Making Home Education Sustainable

Home educators are usually quick to talk about what we love about home education, the thousands of benefits it has for the whole family. We love to tell anyone that will listen about how great it is for the children, how much fun we have learning about things that we never got to learn. The times we can spend reading and drawing and building and talking. All of that is amazing and true and very, very satisfying.

But like everything in life worth having, it does have a cost. Home education does cost time, and energy, and resources. It costs effort. Years of effort. It is, quite frankly, hard work!

When our bucket keeps being emptied, and not filled, that is not sustainable.

When we are always putting off things we want to do for ‘later’ that is not sustainable.

When we don’t want to go to bed at night because the morning will come quicker if we do – and because that is the only time when things are quiet – that is not sustainable.

When we are giving more than we have to give, that is not sustainable.

When we are surviving on chocolate and caffeine, that is not sustainable.

Home educators find it hard to talk about burnout, and fatigue. Most mothers find it hard, but home education mothers are doing something not mainstream, and know the instant they admit to struggling someone will comment “Have you thought about school?”*. It can be easier with home educators, but there is difficulty here sometimes too. So many perfect home education blogs. So many gushy facebook updates. So much talk about how much more wonderful home education is. Everyone else seems to be coping so much better than I am!

Let’s change that.

Let’s talk about home education and making it something that works for everyone.

Because by sustainable, I mean able to be maintained in the long term. How can we make home education sustainable for everyone in the family, including mothers, who usually do the bulk of the day-to-day work? How do we cope with extended, unending time with our children, and the complete lack of support from the wider community for what we spend a large chunk of our time and energy doing? How do we deal with the cost of home education – the opportunity cost? How do we make sure we are giving of ourselves at a level we can continue to do, day in and day out for many years? These are big questions, difficult questions and one blog post isn’t going to answer them. But if we start to share the questions we just might get somewhere.

So I am starting with this: I am tired. I love my children but they are intense and exhausting. I am introverted. I need time alone. I am wondering how long I can continue with things as they are and I don’t like the answers I am getting. As the one with the most power it is up to me to figure out how to make this work. Here’s what I am trying:

  • Quiet time. Yes, an oldie but a goody. Although we are finding it tricky as Tercio has outgrown naps and yet is a little too young to really get quiet time.
  • Re-reading an old favourite Sarah Ban Breathnach and taking time to journal again.
  • Making sure I am clear in my own mind about when I will be able to plan. For me, knowing my children really need more strewing in there lives, but not having a plan for how I can find time to make that happen is very stressful. I am claiming time to organise, plan, search for ideas or resources.
  • Trying to catch up with people who I like to see more often.
  • Going to bed at a decent time.
  • re-read all these old survival strategies.

What is of course difficult is that all of these things require energy, and energy is in short supply here! So here is the unending question. Where do I get the energy to keep up the things I know I need to be doing to keep my energy up?

That’s what I need to make this really sustainable.

Let’s talk about this. What makes it work? What makes it not work? What can we do about it? How do we make sure our own homeschooling is sustainable? How do we help each other make it more sustainable?

If you have ideas that you use, good blog posts on the topic or if this triggers off some thoughts of your own, please pass it on. Let’s start the conversation and just see where we end up.




* YES. I can guarantee, if there is one thing a home educating parent has thought about, it’s school. Okay?


“Home-Education is About Learning, Not Schooling.” – The Huffington Post

I found this simple little article in my feed this morning. Home education is so much more than just an educational choice, it really is a different way of looking at the world.

Why Do You Homeschool?

I was asked recently. And of course I have asked myself regularly too.

The reasons are complex. My thinking started one way, but it has kind of moved in another direction. I started out in avoidance style thinking. Have you seen that school? Seriously! In other schools I’ve looked at, LE would never stop looking at the walls! He is so aware of things happening around him, he would never be able to concentrate in that environment. Basically, it was lots of negative things about schools in general.

But then – things changed… I started doing it for positive reasons. I get to see those moments when they figure out something and I won’t be giving those moments to someone else. We have time for family and holidays whenever we want to, not just school holidays. (Well, almost.) I like that I won’t have to get up in the morning and rush them up and out the door. I won’t have to pack lunches, at least not everyday – that are acceptable socially to a bunch of children for whom nutrition is a foriegn language. I enjoy having my morning coffee while we figure out what to do for the day. My baby likes that he doesn’t need to be woken up from his nap to get my oldest from kindy.

LE and A are lucky to be able to explore topics that interest them in the order that they interest them, instead of having to wait for next lesson/week/year/whatever. They can progress at their own pace, even if their strengths are much more advanced than their weaknesses.

But the number one reason is because its working for us.

Right now, this is working. It might not work for everyone, it might not work forever, but my philosophy is very pragmatic. We take it as it comes, and will I enjoy it while it lasts.

Free e-book about planning – suitable for natural learners too!

I found this fantastic free e-book today. I think this will really fill the gap for me between my dream ideas and my daily diary. I know this probably seems really obvious to some people and they do it automatically, but I need to work at being organised!

I will let you know how it works out.

John Holt – More Reading

Hmm, can you tell I’m avoiding study?

Oddly enough, the reactionary view and the romantic liberal view of children are like opposite sides of the same coin. The hard-nosed types say that to fit children for the world we have to beat the badness out of them. The romantic child-worshipers say that in fitting children for the world we destroy most of the goodness in them. One group claims that children are undersized and defective adults; the other, that adults are oversized and defective children. Neither is true. There really are ways to help children, as they grow, to keep and build on all their best qualities.

Yes. Nothing more to add.

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense

I just read Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson. David Guterson was a high-school teacher who chose to home educate his children. (He also wrote Snow Falling on Cedars) It wasn’t bad – a lot of it was things I knew already, given my background and previous reading. But the final chapter was the one that really got me. Called ‘A Life’s Work’, this chapter is about how home education meets his needs as a father for connection with his children, as well as the children’s need for connection with their parents.

Progressives in the political arena, doing daily battle to rehumanize capitalism, have given us shorter working days, medical insurance, maternity leave, and child care. Progressives have made it steadily more convenient for ordinary people to perform their economic functions without children getting in the way…. The children suffer a loss of connectedness, a detachment from the web of communal affairs, a distance from from the life and work of the tribe – and at least as important, we miss them, too, for similar reasons….

In the end there are reasons beyond education to homeschool (Can we really detach education from everything else)… There is a love to be cultivated, an instict to be nutured, a need to be satisfied at both ends.

It was fascinating for me because I so often come at this from the direction of motherhood. After all, that is where I am at, and it is also what I have read on and studied. The different perspective was really interesting and very meaningful to me. There is a lot to think about in this idea of adults needing their children as much as children need their adults… I shall be thinking about this all day, I think.

Top Ten Homeschooler Mistakes

I liked this article. Okay I confess, I’ve done number 10, maybe a touch of 5 sometimes, and definitely number 1. Especially this month. What about you?

Thinking about it, I think most of these are parenting mistakes too. I mean who doesn’t have some toy somewhere bought on an impulse that your children barely played with?

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