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Homeschool Moms: Playing School or Teaching?

what are homeschool moms really doing

As I forage through the more than 45 electronic folders full of homeschool materials, I came across a book that struck me as perfect timing. I have had this book since August 2013 but amidst my collection, it got lost with the masses.
This part struck me deep:

“Sitting across the table from my wiggly, active son, when it was time to “do school,” was an eye opening experience. I had no clue what I was doing. I knew that we didn’t want the big yellow bus, but I felt like every morning when we began class that my spirited boy had already left. I didn’t know this kid who I was left with, and honestly I’m sure he didn’t know me. I had big problems and mounting stress during our first year of homeschooling. These concerns consisted of:

How could I make him sit?
Will he ever read?
Why doesn’t he like to hold a pencil?
Is he even listening to me?
Why doesn’t he enjoy doing school?

As a new homeschooling mom I assumed that my brilliant boy would welcome the workbooks, worksheets, and the phonics program that I had painstakingly set up for him. I just expected that he’d love to sit for hours every day with mommy and have lessons. Instead, he made noises, rolled his eyes, and clicked his tongue. He would tap his pencil and fidget while dressed up like a space cowboy. Mother here wanted everything to be serious, because this was school after all, and for him to just get his work done so we could then have fun. My rude awakening continued as I realized that my boy hated to “do school.” He didn’t want to sit for hours. He couldn’t stare at workbooks and fill in the blanks. At five years old it wasn’t about disobeying mommy. He was incapable of fulfilling what I was asking of him. So we entered another dimension that I like to call “homeschool hell”. ~ Jammerill Stewart, Boyschooling

I’ve only dabbled in homeschooling; Wyatt is soon turning four. But with his rambunctious spirit, curiosity and strong will the screen of my mind easily replaced her and her son with me and mine.
Another part of the book that struck me was this:

*You are not a public school classroom and your “school” doesn’t have to look like one. Set up a learning area for the kids to spread out their materials.
However, never underestimate the simple kitchen table, couches, or a blanket spread outside.
Jammerill Stewart, Boyschooling

The thought occurred to me – am I preparing to homeschool my son or am I attempting to play school?

As a child, I loved playing teacher and classroom and as an adult, I’ve found teaching to be among my top giftings. While I know homeschool is the right choice for us I was convicted that I need to be sure I don’t lose sight of what important and let my desire to “build a classroom” take over.

Then it occurred to me that “playing school” is one of the misconceptions of homeschooling families. There are folks who think homeschooling is just setting up shop a home and playing teacher. Less than 10 years ago, I was one of those folks.

what are homeschool moms really doing

My how God as changed my heart (and my mind)…………………

I know a few homeschool moms who are in the height of their career in homeschooling. As I watch and listen to them I can tell you nothing is further from the truth than the “playing school” for these families.

My best friend since high school is deep into homeschooling as she prepares to start this next year. Her oldest is 15, the youngest 9. She’s spent the last several months agonizing over the decision to continue to homeschool while working part time or send the kids to public school. She has shed tears, done research, check out schools and prayed fervently about her choices. She did not come by her decision lightly and is certainly not playing in a pretend classroom with her children.

I have another friend whom I consider my role model as wife, mother and teacher. Her oldest daughter just graduated high school and she has two boys left to at home. While her kids enjoy summer break there’s no break for mom. She uses her summer to craft her curriculum, tailoring it to fit their values and educational goals. She’ll tell you that over the school months laundry and dinner are a struggle because school is a big part of her life. She sacrifices what many stay at home mom’s prize – a spotless house and hours in the kitchen to ensure her children are well educated, responsible and godly.

Another family I know has made the difficult decision to continue school through the summer months. Some issue arose last year that led them to decide summer break was not an option.  A break is fun for the kids and welcome down time for mom, but for the good of the family and the children’s education there will be no break.  Mom is sacrificing the proverbial “summer by the pool” to ensure her there’s “no child left behind” in her home. This isn’t a game of dress up and play math – this is her children’s education.

None of these women play school. The education of their children is a serious matter. One they don’t take lightly.

Neither do I.

Educating our son is not about setting up a fancy schoolroom and hanging up color-coordinated charts on the walls.

Homeschooling is about finding the right style of education for our family that weaves values and learning styles together to create an environment of continued learning.

That leads me back to homeschool hell.

The class nerd in me wants a cute little schoolroom with matching graphs, workbooks and homework assignments. But when I look at Wyatt in all his boy-ness I know that there’s little chance of him learning the say way I did. After all, he’s his father’s son too and to this day Dad is not one to sit still, read books or listen to long lectures. Give him a tool and he can build anything. Show him how to do something once and he’s got it.

Avoiding Homeschool Hell

I’m left with the question, how do I avoid homeschool hell? How do I achieve the desire to educate our son without ruining our relationship and making the experience miserable for all of us?  The only way to do this is to educate myself on the styles of homeschooling, see discernment from Christ and relax.

I’ve made mistakes already, like jumping the gun in joining a local co-op. I’m not against co-ops, I think they will be valuable to us but I think this year was too soon. I didn’t ask the Lord, we just joined on a whim. A lesson learned.

I’ve also made some progress. We have a school area but I’m not hell-bent on using it every day.  But you can bet when Wyatt says, “Mom, can we do school,” I’m on it fast to find something he wants to work on.

As much as I would love to play school, I don’t want homeschooling to be hell. I know there will be rough days but at the forefront of this journey is the desire God has given me to train up our son in the ways of the Lord as well as educate him for a successful future, whatever that may look like.


What about you?  Have you been through homeschool hell?


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  1. Susan Alexander says:

    Yes. My oldest is only six and we are actually finishing up kindergarten tomorrow. I want to start first grade by the end of the month for a number of reasons. This past year has been full of good things, fun things, learning about God, but also stress, strife, and anger. I hope that I am learning at least as much as her so we can get past the anger and just learn. I struggle between my desire for a light hearted free flowing learning and my husband’s desire to push for progress and do written work. I have three more little ones to educate as well over the years and hope that I can find the needed balance.

    • Danielle says:

      I pray you find the balance you need. If you can push past the anger then maybe you’ll be able to incorporate the “written work” your husband desires.

      I know it really helped me to be purposeful in noticing when Wyatt “got” something. Like he just recently said “if I eat two I have one left” talking about berries. Total hooray moment for me. He subtracted without me saying “two minus one equals one.” And I was sure to tell my husband about it too. He is on the homeschooling boat but his boat hasn’t left shore yet 😉

  2. I have two children who are now homeschooled highschoolers. They have always been homeschoolers, so I have had a lot of time to make mistakes. I was trained to be a teacher and loved playing “school” as a child, so naturally I did the same thing. We even had a flag and said the pledge of allegiance. We bought school desks just like they have in the classroom. It wasn’t long before I was worn out and my kids didn’t want to do school. I heard once that our job is to teach our children “the joy of learning”. If we aren’t careful, we can squash that quickly. Especially for boys, unless your kids love workbooks, read lots of books together. Look things up on the internet. Play board games, do simple experiments, spend time outside, journal, make lots of art, rent educational DVDs from the library. Use a curriculum, but don’t let it dictate you or your child. Find their loves and teach them through those loves. If I had it to do over again, I would have relaxed and just enjoyed learning with my children when they are young. As they get older, it gets more difficult as you need to stick to the curriculum when they are in high school, but when they are younger, they will learn if you let them explore what they love. It’s a wonderful journey – I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Have you ever seen a curriculum called Five In A Row? It’s a wonderful way to learn. I suggest looking into that one – especially for younger children.

    • Danielle says:

      Thanks for commenting Heather. This is the second time in a week that I’ve heard about Five In A Row. I have to check it out now. 🙂

      My heart dreams of school desks but I know it’s just not in the cards!

  3. I can see Wyatt enjoying a “desk of his own”, however, I also can see that he’s not going to want to sit there in a long scheduled out time frame either. 🙂 I know you’ll both do great! <3

  4. Thankfully, my son still enjoys it when we do school work, but I think a big part of that is because I never pushed it much. I’m not actually homeschooling him. We just worked on a few things to help him be ready for school. I’m even a teacher, but I have NO idea how I would get this energetic little boy to sit and do work all day long lol.

    • I think not pushing it is key when they’re young. We want them to enjoy it and be interested in what they’re doing and not dread it. It helps when I keep in mind the goal is to see learning as a life-long experience.


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