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Ask Jeanne: Homeschooling When Everything Is Terrible


Ask Jeanne (TheHomeSchoolMom) - Question: What started as a joyous process is turning out to be ugly and unhappy. I feel so lost as of now. What can I do?Dear Jeanne,

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I am stuck in a terrible situation and need some advice. I quit my job to follow my husband to another country. I put my daughter in a public school as my husband wanted, but then I started homeschooling because of poor school quality. While I feel comfortable teaching my daughter, and she has made some progress, I have ill health, and my daughter is still behind in school due to a vision problem. We have financial problems, so I’m teaching to earn money, and my husband is not supportive of homeschooling. It’s all affecting my mental health.

Nothing can be changed now, but I don’t know how to bring her to the level according to her age. How do I start her subjects she has fallen behind in? Have I taken too much on my plate? She hates written work. Do I still need to push her to write? She still finds it difficult to focus her eyes, and that makes her slow in her work. 

I feel so lost as of now. What started as a joyous process is turning out to be ugly and unhappy.

~ Unsupported Homeschool Mom

Dear Unsupported Homeschool Mom,

I’m so sorry you are having such a hard time. Your story is difficult because you are facing so much. I can understand why you feel so lost. This would be a huge number of setbacks in any family, whether the children were homeschooling or not.

Because there are so many problems, I wonder if you can pick one problem to focus on to see if you can improve your lot. Sometimes there are actually reasons to quit homeschooling while a family focuses on a better financial situation, addresses marital problems, or seeks more intense help for physical or mental health issues. On the other hand, maybe you can keep homeschooling and make your daughter’s education your focus.

My sense is that with “all the things” spinning out of control, it’s difficult to get past feeling overwhelmed and start to be methodical about solving anything.

No one can tell you for sure what your best focus is. You say yourself, “Nothing can be changed now.” I assume you mean the past is past, and while you can think about how you arrived at this point, you can’t change the background that brought you here. This is a hard truth.

There are those who would tell you to work to improve your marriage and accept your husband’s input about schooling. There are those who would tell you to leave your husband and start a new life with your daughter. Religion and culture may be strong influences in which choices are acceptable to you. There are those who would tell you to push your daughter in writing, and there are those who would tell you to have her assessed by an expert before pushing, since she may be doing the best she can if she still is affected by her vision problem. What we can tell you is that there are strategies for homeschooling kids who would be considered behind in school.

Is there any person or trusted agency with whom you can share your concerns? A relative, friend, or counselor who could help you think about your situation? Anyone who might assess how your daughter’s vision problem is affecting her current ability? Someone who can help you think clearly about her education?

On the one hand, you say your daughter is behind, but on the other hand, you say she has made progress.

It’s not uncommon for some kids to lack specific skills, and if they have the opportunity, many kids can catch up. The question is, with the demands on you and lack of resources, can you reliably  provide that opportunity?

I know you are saying something powerful when you say this: “What started as a joyous process is turning out to be ugly and unhappy.”

Begin reflecting on things you could do to make life less ugly and unhappy. Think of one thing at a time, considering changes you could make, rather than getting stuck on the big picture of everything at once. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can focus on your child’s current needs.

Homeschooling can be a way to make the most of a life full of challenges, or homeschooling can be a factor in making the rest of life more challenging. Of course, we’d all love to be happily homeschooling; sometimes, instead, we feel lost. You are not alone. Many homeschool moms have doubts every day, and once we say our truth as you have in your letter to me, we begin to know we have to take new steps toward better homeschooling and/or better lives. I hope writing your letter to me helped you find your truth.

We’ll be thinking of you here at TheHomeSchoolMom,


Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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  1. Donna Kellis

    I have a question! Thanks ahead of time!
    Have you heard of Prima Latina being taught? N.C. Pastor’s wife that teaches classical homeschool needs help.
    Donna Kellis

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      I don’t have any information about Prima Latina. If you work through a support system or company, I suggest you ask in that network. Good luck!

  2. Judi

    I have heard a lot about unschooling. Can you please tell me, what this is about and how does one get a highschool diploma for unschooling or homeschool, if they are not using any of the traditional materials to teach from any homeschool organizations etc?

    • Jeanne Faulconer


      Unschooling is a specific approach to homeschooling that emphasizes allowing kids to learn as though there were no institutional constraints on how to “do” education. This means both following and supporting the interests of kids and teens rather than requiring specific subjects or assignments.

      Homeschooling parents decide when homeschooling is complete and can give their kids a high school diploma. Unschooling, as a subtype of homeschooling, works the same way.

      Unschoolers can explain that learning does not occur only when using “traditional materials” or when learning is organized into courses and subjects. For example, I know teens who learned to speak Spanish fluently through immersion and learned to write it online through messaging, translating song lyrics, and reading articles in Spanish.

      Unschooling parents, or homeschoolers using any approach, can document the learning that occurred by making a transcript. They can award grades by whether the teen mastered the material.

      As for homeschool organizations, many homeschoolers—not just unschoolers—home educate without using any kind of organization. Using an organization may be a good choice for some families, but it’s not necessary or expected, even by universities who regularly accept homeschoolers. Homeschooling through an organization may even derail the flexibility and innovation available to homeschoolers. That said, college-bound homeschoolers benefit from providing outside evidence of their readiness of college work, and that applies to unschoolers as well. Unschoolers and other homeschoolers often dual enroll in community college, and their success there helps them with admission to senior institutions.

      Unschooling should not be thought of as “easy” or “not doing anything.” Unschooling works well with a fully engaged parent who can facilitate learning based on a child’s interests. While unschooling does not look like traditional school, when done well, unschooling provides opportunities for learning and positive experiences. People right do not see unschooling as “school,” and they may have to learn more to understand the value and effectiveness of unschooling.

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