t do anything right. Thank you for your timing and thank you for your honest thoughts…..I made me feel not so alone and that the sun will once again come up tomorrow morning and I can start over. c.
This brings tears to my eyes, C! I’ve been there many times. Blessings to you and yours – you care so much and that’s evidence of what a good mama you are, the perfect one for your littles.
Oh Jamie. This is like a whisper of life into my weary homeschooling heart! I think sometimes we play up and “sell” the benefits of homeschooling so much that we feel a little cheated when it isn’t all sunshine and daisies. Your words are a real encouragement to press on. Thank you.
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Thank you so much for this I really needed it today. We just moved 2200 miles away from my family and support system in my first year of homeschooling my 6, 3, and 2 yr old. I have spent the last couple weeks crying and wondering if I can handle this task on my own as well. It is hard. I feel like most days all I do is moderate sibling rivalries and clean up mess after mess. I rarely actually get around to ” schooling” with my eldest daughter. I too have thought of other school options but every time I do I feel this horrible dread like in the long run I would be sacrificing my kids’ happiness for my own quiet sanity. I know my choice to homeschool is what is right, I feel it in my gut and in my soul. But right now it is so very very hard.
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Thank you for this! It’s hard to feel sure about ones method of parenting when you have little ones. It often isn’t obvious you’re doing “the right thing” although the ideas feel so right. The everyday practice of it is so often fruitless. The noise of others ideas, different from your own, can drown out your once clear parenting philosophies. I appreciate reading these stories from those who have been there and made it through to see the outcome of their patience and time spent in character building. Thank you.
I have writing with my eyes wet and my heart touched. My son is five and far behind his younger cousins in acedemics. I belong to a society which has a new creed of parents obsessed with their children’s education. And in such society where a child go to school at age of 2.5, my five year son started it at the age of 4. He had a delayed speech problem which is natural and as my doctor says every child learns at his own pace. But when you see younger children moving fast ,the feeling of left behind is agonizing. In this senerio you can understand your kind words and truthful narration would have effected me to what extent. Even Thank you is Not enough to show what I am feeling.
Lee @ Lady Lee's Home
Right on time! Thank you so much for this post. We are having a bit of a hard time lately with my older daughter coping the behavior of her younger siblings. I wanted to pull my hair more times in the last couple of weeks then ever before. I started thinking maybe we are doing the wrong thing…. Maybe she should be in pre school with kids her age, but, like you said, when I think of the options I am led back home time and again. This post landed in my mail box right on time, and since I know that I will feel this way again sometime in the future I will book mark it so I have a place to go when hard times hit. Thanks a bunch!!!!
I really, really, really, needed this today. Thank you.
SO grateful for honest, warm, real reads on the homeschooling experience.
Thank you for sharing!!
Kate’s latest post: Change
This was a great post and a good reminder to me that while homeschooling is about the education of my children, it’s also a large piece of inner work for me. In overcoming my fears, doubts and my perfectionism, in allowing my children not to fit the mold of how I think they should be and that my and my husband’s character-building efforts for our 9 and 6 year olds will and do bear fruit.
Jamie, I always appreciate your posts but this one really hit home!
I can echo many of the comments. I have been on this home education path for 9 years with my three kiddos, one being on the spectrum….and I am tired right now. It is so easy to think it is some kind of faliure to need a break or to struggle. I find this seasoon has been long. Many of those I started out with have put their kids in school and I find myself on my own in away I haven’t really expierenced. Thanks for the encouragement I find here. It really is a life saver.
I love Jamie’s honesty and all the info I learn from this blog. I know that homeschooling can be fraught with difficulty..and at the same time, does it have to be to the cry every day degree (not to discount your emotions, by any means)? I wonder if Jamie had this blog (ha ha) or other resources would that have helped, or is it just a trial by fire undertaking? I know Jamie mentions not knowing child development and a local support structure. Is there anything, Jamie, that you feel looking back, could have made the journey smoother?
My children are 6, 4, and 7 months, and I often wonder if everything I’m doing is right or wrong? Especially wondering if my kids will turn out to be criminals or something on some days lol. This is normal right? Did you feel like that sometimes when your kids just bickered constantly and wouldn’t listen? I just want to know that there is hope and I’m not totally screwing it up, but their behavior is normal. I gain a lot of insight from your blog, as I am an introverted, homeschooling mama with very little time to herself too.
Yep, totally normal!
Thks for your encouraging blog! Like a breath of fresh air! It’s good that is normal for it to be hard and that it will get better!
Thank you for post, it is very encouraging:)
It’s my second year home educating my kids and I also have days like these when I can’t help but cry. But when I sit back and reflect on my journey, I realise what a positive impact home educating my children have made. It’s articles like these that motivate and inspire us moms to keep on, keeping on!
Another raw, honest post. Thanks for keeping it real.
Thank you! We are coming to the end of our first year homeschooling, and I have found myself coming to your site so often for insight and encouragement. We kind of floundered through the year with great intentions and then settled into whatever we could manage with a six year-old with mosaic Down syndrome, a four-year old, and almost-two-year old. 🙂 Not nearly as organized and structured as I imagined, but more learning has happened in this little homeschool year than I could have imagined with a daily dose of seatwork and lots of legos, outside time, dirt, shovels, paints, rocks, string, glue, and crayons! Thank you for your posts, for sharing your heart, and for encouraging mine. 🙂
Your posts are always so encouraging. Thank you.
How can I learn more about this type of homeschooling and where it is acceptable?
I would check out tjed.org, Ashley. Hope that helps!
Thank you so much for being so transparent. I am the momma of a 5, 6 & 7 year old boys who are all about to get older (birthdays coming eek!). We have always home schooled. But, we have always been pretty home bound as well. We moved out of CT in 2009 and have been pretty isolated ever since. I am a text book example of an introvert and highly sensitive person. I find my days to be overwhelming and I, too, pray for bedtime. It’s comforting to know that I am living is not only my battle but many mothers across the world. <3
I cried every night also….mostly because I thought I was doing something wrong. my daughter could have cared less about learning anything academic. She loved art, painting, crafts and could sit and listen to me read to her for hours and hours, but if I asked her to read the even the most simple book she would flip out. Finally I found out about Vision Therapy and we had her tested….6 months later she was a new kid. She had never learned to use her eyes together so saw everything as blurry and double. All those nights spent crying were worth it. She never went to school where she would have been labeled with probably 10 – 15 different “problems”. Our mommy guts never fail us. I am so glad I stuck it out and kept homeschooling her. We are entering our 4th year of homeschooling and I would not even CONSIDER putting them in school. Yes, there are hard days and I wish for a break sometimes, but overall I am grateful to be with my girls all the time. Before I know it they will be off on their own, so I am enjoying this time while it is mine to have.
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So wonderful to read this! I am in the difficult years you mentioned here – with a 6, 5 and 2 year old so I can relate so well to what you must have been going through. It’s encouraging to read about the light at the end of the tunnel!
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I just ran across this article on Facebook. I am a school teacher going on 10 years now, and I am here to share that I think you and your readers are on the right path. We are going to be homeschooling our 3, 8 and 11 year old this year. I have seen a change in our public education system in the short years I have been teaching. About a week or so before I came across your article I posted “Why the NEA doesn’t like Homeschooling” and I wrote about it on my site. It’s definitely worth looking over. If one is getting that much flack from that organization then we must be doing something write. I want to encourage all here and all that might find these comments to hang in there and keep up that good fight of faith! I’ll pray for you all for strength, wisdom and guidance, and I ask for the same as we start our journey.
Grace and Peace to you,
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Thanks so much for your honesty, Jamie. It is so encouraging. I am contemplating how I need to change my responses when I get frustrated. We are starting our second year of homeschooling this fall and I realize I need to structure our days to minimize the frustrations. Thanks for all the food for thought.
This post came just In the right time… So inspiring !
Thank you Jamie !
Love from an imperfect-home-school-mum.xxx
I love this! We have actually toured schools, asked the kids what they want (they don’t know, so I don’t know why we do it!), asked for advice from others, argued with each other about whether or not it’s the right choice. I haven’t even started a set schedule yet, so I know that it’s going to get even harder when I’ve got lesson plans and activities to go to, etc. It feels good to know that others have done the same thing. 🙂
Wow, this is such great encouragement. Thank you. I will be tucking this away for future reminder.
Love this SO much….Needed to hear this and will print this out and keep this in my home-school folder to read on the good and hard days. I try to never say “bad” days. Such truth you have written. Thank you.
You wrote this almost one year ago and I came across it just today. You could have been across the table from me, sharing a pot of tea. My children are aged 6, 3 & 1. This has been our first ‘official’ year of homeschooling. It’s hard. I *know* it’s good and I *know* I am planting and watering seeds … but it is challenging on so many levels. Thank you for encouraging me with your story.
Today over coffee, a friend asked me if we will continue to homeschool our children through highschool, or will we send them to school then….Oh my! I am so thankful to have read this today. This year my youngest son graduated from our small town high school. He was at home for all but his last 2 years. His older brother only attended public school for the majority of 7th grade. I started homeschooling when my daughter (now 25) was in the 5th grade. She is now graduated from college and moved out on her own. The 2nd is a college junior this fall, and the baby will be taking classes at the community college for the first semester or 2. The moment I have looked forward to most of my adult life…I mean the done homeschooling part…I never looked forward to the growing up and away part. Well, the Lord had other plans for my golden years..I am 46. 😉 last April everything got a little more interesting…our family grew by 3…3 little boys who are now 7, 8, & 9. So we believe that homeschooling them is what is best for them and our family, we began last year. They did great. I on the other hand did not….while of course there were good days…even though I can’t really think of any of them at the moment, I am sure therr was. For the most part…I felt like I was being sucked into a vacuum…into a bottomless pit…well at least a thirteen year deep one. I dread it…I am dreading it for this coming year….it is just hard. Last uear I remember sitting in my school room at that little table, it was almost 6pm…I dismissed them…not because we were done, but because I didn’t want them to see me cry. I hate doing it, but I know right now it is the only way for us. I am encouraged by your post. I will pray for Gods grace to manifest in contentment. I know it ous sinful for me to pray to God thanking him for the blessing of homeschooling, and then living a life of hating homeschooling.
I just read the article for the first time, read all the comments, and went back and read the article again. I am shocked at how similar these other moms’ feelings are to mine. I honestly thought I was alone in thinking parenting and homeschooling are just plain hard. Like you said, Jamie, I am living the life my husband and I chose and deeply wanted. Yet I have been wobbling on the brink of depression because I would not admit that it’s okay that it’s hard for me and that happiness is not the target to aim for. Thank you, all, for helping me see that.
Oh, Sharon, I’m so blessed to know that this was a help to you! You may find this post helpful too if you haven’t already read it: http://www.steadymom.com/2013/12/hard.html
Beautifully stated, this is exactly what’s on my heart I just couldn’t quite put into words! After looking at the options I’m continually brought back home again as well. Thank you for writing and sharing the raw side of things too, it’s not always easy but it is oh so worth it!
Best regards, Shawnda
Hey Mom, I’ve just read your amazing post from years ago. It is very good.😀 A lot that we can learn from this post.
Love from DJ Trishna Martin 🎹