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The Homeschool Challenge Nobody Warns You About


When I started homeschooling, I knew my big challenge was going to be helping my kids learn. Having them become academically prepared was my overriding goal. Choosing the right curriculum and the right educational philosophy were paramount.

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Imagine my surprise when it turned out they were pretty good learners once I refined our approach to homeschooling.

My real challenge? Feeding them.

Choosing the right menu and organizing my shopping list were paramount. Over the years, I prepared meals for family members who moved in and out of vegetarianism, Paleo, Atkins (different family members at different times, of course) as well as a family member who needed low-glycemic, gluten-free, dairy-free meals. Like caring for the now-aged dogs of my children’s childhoods, thinking about what my family would eat 24/7 was a bigger deal than I could have anticipated.

Homeschooling had to fit around planning meals, grocery shopping, recipe mining, pantry stocking, cooking, and managing food prep and dishes.

There was the pre-app period of our lives when I made notes of my preferred grocery store’s layout and printed out my own custom store maps. That way, I could coordinate my list with the aisles for a more efficient walk-through with all the kids. This turned out to be so efficient that more than once, I left my groceries on the sidewalk and drove home with my chaos of boys, forgetting to make that final important move of “driving up” so the grocery guy could load all our groceries.

The Homeschool Challenge No One Tells You About

There was the advent of my first online grocery ordering experience with Lowes Foods To Go when we lived in North Carolina around twenty years ago. So much for considering each state’s homeschooling laws when we made our many future household moves; what really mattered to me was whether there was a Lowes Foods with online grocery ordering.

That first online grocery shopping service was like a miracle; plus, since I didn’t have to actually go into the store, there was less chance that I would take leave of my senses and leave my groceries on the sidewalk. It changed my homeschooling life so much that I contacted the Charlotte Observer newspaper to suggest they run a story; they ended up interviewing me, one of the pioneers of grocery shopping at midnight from my bed in my PJs, with visions of homeschool co-op dancing in my head. Because I might make it to co-op with assigned snacks if I managed to actually get the groceries into my car.

And there were not just homeschool co-ops. There were food co-ops. There were the days when I split cases of honey and the biggest bags of organic oatmeal imaginable. I made granola in quantities usually reserved for Kellogg’s and Post. For 24-hours, we’d have this amazing abundance of perfect homemade granola, and we all ate too much; then we coped with digestive discomfort and ate more anyway. These my friends, were not powdery instant oats; they were rolled oats. We’re talking fiber.

There were the slow cooker days. The panini grill nights. The Artisan-Bread-in-Five-Minutes years.

And now, my friends, the Instant Pot™. Anything you can Crockpot™, Baby, I can Instant Pot™ faster.

I now attend healthy food prep sessions to make freezer meals once a month, and I regularly consult TheHomeSchoolMom’s sister site, Menus4Moms, for menu ideas. Menus4Moms recently relaunched their free weekly dinner menu plan, and they also have premium plans for Busy Moms, Frugal Moms, and Gluten-Casein-Free Moms.

Just call me all three: busy, frugal, and gluten/casein-free. Because life is like that.

My history with homeschooling can be directly traced to our family’s history with food: our attempts at growing vegetables and herbs, our picking of fresh blackberries around the fringes of our farm, our grilled cheese sandwiches cooked on the wood stove during power outages, our visits to pick-your-own strawberry farms and apple orchards. These encounters translate into the smoothies and apple tarts and lunches and calories that powered our homeschooling.

And I thought my homeschooling days were going to be all about curriculum!

In my mind’s eye, I see each of my sons in our long line of kitchens: my young sons, learning to scramble eggs, bringing in groceries, declaring new food preferences, adding items onto our grocery list with a scratchy pencil.

As if I needed help coming up with a metaphor for my life as a homeschool mom, there on the kitchen counter beside the toaster is, indeed, our electric pencil sharpener. I am not sure about the ratio of pencil shavings to bread crumbs, but I’m sure we covered ratios in our math lessons at some point. Probably while eating chocolate chip cookies. With vegan chocolate chips.

It has been a lot of work, but my hope for you is to find the nourishment your family needs, too.

After twenty years, I’ll sum it up this way: plan the food, and the homeschooling will follow.

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. Rosario

    I am studying, please I would like to ask you which time do you think I can find to study if I am homeschooling. Thank you so much. My boy is 6.5 years old.

    • Hi Rosario,

      If you are a student and you want to homeschool your own child, it will help you to use some of the same strategies as parents who work a job and homeschool. You will need to have child care for your son if you have to be away to take classes or if you need time to focus on studies without interruption. You will also need to make sure he has the opportunity to learn. At his age, he should be read to every day, he should have the opportunity to draw and start to learn his letters and sounds, shapes, colors, counting, and the beginnings of adding and subtracting (if he does not already know these things). He does not have to have formal lessons, but he should also go places with adults who talk with him about what he sees: the grocery store, the park, the library, etc. He should have time to play with a lot of imagination, and he should have someone to talk to about what he is playing. Parents who work or who study can often homeschool a child this age if they can do these types of things. Good luck!

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