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Help for the unmotivated homeschooler

I received an email from an unmotivated homeschooler this week and with her permission, I am posting it here in the desire to encourage other home educators who are in the same place and to solicit even more great feedback from you veterans.

I came across your website tonight while doing a google search… yep, I googled, “What if I love the idea of homeschooling, but I’m really not cut out for it?” I’ve been trying to do it for almost 5 school years now. My first son took two years for kindergarten because I got sick (and lazy), my second son is special needs – on the autism spectrum somewhere, and my third school-age child is my first daughter in Kindergarten, and I have a 2 year old.

My point is that I’m at that place where I really think I’m doing an injustice to them by keeping them home. I’m not getting things done, they’re lazy and it’s most likely because they see it in me. There’s a lot that goes into that, but the question remains… how do you DO what you know you need to do? How do you kick yourself in the tuckus so to speak to get the job done? I know what my calling is and what is expected of me, but I’m really struggling in getting it done…thanks for any advice.

An Unmotivated Homeschooler

I had some thoughts, but I took the issue to my Homeschool Homies (HH) and here is what we have to share with her:

  • Check your expectations. One of my HHs suggested that if you took two years to do kindergarten, you might be expecting way too much. Kindergarten should be a gentle introduction to math, reading, and learning in general. There are few reasons to hold your child back in kindergarten, though you can continue to work on skills at his level. In other words, are you really lazy, or do you expect to do more than is reasonable? Unreasonable expectations lead to overwhelm which can in turn lead to feeling unable to start.
  • Do less. When you feel like you aren’t doing much, this seems like crazy advice, but having less to do helps you do more. One HH swears by taking time to train her children to do household chores like laundry and cooking. When my children were younger, I had a housekeeper come in once every two weeks. Both strategies can free you up to spend more time teaching. Next, simplify your schooling. Set aside time-consuming, activity-heavy curriculums and do the essentials (some Bible, math, reading, and some language arts instruction–maybe some handwriting practice). Subjects like history, science, and geography do not have to be done every day and can be simply reading a great book in that subject area.
  • Get accountability. Being a home educator is tough for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest is we have no one overseeing our work and giving us feedback (at least in most states). Ask your husband to hold you accountable, join or start a co-op requiring preparation every week, and/or find an accountability partner. Ask an experienced homeschooler to look over what you hope to accomplish in an average day or week and let her tell you if it’s reasonable. Once you have a reasonable plan, have an accountability check-in each day or week. I use a website called idonethis.com and when I reply to it each evening with a list of accomplishments, I cc my accountability partner. Agree with your partner that if you haven’t met a minimum standard in a certain time period, that you should send your children to school.
  • Get support. My HHs agreed that you have a lot to handle at this stage of your homeschooling. If you don’t get together with other homeschoolers in person or online on a regular basis, may I suggest that you do so ASAP? This is a very difficult calling and we need our HHs to cheer us on. I dont know what I would do without the time to talk, laugh, and cry with my HSing pals. I really like the Hip Homeschool Moms FB page for asking questions and getting support. You may also want to consider programs that can support your homeschooling. From enrollment in online schools where all the teaching and grading are done for you to day programs and classes, you will find that you really don’t have to do it all!

I also asked my HHs how they get things done that they’re reluctant to do. Here is what they said:

I just do it. If it has to be done…

That might seem unreasonable, but sometimes we obsess over a task ten times longer than it would take to just do it. Just doing it may be setting a timer and doing it for a minimum time and then being allowed to stop. Your children will respond well to this, too.

I give myself a reward. If we get a lot of school done one day, we might go to the park the next.

One of the biggest reasons we homeschool moms get stuck doing things that aren’t school-focused is we don’t give ourselves guilt-free time. Make sure you have some every single day. Whether your older child plays with the younger while you surf the web for half an hour, you pay a sitter to come give you time away once a week, or your husband takes over at scheduled times, you will find yourself refreshed and ready to homeschool once again.

I pray about it.

Love this one. We are doing something great for the glory of God. Why would we expect it to be easy or to do it alone? God is there to help us and will certainly equip us for the work He has called us to do. My Homeschool Homies and I are praying for you!

for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13

P.S. Treat your homeschooling like a career. Develop habits and a routine (FLYLady is wonderful inspiration) or a schedule (Managers of Their Homes is excellent). Build in break times that coincide with times you’re tired. Give yourself credit for what you DO do, rather than what you don’t.

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for plenty of motivating ideas.

Do you have any other suggestions for our Unmotivated Homeschooler? Are you an unmotivated homeschooler who needs advice or prayer? Just ask!

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