No one knows just how hard it is until they’ve done it. No doubt, there is tremendous joy, fulfillment and fun in homeschooling, but it is also a tremendous challenge. Being responsible for your children’s physical, emotional, spiritual and academic development is a phenomenal, sometimes overwhelming task. And although there are some things that well-intentioned friends and family should not do (as mentioned in the article 3 Things Never to Say to a Homeschooling Mom), there are plenty of ways for people (spouses included!) to support and encourage homeschooling moms and keep them floating atop the waters of homeschool responsibility. When times get tough, and the homeschooling mom moans, “Maybe I should just quit homeschooling”, don't agree with her! Tell her what a great job she’s doing (this works even better if you are knowledgeable enough about what she’s doing to point out a few specific examples), and then give her some practical support. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Offer to make a meal. Or lots of meals. Or give her a subscription to a dinner menu planning service to help her save time making meals. One of the biggest everyday challenges is how to get everyone in the household fed, while trying to educate at the same time. Oh, and do it on an often one-income budget. Having some help with that ever-present responsibility gives mom a break and allows her to focus more on educational aspects, or just taking care of herself (so she’ll be able to more effectively help her kids).
2. Pay for a babysitter while Mom is home. Pre-teens who might not be able to take care of kids on their own are perfect for entertaining toddlers and young children while Mom teaches the older ones. This provides the babysitters with excellent supervised experience, while helping them earn some extra cash. Plus, they are usually willing to work for a fraction of the cost of an older teen. Pre-teen babysitters allow Mom to get some (blessed) uninterrupted time doing whatever she needs to do, whether it’s teaching, cleaning, cooking, or just relaxing. Even having someone to keep young children occupied once or twice a week is a tremendous help for homeschooling moms.
3. Clean the house, or hire a housecleaner. The bottom line is if Mom is cleaning, she’s not teaching. There’s only so much time, and homeschool moms usually prioritize the kids’ education and discipleship over deep cleaning. Yet it remains a constant stressor; a persistent, nagging, “You’re not getting it all done” voice in her head. Helping her with cleaning responsibilities provides practical as well as emotional support.
4. Plan an educational outing for the kids. Having to be responsible for the day-to-day education, discipline, physical and emotional well-being of multiple children often leaves little energy left for creativity. There’s little better for a homeschool mom than knowing her kids are engaged in an enriching, fun, educational experience that she didn’t have to plan herself! Those seeking to support the homeschool mom will be singing her song by taking the kids on an outing (during which Mom is free to do whatever she likes) that helps the kids learn. Even better – find out what they are currently studying, and make sure the outing relates!
5. Give her the gift of time away. Homeschoolers tend to be short on cash, considering that they are often living on one income, and they tend to prioritize the money that is there on things for the kids’ well-being rather than on themselves. However, time away translates into perspective, and it can make all the difference in the homeschool mom’s outlook and ability to keep going. A gift card to a favorite restaurant, a getaway to a hotel for the weekend with her husband, a coupon for a trip to the spa, or even tickets to a favorite concert can do wonders to rejuvenate her spirit, help her step back from the small frustrations into seeing the bigger picture, and be encouraged to resume the homeschooling journey with renewed vigor!
6. Offer to purchase curricula. It would be extremely rare to find a homeschool mom who does not have a curriculum wish-list! Many a homeschool mom has those items she’d love to have for teaching her kids, but just can’t afford right now. Homeschooling can be done on the cheap, but there’s nothing more exciting than getting that amazing resource you’ve been wanting for so long! By asking what resources she’d like to have, and purchasing those resources, friends and family can tangibly provide for the kids’ education, while giving mom a huge emotional boost.
7. Provide ways for Mom to engage in activities she enjoys. Homeschool moms often find themselves lost within the minutiae of the often unglamorous routine of education and daily life. And because “school” for homeschoolers is not clearly demarcated by certain hours or days, and often bleeds into every part of household life, it is easy for Mom to sacrifice her own personal pursuits in the efforts of “getting everything done”. Mom will be healthier, happier and in a better position to teach her children if she maintains an outlet that is completely separate from her role within the home front. Friends and family can support her by encouraging her to pursue hobbies or activities she enjoys, and then providing the resources (money, babysitting) for her to do so. Whether it’s scrapbooking, reading, painting, gardening, or some other pursuit, ensuring that Mom has the time and resources to “do her own thing” will help her have the balance she needs to be the mother and educator she needs to be.
8. Connect her with homeschool support. When homeschool moms get exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, or defeated, a wonderful remedy is to spend time with other homeschoolers. One of the biggest enemies of homeschooling is the feeling of being alone; the feeling that you are the only one experiencing your homeschooling problems. By connecting the homeschool mom with other people going through similar things, she will recognize that her problems are not unique to her, and it will help her receive the encouragement to move forward. Consider giving her tickets to a homeschool convention, having her go out to dinner with homeschooling friends, or providing childcare so she can attend a local homeschool co-op meeting. It is also helpful to provide her a subscription to a homeschool magazine, such as Practical Homeschooling, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, or Homeschooling Today, or to encourage her to connect to other homeschoolers online (TheHomeSchoolMom's Facebook page is a great place for this).
9. Get her something for her. On the ladder of the homeschool mom’s life, often one of the bottom rungs is her own personal care. The kids may be dressed to the nines in matching bows and socks, but it’s not unusual for mom to spend 90% of her time in a t-shirt and house pants. Money and time are often in short supply, and what little there is of both of those almost always goes to others (many of whom are under the age of 18). A great pick-me-up for discouraged homeschool moms is something that pampers her. A new outfit, a trip to the hair salon, some new jewelry, a massage or pedicure – sometimes the most practical help is something that is totally impractical and pampering. When Mom feels good about herself, she’ll feel better about what she is doing with her children!
10. Watch the kids. There’s really nothing a homeschool mom needs as much as time away from the children. It is easy for homeschoolers to lose track of who they are (and lose track of their relationships), in the efforts of pouring themselves into their children every minute of every day. By providing free childcare, friends and family allow moms to reconnect with their spouses, maintain important friendships, and stay in touch with themselves. It’s amazing how a little bit of time away from the children makes moms reenergized to be back with their children.