What to Do When You Feel Like a Homeschool Failure

Recently, a Catholic homeschool group I belong to asked the following question: How often do you feel like a homeschool failure? It was a poll with a slider so that you could choose a percentage. I chose 50% and pressed enter. Then, the summary of all results was shown. The average of answers was that homeschooling parents felt like a failure 55% of the time. Clearly, I was not alone, and if you are reading this article, you aren’t either.

It may seem strange for someone who runs a homeschooling website and who has successfully graduated two homeschooled students into the world to admit that I feel like a homeschool failure half of the time, and yet, it is true. As much as I believe in homeschooling and know that traditional school is not right for my family, I often feel like my children and I personally don’t live up to what homeschooling should look like.

When I first started homeschooling, I was amazed that veteran homeschoolers in my homeschool group expressed self-doubt and wondered if they were doing enough. These were people who had successfully homeschooled. They had teens and young adults who had gone on to traditional high schools and colleges and done well. How could they still be worried? Obviously, whatever they had done had worked. They had to just keep doing what they were doing, and everything would be fine.

Now I understand. Every child is different. Life is different as the years go by. There are new challenges and circumstances to face. Simply because you succeeded with one child doesn’t mean you will succeed with the next one. Self-doubt is often the homeschooling parent’s constant companion.

So, what do you do when the voices of self-doubt are screaming in your head? (I’m writing this for myself as much as for any of you reading – I need to take my own advice!)

  • Turn to Prayer

I wish that I could say that prayer would automatically take all your doubts away and that your children would suddenly be model, obedient students who excelled in all areas and astounded others with their good behavior and academic brilliance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I know this because I have prayed a great deal for my children and my homeschool and it sometimes feels as if God is completely ignoring me.

What I have found is that prayer gives me the courage to keep going. After entrusting my day and our homeschooling to God, I can trust that God is with us, even in the midst of the mess. That is a comfort. If God called me to this life (and I truly believe that He did), then He will help in my role as homeschooling mom. God is at work even when I don’t see or feel it.

It also helps to start your homeschool day with your children with prayer. It doesn’t need to be long, but it helps to get everyone in the right frame of mind.

  • Make a List of Successes

Gratitude is often the antidote for envy or focusing on what you lack. Every day think of something that went well in your homeschool life. Include the small things – completing a few math problems, writing a sentence, learning something new, having siblings not fight for 10 minutes while they sat side by side at the table working on school, enjoying time in the kitchen making a meal or baking together, or playing a game together. Your list will look different depending on your family and the ages of your children, but there is always something you can be thankful for. Write it down if you need to. Thank God for that blessing. By focusing on what is going well, you will help to quiet the voice in your head that focuses on the negative.

  • Adjust Your Expectations

This is easier said than done. We all have an image in our heads of what our homeschool should look like and what our children should be accomplishing. We read homeschool books and articles and see posts on social media of what other homeschool families are doing and then we look at our own lives and it seems like such a mess.

I know it is a cliché at this point but remember that when you read those books or look at those posts, you are looking at someone’s highlight reel. That may have been the one good moment they had in their week and they wanted to share it because they were so desperate to share something that went well. Others may indeed have a homeschool that runs more smoothly, children with fewer challenges, etc., but you can rest assured that some other area of their lives is a mess. None of us go through life unscathed. We all have our areas of difficulty.

We need to always remember that we are imperfect people raising imperfect children. We are not working with the perfect children that exist only in our mind. We are not raising our homeschool friend’s children or our neighbor’s children. We are raising the children God gave us with their particular set of challenges. In addition, we have our own struggles. Parenting is a messy business. So is homeschooling. There are going to be many times when everything is not neat and tidy and Pinterest perfect. We need to work with what we have and make the most of it.

Is there room for improvement? Of course. We need to get up every day and try our best and encourage our children to do the same. Sometimes we need to ask for help from others as we travel our homeschool journey. But we also need to acknowledge that both we and our children are works in progress. Children grow and develop and so do we. What seems like a crushing problem today may be only a memory in a few years (to be replaced by other challenges). Try to ignore the ideal picture that exists in your mind that you are failing to live up to. Accept where your children and you are today. You just may find that there is beauty in the moment.

It is horrible to feel like a homeschool failure. You can take some comfort in the fact that many others also feel this way. You are not alone. I am sending out a prayer for each and every one of you who is hurting today. Please consider offering one for your fellow homeschool parents as well (including me!) We are all in this together. We must have faith that God will help us persevere in the life He has called us to and that He will also provide for our children who are His children first.

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Author: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her thirteenth year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling" and "The Power of Forgiveness". She blogs at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com