Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
I quit homeschooling after 14 years…and sent ALL my school-age kids to school! Call it burnout…or needing a break…or failing. I called it all of those things. But I just couldn’t keep going…it was just too hard.
I went from being a fully committed homeschool parent to knowing deep in my heart that I couldn’t keep going the same way. So I quit homeschooling for a year. Before that happened, I knew SOMETHING wasn’t working anymore. I didn’t fully know what it was, but I had tried everything and it was just getting harder.
Beyond that, I was experiencing physical problems from stress, wasn’t taking care of myself, and had contentious relationships with a couple of my kids. I didn’t know what the answer was but to continue doing everything that same didn’t make sense either.
I have always wanted the best thing for each of my nine kids. I wanted the best education, life, opportunities, and friends. When our oldest started school, it quickly became apparent that homeschooling worked for our family…mostly because my husband had an odd work schedule, and wouldn’t see him much if he was in school.
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Over the years, it continued to work because it could really flex around the needs of each child, my husband’s schedule, and our life as foster parents. I loved the flexibility of a month off at Christmas and doing math all summer long. I valued the classes they took in our co-op with kids of all ages and the unique friendships that happened with other moms. My kids learned to love learning apart from grades or artificial systems of excellence.
Fast forward 14 years. We went from 3 kids to 9 kids ages 3 to 19 with 2 graduated homeschoolers and one in college. We had been foster parents for 8 of those years and adopted 3 kids during that time. Then COVID…and now it was 2021 and the world was still simmering from the craziness of the past year. And I was TIRED….more tired than I realized.
Maybe it was the stress of COVID that tipped me into BURNOUT…or maybe it was just 14 years of being at home focused on everyone’s needs. Everything that had been fun about homeschooling was just hard. My kids were struggling with motivation. I felt like an overwhelmed taxi driver just shuffling kids to co-op, classes, work, and social events. Something had to give.
I had already sent one of my kids to a Christian school just to try it out. He was thriving and came home every day excited about friends, working on homework, and making plans for the future. Even bad days were better than his best homeschool days. How could that be when homeschooling was the best?
As I recognized just how burned out I was, I researched all the possible private school options in our area that might be a fit. And inside of a month or two, I stepped down as the director of our homeschool group and filled out the paperwork to enroll our 6 school-aged kids into 2 different schools for the fall of 2021 using scholarship programs. Crazy right?
What’s Wrong With Homeschool Parents That Quit?
In the past, I knew homeschool families that just seemed to quit…and send all their kids to school. And I will admit that I had judgy thoughts. “Why would they even consider that? Don’t they know that their child could be corrupted in school? Homeschooling offers the best education. You just need to try harder if your child isn’t motivated.” I’m ashamed I had even said some of these things out loud to moms who were probably struggling like I was now.
What I hadn’t really considered was that homeschooling had worked for them in one season and they were now moving into another season. Looking back I can remember homeschool parents who stopped homeschooling because they needed to go to work, wanted to go back to school themselves, got married/divorced, had health problems, had kids that needed something different…or were just burned out.
There was nothing wrong with them…they were just moving into another season.
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I Thought Sending Them to School Would Mean More Free Time For Me…
After the decision was made to put them in school, I dreamed about what I would do with all my free time…forgetting I had a 3-year-old still at home!! The reality is that sending them to school did was give my mind a break from planning and preparing schoolwork….but I still had plenty of things to do related to their schooling.
And as for my dreams, I was not productive for months…like my brain was trying to figure out what it should do. Whole days would slip by and maybe I would cook dinner or pick up the house…but nothing magical happened. Instead, I traded schooling for driving. I drove for hours a day dropping off and picking up. Instead of doing school in the morning, we did homework in the evening and on weekends. But now I had a few hours a days where my house was not full of people.
What actually happened when I sent them to school…..
- All of their activities were no longer focused around the home….so I did a LOT more driving.
- They played sports and had many games that were far away….did I mention the driving?
- All their friends lived far away….more driving!
- School meetings in the evening meant I was driving to the school multiple times a day.
- The occasionally difficult teacher meant we learned to navigate personality conflicts….”hello life skills!”
- My kids had to learn to get work done on time. (I’m not going to lie…this one was sweet after years of trying everything to motivate, it was nice to have someone else telling my kids to get their work done! LOL )
- Our schedule was FAR LESS flexible. This was probably the HARDEST part of school for me personally.
- They got the chance to learn from “experts” in their subjects of interest. This I LOVED…and so did they.
- They were able to make friends and see them every day. I like to stay home so we didn’t do a lot of playdates when we homeschooled…not every day anyway!
- Because they liked school, they learned to overcome frustration instead of just quitting because they wanted to keep going.
You can see that some things were good and a lot of things were just different…not easier…just different. Honestly, it was ok that the year was not all sunshine and roses. As I was driving all over, I listened to books and music and I came to terms with the idea that this was a season for me to get healthy and focus on things I wanted to do while my kids got the chance to learn in a new environment. It was ok for me to be me. It was ok for us to come up with an education plan that had space for my needs as a person alongside my kid’s needs.
I will completely admit that back at the beginning of my homeschool journey, I didn’t really take my needs…or our needs as parent’s into consideration…we just jumped in!
Sending Them To School Gave Me a Chance to Try New Things
Even though it took me months to gain some personal direction, that year off homeschooling ultimately did help me focus on some personal goals. Having homeschooled for 14 years already, a lot of my own goals had been put on the back burner (or completely disappeared) and this was a chance for me to consider my own needs and wants.
During that year, some of the things I did were:
- Work on THIS blog.
- Take tons of courses in blogging and social media.
- Sign up for coaching
- Work through some insecurity
- Meet tons of new people
- Get trained as a homeschool consultant
- Start writing a book
- ….and MUCH MUCH MORE.
During that time, I learned a lot about myself. It was a chance to consider again what my priorities were…and what our priorities were as a family. It was a chance to learn new skills and do some processing I had never had space to do before.
Sending my kids to school for a year allowed me to be part of the family priorities. As strange as it seems, I felt like my needs had been put on the back burner for many years. It was not intentional. We were busy raising and educating lots of kids. But it did happen quite by accident, and this year allowed me time to lay a foundation that I could continue to build on in years to come.
I felt like I became more fully myself when I had a break from homeschooling.…the very thing I felt like homeschooling had given TO my kids.
Some Things Were Better At School
Funny enough…that break from homeschooling ended up being an extension of the way we learn at home….and gave each of my kids a chance to become more fully themselves.
In fact, some things were so much better because they went to school in that season.
- My sciencey 16-year-old son was challenged academically and found people who loved Physics and Chemistry (my eyes would glaze over when he would talk about equations and molecules!)
- My unmotivated 14-year-old daughter who struggled academically pushed herself to keep up her grades, because she loved her newfound friendships, athletics and music opportunities.
- My active 13-year-old son tried sports he wasn’t good at and learned to reframe his “failure” and learn leadership skills.
- My 12-year-old was finally in a place where he could build up his reading skills.
- Our 11-year-old was exposed to a school situation where he was under-challenged…which made him WANT to be challenged the next year.
- The 6-year-old made new friends and learned to read.
I fully believe that some of these things were better at school simply because they were ready for the next thing. They were ready for a different challenge. They were ready for more social opportunities. They were ready to have more structure. They were ready to stretch their wings.
I Didn’t Fail At Homeschooling
I began to realize that sending them to school did not mean I had failed. It didn’t mean that homeschooling didn’t work. It didn’t mean that I would never homeschool again.
In fact, sending them to school helped me appreciate some things about their education that I had completely missed.
- Some of their homeschool classes were amazingly rigorous and had prepared them for a college-prep education…despite being taught by “moms” many of whom did not have a college degree. They were prepared!
- They knew how to study on their own and asked for help when they needed it. Win!
- They were not afraid to fail. I let my kids go to school and flounder to figure out how to get it all done. It was rough while they figured out where all the daily details were communicated and how to turn things in on time. But they did it!
- They became friends with kids of different ages. In groups and teams, they became friends with people much older and younger. It felt so homeschooley!
- They enjoyed learning because they chose to be there.
- They tried new things without being naturally good at them…just for fun…without worrying whether they would be the best.
When I stepped back and looked at how they were approaching challenges, I realized that homeschooling had prepared them well for trying the next thing. We didn’t commit to never homeschooling again. Instead, we simply enjoyed the year and let each of them grow from the experience.
The daily conversations we had in the car showed me how much they were learning to think. They were stepping up to challenges and becoming stronger.
A Year of School Led Us to Shift Partly Back to Homeschooling
Now in 2022, some are back to homeschooling and some are in school. Having that break for a year was so valuable as each child had the chance to try something new and consider what they liked and didn’t like.
Why I Share About The Year I Quit Homeschooling
As we stepped into our journey away from homeschooling for a year, I became acutely aware of how alone I felt. I felt caught between worlds…recognizing the great things about homeschooling and appreciating the new opportunities. I found that most of the people I talked to didn’t really understand…or maybe I just felt that way. Either way, I think I wanted someone to say, “Hey Mom…It is OK for you to take a break and allow your own needs and wants to be part of your plan for your family’s education. It’s OK for you to try something different.”
So I’m saying that to you Friend! It is ok to take a step back from whatever you are currently doing with your kids and reevaluate. It’s okay to do something different next year…or even right now. Pivot. I don’t believe the solution for every burned-out mom is to put kids in school. There are tons of ways to create margin so that everyone can thrive.
The year I quit homeschooling taught me so much about burnout and I can’t wait to share more about how we can take better care of ourselves and take care of our families too!