Handling Overwhelm as a Homeschool Parent

Homeschooling can be overwhelming for a variety of reasons. Helpful advice to help reduce the overwhelm and make homeschool life a bit more manageable.

Homeschooling can be overwhelming.

Did anyone ever tell you that? I’m trying to think back if anyone ever offered up that advice to me or not, but I’m here to tell you, homeschooling can be overwhelming.

Everyone goes through it at some point, especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t found your own style.

For us, we’re at about the toddler stage of our official homeschool journey. I’m not talking about the girls ages, just the official, registered with the state, homeschool journey age. Charlie and Lena are currently ages 8 and 7, respectively, so we’ve only been at this a few years.

This early in our homeschool journey and we’re still working out the kinks. As we grow into our homeschool style, gain more interests, and explore more styles, I’m sure we’ll find more obstacles to adapt to, and that’s okay. Life has a lot of obstacles, it’s good to learn how to navigate the challenges early on.

Overwhelm in the Preschool Years

As a homeschooling parent, one of my biggest challenges is overwhelm. Early on in our homeschool journey I tried to structure things entirely too much. I spent a great deal of time finding worksheets for preschoolers, cutting out projects they would only spend minutes on, and writing out detailed lesson plans.

What was I thinking?!

This plan of action might be great for some people. Not for me. I am not an organized person. It’s strange, but I work well being spontaneous and not needing a rigid daily structure.

After a lot of frustration I realized all the girls needed was a lot of play time, songs, dance, and on the move random education. We pointed out the letters of the alphabet on signs when we were out and about. A game of “find me something blue” kept the girls moving and problem solving constantly. Discussions about animals and nature during walks and outdoor play sessions gave the girls more than enough spark to their already curious minds.

At this age I figured out homeschooling was a bit easier than I thought.

Our Next Stage of Overwhelm

Getting older the girls were getting to the age where they needed to learn to read. Hooked on Phonics worked for me, right? Wrong.

We bought the entire set and the kids hated it. They were frustrated and I had no idea what to do. I was overwhelmed with worry and couldn’t figure out what direction to go next. Overwhelm shows itself in many colors. Worry that homeschooling wouldn’t be successful for our family or that I didn’t have what it takes to be a homeschool parent, or that I wouldn’t do enough for my kids was the next stage of overwhelm I learned about.

This is where I learned the benefit of homeschooling information and support groups on line. I joined a plethora of groups (and quickly left several after finding out I wasn’t a good fit). I searched threads and asked questions only to learn I wasn’t the only one with doubts and many of the struggles we were having were exactly the same as other families. Advice was provided, some fantastic, others not so great. We tried some new programs and soon found a reading program that worked for us.

Unique Challenges

Every family will have challenges unique to their situation. One of those challenges for our household is anxiety. I’ve had it my entire life and unfortunately this is something that was passed down to my oldest daughter.

If you’ve never dealt with anxiety before consider yourself lucky. It can be debilitating and frustrating, and downright overwhelming. Some days we make it through with no issue, other days we find ourselves up against one anxiety roadblock after another.

Anxiety doesn’t listen to logic. Some days I can handle it with my daughter, other days our anxiety decides to butt heads with each other and we wind up frustrating each other, getting angry, blowing off steam, then snuggling as we discuss what we could have done differently and practice new coping techniques. It’s a struggle but it’s something that is part of our life, therefore part of our homeschool journey.

Often the anxiety attacks are overwhelming and it takes time to calm down and refocus. We’re working on it and we get better with it every day.

Busy Schedule and FOMO

Now that the girls are older we’re discovering a new, and all too common overwhelm in the homeschool community. Busy schedules and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). We’re members of 4H, Girl Scouts, and our local homeschool co op. We go on playdates, run errands, visit the library and attend TaeKwonDo each week. In addition to this are a variety of random field trips and educational outings.

There is a lot to do around here, and daily I’m bombarded with invites and group notifications of at least 20 more activities going on that day. We can’t do it all, though I wish we could.

How to Handle the Overwhelm

I’ll be honest, I’m still learning how to handle the overwhelm, but I do have some tips that have helped me out so far.

  1. It’s okay to say no. Practice saying no. You don’t have to do everything and you won’t break your kids if you don’t. They can get overwhelmed too.
  2. Take breaks. Even though we have a relaxed homeschool style I still always feel like I’m in teacher mode. Every now and then I have to remind myself to just be me for awhile. Not mom, not homeschool parent, not even wife. Just me. Coffee or tea in the morning, lunch date with a friend, or a time out to read a book I want to read.
  3. Try bullet journaling. It’s not for everyone, but it has helped me immensely. I told you I’m not an organized person, and that meant I had random to do lists all over the place, appointments written down in multiple places, ideas jotted down in several different notebooks. My bullet journal has given me the freedom to put it all in one place. I’m still not organized, but hey, at least I know where all of my notes and information is written down now.
  4. Take time to close your eyes and breathe, meditate, stretch, or something. It only takes a few minutes and can make a world of difference.
  5. Accept emotions. If everyone is getting frustrated it’s not productive. It’s okay to put things off until later until everyone cools down.
  6. Utilize support systems. Find like minded homeschoolers and talk things out. If they are local even better. Don’t discount the relationship just because people are miles away. Having an online or phone discussion with someone who gets it might be just what you need.
  7. Reduce the number of projects you’re doing. If you find you’ve overextended yourself prioritize your projects and reduce the number of things you’re currently active on. Sometimes it’s okay to put off a project until later, especially if you have several others going on at the same time.
  8. Schedule in free time. From my experience nothing ever goes as planned, so if I expect something is going to take us an hour, I’ll schedule it for two, then if we get done early we have some free time.
  9. Speaking of free time, free play is a great way to let the kids do what they want while you get what you need to do done. I like to listen in to some of the conversations the kids have while playing and it’s fun to hear them incorporate some of the educational topics we’ve been covering.
  10. Don’t let your expectations get the better of you. Sometimes I get overwhelmed because a project I’m doing with the kids doesn’t go the way I expect or the kids take it in a different direction. Letting my grip on control loosen up a bit and learning to go with the flow has helped reduce that overwhelm and relaxed some of my tension.

Do you have any other advice for homeschool parents battling overwhelm? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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