Homeschooling is hard. Worth it, but still hard. Sending your child to school has its challenges as well, and when I weighed the stresses on sending my kids to public school versus those of homeschooling, I chose the stresses of homeschooling.
Most of the time, I would say that the stresses are about equal, at least for our family size. Getting four little kids out the door and into the car five days a week for drop-off and pick-up? I shudder just thinking about it.
Our first year of homeschooling was wonderful, mostly because we were surrounded by close friends. Even though we never lived close to family, there were several people I trusted who I could call and ask to watch my kids when I needed a break. I also had a couple of local homeschool mom friends who I leaned on for asking advice or venting frustrations.
I underestimated the impact of losing that support system.
Shortly after we started our second year of homeschooling, we made our first long-distance move. We left our home of the past 14 years and moved over 500 miles away from everything we knew.
I’ve spent the past year and half homeschooling without a support system. Without that support system, the stress scales tip. I confess that more than once, I’ve fantasized about sending my kids to school.
My reasons for homeschooling thankfully outweighed the difficulties, and we are still homeschooling today. Slowly, ever so slowly, I am building a new support system, but doing so has taken a lot of emotional energy on my part.
Because this is still fresh for me, and my support system is still a work in progress, I'd love to share what I've learned about surviving as a homeschool mom without a support system.
1. Find an Online Support Group
Thank goodness for the internet! Yes, our smart phones are a distraction, and the internet has more than its share of drawbacks, but what did homeschool moms do before the internet? They were far more isolated, that's what!
Facebook groups for homeschool moms are plentiful, so if you haven’t joined any, now’s the time to find a few that work for you. (There is even an unofficial BookShark group you can join.) While many moms use Facebook groups to ask questions about curriculum, schedules, and learning difficulties, Facebook groups can be a great place to vent about the things that only another homeschool mom will understand. You just need to find the right groups.
Admittedly, finding the right group can take a little bit of trial and error. But your groups are out there! I recommend joining several different groups. With time, you will figure out which groups are going to be the most helpful to you as far a support goes. Eventually, you may develop relationships with a smaller group of moms within the group that could evolve into a surprisingly strong support system, though eventually you will need local support (see point #4 below).
2. Make Alone Time a Priority
You and I both know that getting alone time as a homeschool mom is important. When you have no support system? Alone time is more than a #selfcare hashtag you put on your Instagrams; it's critical for your mental health.
Actually getting that time is much easier said than done. I know what it’s like to not be able to afford a babysitter. Then there’s the problem of allocating babysitting funds to competing needs: date nights to strengthen your marriage versus alone time to save your sanity. And even if you have the money for babysitting, sometimes finding a babysitter you feel comfortable leaving your kids with is the greater challenge.
All of these obstacles leave you, for better or for worse, heavily reliant on your spouse to get that precious alone time. Communication is key. Sometimes, we assume our spouse knows we need a break. Trust me–they don’t.
You need to communicate to your spouse just how much you need this alone time to be a better mom, to be a better wife. Be clear and specific about what you need.
And when they offer you that break–even if it’s just going to grocery store alone, take them up on it. Seriously. Don't be a martyr! Drop what you’re doing and go for it; these opportunities don’t come around all that often.
3. Go Ahead! Use Screens in Your Homeschool
When the babysitting money is gone or non-existent and you literally have no one to call to get a break, don’t be afraid to use media. I know, I know. In certain parenting circles, screen-time is the devil–right up there with red food coloring and McDonald’s.
I’m not in that camp, but it’s taken me a long time to get over the guilt of using screens to get a break. Now don’t get me wrong. When my kids choose outside time over screens, my heart skips a beat, and I pat myself on the back. However, when you have no support system, something needs to give.
Especially if you are an introverted homeschool mom, rest time, getting up before your kids, and early bedtimes will only get you so far. You need to make compromises around screentime if you’re going to avoid homeschool mom burnout.
I cannot believe how many educational shows, Youtube channels, and documentaries created specifically for kids exist today. Here are some lists to get you started:
- 13 Video Supplements for BookShark Eastern Hemisphere
- 10 Captivating Netflix Shows for Elementary Science
- Explore Africa Through Streaming Video
- 10 Virtual Tours of Art Museums Around the World
- 10 YouTube Videos for Exploring South America
- Ancient Egypt: Eight Movies to Stream Online
- 10 YouTube Videos for Exploring Central America
- Six Fantastic (and Free) YouTube Art Lessons for Middle School
- 6 YouTube Videos for Exploring Australia in Your Homeschool
- Explore Australia with These Fascinating Streaming Videos
- Read This, Watch That: Book & Netflix Combos for Kids
- Experience Ancient Greece with These 7 Videos
My kids know more facts about animals because of Wild Kratts than I have ever known in the history of ever. So get over the guilt and turn on the T.V. You need to take care of you, and your kids will be okay. I promise.
4. Work to Develop a Local, In-person Support System
Building a new, local support system is one of the most emotionally exhausting things I’ve ever done…but eventually, you really are going to need it. You cannot live without it long-term. Homeschoolers need community, plain and simple; you can only survive on an island for so long.
That being said, it takes a lot of emotional energy to put yourself out there over and over again, and as homeschool moms, our emotional energy is limited. So, you need to take it slow and set small goals.
Here are some possible goals to get your started:
Try one new co-op a semester.
Set up one playdate with an acquaintance.
Check out a local homeschool mom night.
Try one new church a month.
Strike up one conversation a week with another mom at the park.
After you’ve completed your goal for the month or the week, give yourself permission to make no other effort whatsoever. It could happen faster than you think, or you could be at this for a couple of years. Allocate a certain amount of emotional energy to rebuilding and trust the rest to time.
A Final Encouragement (For the Days When You Want to Give Up)
You can homeschool without a support system. I’ve used the first three tips to make it this far, and as for the last tip, you never know when you’re going to strike gold, when your choice to put yourself out there one more time will finally pay off.
I met my closest friend in our new city at the park last summer. I put myself out there again, after six months of striking out in these types of situations. Because we only have one car, this was an evening park visit, and I completely exhausted. Quite honestly, I would rather have been sitting quietly on a bench reading a book than initiating a conversation with yet another complete stranger.
But I did it anyways. I chose a mom who looked more exhausted and lonelier than I was (that’s a bonus tip for you!), and I put myself out there for what felt like the millionth time.
We hit it off right away and have been close ever since. Our kids are the same age, and while they don’t homeschool, we have so much in common.
My support system is still weak. One good friend and a couple acquaintances are not enough. But it’s a start, and a few small successes have given me the resolve to keep going, to keep trying, to trust that it won’t be this hard forever.
Keep going! Both in homeschooling, and in rebuilding your support system. It’s worth it.
About the Author
June loves deep discussions about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging at This Simple Balance, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with four kids ages eight and under doesn’t happen very often!