Homeschooling can sometimes be very stressful, especially when children are young. But, homeschooling doesn't have to be a nightmare. Like anything, parents can learn what creates stress and what relieves it in the homeschooling situation. Like anything, when parents don't know how to do something in a way that isn't overly stressful, bad anxiety and panic can result. If parents learn how to avoid stress, homeschooling can be a pleasant and fulfilling journey.
2. Dealing with their homeschooled child's behavior and motivation
3. Confusion over finding the 'right' curriculum
4. Stereotypes and stigmas over homeschooling
5. Distractions and extras
The same study identified what helped home educators flourish in light of the stressors they experienced.
1. Control and freedom (which counteracted Stressor #1 - overwhelming responsibility)
2. Poignant moments (which counteracted Stressor #2 - dealing with their homeschooled child's behavior and motivation)
3. Having the right curriculum (which counteracted Stressor #3 - confusion over finding the 'right' curriculum)
4. Supportive spouses (which counteracted Stressor #4 - stereotypes and stigmas over homeschooling)
5. The greater homeschooling community (which counteracted Stressor #5 - distractions and extras)
Even with every stressor identified, participants found another ‘face’ to their stress which meant that even though an event was stressful, another side to the negative stress could often be found. That other side was good as it allowed home educators to inject positive things into their homeschooling days. If the event were were handled and recovered in this way, great satisfaction could result. On this point, the researchers, Rathmell and Collins (2013) explain:
For instance, “dealing with bad behavior” was wearing on a homeschool mother, and yet the same situation provided an opportunity to “communicate family values, teach, and train” which was a primarily flourishing and positive aspect of home education. What seemed to be an initial reluctance is what I believe to be an inner tension of categorizing any facet of homeschooling as completely stressful. [Source]
The same frustrating situation was seen by participants as stressful, yet rewarding if opportunities were taken to make the situation positive.
PROBLEM: Homeschooling parents generally feel an enormous amount of responsibility to educate their children well. This responsibility, which most parents hand over to school authorities, is felt acutely as home educators compare their children to those in more traditional school settings. Responsibility to progress their child's education as well as provide effective socialisation opportunities are felt keenly.
SOLUTION: Having control of this responsibility empowers homeschooling parents. When parents can 'do whatever they like', the restrictive enslavement to a restrictive curriculum or way of life are no longer felt. Home educators don't have to stress about bad schedules, ineffective teachers, or undesirable school environment. They can choose who thier children socialise with and what time they socialise. Parents can strategically plan their children's social lives and influences. Without the freedom of home education, this sort of control cannot be experienced.
Dealing with Homeschooler's Bad Behaviors and Lack of Motivation
PROBLEM: Dealing with bad behaviour and lack of motivation in our homeschoolers can be cause for considerable discouragement and stress. Homeschooling parents may be surprised to learn even traditional educators get worn out by the demands of constant discipline and correction in the classroom (in fact, disciplining students is one of the most significant causes for stress in teachers). Because parent educators spend far more time with their children, the temptation to 'snap' at children is stronger and reveals our sinful hearts to our chagrin. (Of course, our children also know how to push our buttons better than anyone else!) Failure to deal with bad behaviour effectively can lead to burnout (again, this happens to classroom teachers with 'low classroom managment efficacy). SOLUTION: Homeschooling environments can passionately and personally speak truth into children's lives. Even though a homeschooler's behaviours and lack of motivation might be frustrating, parents can teach their children wisdom about how to behave better and be more motivated. Parents can effectively disciple and mentor their children which was an enormous encouragement to home educators.
The joy of learning together also provides great encouragement as parents model their Christian worldview to children. This mentoring and discipleship creates great joy. Parents can expose their children's negative attitudes and create unity. Researchers concluded, 'This opportunity seemed to abate the stress of misbehavior and discipline.'
Confusion Over Finding the 'Right' Curriculum
PROBLEM: Discovering the right curriculum is one of the biggest decisions homeschool parents have to make. It is one of the problems faced early on in the homeschooling journey. While the internet provides great rescources and options in terms of curriculum, it also easily overwhelms homeschooling parents - especially new homeschooling parents. For educationally untrained parents, navigating the seas of homeschooling curriculum can be overwhelming.
SOLUTION: When parents find what they consider to be the right curriculum, stress on this head can be mitigated. For instance, if children are studying with a maths curriculum they find too challenging or too unsuitable, changing curriculum providers to a better or more tailored provider can fix the problem and decrease stress.
At school, switching to an individualised curriculum wouldn't be an option which makes homeschooling parents feel better about their choice to homeschool. Home provides an opportunity to meet their children's needs with more freedom as they use different teaching methods, curriculums and presentations.
Homeschooling Stereotypes and Stigmas
PROBLEM: When you homeschool, you are going outside of the mainstream. Rejecting the status quo brings opposition from those who support the status quo or 'the way everyone else does it'. Much of the opposition comes from friends and family whose opinions many home educators respect. Criticism over homeschooling can cause parents to feel less confident and more defensive about their educational choices. Talking to people who don't understand your educational choices may also cause a great deal of awkwardness. Unlike mainstream school parents, homeschoolers feel the need to justify their method of education as it is not the status quo.
SOLUTION: Having the right people around you to encourage and guide you can reduce stress related to stigmas and stereotypes about homeschooling. A supportive spouse is important for unity and educational success in the homeschool. Other homeschooling parents are also a tremendous encouragement to homeschooling parents; and their mentoring support can be the difference between sinking or swimming. (Get an Australian Christian homeschooling mentor for free here - we'll hook you up).
Distractions and Extras
PROBLEM: Distractions while parents are trying to teach their children can be stressful and discouraging for homeschooling parents. The presence of small children makes teaching especially painful at times as parents have to teach around nap and feeding times. When parents can't teach during these times, they might fall behind in the curriculum. This creates further stress.
Many extracurricular activities also create stress as parents must travel (sometimes long distances) to make the activity happen. When a parent committed to extracurricular activities (such as Dance, Music and Art), yet hadn't done their core activities (such as Maths and English), extracurricular activities often became an even bigger burden.
SOLUTION: Encouragement, despite falling behind, can be gathered from homeschooling co-ops (places where many homeschooling extracurricular activities take place). These co-ops can help parents with teaching core subjects and give encouragement to drowning home educators. Extracurricular activities can also help parents with their stress as they see their children loving learning and relax as they notice their children making educational progress. Social support was noted to be very powerful in countering stressors related to distractions and extras.
Your Stressful Situation
Given the problems and solutions we've looked at on this page, write down what your problem is. Compare your problem to the list above and see if you can find a solution to your stressful situation. PROBLEM:
Although homeschooling can be stressful, there are plenty of effective ways to avoid stress in the home. Make sure you follow these methods and check yourself. Remember to keep evaluating your homeschool and hit the 'Don't Panic' button when you need to.