The Primal Parent

Homeschooling Isn’t For Everyone


In November I pulled my daughter out of kindergarten.

I’ve never been a fan of public school. I always knew that I wanted Evelyn to go to a private school like Waldorf or, better yet, that I would homeschool her.

But I don’t have a ton of money and I am not a stay at home mom. So in August, off to public school she went.

It was exciting at first. She seemed so grown up and so innocent at the same time. She was ready to take on the world and had no idea what the world was. She adjusted without flinching. She loved her homework. She loved making new friends. She loved her teacher. She’s a very positive kid and virtually nothing phases her.

But it wasn’t long before all of the positives were diminished by the negatives – in my mind anyway.

What I Didn’t Like About Her School

1. The food Each kid, in rotation, was responsible for bringing the class a snack each day. That meant cheetos, cookies, and granola bars. At first, Evelyn did what I told her and ate the snack I packed, but eventually she stopped. Maybe she felt left out. Maybe she just wanted to try the new junk food she’d never seen before. Maybe she was testing her power. Whatever the reason, it was a big change. She went from pretty strict Paleo to some kind of packaged food every day, and it showed in her attitude.

2. The class size One teacher to 30 kids and rarely a teacher’s aid.

3. The other kids and parents My neighborhood is a yuppie-invasion kind of place but all the yuppie kids go to schools outside the neighborhood. The kids at Evelyn’s school barely spoke English (literally) and the ones that did, spoke it very poorly. The same goes for the parents. And English wasn’t the only thing they were lacking. They ate the worst foods. They seemed very unhealthy and disadvantaged in many ways.

4. The teacher While a sweet lady most of the time and really quite intelligent, the teacher had a temper. Maybe this was due to the stress of the large classroom and the trouble the kids had paying attention and following directions. Evelyn told me of an occasion where the teacher got straight up mad at a child and yelled, and another time where she called a kid stupid.

5. Lack of challenge The homework started to get redundant to accommodate the average pace.

6. Quality of staff The school staff barely spoke English and none of them spoke good English. Their Spanish was terrible too.

Every day that I dropped Evelyn off at school I was acting against my values.

I felt like a bad parent. But what could I do? I could move to another neighborhood, and I planned to, but I had to wait a few months. In the meantime then, what? Homeschool? I asked myself. I told Evelyn about the idea and she was thrilled.

She said, “Yes, I will get to hang out with mom ALL DAY LONG!” I had my reservations and debated it in my mind until I finally couldn’t take it anymore and, one day, that was it. I had had enough and we made our last walk back from school.

The Pros of Homeschooling

Homeschooling seemed pretty cool at first. I am of the opinion that kids 6 and under should learn through play more than through books at a desk so I thought this would be ideal for her. I bought some work books for us to do together but mostly she explores her world.

1. Learning She can learn at her own pace. Some days she studies, some days she doesn’t. Plus, I’m really good at math so I can be sure not to confuse her like most teachers of elementary schools inevitable do. Indeed, she is a math whizz.

2. Art Her favorite thing to do is art. She gets to paint, make arts and crafts, draw pictures, make friendship bracelets, and anything else we can think of. There are no boundaries to her creativity here at home. Creativity is very important to me. Creativity is what makes people brilliant.

3. Exercise She can play outside more and get more exercise. Is it really a good idea to keep kids trapped inside all day? Of course not. By homeschooling, I could let her be a kid, get dirty and stay active.

4. Free play By staying home, her imagination is free to soar. Evelyn is a lover of fantasy and gets lost in make believe worlds with her toys and dolls. Since she’s been home and free to play most of the day, she seems truly happier.

5. Food She eats at home. Enough said.

6. Alertness She doesn’t get as tired being at home as she did when she went to school. She often fell asleep right after school. Maybe it was the food or maybe the pace of the day, but anyway, she’s more alert these days.

7. Better influences We’ve eliminated many of the unhealthy influences… for now.

While she loves other kids and loves playing games with them till sundown, she doesn’t mind being alone and playing alone. I imagine this might be difficult for some kids, but it isn’t for her.

It would seem the situation, then, is ideal but when are things ever so simple?

Why Homeschooling Isn’t Working For Us… Yet

Remember I said I’m not a stay at home mom? I have a job and work remotely. While the job is somewhat flexible, there are things I need to do “right now”, no exceptions. A lot of the work I do is writing but I also work with other people online. This is when I tell Evelyn to go away.

Go away. Not now. Please be quiet. I need to work. This is taking me longer than I expected. Just give me another hour. We’ll go to the park soon. I can’t make lunch right now, just go grab something out of the fridge. I want to read to you but I haven’t worked much today and I can’t right now.

I feel so guilty and I am sure, while she understands it’s just my job, she feels rejected. But I don’t have a rich husband. In fact, I don’t have a husband at all. I HAVE to work.

Some days are easier than others. Some days she is able to do art projects right beside me all the time I’m working. Other days she’s sick of art projects. Other days she wants to do reading and writing all day and since she can’t really read, that means I’m helping her the whole time.

Which would be great if I had the time!

Some days she talks incessantly and I just don’t work. Some days I have trouble focusing on work and spend the whole day trying to work and not getting anything done with either her or my job.

And then the first trimester hit and added insult to injury. I need sleep. It’s not as easy now to juggle work and her simultaneously. Sometimes with her demands it isn’t even possible. Unfortunately, there are other, very serious things going on in my life right now that is compounding the difficulties we already face.

Plus, I have confirmed, which I already suspected, that I am not a good teacher, at least, not with my own kin. I don’t get it when she doesn’t get it. Becoming a better teacher is a good challenge for me but, so far, I don’t seem to have the clarity or the peace of mind to improve. I am sure I could do better if only I could focus on the job at hand…

Maybe Public School Isn’t So Bad?

Now that I’ve been doing this a few months and I’ve noted all of my shortcomings and limitations, there are things about schools that I appreciate.

  • When Evelyn was at school, she had more interaction with other people, sure some of them were bad but some of them were really good.
  • She had a wider variety of people to learn from (which included myself) providing different styles of teaching and different bits of knowledge.
  • She played more learning games and sung more learning songs than we play and sing here.
  • I think she had more fun with learning in general.
  • She seemed to be more receptive to learning than she is now.
  • I had more patience, not being with her 24/7 (I don’t have anybody to help me out. I’m very much alone in this endeavor).
  • I could work.
  • I had more time to write my book so that someday I won’t have to work two jobs.

Of course, none of this matters when the bad outweighs the good, as it did in my situation. These are things that I can strive to improve on, later, when my situation changes.

The choice to homeschool isn’t a no-brainer. 

Not all of us parents are cut out for it and not all of us have the situation to accommodate it.

We are moving to a better neighborhood in a couple of weeks where I have found a small private kindergarten. She will attend this school three days a week, giving her contact with different teachers and more children. I will work and have the break I need. For first grade, we will re-evaluate the situation.

Do you homeschool? Why do you or why don’t you? If you do, what difficulties have you faced?

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  1. I love this post. “It isn’t a no-brainer” – so true! There are pros and cons to each option. The younger kids need so much more attention and interaction. We had such issues with my youngest when we started homeschooling our oldest (6 year age difference). It has caused lasting repercussions – but so do all parenting decisions, truly. We can always second-guess it, but in the end, we do the best we can. We did public school last year (when the youngest in Kinder), and there are times I wouldn’t mind doing that again, especially with him, but we are determined to make this work, nearly all because of the food – my son reacts horribly to grains.. Eek. Some days are better than others. You’ll find your path. HUGS!!!

    • Thanks Melissa. “It has caused lasting repercussions – but so do all parenting decisions, truly.” Isn’t that the truth! I think I’ve learned more about parenting in these last 3 months than I did in the last six years. And what you said is one of those things!

  2. First, I have to say ‘Good for you!’ for taking her out of a bad situation! I get it that teachers are stressed and don’t get much support but the hair on my neck stood up when you wrote that she called a student stupid!

    I homeschool my kids (they are 8 and almost 3). My eldest went to a 3-day a week school for kindergarten and for part of the first grade. But, when my son was born, I wanted her home with us. Plus, I didn’t want to spend 2 hours in the car everyday, with the baby, driving her to and from school. (We live 30 minutes from her school). For a good while, maybe 6 months, I said, “I may not be cut out to be her teacher.” “She just doesn’t listen to me like she would another teacher.” “We just butt heads too often.” But, I persisted, and we have found such a lovely rhythm.

    She looks to me for answers to her questions, now. (And now that she is getting on towards puberty, that is SOOO important to me! I want her to feel that she can always come to me for anything.) I have also found that, because we are 1 on 1, we can complete school work in a very short time, and that leaves us time to explore other interests. I really love it and she has never wanted to go back to school.

    Still, it is definitely not all easy. There are times when I feel like I want to pull my hair out, but those times happen less often as she gets older, as we both learn how to work around each others needs. Part of this is that she is growing up and part of it is that the more time we spend homeschooling the more we are figuring each other out.

    Homeschooling my kids is my 24/7. I am very lucky to have a supporting husband and was able to quit my job when I decided to homeschool. I have friends who work and homeschool. Some of them do it fluidly and some constantly seem in a state of stress. But, it can definitely be done.

    Just remember, she has years to learn the things she will need to make it in this world. Take time off when the baby is born. Read to her and the baby while snuggling in bed. Let her lead you in her interests and she will be much more likely to want to learn. Don’t try to cram it all down her throat at once or she will just rebel. Take it slow and you will find your rhythms.

    There are also many, many resources out there for homeschoolers these days! So, you need never feel like you are going it alone. (Email me and I can point you in the direction of many resources.)

    Good luck and huge congratulations on your baby!

    • This: “Just remember, she has years to learn the things she will need to make it in this world. Take time off when the baby is born. Read to her and the baby while snuggling in bed. Let her lead you in her interests and she will be much more likely to want to learn. Don’t try to cram it all down her throat at once or she will just rebel. Take it slow and you will find your rhythms.”

      Which isn’t to say I’m doubting your parenting decisions. You’re making the choices you’re making for your family, because nobody else can. :-)
      I’m just saying, if you do try it again, that’s the most important thing. It’s okay to tell her “Maybe today isn’t the day this makes sense. We’ll try again another day.” The most important lesson any of us learns is how to roll with failure and not give up. Sometimes, it really is best to be told when we’re older, whether that’s days or years. Even when we’re adults. You know?

      • Awesome. “How to roll with failure.” That IS so important.

      • Perfectly put! Every child had their own schedule when it comes to milestones; the same goes along with “school skills”. Roll with the failure – more is learned from mistakes than not.
        I look at myself as more of a facilitators than teacher. I find cool stuff (books, games, et cetera) and they’re around the house. The kids see things, interest us sparked, and then we will delve in. Hang in there!

    • Thank you so much Maria. This really struck a chord with me. For a good while, maybe 6 months, I said, “I may not be cut out to be her teacher.” “She just doesn’t listen to me like she would another teacher.” “We just butt heads too often.” But, I persisted, and we have found such a lovely rhythm.” and that they have years to learn and we shouldn’t be in a hurry.

      Being patient while we develop our own rhythm and realizing that a rhythm will come is good to hear. I do feel that at this moment I need to take a break from homeschooling. But that doesn’t have to mean that I’ll quit forever.

  3. Home schooling, single woman here too. I find the same exact things that you mention to be a challenge and also have no other support. I have always home schooled and have a difficult time considering anything else besides a nature centered school, etc. However, I too have looked at the possible pros which are much like the ones that you mention. As women raising our children solo I feel we have to do the best we can in the moment and most important is to nourish/nurture ourselves as women or we will have nothing left to give in the end. Unfortunately, it took me some time to soak that in…now, I am ‘having’ to take time for taking care of me. Sounds like you being pregnant, solo Mama and working to sustain your family are making some conscious choices. All the best with the small new school..sounds good.

  4. Oh, I also wanted to add that you are totally correct, it is definitely not a ‘no brainer’. There are so many things to take into consideration, and it sounds like you having her in a 3 days a week school will be a nice fit. I think what I was trying to express in my previous comment is that most homeschoolers will tell you that there is a period of adjustment when first getting into homeschooling, and not to think of yourself as a bad teacher because of this. Most kids don’t see their parents as teachers, initially.

  5. I home school my five and four year old. Some days are peaceful and zen and awesome. Some days I get grouchy and irritable and I am sure that their teacher at school would be more patient. If our adoption comes together before the fall, I will likely have one or two kids be in school next year. I doubt my ability to home school two while taking care of a two year old and a baby! ;)

  6. It is very kind of you to share your struggles with us on your site. I completely understand your frustration with public school which is why my daughter is enrolled in a Waldorf school. I feel it’s the best of both worlds. I’m not sure if the Waldorfs in Colorado have tuition aid but perhaps you should check on it? Ours does (in NY) and it definitely helps some families.

  7. Peggy,
    If it helps I kept my son in public school until 3rd grade at which time I felt it was a bigger benefit to be homeschooled. I think K-3 grades aren’t as app to get influenced by the so called bullying and bad kids until after those grades. My son is homeschooling for the first time this year a d he’s 9…he is learning a lot and is loving it…as far as interacting with other kids he has church and I have signed him up for a home school group that has play dates and field trips throughout the year. I am using the Charlotte mason curriculum and loving it as does he. Good luck and don’t feel bad if you do decide to keep her in public school a few more years:)

  8. It doesn’t really matter to me whether or not you homeschool, and the three day a week program sounds like a great balance between your preferences and your reality…

    But say someone came to you and said “I’ve been trying to eat primal for three months, but I’m just too busy to cook, and I’m not a very good cook anyways. I guess it isn’t for me.” Would you say “Yup, guess it isn’t for you! SAD is obviously a better fit for your family!”?

    I don’t think so. That’s not the attitude I’ve seen from you about dietary stuff in the past.

    I have a number of thoughts if you’re interested, but won’t bother writing a novel if you’re entirely over the idea of homeschooling already (and I’m being dragged off to play Uno, which I suppose must take precedence!).

    • Haha, thanks Jess for the encouragement. Although, It’s not quiet as you put it. It’s not just a matter of being tired and feeling like I’m not a good teacher. Of course, even that might be reason enough to take a breather. I think all of the comments give me a lot to think about and offer a lot of hope for our future as a homeschool family. Now more than ever I don’t want to give up but I due to circumstances I am not about to go into on this public blog, I realize that I really do need to take a break from it.

      • Here’s the novel!

        You strike me as a bit of a perfectionist. That’s overall a positive trait, but homeschooling, like other aspects of parenting, is one of those areas where perfect is the enemy of good. People think that because they (or their curriculum!) aren’t living up to their ideal, they’re not doing an adequate job, and that’s generally not true.

        It definitely takes more than 3 months to really get the hang of things, and it’s generally something that’s constantly evolving as you figure out what works for you and your kids at different stages.

        If is perfectly acceptable to do your “school” outside of standard school hours if that’s what works best for you. Evenings, weekends, a shorter time each day spread out over a larger portion of the year… it’s all good. Furthermore, you can generally accomplish the same amount of actual learning in a much shorter time than in public school.

        It’s perfectly acceptable (well, depending on the requirements in your state, but I think most are pretty open at the K/1st level) to take a more relaxed, delayed academics approach. There’s so much evidence in favor of delayed academics and the value of play and creative projects!

        As far as food goes, maybe try treating it the same as if you were sending her to school – make a lunch and snacks ahead of time, and put them somewhere accessible in the fridge. Saying “Your lunch is in your lunchbox in the fridge” sends a different message than “Go find something in the fridge”. This is also an area where private school is likely to be at least as bad as public. Last week I listened to my co-worker talk about needing to pick up food from Taco Bell for “Fast Food Friday” (apparently a weekly event) at her kid’s private school. Ugh.

        I definitely know how hard it is during the first trimester, and what horrible luck having that coincide with your start of homeschooling! What a way to undermine your self-confidence! When I was in my first trimester, we went radical unschooling for a few months. Even reading aloud made me nauseous. And the latter part of the 3rd trimester was, if anything, worse. Thankfully, homeschooling tends to be resilient. DS (who was in 1st grade at the time, 3rd grade now) is totally back on track, despite months of me being pretty much useless. I can see it being an issue for people having a baby on a yearly basis, but, as an occasional thing, it isn’t going to have any serious impact on her education, especially at this age.

        I’m pretty sure that pretty much EVERY parent who homeschools has problems with getting their kids to do stuff that aren’t an issue with teachers outside the family. It’s a different dynamic. I have several friends who were formal public school teachers who have the same issues with their own kids.

        So anyways… I think there are solutions to many of the problems if it’s what you want.

        But it’s perfectly ok if it isn’t what you want at this time. It’s ok to put it off until she’s more capable of independent work/play, or until you’re in a better place financially. And while I don’t buy the “I”m not a stay at home mom” part (most of my homeschooling friends have both parents working at least 3/4 of their mutual time outside the home, myself included – this is where the freedom to “do school” evenings and weekends helps!), I’ll readily admit that single parenting is a different ballgame. I have several single mom friends who have no doubt in their abilities but have found that out-of-home schooling meets their overall needs better.

        Just don’t doubt your ability to school your child, even if it isn’t an option right now!

  9. Take a good long look at Unschooling. It may seem kinda crazy at first but it makes everything so much better (and, you know, it’s Primal ;)

  10. I think it’s great you’re giving homeschooling a go :) I homeschool too and some days I would say that school looks pretty good… But in the long run I really think that this homeschooling business is going to end up being the best and I’m really glad I’m sticking with it.

    It is hard though if you are working – I really understand that – but being that your child is so young she doesn’t really need that much lesson time. Maybe you can trade off with a friend and have her play for half a day at her house a couple days a week — something like that. Then she still gets her lessons in, eats well at home, gets that great education you crave to give her and has fun at a friends’ or relative’s place and then you get time to work. Definitely I need to do that. What has really helped me too is also sticking to a schedule. We’ve been living this free wing-it sort of lifestyle for awhile and I’ve loved it but now I feel free enough to be free to make a schedule :) It’s made a huge difference and then we all know that all things will get done in the right time if we stick to it.

    When the kids are young it does seem to take a bit more time with schooling but once they can read and write and do basic math and you have taught them how to learn they will be able to continue in their studies without much extra help from you. It’s great and it’s already happening by age 6, 7 and 8!

    But anyway, see if a schedule doesn’t help you out and also having a couple days where you can have your child play for the afternoon at a friend or relative’s house. I think that will help you out a lot. It does wonders for us!

    Hope all turns out well for your family!

    • Thanks Kimberly. I have tried a few different schedule ideas. I really like routine myself. But with my job it hasn’t been easy to stick to them. Also, being tired and needing extra sleep in the first trimester kind of ruined it too. But I see what you’re saying. I think a schedule could really help us.

  11. Sorry but I’m still stuck on how you can be divorced for a while and be pregnant again yet have no husband/boyfriend around for support moral or otherwise. My wife and I homeschool or 7 year old with mild Aspergers and ADHD. My job takes me away from home weeks at a time and adds up to 6 months a year total. The two of them eat Lacto Paleo and I eat what they eat when I’m home so as not to cause a disruption. For homeschool curriculum we use the Abeka Book video program. This may work for you as it has a video teacher that you watch on DVD. When it is time for you to work play the daily lesson and set out the corresponding worksheets. The entire days worth of lessons last about 4 hours. In the end it is a matter of dedication. We could not stand by and let our child be surrounded by all the crap food served in public or private school.

  12. First off, I am impressed that you followed your daughter’s needs, despite the fact that you life wasn’t exactly set up for homeschooling. I agree with the above posters that it is difficult to get a good sense of what life will really be like in just a few months, since the first few months are almost always uncomfortable. I am homeschooling my three kids while trying to start a business, and some days I want to curl up in a ball and cry because I just can’t do any of it as well as I want… and some days I am just blown away by the sweetness, and feel so grateful that this is my incredible life.
    I want to echo Kari in recommending unschooling. It takes the pressure off to “teach,” since your job is just to help them in their amazing projects. It is still a time commitment, and it’s still easy to feel pulled in several different directions, but there’s less of the cumpulsion to teach XYZ at such-and-such an age, and that allows more freedom and breathing room for everyone.
    As an added bonus, many unschoolers that I know are also primal. Two years ago I started an unschooling group in my area (using and now it has grown to a lovely, supportive network of playdates, cool outings, science experiments, and primal-food sharing opportunities. :)
    My oldest daughter (who is currently the most social) spends approximately 20 hours per week playing with kids outside of our family, which removes the potential loneliness factor on her end, and part of the constant noise on my end.
    Also… this is random, but I recently purchased drummer’s headphones (for the same daughter, who is learning drums), and they are magical noise-reducers. I seriously want to market them for moms… they are utter bliss. Your daughter is old enough that you could probably safely wear a pair during work time (with an explanation as to why, of course), and it would block out her constant running commentary.
    Good luck! I hope the 3-day-a-week school provides the perfect balance for you.

  13. Can’t you try a homeschool cooperative with another parent or parents? Hire a tutor or babysitter for a few hours a week? I think the drawbacks of public school nowadays are huge, with their focus on test-taking and complete lack of applied understanding of human development. If you really want to light the fire of learning in her, keep working on it.

    • I think you’re right Maya. I don’t want to send her back to public school. Unfortunately, a few hours a week won’t give me much of a chance to get work done. I have to admit that I haven’t gotten into a homeschool co-op yet because we have been planning to move for the last couple of months. I haven’t known where we would be going. Now that I know where I am going, of course, I can get in one.

  14. Thank you for once again writing a post that is very honest. All the things you’re doing now are what I’d like to do in the future when I have children. Your real take on the situation makes me think about how I would handle the same obstacles and in turn, I feel more prepared.

    Can’t wait until the book is out (both for the readers benfit and your own!).

  15. Hi Peggy -

    I’m sorry to hear the difficulties you’re having. We discovered very recently ourselves that children add a very important difficulty in the primal equation, as soon as you need to rely on “external” facilities.

    Your post actually prompted me to write one of my own about the need for the primal community to stop acting as a (growing) bunch of individuals, but start to act like a group, in order to start building on our collective knowledge and presence to be more efficient in our lifestyle. Feel free to peruse at:

    I’ve started recently a project (thanks to the lack of sleep keeping me from a “real” activity after birth…) which aims at capitalizing on the collective power of the community, as opposed to a world of gurus and followers. Feel free to check it out, you even have your blog referenced ;-p :

    Best of luck with the move and adaptation for the whole family!

    - Julien

    • “capitalizing on the collective power of the community, as opposed to a world of gurus and followers”
      THAT ROCKS! You are SO right, and I hope you hit a nerve in your area as you have with me.

      I put my kid in 3-morning kindercare at age 2. I felt evil for doing it, because I’m not working, but I knew I’m a crap teacher, we needed a little space, and she needed the exposure to other people (especially since we live in a non-English speaking country, and she needed access to the dominant language.) We picked a Montessori school that’s close; she LOVES it, and I used the time to get a little freelance work. I use my flexible schedule to pick her up in time to keep her nap going, or keep her home if she needs that. Then we use our time at home to snuggle, read, run errands (practice the names of vegetables at the market) etc without me worrying that she’s missing out on “school” stuff. So basically the set-up you’ve got lined up for your daughter. It’s been a good compromise for us. I wish you the same success!

      I guess I feel about homeschooling (or unschooling or afterschooling) the way I do about home birth: I want the expertise of the professionals, but I’m afraid of the side-effects. Yet I find that making decisions AGAINST something – out of fear, basically – rather than FOR something – towards love or progress – doesn’t sit right with me. That is in no way saying that the fears are unfounded, or getting away from bad influences is inadvisable (far from it!), I just struggle to feel good about decisions I’ve made or am considering if they’re based on escaping something rather than chasing something.
      Hey, maybe it’s a predator/prey thing! ;)

      A note to tipsters: let’s remember that Peggy has mentioned a couple of times that a) her daughter is young. Young kids’ demands for attention are like being pecked to death by tiny ducks, and b) there’s more going on in her life than we know, so curriculum is the least of her worries. That said, there’s lots of community happening here and lots of good curriculum tips!

  16. We pulled our kids out of a very good but expensive private school to homeschool. I have 4 kids but the school age ones are 1st and 3rd grades.

    There are definitely lots of things I love about homeschooling….but right now I’m finding it exhausting. I hate noise, and it’s so noisy, all the time–it makes me batty! And I wish I had more time to write (I freelance) and there is just so much to do! (I am well aware I would have lots more time to write if they were in school!)

    These comments are great :)

  17. One of the advantages to homeschool that has helped me is not relying on a traditional schedule. If you have trouble teaching her during the “school hours” there is no reason you cannot work with books right before bedtime, or discuss math while cooking dinner (excellent time actually because cooking involves lots of math skills an that demonstrates the usefulness of the skill instead of making it an abstract worksheet that she does just because you say so). It is not even unreasonable to do the majority of your schooling on weekends when you can focus only on that and not feel the strain of trying to do school AND work AND dinner AND whatever else shows up that must be accomplished during normal business hours. I don’t know how your child is with working on the same subject for long chunks of time, but with my daughter we often spend several hours on one day working with learning a subject then allow her to review it on her own for a few days and just have her do basic “brain maintenance” for a few days to the tune of about an hour a day.

    Also, you should not get to feeling too guilty about telling her “not now” or “go play”.This is how children learn that the world does not revolve around them, and this “self sufficiency” thing is an incredibly valuable skill. Every time you say “this is taking longer than I thought” she is seeing that in the real world tasks are not neat and predictable, and her primary role model is demonstrating adaptability and handling unexpected changes instead of saying “that’s not fair, I expected it to be different”. That said, when you do have to do that it may be a good idea to spend a little time focusing on her later to send the message that she is important too.

    • Bevie, thank you so much for commenting. The comments on this post have been so wise.

      We have been doing a little bit of homeschooling on nights and weekends but I didn’t quite accept the idea that I actually could do it all that way. Now that you mention it I suppose I can. :)

      And of course it’s important for kids to not be coddled and attended to their ever want or they’ll grow dependent and selfish, but it has seemed that I say it too much. Maybe I don’t. I definitely do make up for all the sending her away with together time early or later. I’ll have to reconsider this as a “con” as well. I ask myself, though, couldn’t she be doing something better with her time all day while I’m working? At least in a school she could be with other people, interacting and learning from each other. Not that she’s doing nothing at all here. She keeps herself very busy here, playing and creating.

      Giving me a lot to think about that and I value that!

  18. I have a lot of admiration for any single mom that follows her conscience and homeschools out of conviction. We are expecting our 6th in a week or two and plan to homeschool all of them, even through high school. My oldest is 11, so I always say that with the caveat that we are making it up as we go along. Who knows what challenges life will bring and what you’ll have to do to make your life work and still live according to your convictions.

    I’ve heard my wife say many times that homeschooling is definitely not easy. It’s tough to make a choice to make your life harder. But we think it’s worth it in the end. We get the privilege of knowing our children intimately and overseeing their social development in a way that fits with our family values.

    I read many places where homeschooling is elevated to an end in and of itself. It is not, it is merely a tool through which one imparts knowledge,wisdom and values to the kids under their care.

    As for your situation Peggy, I think the efficiency of homeschooling can work to your favor. During my wife’s pregnancies, we always get less done. But we do the important things and remember to keep in mind always that the goal is teach the kids that learning is not a task that do in order to be done with it but a regular and enjoyable part of life that is always worth seeking.

  19. Peggy,
    Have a 5 year old that we are homeschooling.

    One thing that has been a huge help to us for teaching our daughter to read is Siegfried Engelmann’s “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. She’s at about lesson 60 and able to do a remarkable amount of reading. Just wanted to mention it because there are many resources for schooling that are hard to filter. My daughter and many little ones I know personally are thriving on this book and it only takes about 15-30 minutes a day. Hope that helps!

  20. Good for you for doing what’s best for her, and for recognizing that homeschool isn’t working for you!

    There is a huge homeschool community where I live (Austin), and from what I hear from homeschooling parents and having been home schooled myself for several years – it takes very serious commitment from the parent. It really does need to be the parent’s primary “job” for it to be successful, especially with young ones. When I home schooled I was older, and totally self-reliant. I breezed through whatever textbooks I felt like conquering, and it worked well for me (although I did go back to public school in high school because I wanted the social aspect). “Unschooling” (which is what it sounds like y’all were doing) especially takes a special breed of parent/teacher – I personally would probably find it easier to buy and follow a curriculum.

    I don’t know about where you live, but here there are homeschool co-ops you can join. That way the kids get the social interaction, and each parent in the co-op can lend their expertise to a subject and the kids get a much more rounded point of view.

    I also know that Waldorf schools typically do scholarships/tuition assistance if you can qualify. There’s a charter school here that is based on Waldorf ideals; acceptance is by lottery, and right now my plan is for us to homeschool until we can get into the charter. Ha, I’m still a ways away though, Felix is only 14 months.

  21. I was homeschooled along with 4 siblings. My mom tried really hard, but she was not the best of teachers….she was actually quite bad now that I think of it!

    The thing I will take out of my experience is that homeschooling may be the perfect fit for some kids and not for others. It was great for me because I am very disciplined and creative. Not so good for my youngest brothers who still struggle with basic math and reading skills because they lacked attention and pretty much blew off most of their studies.

    I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I don’t want to fit them all into the same mold if it is not working. I’m not dead set whether or not I will homeschool. We will have to see what is best for our family when the time comes.

  22. We have been unschooling my older boy, wanting him to pursue his own passions and (with healthy boundaries and consistency of course) march to the beat of his own drum. –To let his learning unfold naturally with our guidance and support. I never saw myself as a teacher because I knew he was fully capable of learning and teaching himself when the timing and motivation to learn was right. I view myself as a facilitator and resource guide for him. I have to say that using community resources and home school classes/support groups was key for us (and it took a long time to find our “niche” in the homeschool community). Just mama and kiddo (plus baby) equaled misery for us. We really (as humans) need a sense of community. So anyway, little did I know my son’s passion would be school! He was begging me to send him to school “like all the other kids”, which was a hard pill for me to swallow because I was a teacher pre-kids and reeeaaally didn’t want him to be part of the whole culture that world offers (at least not in the area we live in). So we commute each day to a Waldorf public charter school (read: FREE Waldorf education, and yes, it’s the real deal) and I never thought we would be this happy. It offers the sense of community we both need and it’s just magical there. They really offer more than I ever could. I really think it takes a village, whichever route you take. Mama can’t do it all :) I think I remember seeing a Waldorf public charter school around Denver when we were considering moving there??

  23. Peggy, I couldn’t make it through every comment, so bear with me if I’m repeating what others have said. I’m a little troubled by the “you can make it work” comments re homeschooling. If I hear you correctly, you have a job you should be doing during the day. You’re just one person. Is it fair to ask you to do everything? A frazzled mom isn’t a happy mom, which can make for an unhappy kid.

    It’s supremely frustrating that the public school isn’t better, and that single working women (hell, families, period) don’t have better, more affordable options. One that came to mind was whether you can move into a ‘hood with a better public school. Huge change, but perhaps worth it? Here in San Antonio the quality of the public schools varies widely, and even within districts, given all the charter and magnet schools.

    You’re brave for putting yourelf out there, and you take suggestions and criticisms with grace. I know you’ll figure it out, and it might not be ideal, but I hope you don’t crush yourself trying to do the right thing for Evelyn.

    And remember, this too shall pass.

  24. The United States has one of the most unequal school systems I have ever witnessed. The only options for good schools appear to be 1) paying large tuition fees for private schools, 2) moving to a rich neighborhood. The financial discrimination and lack of competition amongst schools has resulted in such a failure of a system that your decision to home school does not seem all that uncommon.

  25. I was determined to homeschool my two boys. But I had this little guy who challenged me every step of the way. Every day was a huge struggle, and, while I taught him to read, and gave him a good foundation in maths (he’s ahead in both) it was never a joy. So, when we moved to Ireland, where the schools are better, and the one in particular where they would be attending, I was relieved. It gave me time away from them to be something other than there Mom, something I had not had in a very long time, and the year leading up to our move was the most intense, because I was a single working Mom. My kids were put in the car, still sleeping if I were lucky, and taken to work with me at five in the morning, where I would care for three other children until four or five in the afternoon, wherein I would take my kids home, or to the shop, or whatever I needed to do. And within that structure of our lives, I tried to teach them. We all had a tough time. Because of the experiance I had with my oldest, when I sat down to begin “Teach your child to read in 100 easy lesson” and he was reluctant, I dropped it. That was a year ago, and we are doing a bit of damage control because of it. My youngest is not as good of a reader at 6 as my oldest was. So, even though the book is not reccomended for children over 6, we go to the library everyday after school and do a few lessons from the book while we wait for his brother to get out so we can all walk home. It has made a big difference.

    I can’t say when and where homeschooling is appropriate. Every family has to figure that out themselves. My compromise is to supplement their education at school, and to constantly re-evaluate where we are at. Things are in constant motion,and school may or may not be the best option for us down the road.

    I would just add that my little brother, who is 8, is highly hyper-active, and he was struggling in school, and not getting on well at all. My parents pulled him out, and, because of the business they own, had to have a system where my Father would not spend more than x amount of time setting up Noah’s work. He essentially teaches himself, and, as my Father says, he will soon surpass him in education. My Father cannot always give him the answers, but he can teach him how to look for answers. My little brother is currently doing 5th grade math out of the Saxon math books. His other areas of study are at the same level. The last time I visited with him, he was memorizing the names of the bones in our bodies – something that HE chose to learn. I think it’s a great gift, if you have what is needed to give it. If you don’t though, and you try to anyways, well, I don’t think that ever works out very well.

  26. This is a bit of a tangent, so please bear with me. I am avid supporter of homeschooling- and I’m about to be a high school English teacher. My main bone of contention with homeschooling is the following situation. Many parents are motivated, out of sheer disgust for the public school system, to homeschool. That’s great, and I have respect for that choice and I’m glad the laws allow them to make it.


    I sincerely wish that the disgust over the public school system didn’t just motivate them to make a change in their kids’ education, full stop. I wish it motivated them to dig deep and read Kozol’s books, and investigate the gross disparities in school funding, and the appallingly unequal educational experiences that children in America have access to. The homeschool movement is great for those who can opt out. I just wish they threw their weight behind illuminating the problems of public school, and helping to rectify them for those who cannot opt out- single working parents, married parents struggling on two incomes, foster kids, etc.

    I mean, I was disgusted by factory farming and went vegetarian for several years. But I never stopped relentlessly preaching grass fed, humanely raised/slaughtered meat to anyone who would listen, and I was forever forwarding links to eatwild and localharvest. Even though as a vegetarian I had opted out of a system I found abhorrent, I took up the cause of championing *fixing* that system.

  27. Hi Peggy,
    I hear you!! I didn’t read through all of the comments so I might be redundant, but I was in a similar situation and God blessed us through a Sudbury School. My son has been freed from public school hell and now attends Clearview Sudbury School in Austin, TX. He gets to learn through play (ideal) and I can still work my FT job until I’m able to spend more time free schooling him myself. There might just be a Sudbury school near you and most offer financial aid. Of course, if you like Waldorf you might not like Sudbury. Then again, if you like Primal, you might really enjoy Peter Gray’s blog at

  28. I tried to read all the replies so forgive me if I’m just repeating other people. My thoughts:
    1) Kids need other kids. Even if they are crummy kids. To me, one of the biggest lessons in Kindy isn’t how to write or read it’s how to get along. How to develop tolerance and character. Traits that she will carry forever. And eating “different” is also something she will simply need to learn to do in any situation. Putting her in a bubble will not help her in any way.

    2) From the way you describe all your instances of putting her off, it sounds like you are doing her a huge disservice but at the same time in such a large Kindy class she may be getting the same treatment. However, it will hurt less coming from a school setting than her mom. Your relationship with your daughter is priceless. Keep it a good one.

    3) Let her be. And your job, as mom, is to teach her how to “be” wherever she goes. And be there when it’s not so perfect. But be there as her mom.

    Just my two cents. One thing I have for sure learned is you gotta do what is right for your family. Sounds like you are finding your happy medium. Good luck.

    • Catherine,

      I just wanted to respond to your first point. I think it’s a pretty common misconception among non-homeschoolers that home schooled kids don’t get the opportunity to socialize. I was worried about that, too, before I started homeschooling. But in reality, my daughter is a part of so many social activities that I have to set limits on how many we can do in a day. She goes to educational co-ops, art classes, gymnastics, baking groups, music lessons, play dates, camps, she volunteers at the local animal shelter, and much more. There she gets the opportunity to know kids from all walks of life, who are public, private, home, and un schoolers, as well as learning how to interact with adults. She is definitely learning tolerance and building character. Being homeschooled definitely doesn’t mean isolated.

      • Maria, thanks for clarifying that. Homeschooling definitely doesn’t have to mean anti-social. Unfortunately, the way my situation has been lately, it has been and that is really bothering me.

        • I don’t want my children to be socialized. I want them to be civilized.

        • Yes, that was my point mostly. It seemed like YOUR situation was isolating her a little. Lots of homeschoolers in my area so I’m pretty familiar with it and I can see why some do it. I didn’t mean to sound critical of you and it does sound like you have her best interest in mind and you will find the right path. Good luck.

  29. We have 3 children so far and the hardest thing about homeschooling is that you don’t get a break. Sometimes I just need to get stuff done! I send them out of the house a lot to try and solve this problem. Right now they are in the front yard trying to sell oranges they picked. Let’s file that under economics for the day :)

  30. I can totally relate to EVERYTHING you said. I work from home doing medical transcription. I know several woman who do manage to do homeschooling/work from home and with the kids 24/7. I find most of them have family who assist at times, church/community that they participate so the kids have a bigger network of friends, and very involved spouses! I’m not saying it is impossible, but I know 100% it is not for me, at least not now. My job is in and out all day as well. Sometimes I have work in the a.m., sometimes no. If it was no, that means I “should” be working come dinner time to get in my work for the day. The best thing is I have been doing it long enough and consistent enough that the kids know “I’m working.” Enough said. However, I always feel bad for them, but somewhere deep down, they are learning to not be self-centered individuals, to realize “other” things are important and not them getting what they want when they want it! The realize that there is sacrifices that have to be made and yes, they are learning that they can do things on their own. There is always 2 sides to every coin!

  31. Have you looked into using as a teaching/learning aide? It’s a collection of youtube videos covering thousands of academic topics, from the most basic concepts (ex. 1 + 1 = 2) to college level material. The material in each video is very clearly explained.
    The site also has exercises and problem sets for a student to work through. There are achievements that can be earned as the student progresses through the curriculum (it really is a full curriculum), and these often help motivate kids (they see it as a video game!). You would even be given tools to track your daughter’s progress, to see where she excels and where she could use a little more of your help.
    Anyways, my thumbs are getting tired from typing this on my phone. I really think looking into this for any student would be worthwhile, regardless of whether or not they’re homeschooled. Also, take a look at the TED Talk Salman Khan gave to get an even better idea on how the how his creation can help.
    Good luck!

  32. I homeschooled my oldest son from first grade up…he is now 19. My younger two, 11 and 9, are Radically Unschooled. I found our lives became much smoother when I removed the antagonistic traditional parenting paradigm from our relationships.

    I am a single mom as well going to school and working on starting a home business. I find time to get things done when my kids attend horse riding lessons a few days a week. Perhaps you could look into a “mother’s helper”? There are lots of homeschooled teens that would provide some daytime relief for you for very little pay.

    Homeschooling I think in many ways does take more involvement with your kids. If now isn’t possible, it’s okay to work toward that goal in the future. Sometimes all we can do is make their school experience as low stress and positive as possible. Bend the rules…give her any help she may need to step back as much as possible. Make the system work *for you*…don’t be a slave to the system.

  33. For reading and writing you should check out the They have a fantastic (and free) reading program that was implemented in about 800 elementary schools in the 80s with great success. The plan was for it to be published and available to more schools however the creator and the publishing company butted heads and thus the creator of the program made it available for free online. There is a “teachers manual” that goes step by step on how to implement it with real examples and explanations. I was taught with this program and sought it out when I had children. It is really fantastic and uses pictures to emulate the phonetic sounds in our language to form words. The other great thing is that is meant for the kids to work relatively independently. The downside is that it is A LOT of info to download and print. It is however well worth it.

  34. Love this post. We also decided to homeschool after a bad experience with public schools, and I’m a part-time work-at-home mom.

    One thing that has been huge for us, that you may find helpful if you decide to go back down the homeschool path, was to get tapped into the local homeschooling community. One thing I quickly realized is that I would need *help* if I were going to make this work, yet I couldn’t afford a professional nanny. So we mentioned on a local homeschoolers list that we were looking for a babysitter, and have been able to find wonderful teenage girls to come during the day a few times per week to play with the kids when I need to work — and their rates are much lower than professional nannies.

    Anyway, your daughter is lucky to have a mom who puts such care and thought into these decisions. I’m sure it will turn out great no matter which path you end up on. :)

  35. My son tells people “momma pulled me from public school because they tortured me there.” In his case it really was true. They were not willing to tolerate his energy and uniqueness.

    Homeschooling is a struggle for me many, many days. He is a hand full! For us its the only way. I can’t imagine no longer being responsible for his learning, food, behavior, well being and more importantly, his happiness.