Since telling my friends and family we made the big decision to start homeschooling, a common question I hear is: “So? How’s the homeschooling going?”

I’m going to be honest and tell you that up until about a month ago, I was saying, “Sometimes it’s rough.” On a few occasions I have hung my head, with tear-filled eyes, and whispered, “I can’t do this.”

Do you know that feeling at the end of August when you’ve spent the summer with your children and you are both done with each other and can’t wait for the first day of school? Well, we felt that way but knew there was no end to our time together.

One day I couldn’t hold back the tears; my children stared at me stunned while I cried. After just sitting for awhile, letting the tears come out, I said to the boys, “Guys, please come here. We need to have an important chat.” Still staring at me, they quietly sat down. I said, “You can stay in homeschool if you are learning. If you aren’t learning, this isn’t the best school for you.”

They both started talking at the same time, “But mom….”

“Guys, do you like being in school at home?”

Nodding their heads, they both said, “YES!”

“Okay. I’m willing to keep trying but here are two important things: you have to not argue with me so often and we need to have fun. How can we do both of these things?”

We had a good conversation about how we could change our day so they had outside time and set up their lessons so they felt more choice. My task was to figure out how to pull the “counterwill” out of their learning. The self-control students have to not talk back to their teachers was released with my guys—they felt permission to question me on everything. 

My struggle was that I knew homeschooling was right for our family for many reasons, but felt discouraged at how it was going. The positives were: I was focusing on learning techniques that matched their individual personalities (I’ve got one “gifted” kid who is self-directed and can hold attention for hours, and one who can sit still for only about four minutes).

I felt good about reducing negative school experiences like holding back recess as a punishment, teaching styles that use harsh means to control children, reward charts, reading logs, assigned homework in elementary school, and bullying to some degree, although that might still happen in their activities. We have been able to enroll our boys in a variety of programs outside the home like: piano, choir, and a few competitive sports, knowing they can rest all afternoon to gear up for those late afternoon/ evening activities. I’m also enjoying the ability to do all our errands during the quieter weekday hours.


These are the five things I did to improve our homeschooling situation:

  1. Adjusted our schedule to allow for more fun and more choice.

I laugh now at how we started off doing homeschooling, as I outlined in this post for YMC. Some seasoned homeschooling parents rolled their eyes at me, and rightly so! I ditched this plan early on. Now we have a schedule that has much more flexibility. It includes French, keyboarding, cursive writing, coding, skating, skiing, and other things we do once a week, and math, science, and language arts four times a week instead of every single day. It took time to figure out the schedule that worked for us.

I chalk our rough starting period to this: we were mostly in our “back-brains,” which is certainly not the place to learn. It’s the place where the fight-or-flight reaction is activated and we think more about defending ourselves, and how angry we are at the person trying to control our behaviour, and less about how to solve our problems. We were triggering each other every day, which was incredibly draining!

  1. Reduced compromising states and increased their sense of power.

I focused on how to reduce compromising states, and make sure my boys felt they had some power. For example, I’d let them pick between two exercises in their math program (we use Singapore Math), and let them get up from the table as many times as they needed to until they finished it. I also try to get us outside more. As you can see in the top picture, it’s hard to feel badly when you’re throwing leaves.

  1. Got smarter about keeping things tidied.

One of our big battles was about tidying up after everything so I used a technique I call “time-stacking.” I put tidying in front of each of the activities they really looked forward to doing. When they’d ask, “Mom, can we go play LEGO?” I’d respond with, “Sure. You’re very welcome to do that after the things on the table are put back in their away spots.” I’d smile and turn away: they have cleaned up each time without any backtalk!

  1. Delegated some of the learn-to-read instruction to a new program.

Another thing I did was introduce some learning on a screen, which I was originally reluctant to do. I realized I needed to let this go and use screens in a responsible way. I was contacted by the developer of a new reading program called Ooka Island, and decided to give that a try with my younger son. I agreed to use their iPad reading program in conjunction with book reading to give us a bit of learning time away from each other.

I just asked my son what he likes most about Ooka and he said, “Because it’s fun.” I love this because he is actually learning to read better—I can see that, but he doesn’t feel like I’m pushing him to do so. He asks to use the program on his own and we put a timer on for twenty minutes to signal when it is time to finish. No power struggles at all!


I had an opportunity to speak with the Ooka Island development team, and was quite impressed with the amount of research and in-the-field testing they did to create this reading program for children.

  1. Took better care of myself

It’s pretty challenging to be present for my children all day, while still also building my relationship with my husband, enjoying my work time, and seeing friends. I’ve learned the hard way that I have to guard my time very carefully and make sure I’m choosing things that fill my bucket.


I have committed to trying homeschooling for a year. I’m sure as this year progresses we’ll keep adjusting it to reduce our “back-brain” time. I believe this is the best thing for our family, and need to push through this adjustment time.

Do you have any questions about homeschooling? You are welcome to post those below in the comments or over on my Facebook page.

I am an ambassador of Ooka Island. All opinions are my own.