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Ask Jeanne: Is My Wife Really Homeschooling?


Ask Jeanne: Is My Wife Really Homeschooling?My wife has been homeschooling my 6 and 8 year old daughters for almost 2 years now. At first I was against it but after it caused friction in my home, I decided to support her. Lately, I have been in a dilemma. I’ve noticed that my wife hasn’t done any school work with my kids for months now (about 2 months to be exact). Anytime I mention if they she have done school with the kids, she gets highly upset. We went through a lot when she decided to do homeschool and I don’t want to cause her to get upset and for us to take steps backwards. When I mention something, she says I’m questioning the way she wants to raise the kids and that I don’t support her. My wife is nurse and mostly works weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights). We have a 3 year old. Most of the time when I come home, my wife is either on the phone or in the bed sleep. How should I approach this situation? I think it’s best for the kids to be in school rather than her homeschooling. The kids themselves say they miss school. Looking forward to hearing back from you. Thanks.

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Jeanne’s answer:

Yes, you are in a dilemma, and I feel for you. Your children’s education is of the utmost importance, and you seem to have agreed to homeschooling more to placate your wife and calm things down in your marriage than because you think homeschooling is best. There may also be questions of your wife’s functionality and your role with your children and their education.

Because your question covers so much ground, I’m going to answer in two separate responses.

Initially, in response to your question, I’d like to ask a few of my own. This is meant to get you to reflect on your situation.

What do you know about homeschooling?

During the past two years, have you been doing research to learn about homeschooling and how it compares to public school? If not, read about the efficiency of homeschooling, and consider whether your wife may be doing enough with the girls, but she just may not be doing it when you are home.

Also read my previous article, “Did School Happen Here Today?” If you think homeschooling should look like public school, this article will provide insight for you. Again, it is possible that your wife may be doing enough with the girls, but she may be doing it in ways that do not look like “school” as you think of it.

If you do not know about these aspects of homeschooling, your questions may sound like accusatory second guessing to your wife. She may also have a role in not having shared enough about how the girls are learning. Or — yes. They may not be doing anything. We’ll get to that.

What do you contribute to homeschooling and child care? 

I can’t know exactly from your email, but it sounds to me like your wife could be working the equivalent of a high stress full-time professional job on the night shift and attempting to homeschool, care for a three-year-old, and run a household on the day shift on the other days of the week. While working and homeschooling is possible, it is challenging, and most two-parent families where both parents are working full-time jobs are sharing the homeschooling, child care, and domestic chores. Which aspects of homeschooling and child care do you take responsibility for?

Is it possible that since homeschooling was her idea and you didn’t really buy it, she’s “doing it all?” That’s an unrealistic expectation for either of you to have, and it honestly does not give homeschooling a fair chance to work.

How is your wife?

If your wife has been “doing it all” in terms of working, child care, homeschooling, laundry, grocery shopping, meal prep, medical appointments, field trips, play dates, and more, then she may be suffering from too much stress. If she is struggling with the effects of working nights on weekends and having day-time homeschooling and child care responsibilities on week days, then she may be suffering from sleep deprivation or sleep dysphoria. Sleeping so much when you’re at home may be a natural reaction to chronic need for sleep or a confused circadian rhythm, or it could be a sign of depression. The telephone calls may be her effort to reach out to friends because she still needs social time and support but cannot gather the steam to get out of the house.

Is it possible she is drinking or abusing drugs, including those she may have begun taking to assist her with sleep? Is it possible she has an untreated or non-responding mental health issue?

Is it possible she is suffering from burnout, in desperate need of regular scheduled time off from both work and home responsibilities?

Is it possible that she is not up to the task of homeschooling in the current situation, but she doesn’t have a way out? Maybe she cannot see other options for the kids that she feels are okay, or maybe she doesn’t want to risk an “I told you so” from you, or maybe she is attached to the idea of homeschooling more than the reality of making it happen.

Homeschooling generally requires at least one parent who is able to be highly involved. If the person who is supposed to be the primary homeschooling parent is not able to be sufficiently involved, the children may not get their needs met.

How is your marriage?

Your email included the fact that you only agreed to homeschooling in order to reduce your wife’s upset. It sounds like she was willing to make things uncomfortable for you unless she got her way, and you gave the okay to homeschool reluctantly just to keep the peace.

While I understand the gesture of going along with your wife to avoid her getting “highly upset” and to avoid your marriage “taking a step backward,” it sounds like you were not honest. It also sounds like she was emotionally manipulative.

I believe there are good reasons to quit homeschooling. One or more of those good reasons might be present in your family. I do not believe in the “homeschool-at-all-costs” mentality.

On the other hand, it may be that the homeschooling itself is not the root problem. If you agreed to homeschooling, but you have not pulled your weight on the homefront and have not provided emotional support and practical problem solving for your wife, then homeschooling has not really been given a fair chance. If she committed to being the primary homeschooling parent, but she has a lack of commitment or other issues that are keeping her from fulfilling homeschool responsibilities, it may not really be the homeschooling itself that is the problem.

Homeschooling can be both the stressor and the canary in the coal mine that signals problems. Some individuals, marriages, and families do better without the stress of homeschooling. As the “canary,” though, arguments around homeschooling can reflect other dynamics in the marriage. I’m not a marriage counselor, but you could substitute almost anything in your question for the word “homeschooling” and feel the storm brewing.

Let’s say she wanted her elderly parent to come live with you, and you were against it, but she pitched an ongoing fit. Then “after it caused friction” you went along with it. Then you saw that her parent was not receiving the care and attention that is needed in your home.

Do you see what I mean? What is happening with homeschooling in your house could be happening around any issue if she was emotionally insistent, you gave in against your better judgment, and the two of you did not work together to make the commitment work — or if either of you has something going on that interferes with being able to deliver on that commitment.

You asked how to approach this situation. This response, part 1, is my recommendation that you assess the state of things:

  • Look at homeschooling and make sure you understand it.
  • Look at how you are contributing and assess whether it is sufficient partnering.
  • Look at your wife and see if she has unmet needs.
  • And look at your marriage and see if you might benefit from couples therapy.

Is quitting homeschooling possibly part of making life better for your girls and your whole family? Yes. I’m going to go into specifics about approaching that in part 2 of my response.

But I’ll also say this. There are no perfect families or perfect marriages, and homeschooling does work within imperfect situations — it all depends on the degree. If parents truly agree homeschooling is best for their children, acting on their commitment to what they have agreed on is the basis for making homeschooling work as well as possible.

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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. Shawn

    This was a very good article in very hopeful. However I have a three dimensional homeschooling issue with my wife.

    The first dimension is she believes she has a homeschool teacher and has done it in the past but is not consistent throughout the week. She is often very tired and does not have a full-time or part-time job.

    I would work 40 to 55 hours all week long and come home at the end of the day with no meal prepared for the family and she would be in bed sleeping, the dishes were dirty in the laundry was not washed or folded.

    The second dimension of my marriage was that while she claim to be homeschooling our for children, eight, nine, 10 and now 17-year-olds and she had been smoking marijuana illegally over the last four years.

    This has thrown her into a very opinionated and liberal mindset even where she was once spiritual and valued Christian morality, she has no regard for any of that.

    And lastly the third dimension is that we are separated based on her badgering, manipulation and fits of rage with me and the children. She seems to think that since she moved out with the four children that everything would change because she’s away from me but she still wrecked and wounded on the inside so nothing will really change until she has counsel and possible mental therapy.

    I’m torn because on one hand I want to love and still support her but on the other hand I’m more concerned and making my four children a priority because their drug addicted mother is trying to raise them in a small apartment and does not homeschool them when she claims to.

    I don’t want to be accused of neglect but every time I mention homeschooling she gets all upset and honestly flips out on me and threatened me with divorce and child support.

    What are my options? Should I involve social services and should I have her to please issue a warrant to search the house for the marijuana? If I don’t I’m neglecting my children and if I do regardless of how my wife Will respond after I involves social services I’m willing to take the consequences because my children and their education mean more to me than her lacsadaisical drug addicted mindset.

  2. Sarah

    Wow. This lady is working at least half time at nights, caring for a toddler, AND homeschooling? She is pretty amazing if you ask me. Working nights at all drains you!

    Unless this is one of the very rare occasions where the father of the family is actually sharing equal amounts of the workload (and I am not saying this to be rude or dismissive. Studies simply show that in the vast majority of households, Mom bears the bulk of household responsibilities.), I can’t imagine how she is not exhausted. Especially if dad is undermining her on the home school front. (Sorry, but asking the kids behind Mom”s back whether they want to return to school is not a healthy dynamic.)

    While Mom might be totally manipulative, it seems to me there are some major issues in this marriage stemming from BOTH sides. This couple definitely needs some marital counseling on how to deal with disagreements in a candid, forthright manner.

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