Am I a Failure as a Homeschooler?

I’ve had the “add new post” window open on my laptop for two days now. I stare at the blank screen, unsure of what to type exactly. I want to tell you about our latest homeschooling…..mess. But it’s messy. I don’t even know how this is all going to turn out, and I’m not sure if I can convey clearly what we’re dealing with.

No, it’s not a life-threatening mess. Many could read this and respond with, “Hitch up your big girl panties and roll, girl.” Others can read this and say that I’m asking too much, expecting too much; that I should accept reality and be thankful for what is here rather than wanting more.

There is an immediate solution, but it’s one that I hate.

The mess: school here is usually a fight. There are rarely days in which all four boys cooperate with the assignments and finish their work so we can all play. Rather, at least one (and usually more) of them has a meltdown over me saying radical things like, “okay, time for spelling.” Granted, life is a ton easier than in years past. Back when the older boys were in first and second grade, we all had meltdowns: them crying over learning their letters and me crying over them crying.

Believe me, I have tried EVERYTHING I could think of to make school more palatable. The younger boys routinely forget themselves and have a great time doing their schoolwork. This is after the crying and arguing and throwing themselves on the floor because of the aforementioned radical speeches coming out of my mouth.

I kept the boys home from public school for many reasons, but the biggest one is that I want them here. I love learning, and watching children learn. Heck, that’s what my graduate degree was in. But this? This is not fun. It’s more like torture. Day in and day out, someone is crying or complaining or arguing.

Click around to some homeschool blogs and you’ll find story after story of how rewarding the experience is, how much fun parents are having with their children, how close they are as a family….how easy this life is. After 7 years of trying, we’re still not there. That’s discouraging. What am I doing wrong? How can I make this better? Why won’t my children accept the fact that they MUST learn? By law, they have to be in school. Period. And yet, they seem to think they can argue their way out of the work. I truly don’t understand. I want to be one of those moms who has fun with her kids and lessons. But I don’t know how to get there.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. This feels insane. And I’m not even doing the same things. I keep trying new things, new courses, new approaches, new deals, new plans, new rewards, new motivations. But we keep coming back to the same old resistance.

And that’s what bugs me the most. The boys at a base level do not agree that they should be learning. They just want to play. I have yet to find ways of schooling that are playful enough to pull them in. And believe me again, I have tried. When I suggest fun things, they immediately shoot the ideas down. Everything new has to be forced on them. When I ask them for suggestions, I get blank stares or mumbles of, “I don’t know.”

So, with heavy hearts last night we told the boys that we don’t see another choice. It’s time to try public school. That’s the solution I hate. Hubby was sick about it too, and the boys ate dinner with heads bowed in near-silence.

None of us want that option.

But what to do? Ultimately, the boys have to decide they want to be here. They have to decide to participate and take responsibility for their behavior. It shouldn’t be me dragging them, kicking and screaming, through their lessons.

Today, I’m supposed to be calling principals to set up meetings to enroll my boys. I’m supposed to be calling the doctor for medical records and booster shots so that everyone’s current and approved for school. So far, I haven’t done it. I don’t know if I can.

I’m still hoping for that last-ditch effort on their part to stay with me. They say they want to be here. Now they have to prove it.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who struggle with homeschooling.

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38 Responses to “Am I a Failure as a Homeschooler?”

  1. Doris McPherson says:

    1. YOU are NOT a failure! Of all the parents we know you and Hubby are at the top of the list.
    2. No matter what you decide nothing is permanent. If you decide to try public school if only to give the boys some perspective, it can be changed. Deciding to continue homeschooling can be changed too.
    3. I’m sure there are many homeschool families who also struggle with these issues. Anyone that writes only about the glamour of homeschooling is probably hiding the other side. I even see that side when I “homeschool” during the summer.
    4. We are praying for you guys. We really need to have coffee sometime soon!
    5. You are NOT a failure!!! You ROCK!

    • Amy says:

      1. Thank you friend. I think you’re pretty rockin’ too.
      2. I think I could stand to try public school if we arrived at the decision together. This however is wanted by none of us.
      3. I agree that the “everything is wonderful” claims you usually see are probably not always true. I’d like to hope that some of them are, though, and that it’s a state we can actually achieve.
      4. Prayers are always gratefully accepted. And coffee sounds wonderful!
      5. Okay. I’ll hang on to that. Thanks.

  2. Crissy says:

    You do a wonderful job at teaching your boys at home. I don’t think your a failure at it. Have you thought or try to do it the way schools do? I know last summer you gave me great advise on helping the kids with summer schooling. I don’t know if this would help before going to public schools since the school year is almost over but see if the kids could go to the classes at public school without being enrolled as a guest students for a week and see if they like it. It may be a eye opener for them and they decide to work with you instead of against the idea of school while at home. Ask the boys after what they liked and did not like if the school would let you do that? It may help the boys to see how the public system works instead of at home and how you can’t do things you want when you want but according to a time schedule. You are a wonderful teacher and mom to the boys, I don’t know if I could do it or not. I hope everything works out for the best for your family.

    • Amy says:

      Crissy, thank you so much for the sweet reply. We’ve considered asking the schools about letting the boys just visit and try it out. Some local friends assure me that it’s possible. I just don’t feel right about it for some reason. Partly because we’d be using resources that the state wouldn’t pay for. Also, this would be a decision made emotionally, and it’s not what any of us want. So we’re still working on the whole thing.

  3. School is tough. Boys are a challenge. They push the boundaries. Esp with Mom. We homeschooled our youngest for 6,7 and 8th grade. It was very successful. The key I think is to give choices and then consequences. Our son hated school and we had to push, but he had the choice of going on Saturday, not getting the priviledges he liked for not doing his work. No matter what you do, you get the worst of it. Parents have to follow through. It is real work, 24/7. But why did you become a parent? You wanted to do and feel and give something. You are! Public school won’t be any easier. You are going to have a show down every morning and evening over the same issues and with less flexibility. You have to work it out one way or the other. The boys will likely find school less intense and more boring in many ways than home school. There is no exactly right or wrong way. The success or failure is not if they enjoy school or get A’s, it is the kind of person they ultimately become. I barely passed school in pubic school, couldn’t cut it in a small public college, but I had learned how to work and not to fear hard work. When I got out of the Army I finished my undergrad studies in 8 quarters and went to grad school at a really good university. I still hated school, but I did the work, a bit later than everyone wanted me to but when I was ready. They will too, do what is best. Some may do better in public, some at home. Maybe you should do a mix. Don’t try to make everyone wear the same pair of shoes.

    • Amy says:

      Bruce, thanks for the thoughtful reply. My highest goal for the boys is to see them become the best men they can be in life, and career choices or grades don’t really matter all that much. I want them to learn as much as they can while in my care so as to have as many options in life as possible.

      Your point about consequences rings true, and it’s something (again) that we need to work on. We’ll keep trying. One thing about public school is the external structure and peer pressure that would come into play. I guarantee that my boys would not throw half the fits they do if peers were looking on. They feel free to do so with me which is edifying and annoying at the same time.

      Outside accountability is also a gigantic factor here. Yes, it’s my job to be the mom and to push them. But respecting Mom who’s always around is harder to do than respecting a teacher in front of your peer-group. And the external structure that school provides also has quite an impact. Plus, when we get up in the morning any schedule we have is ultimately an arbitrary choice. It’s harder to stick to “start school at 9am” here at home than it is at school where hundreds of people are also following the same schedule.

      I agree that there’s no right or wrong way…for all families. Each has to find its own way. We’ll keep working out our best solution as we go along.

  4. Susan B says:

    um, sorry to be practical, but what’s the name of the software/website for the art program? My four homeschooled hellions might be interested. 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Amy says:

      LOL. Practical is fine! It’s Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station. Get it through the homeschool buyer’s co-op and it’s $99 for a 3-year subscription.

  5. Susan B says:

    And as for the decision to homeschool vs “real” school. I went through the same thing two years ago with my six and eight year olds. (Rock star and Moose)

    Fighting to get them to do chores, homeschool, even wake up in the morning! I love and logic’d them. I quit fighting. I told them simply, here is your assignment, either do it or we are enrolling you in school. Of course they did a little, especially the older one. But not what I had asked for. So school time rolled around and they found themselves in public school, one in K one in 2nd grade.

    Well, long story short, they were home by Christmas. No, not their idea, it was the idea of the PRINCIPAL! The older boy was already doing fifth grade work and was a bit.. um… disruptive in school and getting straight A’s. Instead of bumping him up a grade or three, they tested him for GAT. Well he was off the charts but they had no program for him. The Principal suggested we simply put him in the library all day doing special projects. LOL!! Ahem. I demured that what she thought was best for me but that she might want to think about that one. He was home by Christmas and no more problems getting his work done for a year now.

    The younger boy, Moose, was a little overfaced and struggling, getting very frustrated. Eventually he did well and caught up, but he wasn’t as thrilled as he thought he would be with it. Whenever I run up against any unwillingness to work, I simply ask them – hey guys, seems like homeschool isn’t your bag, I guess I’ll have to consider public school again, what do you think?

    Works as well as asking any unruly children in the backseat if they need fresh air! *grin* and YES, that worked like a charm, my teenager still talks about that 😉

    I’d say let em go 🙂

    • Amy says:

      Yea. I gotta get my courage up for that particular Love and Logic strategy. I agree with it….just could’t bring myself to do it. The older boys have been at least pleasant in the last week, but they’re still excelling at time wastage. I think they’ll figure it out when they have work to do over the summer. The younger boys are still fighting – The Manager cried at least 7 times already today. Two episodes were caused by older brother annoyances, and the rest were issues surrounding perfectionism. He didn’t answer a question correctly-and didn’t realize that I wasn’t actually asking him, I was trying to introduce a topic-and burst into tears. The whole idea that he might do something imperfectly, even if he’s never tried it before, freaks him out. That particular issue isn’t something I see getting solved in school.

      The other issues…need work. Like I said, we’re still muddling through this one. Thanks for the encouragement, and the example! Why did you choose to let Moose come home at Christmas?

  6. Flash Design says:

    I went through the complete article. I also think that you are not a failure! You have taken a good decision I appreciate your opinion.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Flash Design. I hope that I’m not failing….sometimes I think we won’t know the answer to that question until the boys are all grown up.

  7. Kimberly Kovach says:

    I am just visiting from UBP and don’t have time to look all around to find out what you use for your curriculum. To spice up the school day a bit, have you tried unit studies? Could you incorporate their play into homeschool? If they are only 7, they don’t need to be doing tons of sit down bookwork anyway. I love homeschooling my kids, but will definitely admit that it isn’t easy and sometimes would LOVE to send them to school. However, I know what’s right for us, whether they are little dears or not. I, too, and a former school teacher. 🙂

  8. crm software says:

    Very interesting article. I remember when my senior mom was in her mid-40s and I was in high school. She went back to school to be a nursing assistant. She finished the course, but then ended up taking care of her aging aunt with dementia symptoms. She used all that she had learned, but in a personal way. Which goes to prove education is never wasted, even if we don’t always use it the way we meant to. 🙂

  9. Val Garner says:

    Not that I’m an expert (do I ever know that!) but here’s my 2 cents (if that’s ok). I actually think this might be a very good move. I think sometimes that only when a child experiences the public school experience, will they truly appreciate what they’ve got. The old adage of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. You can always pull them back out down the line later, but you’re right in that at some level, they have to cooperate with it. They will see in public school that education is mandatory including them, and they’ll be surrounded by kids so used to this fact, they are not fighting it (except for homework issues, that they most likely won’t see of other students), so on that realm, there’ll be some positive peer pressure/reality check.

    I was one who homeschooled my youngest from mid-8th grade until graduation. I didn’t do it by choice as I didn’t have enough confidence in my ability to do so. My son’s younger years in public school for the most part were ok, but junior high was another matter. It became so unbearable for him it was frightening, and was obvious he wasn’t going to make it, to the point where I knew I could do no worse than what was happening. This was the best thing that could have happened for our son. He did great, went on to a wonderful tech school after graduation, is doing well. I can say he had a grateful heart towards homeschooling because he knew what public school was like. To him, it was a joy and a treat (and it’s not like I was slack….in 6 months at home, he read more books than 1 – 7th grade combined).

    Hang in there. This is a very courageous move, and I know it must be heartbreaking for you. You are a very good teacher, in fact this whole issue is a major teaching lesson in their lives. Hugs to you.

  10. Kristin says:

    Hi Amy, first and foremost, you are NOT a failure! You’re doing everything possible to make homeschooling work for you/your kids and family. Boy, can I relate to the fighting, meltdowns, disrespect, and more. WOW! Thought I was reading my own story here from this past year! Mine is on a smaller scale, homeschooling one son since mid January 2010. Our other son remained in preschool for the duration of the school year. I also began homeschooling all the while caring for an 8 month old (now 15 months). It has been a bittersweet experience with similar/the same experiences you’ve been dealing with along the way. So much so that we made the decision to try public school again for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year. I’m reluctant towards this decision as is my husband being we really saw how wonderful homeschool offered more options and flexibility. Our hope is our oldest son whom we pulled out of first grade will realize how good he had it at mom. Regardless, we are committing to being back at public school for a year and expect him to follow through. Of course, his well-being and safety are top priority (meaning we’ll pull him out if true issues of bullying should occur). We won’t however, merely if he ‘claims’ to be bored or unhappy. He has to (as mean as this sounds) suck it up, and honor our agreement. Although it seemed he was thrilled with the idea of returning to public school, there is a side of him that has now voiced three times he doesn’t want to go–that he still wants to homeschool. Maybe he is scared, the reality of summer coming to an end and all, but no matter, he’s seeing Mom (me) means business. It was definitely hard walking into our neighborhood school today with the paperwork–I held off until almost the last minute. This decision is what’s best for our family as a whole right now. If our son won’t cooperate at home then he has to get his schooling elsewhere. We won’t allow him to fall further behind nor to continue disrupting our family. Yes, we’ve invoked the Love and Logic method (amongst many techniques). I refuse to fight with him anymore. We’ve explained our decision to send him back is non-negotiable for one year (2nd grade) and that his consequences will be greater for non-compliance (any amount of arguing, meltdowns, issues with getting dressed each morning, breakfast, etc.). Like yourself, I’ve tried it all when it comes to the elements surrounding homeschool. Although I don’t feel or claim to be the best/only teacher for my son, I have enjoyed him at home, even amidst the tears and challenging moments. Albeit reluctant, I’m staying strong for my son (as he feeds off my emotions like wildfire). I am looking forward to the upcoming school year even though we’ll be at the mercy of whatever public school throws our way. Even with being busy with a toddler and Kindergartener, it will allow me to regroup/refocus at home and perhaps give me some breathing room for reorganization on the homeschool front (from my thoughts, methods, materials, etc.). Nothing is perfect and I’ve stopped beating myself up over the whole homeschool vs. public school debate. I honestly hope to embark on homeschooling in the near future and for now will just relax a bit and enjoy being “mom”. I’m okay with that in itself. Whatever YOU decide it is your decision-don’t let fanatics sway you toward their way of thinking or try to guilt you into what may work for their particular situation/family. Remember: Misery loves company. You sound like a terrific mom, very strong (how could you not be, homeschooling 4 boys ;0)!). I will mention one math curriculum which has made a huge difference–it is “Right Start Math”. You might want to check it out. Works wonders with my two wiggly boys. They learn math so easy it almost doesn’t seem like we’re actually doing schoolwork (yes, this was one of the perks we discovered from homeschooling :0)!). It involves playing a bunch of card games–seriously, it is amazing! My kids are both coming up with answers in their heads, even using double digits/place value, without counting on fingers or much thought process. It’s a blast to see them having fun all the while learning. I plan to continue using the program along with whatever math my son will have in second grade at public school. This goes along for my Kindergartener-to-be as well, as he is thriving using “Right Start Math” too. Also, check out another dedicated mom’s blog/website, I believe if you Google, “Homeschool Mom Guru Sending Her Kids Back to School”. It made me feel so good about my/our recent decision. Perhaps it will lend some additional perspective. All the best to you and your family. Remember, nothing has to be permanent–you can always change, send your kids to public school, and always bring them home again if necessary.

  11. Gr8lyBlessed says:

    Well I stumbled across your blog, and boy O’ boy did I need it. Well today I asked myself if I was a failure. My 3 will be going to public school come Wednesday. I for a little felt like a failure. The kids went from ahh man no mom so I said OK lets buckle down and move through this language arts so we can get onto Science. One refused to read his spelling words and the other refused to write his 2 times each. So you know I am gonna let them see if the grass is greener on the other side. Sometimes God lets us see if the grass is greener. We are moving to Germany in a few months so yes I will let them see. My oldest should know better he has done it. They think they do not have to do math that includes barrow and carry. They think they don’t have to read or do handwriting. Not only are they having to go but they are getting held back a grade My oldest has been a grade ahead for 3 years now he has to go back to 4th grade, he has to do it in everything even church activities. My other son has been a grade ahead due to starting K at 4 yrs old but now he has to back to 1st gr rather 2nd like he would be at home. All of it is by state law and age. It really stinks!!!!!! ERRRR I just want to break down and cry, but I am gonna hold firm and let it run its course, and pray, Pray, PRAY! Please include us in your prayers as will I for you. God knows best for us all and will handle all things in His time. BTW what happen with your outcome?

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Alisha, at that time we decided to continue homeschooling, but it has been a constant question in my mind. We haven’t made a final decision for this year for one boy in particular. I hate to let him go, just because I really do want to do school with him. But how can a person learn when there’s so much disrespect? We’re struggling over this currently, although a decision has to be made very soon. School starts here in 3 weeks. I pray that your kiddos do learn so much and appreciate you more after their experience.

  12. cezen says:

    I am so glad to have read your article. Just today, I had a 4th grade boy melt infront of me because he thought a small l was an i. He was so upset that he couldn’t figure it out and when I said, honey, look at this letter, (in another word) and tell me what it is, and he identified it correctly, and then I said, it’s the same as this one so use the same sound. And then he proceeded to try to sound it out for 2 minutes, then break down and cry and throw himself on the couch even after doing it correctly. I now know that he feels he has to get everything right the first time. I have no idea how to fix his need for perfectionism. I cried for 10 minutes after I asked the boys to take a break upstairs in their rooms.

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Cezen I’m so sorry for the frustrations! If it were me, I’d work on school in extremely small bits with him for a while, and try to discuss some frustration management strategies with him. Talk about what it feels like to make a mistake and walk him through a technique for dealing with that frustration when it hits him. Any evidence you can show him of other people making mistakes and handling them calmly might help. Talk through your own mistakes out loud with him “oops, Mommy used a yellow crayon on the sky instead of blue”. Anything you can do to build confidence can help. I’ve been learning lately that a lack of self-confidence is part of the perfectionism.

      You can’t fix this in a day. It will take time. You can get through it though, and you can get through to him. Just don’t quit.

  13. Cindy says:

    I am in the middle of the same situation with one of my children…I have 2, age 5 and 9. The 5 year old is starting home school and LOVES it…the 9 year old not so much. The issue I am having is the same, constant meltdowns and hates to write. He considers it a form of torture. He is beginning to resent me for it.
    On top of it all, no one supports me in homeschooling my children, including my husband. He never helps out, offer no words of support or back me when friends and family put the whole homeschooling idea down. I know I am more than qualified to teach them, I have a BS degree in Elementary ed and earth science, but it feels like I am failing too. I cried myself to sleep because I feel like am failing my child and, in some way, myself. I feel like I was set up to fail and so many people are happy to watch me fail at it. I feel your pain…I am supposed to be calling the school dept to see what I need to do to get him enrolled, but I don’t like the idea of sending my advanced child into a mainstream school which has less than acceptable performance ratings. He was tested during the summer and scored well above his age level. I am scared, sad, remorseful, bewildered, and alone. I have no support system what so ever, and regardless of what I do, I lose. Keep on, keeping on…at least you have support!

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Cindy, I’m so sorry! Depending on where you are, there may be a local homeschool group available for support. There may be some wisdom in letting your oldest go to school. One of the most frustrating things for me is having the younger ones throw the same tantrums the older ones did just because that’s what they’ve seen. TechnoBoy actually enrolled in public school this year for the very first time and so far it’s been a good decision for all of us. I wouldn’t say that he was battling me any more than the others, but reducing by one boy has for whatever reason turned into an easier schedule at home. I don’t know why.

      As for the writing, try the Institute for Excellence in Writing program. It’s expensive, but I’m pleased with the structure and The Mercenary is starting to work through the lessons with some success and not too much frustration. If he can type, that may help. That helped here some, and I also got a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking, thinking that they could speak their essays. We didn’t end up trying that though.

  14. Laura says:

    Thank you so much for putting this “to paper’ and speaking the words that I have choked down for 2 1/2 years!!

    I am at the end of my rope and feel miserable that there seems nothing left to do but put the children in public school. I realize that I am struggling with issues of ego (failure), with explaining our choices to others, and meeting my fears about public school (after having been a classroom teacher for years).

    I cannot get my children to cooperate and work for me. The oldest stalls and wastes the entire day away, the second has continuous temper tantrums, and the younger ones can’t get any of my attention because of the older two. I know my 4 year old could be reading now if I just had the time to give her! We had to miss a pumpkin patch day today because the older ones hadn’t finished work or basic chores for days.

    I am alternately crying and praying, (and sometimes both at once), and feel no peace about what direction we should go. I think this is once when I hope my husband truly makes the decision for us all!

    Thanks again!

    • Amy LeForge says:


      There’s NO shame in sending one or more children to public school. TechnoBoy enrolled in public school this fall, and we’re doing just fine. I was physically ill about the whole thing for a week (that’s how much notice I had that he was truly going to go to school), and then things have been fine. There are still battles, but they’re different now. It might be that everyone made a quantum leap forward, or it could be that having just one less boy reduced a lot of friction. I don’t know. But things are…okay. It’s too soon to guess what the future will bring, but I’m hopeful that he’s gaining some wisdom and perspective now that he’s away from home a bit. Will he choose to come back home? I give it a 50/50 chance right now. Either way, it’s nice to be more peaceful.

      I’ll be praying that your decision brings you peace. In the for what it’s worth department, my sister rather abruptly sent her two oldest to school for a year and it was one of the best decisions she could have made. She didn’t think so at the time, but the kids learned quite a bit and life was better the following year.

  15. krista says:

    I have been homeschooling my two boys, 1st and 4th grade, for a grand total of 5 months. I was not naive to think that there wouldn’t be resistance after so many years at a “regular” school. However, it seems that everyday is a battle. One day I can say we have English and the 4th grader is fine, while the next day it results in a trip to his room for a while to prepare himself for his day, thus adding much more time to our day. The days of where I have enjoyed homeschooling have been few and far between. My older son is so resistant to anything that I don’t know what to do. While my younger one is a bit easier to engage he is learning from his older brother’s behavior and having meltdowns often now too. I am not sure if I am using the wrong material,expecting too much, etc. I rarely have a day when not one of us has not cried or thrown a fit (me included). I was sure this was God’s plan for our family as my heart was changed from a critic to homeschooling to an active homeschooling mom. However, I don’t understand why if this was the plan why does it feel like I am failing? My patience has not grown, but I seem to be so hypersensitive to things and I have no patience left.

    This blog post has found me int he “rare” mood of quitting. I have just lost my temper and have confined each child to their rooms for all of us to have some time outs. I hate that I cannot patiently love and guide my kids in this.

    • Amy LeForge says:


      Hang in there! I’ve had that same experience SO often. It’s a fine line we walk as homeschooling mamas, knowing how hard to push without making things so easy that they become soft and never learn, or being so frustrating that they quit on learning overall. I have discovered lately four things: 1)if we get going earlier in the morning it makes a HUGE difference and life is much improved. It takes discipline for me to keep getting up early when I’d rather sleep, but it can mean the difference between finishing at noon and at 4pm.

      2)It’s okay to back off and not do as much. For example, the grammar program that we’re doing. Why do I need to have them finish it all in a year? I don’t! They’re still learning plenty, and spreading lessons out is okay. Also? I can skip things that they already know. They don’t have to do every assignment in a book. (For me, this is a huge revelation).

      3)It’s okay for me to insist on a bare minimum daily. Math, for example, gives the Captain fits. Not because it’s hard for him, but because he thinks it’s drudgery. The law says he has to study it though, and I use that to back myself up. He has to learn this, it’s the law. He can control whether he learns it at home or at public school, but he IS going to learn it. (He wants to do mental math only, and balks at writing out any kind of problem).

      4)The “carrot on a stick” method is very helpful. Get a little something accomplished, then have a reward. Especially at those ages, this can be very powerful. 4th grade boys often do well with checklists and contracts. We instituted a pleasant attitude system a couple of years ago. Each subject on the checklist was worth 2 points. They earned one point for task completion, and one point for being cooperative during that task. A certain minimum of points had to be earned for a small candy reward each day. I bought those movie candy boxes of M & M’s or Gobstoppers or SweetTarts. If the boy got his points, he could have 5 small candies. The whole thing stuck, and has morphed into them getting the 5 candies each day for being done with school. If I have to call them on attitudes I can re-institute the points thing. Even TechnoBoy gets himself the candies when he gets home from school each day!

      Good luck, and I hope you find your way. No matter what, you need to choose what works best for your family. If that’s public school, that’s okay. It’s not true that one path is superior for all people. Families are different and you need to do what works best for you.

  16. lisa hayes says:

    i was so encouraged to come across your blog. i have been struggling tremendously. my daughter is very strong willed, which leads to a lot of head butting. she doesnt have trouble doing her work but her attitude some days is off the charts..i dont think im helping when i get frustrated and begin to yell at her. i dont know if it would do her some good to be away from me during the day or if i should continue to homeschool and work on her attitude issues….plus if i send her to school and not my son, i dont want her to feel as if im rejecting her…im feeling ill over this whole issue and feeling completely burnt out …but i really didnt want to quit either….i wish i knew what to do… is your situation now…have you seen improvement?

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Lisa, I’m so glad to have been a bit of encouragement for you. That’s exactly why I started writing in the first place. Definitely the yelling will cause problems for you both long-term. It’s awfully hard to stop when you’re so frustrated though. I definitely struggled with the “send one away” issue. The solution was to leave the decision up to them. We did talk about it frequently, and when TechnoBoy did decide to go to public school this year, it was completely his decision.

      What does your daughter want? Does she want to be at home? If so, she has to meet certain conditions like “finish every assignment” and “work without crying”. Depending on her age you might be able to set up a contract with her. I had one with the younger boys in which they could earn two points for each subject. One was for being pleasant and cooperative, and the other was for actually completing the work. They had to earn at least ten out of fourteen points per day. If they got their points, they got a very small reward daily, like 5 M & M candies. That was enough for them, and it stuck well enough that all the boys still choose a “I finished my schoolwork” reward every day.

      Yes, I have seen improvement. It was all hard-won. Pretty much every year has seen me trying new things, searching to find solutions to problems. I’ve found now that they’re older, giving them more independence helps. The little guys do their own work on cursive, spelling, logic, and piano practice. Spanish is a listening activity but we do that together, and then we do grammar, Bible, math, and writing together. Everything is as short as I can make it and we bounce through the subjects pretty quickly every day. The Mercenary, who is in 8th grade this year, does pretty much all of his work independently. I have to check on him very closely, but he’s able to work through the lessons (video lessons are helpful!) and is happy to be left in charge of his own schedule.

      This is the smoothest year we’ve had so far. I’ve said that every year, but this one is truly the most harmonious. We still have plenty of bumps in the road, but at least they’re not the mountains we used to have to climb. I’ve definitely had plenty of times where I was in total despair over the whole thing, but not willing to quit. I’m glad we stuck with it, but I wonder if I’d gone ahead and sent them to school if this would have gotten better faster. There’s no way to know.

      If it were me, I’d ask your daughter what she wants and decide accordingly. I hope you’re able to find a solution that blesses your family! Let me know how it worked out, okay?

  17. Christi says:

    you so much for posting this and for those of you who posted in response…My heart echos so much of what many of you have said. After 8 years of homeschooling (we have 3 boys who are school age, in addition to 2 younger girls)…I also feel like I’m going insane. Tomorrow morning we have a meeting with the principal at the local school to discuss our options and I’m making myself sick thinking about it. The emotional pendulum continues to swing back and forth between excitement for the the change might mean for us as a family (hopefully positive) and fear and sadness for what we will lose. I can’t shake the “failure” feeling and while I can tell myself all day long that I’m not a failure, it sure doesn’t change the way I’m experiencing my reality right now. We’ll see. I just keep praying. And believing that God is right in the middle of this chaos with us and He will see us through, no matter what. Thank you, all.

    • Amy LeForge says:


      You’re welcome from all of us. Please do not feel guilty for having to make this choice. I’ve done the sick thing. Part of it for me was letting go of the label “homeschooler”. It’s what I was for so long! Just last week I sent both older boys to public high school and was actually excited about it and for them. After months of prayer and consideration, I know we made the right choice. I still have the younger ones, and life is already better for us here. We’ll see what the future holds. Right now Hubby thinks we should expect these boys to go to high school as well. That may be what happens. I’ve got a few years to think about it. 🙂

      Ultimately, sending the older boys was what we needed to do to save our family from certain insanity. It feels right. I’m glad they’re going…they’re already showing me growth and development that pleases a Mama’s heart. Now if we could only get some of the adolescent eye rolling under control. Ugh.

      I’ll be praying you have some peace and resolution soon.

  18. Tammy says:

    Boy Amy let me tell you… Do I feel your pain. I have been in tears most nights this week. It’s only the first week of school. 4 days to be exact. And three of those four have been a nightmare. My 7 year old son (suspected to have aspergers) hates doing school! We have changed things up. Tried new things. I help him with his writing and let him do most things orally because he HATES to write. He feels so far behind because it is a constant battle to get him to do anything. It has been this way… I don’t know… Always. (His brother, 5, total opposite.). Today my husband and I began to wonder if maybe we should try school. My heart aches. I NEVER wanted my kids in school. Various reasons. And it’s fine with me that others do. Just was not something I wanted for our family. But he refuses to learn!

    What amazes us is how well he responds to others. He does great in Sunday School, VBS, he went to Zoo Camp and Church Camp with no issues. So I don’t know, maybe it will be good for him. He says he’s okay with it. Even seems a little excited. I just don’t know how it’s going to work. And I’m so heartbroken anyhow.

    I’m curious to know how things have turned out for you family.

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Hi Tammy. I ended up keeping the boys at home at the time I wrote that post. I didn’t want to make the decision in anger. 2 years later, TechnoBoy chose to go to 8th grade in the public school. The Mercenary joined him for 9th grade at the high school, and they both went for tenth grade this year. I wish we could have had the homeschooling life I’d imagined when I started, but that is not how it turned out. And that’s okay. They needed to be in with a group…to know that they’re not the only ones having to learn and work. And I needed to not be the adversary for the rest of their time living at home. Granted, they’re teens so I still am the adversary often. But we also have times when we make each other laugh.

      Having them at home forced me to do a lot of growing, and I have hope that someday they’ll see the benefits of our choices. I think they’ll need to be adults before they have a true handle on that one.

      I still am homeschooling the younger boys. And to be honest, I got upset by day 2 because they were resisting and avoiding. A bit of discussion and they are making more effort. The plan is to keep them at home this year and next, and then send them to 8th grade. They can decide from there whether they want to continue in public school or come back home. At least then they’ll know what they’re deciding.

      I was a MESS when the first one decided to go to school. Partly because I got about 24 hours notice before the open house to meet teachers, and partly because giving up my identity as a homeschool mom was difficult. I got over it. The boys seem to be happy. They are learning and working harder than they did for me. It’s scary to make that jump, but if it’s the right thing for your family, then it’s wise to make it. Let me know how it works out, won’t you?

  19. Meredith says:

    Amy I echo the other comments that your post and continued reply has been so valuable and calming. The only difference about my guilt over all of this turmoil and threats of school is I only have one boy. I can’t figure out why when all my friends have a min. of 2 kids I cannot seem to make this work. Like you and others I have tried everything I do all project based school living math, but it is exhausting having to be so “on” all the time.
    He is 9, gifted, super sweet and a handful.Never a problem with anyone anywhere. He takes some classes at a homeschool school 2 days a week but they are “fun” classes like the “physics of angry birds”. He also will only do mental math and is highly gifted, where as writing is torture . He is now reading pretty well but programming robotics and anything history or science are his passions. I have been the “fun mom homeschooler” from day one and even have “classes” for some of his friends i.e.Harry Potter theme where I have brought in a teacher to do the class to give me a break. However I am the only one he will read and write with and then it is just torture for both of us. He is a perfectionist (I understand this can be a trait of gifted kids) and I am usually patient but then the drain hits me and I need a break. He always apologizes and I hug him always and move on but by the end of the day we are both back to tears.
    My charter pays for a tutor who comes 2 days for 3 hours. I barely ever get more than that out of him and find very short lessons are best still. I also noticed he likes doing things on his own and prefers all computer based lessons i.e.time4learning/reading eggs/typing/Discovery Education I do the copy work with him and math. Rewardsrus around here but in the end it all seems “cartoonish” and like he’s just playing not really learning which I know the theory they play to learn but he needs to read and write too and anything hard turns him into the Hulk!
    We looked at a private school that has been endorsed by Ken Robinson. They accepted him and want him a grade up from where he is with me. . He can’t go to public where we live. It will cost a fortune and i am just beside myself. Right now I guess I am going to keep it to him doing special interest classes and having his tutor “play” with him. This will make it 4 days a week and I officially only have him one full day with time on either side of his tutor for the bamboo up the fingernails subjects. Still it will cost me about half of what the private school would and there is tons of issues with the way it is now i.e. commuting 3 hours a day on school days.He just doesn’t have a clue how lucky he is and I am afraid he will never become disciplined when it comes to doing things that are hard without a tantrum. We are all such intelligent hard trying mama’s and you all have way more boys than I do. I often say with the life I’ve lived how can one little guy take me out so easily!

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Meredith, please don’t put yourself down! I fought and fought to get the boys to write neatly, for example. If you look at writing samples from The Mercenary over the course of his time at home, it gets worse and worse as you look. He started out writing neatly, then by the time he finished 8th grade, you couldn’t even make out the letters.

      Fast forward to 9th grade in public school and voila! His writing is beautiful. Why? Because his motivation changed.

      I don’t think I could have done anything differently. I HAD to ask him to write neatly. But he wasn’t going to actually do it until he actually was motivated. Sometimes we have to wait for them to mature or for external circumstances to help with them desiring to do things a certain way. It’s super hard. But hang in there. At 9 years old, he’s got lots of time to mature yet. Do your best, then don’t beat yourself up over it.

      No, they never seem to understand the benefits when they’re in a situation. 20 years from now, yes. But now? No. I hate that fact. Figure out what you need to do to succeed, and try not to worry too much about his progress. And consider that there are other ways to do writing. If you’re talking about the physical process being painful, why not type or dictate? We got a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking so that TechnoBoy could speak his thoughts. If you’re talking about creative writing, there are low-pressure programs out there that may help. We did Writing With Ease for 3 years, which was a bit tedious, but this year have changed to The Creative Writer. I intend to do one more level of Writing Wtih Ease or perhaps one of the next levels in that program. The boys don’t love it, but I love the skill they’re getting and we get through it.

  20. Meredith says:

    Thanks Amy I appreciate the feed back. I love reading this post and hope it keeps going. I bought Dragon and have decided he can still dictate if he wants for a while. He then begged to do cursive. It’s the strangest thing his cursive is beautiful! I am using Handwriting Without Tears and I swear his writing looks better than the samples. I showed his dad and he thought I did it. How can that be ? He cannot hardly write. Anyway thinking about what you said about external motivation I got out his “money” book and asked him what was on his mind to save for. His eyes lit up and he said a LARP sword. So we (he) researched (spelling ,reading) then he wrote how much it cost,how much he had,how much he needed(math, writing) Then he graphed chart and wrote all the things he could do to earn money(math writing) It took quite a bit of time and we got a lot done. He never whined once as a matter of fact he had been “sick” when school started and by the end was bouncing around all excited. So I tried the workbook pages for candy . He said no mom how about money so we set up another graph and he can earn a dime for every page. He did 10 right there. What an interesting day.

  21. GM says:

    This is my life today! I have a 12 y/o daughter who will not stay on task, who argues with EVERYTHING I say/ask/do. We had a major flip out moment, I feel like I can’t go on, and yet I don’t want to let her go either. She flippantly says she will go to school, but I know she doesn’t want to, but we both don’t want to keep living life in constant conflict. The homeschooling situation bleeds over into all parts of our life. Do I just let go? I’ve tried so many different things with school time to ease the dynamic we have, Im not even sure what more I can change. I just needed to know there are other parents out there who aren’t perfect, who don’t have a perfect day everyday. For what its worth – thanks….

    • Amy LeForge says:


      I can’t tell you what the right choice is, but I can say that several years after having written that post (and meaning every word), I’ve learned a lot. The older boys did eventually go to public school and it turned out to be the best choice. The youngers are still at home with me, but I am planning for them to attend middle school for 8th grade. Then we’ll decide together what to do.

      Some of the biggest lessons I learned were about me. I had to learn how to approach the problem in a more healthy way, without all the anger that was building up. Not easy, let me tell you. I discovered though, that by getting rid of the anger I was able to communicate with the boys. They were shutting down with all the emotion we were swimming in.

      It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been a perfect journey, but we’ve made considerable progress in growing up and I have great hopes for the future. I’m hoping for great things for you too! It may be that some time in the schools will open both your eyes. Perhaps your daughter thinks as my kids did that you’re asking too much. Nothing like a change of environment to help them with a reality check. Perhaps the schooling shouldn’t be at home.

      One huge factor for me was whether or not I get to keep my relationship with my kids. If we’re going to stick with homeschooling all the way through, battle it out to the bitter end, and then they walk away and never speak to me again, how is that good? The problems here were spilling all over as well. Sending them to school has brought up new problems, but because we’re all growing up and learning better to relate, and because a good deal of the power struggle has gone away, we’re doing okay.

  22. Niki says:

    I feel like I wrote this!! Omg girl! My kids were little superstars in school and they don’t want to do any work for me!! Why? It’s such a fight all the time and my husband travels so I don’t have anyone to lean on. If you figure it out please let me know!!!!!

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