What Non-Homeschoolers May Not Know

Quite some time ago I read the following article, written by a fellow homeshooling mom. Kendra, who now has eight kiddos, has been homeschooling for over 12 years. She couldn’t be more straight forward with her advice to her family and friends, and I’m hoping you don’t mind me sharing these bits of wisdom with you, as most of them are things I think you should know.

What Non-Homeschoolers May Not Know
~Kendra Fletcher

If you are the mother, grandmother, sister, friend, father, or brother of a homeschooling mom, here are some things you should know:

1. Educating children at home is a full-time job. Don’t get irritated if she consistently allows the answering machine to do its job. If she were a teacher in an institutional classroom, you probably wouldn’t think of calling her during school hours, so try to realize that while still at home, she is keeping regular school hours, too.

2. Unlike homes in which the children are gone for eight straight hours, her home is in a constant state of activity. The children are not only home, they are home making messes. All day long. Their mother doesn’t even have the opportunity to go into their rooms while they are at school and weed out the junk. And if she is like me, you might find odd homeschooly things lying around- like the month we had a dead turtle in the garage fridge.

3. Housekeeping and homeschooling are mutually exclusive. If she is doing her job educating her children academically, then her house is not being cleaned. If she takes the day to clean the house, then school will not be accomplished.

4. Place realistic expectations on her- she cannot simultaneously teach school, make three square meals, keep a house that looks like it has sprung out of the pages of Architectural Digest, have her nails done, drive children to extracurricular activities, and have all the clothing laundered and pressed. Something’s gotta give, and in my experience, it is usually her personal care. So don’t expect her to don the latest styles, have her roots meticulously dyed at just the right moment, and her aforementioned nails filed and polished to perfection. And while most of us aren’t slovenly, we just tend to put some superfluous aspects of personal care at the bottom of the to-do list.

5. For many of us, homeschooling isn’t an option. Many believe it is not only the best way for their family, it is the only way. Many see homeschooling as a Scriptural directive. When sharing a particular struggle unique to homeschooling, comments like, “Well, why don’t you consider putting them in school? Maybe homeschooling just isn’t your thing” aren’t helpful. Instead, offer a listening ear and your fervent prayers on her behalf.

6. If you are truly concerned about the state of her emotions, home, children, or marriage, offer practical help to ease her burden. Personal time is at a premium for her, so consider offering to take her kids for the day so she can recuperate. If you like to do laundry, offer to come over and get the loads going, fold, and/or iron. If you like to cook, consider putting together some meals that she can store in the freezer for days when time is at a premium. If she teaches a broad spectrum of ages and grades, consider offering to come in once a week or more to teach preschool to the little ones. One grandma I know created “Nana U” for her preschool grandson (number five of seven) and not only did it ease her homeshooling daughter’s burden, it created a special bond between grandma and the child.

But there’s a caveat here: ASK her what would be most helpful to her. Don’t presume to know what would help her. Taking the oldest children for the day might be fun for you, but it’s quite possibly not at all helpful to her. The living room might need to be vacuumed, but it’s not helpful if she’s trying to take a nap. Someone once told me, “If it’s not wanted, it’s not helpful.”

7. Think about what a financial burden homeschooling may be placing on the family. The loss of her possible income can be a real struggle nowadays, and you might be able to buoy her for another year by offering to purchase little things like simple school supplies. Gifts for the children like books on subjects of interest to the child, field trip fees, museum memberships, and the money to pay for music lessons or other extracurricular activities are the best thing you could give a homeschooling family. Not only does a homeschooling mom not need one more thing to manage or pick up, she would be thrilled to see you take an interest in the many academic items on her wish list.

8. Simple questions like, “How can I pray for you?” and “Is there any way I can help you?” are like a cool breeze in her life. Don’t assume you know her needs- ask. You could just be the vessel God uses to carry her on through this very demanding and ultimately rewarding season of her life.

Thank you, Kendra, for helping me give my friends a family a greater glimpse into my world!

You can find Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace.


  1. says

    Fabulous points. I think oftentimes SAHM (both of the homeschooling and non-homeschooling variety) are perceived as the ladies who can [fill in the blank] because they ‘aren’t doing anything’.

    We all know that is *so* far from the truth.

  2. says

    Very good points. You know whether you are homeschooling or working from home people just assume you do nothing all day or you have the time to do it all. Great post!

  3. says

    So true! I especially like – “If she takes the day to clean the house, then school will not be accomplished.”
    So glad I have a husband that understands that!

  4. says

    This was FANTASTIC until it got to the religious bit. Assuming she wants or needs prayer isn’t necessarily helpful either. But asking how you can help and being part of a supportive community are definitely helpful.

  5. says

    You’re right; homeschooling and being Martha Stewart-ish are usually mutually exclusive. But so often the homeschooler doesn’t realize this, and worries way too much about not having washed the kitchen floor this week. She needs this “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” reminder.
    Thank you!

  6. says

    Brilliant, really really brilliant. I’m going to share this with fellow homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike!

  7. Jennifer says

    I fail to see how any of this is unique to homeschooling moms. Almost all of this could be said about *any* mom. Homeschooling moms don’t work any harder than any other moms–they just choose to work differently.

    A mom with an infant doesn’t have time to do anything because her sleep is interrupted, and when baby’s awake, all eyes have to be on baby before he gets in to anything and kills himself and when he’s asleep, she should be too. A mom who works outside the home can’t even start any other household projects or chores until she gets home, and that’s in addition to spending time with her family. So I imagine she can’t always get everything done, either. SAHMs with kids in traditional school often spend their school hours taking care of younger children, or grocery shopping, or volunteering in their kids’ classrooms or whatever.

    The bottom line, IMO, is that motherhood was never intended to be a one woman show. Previous cultures were a lot more nuclear than ours is. You lived with or next door to your mom, your grandma, your aunt–whatever, and you all communally helped each other. Even the Proverbs 31 woman, had a household staff full of servants! *None* of us has an easy task when we try to go it solo! That’s not a trait unique to homeschoolers.

    • Lynda says

      You are right. The point here is not everyone recognizes that. For instance, when I was working and had small children my family and friends would offer to help in various ways and they would never call for a favor or just to chat while I was working. Now that I am home I guess folks don’t think I need help and I should have plenty of time for them. I try to accommodate but sometimes I have to say no. Then I get the guilt trip. Once I tried to put schooling and chores on a schedule to allow more time for others, but that just burnt me out and I still had no down time for me. I guess what I’m saying is many people don’t recognize that you are as busy as if you worked outside the home and you need the same considerations. I work from 8 am to 7pm with two 30 min breaks. 97.5% of my evenings are spent on “family-time” like movies and games. I get 9 nights out a year to go to a homeschool support group meeting. And once a year I spend a weekend in a hotel with my daughter and mom because I drag them with me to a homeschool convention. My children are way more socialized than I am but I’m OK with that. It is worth it to me and I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s! (but, I will donate my tub scrubbing and window washing to any willing soul!) 😉

      • says

        Agreed! I get semi-asked to watch kids of friends and family on snow days for the public schools (so they don’t have to miss work) or my favorite is when they ask me to watch their sick, throwing up kid…like I want my 6 doing that too! I say I am semi-asked because they don’t really ask…they just call and imply that I can do it and then give me major guilt when I say we’re still doing school or already have a field trip planned or whatever.
        Michele´s last blog post ..Where is that “Easy Button”?

  8. says

    This all resonates with me. One in particular is the offers to help consisting of taking the older kids for the day. When my youngest was newborn to toddler age, people would sometimes do this, which meant that instead of those extra hands and eyes to help by bringing me the wipes or allowing me to go to the bathroom by myself or coming to tell me as I was cooking that the baby was trying to climb the bookshelf, I had no one to help. I ended the day far, far less rested than usual, not more-rested. But I let them go because the friends were taking them to a museum/to the park or Granmda was taking them shopping for shoes. It would have been more helpful, in retrospect, to take *all* of us, so that I could enjoy the museum or the park with my kids, and have extra hands and eyes instead of fewer.