15 Hacks for Dealing With Homeschool Frustration

In this post we will discuss 15 hacks for dealing with homeschooling frustration.

If you don’t struggle with having patience for homeschooling, you aren’t human!

There is something about being home with people you are most comfortable with that lets out the monsters in the closet.

Actually, I believe this is one of God’s tools to get us to face things about ourselves so that we can grow, grow, and grow.

But it’s still unpleasant, isn’t it? We sit down to do some homeschooling, and one (or all) of us loses her cool, and then there is the guilt, and the self-examinations, and the condemnation, and then the next time it is compounded, and then a cycle is created.

This may be especially true for those of us who identify with Christ. We have these huge expectations; we are supposed to be patient, and loving, and selfless. This is why it is so shocking when we find we are the opposite with a child who is struggling, or addlepated, or “hangry.”

But don’t despair—there is hope! You CAN be a patient homeschooling mom!

How do I know this? Because of what God has done in my life. You see, despite all the accusation that this mom of 15 children was born wealthy, organized, and patient, the opposite is true. I was born poor, messy, and easily frustrated (I was not the honor candidate for megamotherhood—which is precisely why God selected me for the job—He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called).

Then I was born again, and then I became rich, and orderly, and patient. This wasn’t because of my super-human strength, but His grace.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-23

So, the gift of patience was mine, but there was still a problem; I was not enjoying the reality of it in my daily life. I found out there were three reasons:

  1. I needed to realize the impatience was not a part of the new me (this is sooooo freeing–watch this video for further explanation: Body – Soul – Spirit (Part 1) | Andrew Farley
  2. I needed to have my mind renewed so I could train the old me (my flesh) to agree with the new me (see video above).
  3. I needed some wisdom as to how to deal with my children (and my circumstances) so that I did not continue to create frustrating situations in my life.

Along the way, I learned these 15 “hacks” which I hope will help you on your journey:

1. Meditate on the Word daily.

This is not a religious exercise to earn extra points towards heaven; this is the only remedy for a desperate mom. I have used any and all means to go about it; reading it to myself during “quiet time” every afternoon, keeping a small Bible in my purse that I could pull out during those “unavoidable delays” of waiting for things in the car or at the doctor’s office, etc. and tuning my radio to Bible programs or put in a tape (yes, I remember using cassette tape players–today it is Youtube and podcasts) while I washed dishes, cooked dinner, or cleaned house.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2

2. Realize your child automatically wants to please you.

This is a big one. I learned it from a child therapist back when I was freaked out a daughter who was struggling with reading. The therapist was trying to get me to look past my angst to the precious heart of my daughter.

When we have a child who is genuinely struggling with reading, math, writing, concentration, etc., we tend to think the worst. One idea we often have is that the child is disobedient, or lazy, or we can even take it as a personal attack. But it almost never is. Children have an innate desire to please us, and in the area of education this is especially true.

If a child is “acting out” and seeming defiant when asked to remember a number or a letter sound, or how to do a math problem, etc., there is almost always an underlying issue and we are missing it. Lots of times they act defiant because they have tried so hard and have been so misunderstood that they have given up and shut down.

It takes a lot to get trust back so they will open up, but it can be done if we are patient. It helps to give them a vision of where they can go and become their best cheerleader!

3. Get your own pride out of the way. 

“What will others think?” is the usual question that goes through one’s mind when a child fails us in one area or another (and when a child is doing well in an area it can be just as harmful). We need to be strict and gentle with ourselves; strict because this line of thinking is a sure way to frustration and damage to our relationship with our children, and gentle because we have all been damaged by the “conditioning” of our own education so that we are obsessed with peer acceptance.

The root of peer dependence is nothing but pride, and pride, in these forms, is destructive:

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

1 John 2:16

Until we put this tendency away, we will be more concerned about ourselves than we are for our children.  This is the opposite of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

It really helped me to realize that what I thought of as “my child” was actually God’s child—she was not my possession for my own use. I was to be a steward, a servant, and follow His plan for her, even if that meant I followed a different path and danced to a different beat than others.

Here is a scripture that helped me in this area:

The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.

Proverbs 29:25

4. Stop allowing fear to be your slave-driver.

Fear can save your life. It is an emotion that can warn you not to drive too fast on icy roads or eat too many brownies (my favorite). But it can also ruin your life. When we homeschool fear comes to us in a long list of “what if’s”.

  • What if I don’t do it right?
  • What if she never learns to read?
  • What if she is behind?
  • What if I leave something out?
  • What if he doesn’t pass the test?
  • What if the authorities say we aren’t doing it right?
  • What if he isn’t prepared for college?
  • What if we don’t get school done today?
  • What if we don’t get all these things done this year?
  • What if we don’t have enough outside activities so that others think we’re weird (see above)?

And these “what if’s” can enslave us so that we in turn become slave drivers to our children. And then, when we get behind, our children don’t measure up, or we hit a road block in some area of learning, (usually beginning reading or math), we start venting our pressure and then—watch out!

Fact is, fear causes anger and frustration, both of which are the opposite of patience.

The best thing is to remember what Jesus said:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:24

So, maybe we won’t get through all of the things we had planned for today; so what. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, we don’t know what God has in store for us or our child in the next ten years. We only have this day, this moment, and in this moment we are going to do as He asked us and leave the ramifications of our obedience in His great, wonderful hands.

5. Focus in on your child, not on your great expectations.

This is just another aspect of my last point.

Over here are our expectations:

  • Johnny will grow up to be a legendary__________ (doctor, football player, chess champion, preacher, etc.).
  • I will be considered the smartest, most dedicated mom.
  • We will be the picture of an amazing family.

Over there sits our child:

  • The same tiny infant that made us giggle every time he yawned.
  • He is interested in why bees buzz and can think of a million fight moves, but he has trouble remembering the difference between his b’s and d’s.
  • He forgets to wash his hands before eating, rarely brushes his teeth.
  • Oh, and he thinks we are his bestest princess mom.

So we have a choice; are we going to continue to think everything he does is amazing, or are we going to constantly weigh everything he does in light of our list of expectations?

Let’s choose the child.

6. Don’t hate your child because you hate yourself.

Oftentimes the traits that bother us most about our children are the traits we hate most in ourselves. Janey stutters and has trouble sitting still—we also have struggled with stuttering and keeping focused. We don’t like it that we have a double chin or have to work hard at spelling. Perhaps we were belittled or ostracized because of these traits and when we see these in our own child a negative emotional wave hits us and we have trouble keeping from reacting.

This is when we need to kneel before the Father and ask His help. We may need to forgive, or turn our own dislikes to thankfulness, or have Him simply touch us in our tender spot so that we are filled so full with His loving understanding that we can easily pass it on to the little girl or boy who looks up to us with such trust and admiration.

It is in understanding God’s deep love and acceptance of ourselves that we are set free to love our own children.

7. Devote yourself to learning how much praise improves the atmosphere.

Now, this one takes a lifetime, but it is so very important. Our children are small persons, and as such they don’t care about how much we know, they want to know how much we care. Taking time to listen quietly while they work slowly through a trouble spot speaks VOLUMES. Adding some honest praise and admiration is the cherry on top.

8. Sandwich criticism between two words of affirmation.

Criticism is part of life. Some of it is destructive, but most of it can be constructive if we will allow it to do its work. Still, no one likes to put total effort into something and then have someone point out a flaw. The ouch we feel keeps us from hearing and heeding the criticism that has the potential of elevating our work to the next level.

This is why I developed a technique with my children that allows them to be more receptive. I start by pointing out something positive, proceed to point out something negative, but end on a positive note.

It looks like this:

“George, I love the way your handwriting has a consistent slant (stand back and show him what you mean). However, you need to cross your t’s more completely (show him specific examples). You’re doing a great job, and I think you are getting better and better at cursive–aren’t you excited?!!”

9. Practice trusting God for the results.

Today we sit down with Charlie and practice his times tables. He isn’t doing so well, and we are flustered. We understand he isn’t grasping a foundational part of his education, and we instantly flash to Charlie grown up holding a cardboard sign begging change from passing cars.

So we sigh heavily and go over and over the facts, punctuating the ones he gets wrong by raising our voice.

He senses our frustration and becomes nervous. His nervousness causes his mind to go blank. Instead of getting more of his facts correct, he gets more of them wrong.

Our own fears heighten as his performance plummets further. The whole session ends in sobs and loads of hot, steaming guilt at losing our cool with our precious boy.

Instead…trust God for the outcome. So today Charlie didn’t do so well on his flash cards. SO WHAT! God knows what Charlie needs and where he is headed. We are not going to carry that heavy weight. We are going to roll that care on God’s amazingly ginormous shoulders and enjoy and encourage Charlie, right where he is, no matter if he misses most of the cards.

We might even discern that the cards aren’t the best anyways and go a totally different direction so that we both feel accomplished and our love and understanding for each other is increased.

10. Simplify.

Are you like me? Do you surf the Net and discover all of the pretty, extravagant ways to homeschool and then set down to cram them all into each day? I am one of the original moms who started using the “morning basket” way back when, but I have peeped into some on the Internet and read the long list and wondered how any child could survive such a huge mind dump so early in the morning.

When we try to cram every bit of special in, we end up enjoying very little of it, if any at all. And when the babies are screaming and the older kids are rolling their eyes, the pressure level rises until the stack has gotta blow!

Then we back up completely and vow never to try again.

Instead, take one good thing at a time and read and enjoy it thoroughly, then move on to the next thing in another season.

No, you won’t cover every living idea ever conceived. You won’t be able to impress others with your bountiful lists of uber important tidbits you cover every day (actually, you start to cover and then things fall apart).

BUT, you will have children who are trained to take in the profound and mull it around until it becomes part of who they are. Instead of a TV dinner popped in the microwave that tastes like cardboard, you can give them a soup that has simmered all day and is infused with full, savory flavor that feeds the soul.

11. Keep it short and sweet for tiny people.

I admit it, I love little kids. I enjoy their spontaneity, their honesty, their sweetness. The early years are so precious and pass so quickly. I often times find myself almost in tears when I think how our culture is trying to hijack this stage and turn it into an opportunity for institutional conditioning. My thought is that tiny people learn best by playing, so why not give them loads of time to do just that?

Sure, it’s also fun to teach them some basic academics, such as colors, phonetic sounds, and how to count objects, but never for hours in a day.

I have found that 15 minutes is a perfect amount of time to spend. It’s just long enough to give a child a dose of education without overdoing it. This doesn’t make either child or mom feel overwhelmed. Just a quick hug and they’re off to build,or zoom, or play house.

12. Back away from outside stressors.

Heavy outside involvement can take a toll on our ability to react kindly to our children. It’s so easy to say “yes” to a call for volunteers, and so difficult to find the time to participate.

Let’s be honest here; homeschooling takes time and energy. Now, we can minimize the amount of time and energy we spend, but leaving kids to themselves is not a responsible option. Even if we adhere to a more hands-off style of education, our presence is essential. We are there to set boundaries, offer suggestions, answer questions, and on and on.

Oh, and we want to enjoy them, don’t we? We don’t want to look back and think of all those years we wasted doing things for everyone outside the home (most of which will be forgotten) when we should have been snuggling and enjoying watching the snow fall together. We can’t do that when we are stressed with huge to-do lists and being constantly interrupted with phone calls.

13. Slow down.

We moms are terrific multi-taskers. In fact, I think we were the originators of the idea. We have been nursing the baby, stirring the porridge, and pumping the bellows all at the same time for eons. Problem is, when we are fixated on “getting it done” is not the time to help Jeremy with long division. No, I don’t believe it is always possible to carve out specific, uninterrupted time, but we can MAKE OURSELVES slow down enough and push all of that other stuff out of the picture for the fifteen or twenty minutes it will take to help him over a hump. That other stuff will still be there when we are done, I promise!

14. Remember FIT.

FIT is a physical training acronym. It stands for “Frequency, Intensity, and Time.” Think how silly it would be to try and bulk up or slim down with only one marathon work out a week and then to expect to be buff in a few months.

No, we can’t teach a child to read in a day, or a week, or even a month, no matter how we intend to hammer and intimidate information in from morn to night for the duration.

However, we can systematically teach a child to read in six months or a year if we simply take a bit at a time and consistently go over the information until it becomes part of the child’s natural thinking process. In this way, gentleness is our friend, while impatience is our enemy.

A grand mistake is to give a child a few intense phonics lessons, then allow life to interrupt the flow, then come back and become frustrated that he can’t remember anything.

It’s the old adage; “Slow and steady wins the race.”

15. Remember the Golden Rule.

This is probably the key to the entire subject (God is such a genius, isn’t He! Don’t you just love Him?). Many times when I have been tempted to give in to my frustrations and take them out on my child, I think back to when I was in her position and then I am able to approach it from a completely different view point. I may have needed comfort, or clarity, or simply a listening ear, so I am determined to give her what she needs in the moment. Instantly, the situation de-escalates and we move closer to understanding and success.

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Luke 6:31

BONUS!!!

PRAY for your child—and not just a quickie, either. I cannot tell you how many times this became my best strategy for tackling impatience and frustration. You don’t have to cloister yourself, just ask God for an opening in your day, and take it. Get on your knees, pray in the Spirit, moan and cry if you need to. Allow your desperation to move the heart of God, and ask Him for a vision to pin your faith on.

This is not a complete list, and I know I have left out some important items. Be sure and help me out in the comments below!

You may also enjoy these posts on mothering:

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4 thoughts on “15 Hacks for Dealing With Homeschool Frustration”

  1. Thank you for this timely post. I have 10 children, all with various learning struggles. And I so often look around and think, “Why are they so far behind? I need to catch them up!”

    No, I don’t. I need to enjoy them, be patient, and just slowly teach them the next thing until they get it instead of rushing to the next to “prove” that my kids are as “smart” as all the other kids out there. Thank you for the reminder to take my time with them and enjoy these precious, fleeting moments (as my oldest is a senior this year ).

    Reply
    • I understand your angst soooo much! I have needed someone to turn me back to the realities of God’s care so many times. Glad to be a blessing to you. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to leave such a sweet comment 🙂

      Reply
  2. The Holy Spirit amazes me. I truly believe He is using you to speak to us homeschooling Mom’s. Thank you for your faithfulness to listen to Him and write up the things we need to hear. His timing is always perfect. I feel like this is one of those posts that I need to print out and keep in my little organizational folder and periodically re-read. You are such a blessing.

    Reply
    • Aww–that’s so amazing to hear! I’m always glad when God directs me in a way that blesses others–thanks for taking time out of your busy day to leave such a sweet comment 🙂

      Reply

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