Homeschooling is Really Hard

But it’s worth doing it anyway.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

I’m halfway through my second year of homeschooling my thirteen-year-old daughter.

I feel like I should get one of these Olympic medals, or at least a good collection of gold stars, because I have no doubt that homeschooling is harder than curling.

Really. Go ahead and try to argue that one.

My daughter Elise is thirteen, but she’s also autistic and intellectually disabled.

Though her body is growing, in many ways her intellect and personality are staying the same — have been the same, really — and so she seems in many ways more like an eight or nine-year-old girl, not a teen who would be starting high school in two years if I hadn’t sworn off public school for her, for good.

This story, the story of why I homeschool, is really hard for me to tell.

The simple truth is, when she was about to graduate to middle school, I panicked.

Because I remember middle school.

Elise has never had a real friend.

She doesn’t fit in with peers her age and has never learned or performed well in a classroom setting, and public schools don’t accommodate children with these sorts of social needs because they believe in inclusion now — even if you’re different, you belong with the rest of the kids.

You just, you know, are the kid that has an aide sitting with them all day.

The kid that gets pulled out for math and therapy.

The kid who has no one to eat with in the cafeteria and comes home every day crying.

These weren’t the only reasons I decided to homeschool.

Elise is extremely behind on all the fundamentals of education, but since public schools have to follow a curriculum (even with an IEP) they kept pushing her on and on even when she was lacking in basic skills.

She couldn’t tell time or count back change, but they were starting to try to get her to solve algebra problems and long division, and yeah, those things frustrated her to tears, too.

The worst part? They gave her no room to excel at the things she was good at.

Children in public schools have no freedom to pursue the things they’re passionate about.

If they’re terrible at math but are excellent readers, it doesn’t matter. They have to fit into the standardized box of a publicly educated student.

I can do better than this for her, I thought.

I don’t really think I’m doing a great job.

Every day that I say “Okay, time to do some schoolwork,” there’s some sort of argument, whine, meltdown, or accusation that I’m evil even though I’m making this as easy as possible on her.

I guess you could say I’m “unschooling” Elise now, and supplementing with workbooks to make sure she’s moving on with her reading comprehension and math skills, but for the most part we do what works for us each day.

We watch a lot of documentaries.

We read a lot of books.

We’ve mastered telling time and now we’re working constantly on learning the value of money, and how to use it out in the real world.

We cook every day (or so).

We make slime.

We go for walks on the beach and to the parks when it’s warm.

I have no idea where she would fit now on any standardized test, and frankly, at this point I don’t care.

I’m doing the best I can, and it’s fucking hard.

It’s hard keeping myself motivated to keep her motivated.

It’s hard to constantly be questioning myself on whether I am doing the right things.
It’s hard, honestly, to be with her 24/7 after years of school days when mommy got a little break during the day sometimes.

But I know I’m doing the right thing.

She’s happier.

She doesn’t cry as much.

She’s learning more, even if she isn’t learning the same things she would be if she were in public school, I know she’s progressed this year emotionally and intellectually, and that’s more than I could hope for.

This school year is almost over, and we’ve so far survived.

It could be a miracle.

But I could deserve a medal.