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When Homeschooling Doesn't Work
(For Just One of Your Kids)

True confession time….When I was a young, idealistic homeschooling mom with three kids, I dissed traditional school. However, one day, my mom offered this advice. “You shouldn’t badmouth school in front of the girls because someday one of them may need to go to school.”

My initial reaction? “My kids go to school? NEVER”.  What did my mom know? She had never homeschooled…she didn’t understand the “evils” of traditional school…these are my girls (not hers) that she’s talking about.

But, my mom’s words resonated.  And the advice sunk in. And I realized I shouldn’t speak badly about institutional education in front of my kids.  Really, I shouldn’t bad-mouth ANYTHING, period, because it leads to a spirit of judgement and condemnation. So, I stopped speaking negatively about traditional school.

Now, fast forward about 10 years.  I had become a wiser, more seasoned homeschooling mom. Mike and I were solid in our mission for homeschooling.  

  • To guide our girls to love God and others well and much
  • To nurture a love for learning and pursuit of purpose
  • To teach our girls HOW to learn and equip them with the tools needed for self-education


Ten years into homeschooling, all seemed good, except for one big problem. Every day it was becoming more apparent that one of my children was not benefiting from home education. We weren’t reaching our goals for homeschooling and needed to make a change. Read to discover how it worked out.We were educating five children, ranging from 6-16. I was no longer working and could focus more attention to our homeschooling. We were even enrolling our 16-year-old daughter in college (Sounds impressive, right.
Not really. We won’t pay for her college education, and she can get a 2-year degree plus her high school diploma for free through a state program).

All seemed good, except for one big problem. You see, every day it was becoming more apparent that one of my children was not benefiting from home education. (Gasp!). We weren’t reaching our goals for homeschooling. Learning at home was not “the best” for Karissa. And it was a hard pill to swallow.

How I Answer When Asked “Why Do You Homeschool?”

You may be wondering “Why? How could this happen to such a strong steadfast-in-her-conviction homeschool mom?” Well, my friend, I am going to leave you wondering on that one. Maybe I’ll share more details when my daughter is ready for me to. But let me share this… due to Karissa’s and MY designs (our temperaments, personalities, etc), we weren’t loving each other as best we could during learning times. I was unable to nurture her love of learning and she wasn’t learning HOW to learn.

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Making the Big Decision

I asked God for a big dose of wisdom and started to explore other options for her education. Clear discernment from God was crucial in this decision.

I didn’t feel public school was a option because I still wanted some control over what my daughter learned. Luckily, since I live on an island with only three private schools, I didn’t need to explore too far. I started my research by checking out the schools’ websites. and had a Goldilocks experience.  “This one is too liberal”….”This one is too rigid”….”This one is just right!”

The big deciding factor was that the “just right” school stated right on their website that they have flexible programs for homeschoolers. I knew I wanted to partner with a school that understood and appreciated what we were (and had been) doing at home. I also admired that the school encouraged self-paced learning, with the teacher as more of a guide than an instructor.

I visited the school twice, once with Karissa, before enrolling her for 3 hours in the morning four days a week. While at school, she does math, writing and reading. Then, when she gets home she joins us for family learning time.

Her school is a bit more “schoolish” than my preferred methods of education , but, duh!, it is a school so what did I expect. And, admittedly, the structure and routine is just what my daughter needed. In fact, when her aunt asked her, “What do you like best about school?”, Karissa’s reply was “The routine.”

How It Has Turned Out

I have been amazed by Karissa’s growth, not just in intellect, but also character.  She is receiving (note the word “receiving” as in accepting someone’s guidance) the math and writing instruction she needs for this stage of her development. She is learning that, in the “real-world”, she needs to respond appropriately when she is instructed and corrected. She has a healthy outlet for her strong leadership skills now that she has 14 classmates to lead. And I believe her love of learning has been sparked because she is more motivated for self-education at home.

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More importantly, my relationship with Karissa is being restored. Our negative interactions have decreased. I no longer spend my mornings trying to avoid a blow-up (either hers or mine), but am able to focus on guiding my other girls. Karissa and I have precious one-on-one time in the car on the way home from school. We all genuinely miss her when she is gone, and she feels loved when she comes home.

All this to say…

If your homeschooling style and rhythm don’t work for one of your children, and you are considering enrolling him/her in school, be encouraged. God has a plan and purpose for your children. Consider Proverbs 16:9…”We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” (NLT). Back in the day, Mike and I made our plans for our girls’ education and we were gung-ho homeschoolers. But, God’s direction is best.

Remember our three motivations for homeschooling?  To teach our girls how to love well, To instill a love of learning.  And to show them HOW to learn.  Well, God has been faithful to reveal how those goals are being met for Karissa through steps other than homeschooling.  

Are you struggling with homeschooling one of your children and wondering if enrolling them in school is a good choice? Leave me a comment. I would love to personally encourage and pray for you.

Helpful Parenting Books

Parenting is Heart WorkParenting is Heart WorkThe Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible ChildrenThe Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible ChildrenBoundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their LivesBoundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their LivesSay Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes... in You and Your KidsSay Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your KidsGood and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids!Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids!


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We are the first generation of parents (aka "digital immigrants") raising "digital natives". We still don’t know quite how to handle tech. We need to get rid of our fears and ignorance about tech so that our kids can develop healthy attitudes about this tool that isn’t going away.     A Mom's Biggest Struggle in a Tech-Driven World | Why do we struggle so much with our kids being “plugged in all the time”? It’s a big issue for us moms, trying to figure out how to guide our kiddos’ media consumption and electronics usage. And to balance the good of technology with the bad.     It's hard knowing how to keep kids safe online. You want them to be able to use all that online goodness, but get worried about what they'll run into. This list ofinternett safety tools gives some great suggestions to help parents.

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Ten years into homeschooling, all seemed good, except for one big problem. Every day it was becoming more apparent that one of my children was not benefiting from home education. We weren’t reaching our goals for homeschooling and needed to make a change. Read to discover how it worked out.

Ten years into homeschooling, all seemed good, except for one big problem. Every day it was becoming more apparent that one of my children was not benefiting from home education. We weren’t reaching our goals for homeschooling and needed to make a change. Read to discover how it worked out.


33 thoughts on “When Homeschooling Doesn’t Work (for just one of your kids)”

  1. This is AWESOME. My youngest has a speech delay. I struggled with sending him for a while. The state has a free program through the public schools.

    As you can imagine – well, I didn’t want to go that route. My inner voice said no, but I didn’t really have a choice. The option of private – isn’t an option because of money.

    His speech has improved greatly, but I feel like I have let doom in my home. They educators keep taking jabs at me,mans I don’t like it. I think e need to find a better option for next year.

    • That’s tough, Lisa. Did you research whether the services are available to nonenrolled students? Or part-time students? I don’t know rules state-by-state, but I know a homeschool family here in Washington whose special needs son attends just half days.

  2. What a balanced post! You are so right about needing to refrain from speaking negatively about an educational institution. Alas, we probably all do that sometimes thinking we are just defending our educational choice (homeschooling). I have a challenging girl, and while she will remain with me (I don’t have an awesome option like you), I can totally see how this could be a blessing. God’s ways are not our ways. Having support from other, like-minded educators is not evil. I commend you for being wise and self-less enough to identify your daughter’s needs and providing for them, even if it was not part of your original plan.

    • Amanda – Thanks for your kind words. I seems like you have a great opportunity to grow in reliance on the Lord as you guide your daughter. He will give you the discernment you need to do what is best for her. I try to remember that, since God designed my daughter (“challenging” parts and all) that He has a plan and purpose for her. I need to guide her towards maturity and help her learn to use her strong determination and passion for His glory. I bask in God’s faithfulness as I see my girl’s leadership qualities being used for good at school.

  3. Wow, what a hard decision to make, but it’s awesome how you prayed on it and God brought such a great school for your child. Thank you for sharing your. I am so glad you shared this with #SocialButterflySunday last week! I hope that you will join the link up party again this week 🙂

  4. We have always said that “Education is a year by year, child by child decision.” I don’t like teaching K, so I have outsourced that year for most of my kids. However. We got to the point with one of my children where he just. wouldn’t. do. it. any more. So we sent him to private school.

    Schools are a resource. A tool. We have used them (or not) as needed in our 18 year homeschooling journey. I don’t like being on someone else’s schedule, and I don’t like the judgement I get from other homeschoolers for having a child in school, but when that’s what’s best for all of us, that’s what we do.

    • “just. wouldn’t. do. it.”…I totally get you, Shecki. I hope that my daughter can be back with us full-time at some point, but know that we need to do what is best for everyone.

  5. This is so encouraging. I have struggled with one of my five and we have tried different options for him. Right now, homeschooling is working, but this is good to hang on to for me. Great job on not being afraid to go where the Lord was leading. Thank you for sharing on the Faith Filled Parenting LinkUp.

  6. I have been asking just this question a lot lately and considering what it would be like to send our girl that homeschooling doesn’t seem to be working for. I am encouraged by your post that if in fact it does turn out that we need to send her for some time that she could gain and grow in the way your daughter has. I only wish we had what sounds like as great an option available close to us as well!

  7. Thank you for this post. We, too, chose to put one of our children in the neighborhood public school a couple of years ago. My middle daughter has autism and at the advice of therapist friend I trust and who is pro-homeschooling, we enrolled her in a local preschool. It was a small class (only 10 kids) with one teacher and one aide. While I think the whole “socialization” reason is a myth for *most* kids, for my daughter, socialization is truly something that does NOT come naturally to her because of her autism and that was the primary reason we enrolled her. She had an IEP and received some necessary services in the classroom. She did well there and it was a good experience.

    However, when it came time for Kindergarten, I found out the class sizes were 30+ kids with only one teacher and one aide. When I tried to get her more support (such as a para) at her IEP meeting, I was told they couldn’t do that. I knew she would be lost and overwhelmed in such a large environment as she often needs directions repeated and more 1-1 support to keep her on task. (Even in the small class of 10 saw her not always completing her work because of this.) When I continued to push on that issue, they said they could “pull her out for some of the academics.” Well, that pretty much negated my whole reason for sending her! So I made the decision to bring her back home for Kindergarten last year.

    Honestly, I was really nervous about homeschooling her since she does learn so differently than her older sister, whom we were already homeschooling. But she has THRIVED this last year with the 1-1 attention. We will be getting her services and therapies privately, through out-of-pocket and insurance. (We found that the private insurance was generally making more progress than the school services, anyway.) Her private BCBA (therapist) was hesitant about our decision but I have watched our daughter make great strides this year. And we just make sure she gets plenty of “socialization” opportunities elsewhere.

    I do know that there are some in the homeschooling community look down on the decision to send a child to public or private school, but I am a strong believer that we should do what is best for our children. And that might look different for each family, each child, and even each year.

  8. Thankyou for your post…I am homeschooling only one child but I can feel the tension…and I kept feeling so discouraged and depressed..your post is so honest and timely…Praying for the Lord’s guidance in deciding what to do this coming year.

    God bless.

  9. I feel like I could’ve written this post! I struggled so much when we put all three of our children in a private school last spring. I was overwhelmed and worn out, but everything fell together perfectly, and I knew it was clear the girls were supposed to go to school at that point. I had always said we would take it one year at a time, but I’m not sure I really actually believed it. I think in my mind I planned to homeschool all the way through, and I felt like such a failure. I felt so lost and alone. I wasn’t a “homechool mom” anymore, but I didn’t quite fit with the school moms. It was hard, but I learned so much and realized that homeschooling had become my identity. That semester allowed me a chance to heal and reevaluate what was most important.

    This year I am back to homeschooling my two youngest and the oldest has continued in school. It’s such a good fit for her and has been a huge blessing for our relationship, but I still sometimes feel judgement from the homeschool community. That makes me sad. Each child is so different, and she is thriving at school. She loves the routine and the chance to discuss and debate with her peers. It has stretched her in so many ways, and I’m grateful that we have such an awesome school nearby.

    Anyway, I just want to thank you for this post and being open and honest. It’s so encouraging to know someone else has had a similar experience! 🙂

  10. I homeschooled my oldest for the first couple of years and we both loved it. I also had two younger ones at home, and everything went great until halfway into 2nd grade when we hit a major wall. He had no problem with academics, but our relationship had really declined because of our personality clash, and I was turning into monster mommy. I decided to enroll him in a local private school mid-year, and he has LOVED it. It has also allowed me to have some breathing room and regain the emotional capacity to love him when he is home. However, my second child will be starting Kinder in the fall and there is a part of my heart that wants to keep all of them home again and try a different method to make it work. I really love homeschooling and I believe in it, so it is hard to accept the fact that private school might be a better fit for my son. Any thoughts?

    • Your situation sounds very much like mine. So much changed in that one year of private school, and now she is learning at home full-time again. She became a more independent learner, probably because she was able to develop those basic reading, writing and math skills that she needed. At home, when we would work on basic skills (or anything), it often ended up in a blow-up. I now recognize now that she needs more structure than our natural style of home education provides, so I have more of a system set up for her. And she’s usually done with it before her teen sisters even wake up!

      That’s sort of opposite of what some families need. I hear from other mom’s that they have the battles because they have too much structure and aren’t allowing for child-led learning. But it works for us.

      Also, our relationship was restored. I love what you said…”allowed me to have some breathing room and regain the emotional capacity to love him when he is home.” That is what happened with my girl. I encourage you to keep connecting with your son’s heart and seeking God’s will for his education. You know better than anyone what is best for him and your family. Consider what the source of your clashes are, and how you contribute to them. Are you willing to change your part to have him back home?

      And remember that no decision is ever permanent. You don’t need to decide right now if private school is best for the next 10 years. You just need to consider what is best for next week, right? That’s part of the freedom of homeschooling.

  11. I had a similar experience with my youngest. She went to a traditional school in 9th grade. Like you I found it hard to accept, especially as I teach at a homeschool co-op and online, coach a homeschool Science Olympiad team and most of my friends are homeschoolers. And for me, this was the end of my homeschooling experience as she is 5 years younger than her next sibling and they had all moved on to college and beyond.

    But in my heart of hearts, I knew we couldn’t fight through 4 years of high school. And I realized I could stay connected to the homeschool community and continue teaching at co-op / online and I could still coach the homeschool teams. She is now a senior at high school, has grown in character just as you described your daughter grew, is excelling academically – and we have a fantastic relationship. It was the right decision for her – even though I still prefer homeschooling in general after traditional school.

  12. Hi. I am homeschooling one teen and I am going through a similar situation but unlike you I do not have a “just right” option, because of money. We sought God’s guidance and had the feeling that our daughter should go to school (public of course), because she was no longer learning with me. My teaching profile and her learning profiles keep on clashing. However, she ended up never going to school after all. As I had to confirm her registration, my eldest son unexpected passed away, throwing Sarah in a deep depression; so at the last minute, we kept her home.
    Yes, God’s guidance is important and when we do not hear Him right, he uses situations like ours to bring us back on track. It turns out that my daughter was already in a depression, with suicidal thoughts, before her brother’s passing. Experts have told us that had she gone to school, she might have fallen into a crack. After all, it is easy to go unnoticed among 1200 students. So now, even though she is behind in a lot of subjects (as per government standards), we are able to keep an eye on her. Thank God that despite our differences, Sarah and I have a very good emotional relationship and she has a great Youth pastor; so she did finally opened up to her pastor who encouraged her to talk to me.
    Fast forward 2 years later, Sarah is now 16 and has fallen so behind in math and science. After much prayers, we have finally found a solution. My homeschooling friend has a teaching style more in tune with my daughter’s and has had great success helping other teens with math and sciences and her son is way behind in French (mandatory here is Quebec, Canada) as his mother native tongue English. She will teach my daughter math and science and I will teach her son French (my native tongue). We will meet twice a week. When she is caught up, Sarah will enter adult education, because the only college that has the program she wants does not recognize homeschooling so she needs her HS diploma. Adult Ed is at your own pace so she should perform well in that environment.
    In all of this, and despite the fact that I know I followed God’s plan (the second time anyway), up until I read your post, I felt like I had failed my daughter. I felt guilty that I was not able to provide her the education she needed. I mean… after all, I am a math whizz…
    Thank you for this post, it really encourages me to go forward, without guilt, and let my friend take over the subjects where Sarah and I struggle the most.
    God is good, His plan is always the best. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Je 29:11)
    Bless you.

  13. I have 4 kids, 3 of which I home school. My oldest has complex special needs. My 11 year old son fights me on my everything. But when he is sweet he is so sweet! . We put him into counseling a couple of months ago to see if it will help. He has anxiety is what the counselor thinks. He has full or tantrums that last anywhere from 15 min to an hour. This is my third year homeschooling. I keep telling myself it will get better. There are days where I want to put him back into school. The fits disrupt the whole day and my other kids b who are 16 and 7. I feel like I have tried everything. I know that there is always room for improvement on my end when knowing how to deal with this. I am out of ideas. I don’t want to send him back to school but he is not improving. My heart breaks for him. Someone said to me that “when if you send him back to school he will still throw fits when he gets home”, which I know is probably true. He did that when he was in public school before we started homeschooling. But there is a part of me that thinks “At least he will not be home to throw fits all day and be disrupting the other kids”. It’s such a hard decision……

    • I can relate to a lot of what you share, especially the part about disrupting the rest of the day for everyone else. Have you tried a more relaxed style of homeschooling… letting him pursue some special interests and work towards being a self-directed learner? Pay attention to the things he is naturally drawn to and help him gain confidence in those areas. As he matures, you can fill in the gaps (if there are any).

  14. We have been homeschooling now for 4 years. We have 4 children. The oldest always acts uninterested in our “together” studies (Bible, History, and Read Alouds). So, a couple of weeks ago I noticed tears rolling down her face during our Bible time and when I caught her alone a little later, I asked her what was wrong. She went on to tell me that she just didn’t like homeschooling. When I asked her “why?” she said through tears that she didn’t want to be with her brothers and sister all day, that she wanted to go back to public school so she could have a break from them. She also mentioned that she is bored with her independent studies. She apparently wants to do school in community, but not with her siblings. Of course, I did tell her that changing locations would not help her like her brothers and sister more, that the things that annoy her about them would still annoy her when she got home, and that the Lord desires that she learn to love them well, including learning to forgive and bear with them. However, I also told her to be praying and asking the Lord what He wants for her, and that her daddy and I would be praying about it also. I still believe that the best place for her is home under our care and instruction, but my husband and I both know that she is crying out with a need. Could it be possible that being away from her siblings is what she needs? I’m still praying, and would love some council also from fellow homeschool mamas who have been in this predicament. Thank you!

  15. this all sounds great and all. yay you found something that works.
    but the part where you said “Luckily, since I live on an island with only three private schools….” what?! ill tell you what, you have more school choices on that island that i have anywhere near me. my choice is homeschool, public school or the nearest private school is 1 1/2 hours away.
    we’re just going to keep on keeping on. my kid is apparently not going to be able to work with the “routine” and the “checkboxes” in a curriculum. but ive seen him learn more, happily, in a more “unschooling” way in the past few months than he did before… i guess im grateful for that. hes ahead already by 1-3 grades anyway. . . . but even if we discover its not working, when faced with a choice between continuing on and choosing public school?? i just cant do it.

  16. My daughter was in public school through 3rd grade but was developing below schedule and not comprehending the information. We homeschooled for a summer and the following year. It was challenging as I believe we have the same issues that you and your daughter had. This was a huge struggle then we decided to put her back in public school for 5th grade. She did okay so we continued with 6th grade. We just pulled her out because I was having to reteach all the info she was given during the day and tackle a neverending amount of homework. She was doing school work before school, during school and after school way past her bedtime. Realizing this was unhealthy and no child should have their childhood taken away from them we decided to try virtual homeschooling. This theoretically takes a lot of pressure of the parents as the student still has teachers to be accountable to. We are still having issues though. Public school was too fast for her, homeschooling is tailored to her and her pace. My daughter acts helpless and doesn’t take it seriously though. She hates consequences but not enough to change her ways. I really dont know what to do when public and homeschooling doesnt seem to work for her.

  17. My daughter is wanting to go to public school next year. She will be a freshman. I want to continue homeschooling until her junior year when she can attend the Career Center. My biggest fear is since we aren’t doing common core math, How will she do? Also, she is taking history through Historyatourhouse.com and LOVES it. She is an auditory learner. She does the best testing orally. Mr. Powell does both oral and written. But written is optional. In public school, tests are written. Is there a type of placement test or “SAT” assessment that homeschoolers can do at home? I’d like to see how she does.

  18. Such a fitting time to read this as we are filling out applications and finishing an admissions essay today for a local high school. Her sisters are shadowing somewhere next week as well. I thought I’d be homeschooling through high school , and I still might. But I do think one of my daughters might find a better fit in a brick and mortar school for now. We are still praying about that though as we live in a poor urban area and the schools in our neighborhood have lots of challenges. Your article was very encouraging to me. Would LOVE your prayers! Thank you!

  19. It is wonderful that you have found a great option and she is thriving! Sounds a lot like an extended co-op or university model school, which, honestly, I would still put in the same vein as homeschooling! I am glad those models are becoming more and more popular.

    I think a great question for anyone to ask themselves when struggling with homeschooling is, what would I do if government schooling (as in, 8-9 hours a day away from parents with little to no say in curriculum and arbitrary standards) had never been invented? Humans have always used apprenticeships, knowledgeable mentors in the community, working together in large groups to accomplish goals, etc., etc….. Hopefully your lovely post reminds people that there is a huge continuum available for “education”.

    In our family we find a teacher when it’s a skill that requires a teacher (hello, violin or foreign languages or robotics or orchestra or sports….), let the kids’ interests guide everything, require very little at any specific arbitrary age knowing that their interests will cover a wealth of skills and knowledge, and know that formal academics aren’t even remotely necessary before the early teen years. The options can be truly endless when all of that freedom is applied!

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