7 Ways Homeschooling Is Like Training for a Marathon

athletic shoes, moving down a paved path
A number of years ago, Walt Disney World marathon was celebrating its 15th anniversary with a special finisher’s medal that I wanted. I had never run a race before. In fact, I had never run a single mile. But I firmly believed I could run a 26.2 mile race. Crazy, huh?

At some point my husband and I verbalized another seemingly impossible idea — what if we don’t send our kids to school and instead we teach them at home? Again, crazy.

Along the way, I’ve realized that much of what I learned while preparing for and running a marathon relates directly to our homeschooling journey.

1. You Need a Plan

With both the marathon and homeschooling, I committed to a huge goal with no idea where to begin. So I began to read and read and then research some more to formulate a basic plan. I bought curriculum. Then I jumped in.

Without a plan, you’re sunk. It’s too easy to get distracted and miss things along the way. Even though the plan will change, having one will ensure you stay on task and true to your vision.

2. You Have to Start Small

You don’t start your marathon training by focusing on the 26.2 miles because it’s just too much to mentally digest. Instead, you start running a mile at a time, gradually adding more as you become stronger.  It is like the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

It’s the same with homeschooling. Few of us start out homeschooling high school. We begin with elementary school, where the stakes are lower and the subjects are easier. Each year we gain confidence in our abilities and knowledge, giving us the courage to homeschool through the higher grades.

3. You Have to Run Your Own Race

Typically my longer training runs were done with a couple of friends who were much faster than I was. Rather than being proud of finishing the training run, I often found myself frustrated. I learned that I needed to run my race, not theirs.

I discovered that for most runners, a marathon is not a competition. There is room for everyone to cross the finish line, regardless of how they get there. The same medal is given to the first and last place finishers. The same holds true for homeschooling.

Who hasn’t compared their kids to someone else’s and feared they were falling behind? Or felt proud when they seemed more advanced than their peers? As homeschoolers, we even find our kids being questioned by well meaning family, friends, and even strangers, to see if they’re learning enough. This is just insane.

Everyone has different skills, abilities, and passions that mature at different rates. No two of us are alike. You have to remember that it’s not about keeping up or being the best; it’s about giving your children the education they need so they can follow their dreams.

4. People May Think You are Crazy

Everyone has an opinion. And when you commit to something big, people feel the need to share theirs with you. You hear a lot of reactions like these both when training for a marathon and homeschooling:

  • “I could never do that!”
  • “Why did you decide to do that?”
  • “What makes you think you can do this?”
  • "What about socialization?!!"

Remember, their questions reveal their opinions, but those perspectives are not fact.

5. At Some Point, You May Want to Give Up

7 Ways Homeschooling is Like Training for a MarathonYou never know when it will happen, but there will come a time when you want to throw in the towel. You’re tired, sore, and sick of running. But you have to find a way to get back out there and finish what you started.

We all have days when we threaten to send the kids to public school. Days where we want to stop homeschooling and get our lives back. But deep down we know that homeschooling is best for our kids, so we take a break, make some adjustments, and keep moving forward.

6. You Need a Cheering Section

You cannot run a marathon alone. You have to have people on your team who will tell you that you can do it.

I cried when I saw my family standing along the route, holding signs and cheering me on. I wasn’t sure I could finish, but they believed in me.

There have been many days that I’ve questioned whether I’m doing enough for my girls. Whether I’m really giving them the education they deserve. But luckily, I not only have the unwavering support of my husband, but I’ve also surrounded myself with a community of moms who wholeheartedly believe in homeschooling. When I need it, they give me the encouragement I need to keep going.

7. You Need to Focus on Your Goal

Marathon miles get long and boring and hard. I never thought I wouldn’t finish until I was actually out on the course, running the race. I was scared. But I remembered all of the hard work I had put in, the commitment I made, and the medal waiting for me. So I put one foot in front of the other until I crossed that finish line.

We face the same challenge with homeschooling. Days get tough. You have to remember why you wanted to homeschool in the first place. You have to believe that homeschooling your children is the best decision for your family.

Through my marathon training and all of the years I’ve been homeschooling my girls, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever realized. I know that if I don’t stop, I will cross that finish line, crying, proud, and amazed at what I accomplished.

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About the Author

Megan Zechman

Megan Zechman is a veteran homeschool mom of two girls. Over at Education Possible, she shares creative, hands-on learning activities for middle school.