Your Questions Answered: When You Want to Quit Homeschooling

I think at some time or other, all of us homeschool mamas have felt like giving up.

“I just want to quit.”

It’s a great question to discuss today, and Laura Pitney is here joining me: “What keeps you going when you want to quit?”

Laura: That’s a very good question, as always.

Sonya: Yes, all the questions we get are so helpful. I think it would be good if we go through this topic and address four different areas, because I can see motivation that would help us and encourage us in four different areas of life. I wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget. First, let’s address the physical aspect. We all know we can get tired homeschooling. It takes a lot of energy.

Laura: They need us all the time.

Sonya: Yes, not just for school, it’s 24/7.

Laura: All the time! They have to eat!

Sonya: Yes, every day! And their clothes keep getting dirty every day; and they fight and bicker every day.

Laura: Mine don’t.

Sonya: Oh, well, good for you.

Laura: Just kidding.

Sonya: It can take a lot out of us.

Laura: Yes, it does.

Sonya: So physically, some things that can help us keep going when we feel like quitting, I think the two R’s are so important, rest and recreation. We often think about those last in our priority list, because we think it’s selfish. But if you’re at the point where you want to quit, then that rest and recreation could keep you going; so it’s not a selfish thing to do.

Laura: I agree, I think that it’s important, and I think that comes down to scheduling. A lot of times, if we’re not purposeful about important things like that, they get neglected. So, have a bedtime, have a timeline—

Sonya: Are you talking about for the kids?

Laura: For me. I’m talking about for me too, and for them.

Sonya: Early bedtime is good.

Laura: I am happy when the kids go to bed, all as well, and then it’s my alone time—my time to catch up on reading or spend time with my husband or whatever the night entails. But it’s important for me to have a bedtime, knowing that I need my eight hours of sleep. I can cheat every once in a while, but I have tried to be very strict about that.

Sonya: Yes, the cheating catches up with you. I used to have the mistaken notion that rest was something I would get around to once all the work was done, but the work’s never done.

Laura: No!

Sonya: So that rest just kept going farther and farther out. Bedtime is important, but other times, as well, to refresh ourselves.

Laura: So what does recreation mean?

Sonya: It would be refreshment—whatever charges your battery. And that’s going to look different for each person. For you, it is painting your porch.

Laura: Right.

Sonya: For me, that’s going to drain my battery. For me, it might be weaving on my loom or playing the piano. It’s going to look different for each person. But it’s so important, as you said, to schedule that time; because if you don’t, everything else is just going to push it out of the place.

Laura: Right, and I think scheduling rest and refreshment is super important. We need to look at ourselves and figure out what that looks like. But I think, it’s even important in how we schedule our school, too.

Sonya: Yes, talk about that.

Laura: Lots of different scheduling options. I have a mom friend who has found her niche: six weeks on, a week off, six weeks on, a week off. She doesn’t necessarily stay with her county’s school calendar or things like that, but she has learned that if she doesn’t have that week off to anticipate and to look forward to, then she easily gets burned out within those six weeks. I have another mom friend who does three weeks: three weeks on, one week off.

Sonya: And that works if you go year round, you get in all of your days and you have some extra weeks left over. We did that one for a long time.

Laura: Yes. There’s another friend who does a project week. They’ll do school for a while, and then take off a week to do household projects—whether that’s physical household projects or a craft week or just things that aren’t normally scheduled in their school day.

Sonya: Or even doing day trips, field trips, and fun things like that.

Laura: So I think learning how best to schedule your school time is part of understanding that rest and recreation. Honestly, it’s a discipline—to know that if you do those things that you’ve assigned your family to do, you get that anticipated time off; knowing that it’s just at the right time, right when you need it, versus waiting too long or doing it too soon.

Sonya: And some of that is going to depend on what season of life you’re in.

Laura: That’s very true.

Sonya: Things are going to change. What is the sweet spot this year, or even this term, might be turned on its head next term. So we need to hold that loosely but with a positive attitude that we can make adjustments as we go forward.

Laura: Right. I also feel that I have had to give in to the fact that I need exercise. I’ve resisted so long, but I feel good, I feel better, and I am more emotionally stable when I am physically active, whether it’s riding a bike with the kids or swimming. My older daughter and I have been exercising together, which has been my motivation, because I don’t like to exercise, but she needs it. So I think there are so many positive things that come from taking care of ourselves physically. That’s the physical side of things.

Sonya: Right, let’s move on to the emotional, because the physical affects the emotional.

Laura: I’ve got some emotions!

Sonya: So what can a mom do? Taking care of yourself physically is going to help stabilize the emotional side of it, but what else can we do to help us keep going emotionally?

Laura: I personally have found that it’s so important to find some like-minded friends who are in similar situations. Of course, nothing is going to be identical, but a few other homeschool moms, or just finding a good support group where you can brainstorm ideas, where you can vent. You can say things like, “Am I going crazy? Please tell me!” You need some honest feedback, troubleshooting: “Okay, I tried this; it didn’t work. Why? Help me see what I’m missing.” I had a friend this past school year to whom I said, “Here’s my SOS, I need help. I feel like I’m missing something with my two younger ones,” and so she took us in. We went over to her house every day and did school together with both of our families, and by the end of a few weeks she was able to tell me, “Okay, this is what I’m seeing. This is a good, strong point; you’re doing great, but this is what you need to work on.” I just wasn’t seeing it. I needed to have that good support. And it helped me get over my hump of wanting to quit, because it was like, “I’m done. I can’t get over this roadblock.” And so to bring her in was a lifesaver. It renewed me to know, “Okay, I’m not a complete failure. She sees positive things happening. We’re progressing.”

Sonya: You need to have a friend like that who can support you emotionally, but not just sympathize with you and say, “Oh yes, honey, you’ve got it so bad,” and then do nothing to help.

Laura: And that was a pride thing for me. I had to humble myself and say, “Listen, I have no clue what I’m doing. Can you please help me?”

Sonya: And that was after several years of doing this; the season had changed.

Laura: Yes. I just lost sight of jumping back in to giving my 100% to the younger ones. The older ones had become easy and we were in this rhythm, and then it was like, “Oh yes, I’ve got these other ones hanging back here.” So I definitely needed that support in that friend group. And that was my emotional kickstart to get back on track.

Sonya: Another thing that I think we sometimes lose sight of is the Why: why we started homeschooling to begin with. Sometimes, if you can revisit that mentally and emotionally, just spend some time there thinking about it, I think that can rekindle some of that enthusiasm. Charlotte talked about our high ideals that can get lost in the endless succession of small things every day. But if we can go back and revisit those ideals, “Why did I start doing this? What was it I wanted to see? What are my goals?,” I think that can help immensely too.

We sometimes lose sight of the Why: why we started homeschooling to begin with. Sometimes, if you can revisit that mentally and emotionally, that can rekindle some of that enthusiasm.

Laura: The third thing that we’re talking about is the mental side of things. Physical seems doable. That’s managing things that we are physically doing. We’ve all got emotions, whether it’s friends helping us through that or husbands, emotions are there. But that mental component is an internal battleground of just things we know, things we feel. To me, it just all compiles there and can easily build. So for me, mentally, I go usually go to two places. I have to remind myself that time is short. The days are long, but the years are short. So to come off all the rabbit trails and anchor back to realizing that I get them only once.

Sonya: You get one shot at this.

Laura: Yes, and that one shot is a limited time. So that anchors me to think, “Okay, everything’s spinning,” but my motivation, that mental anchor is “Okay, this is it; the time is now.”

Sonya: That could be motivating; it can also be a relief: “Okay, this will soon be over.” It depends on where you’re coming from emotionally, which side of that mental piece is going to be the most comforting.

Laura: So true. And the other place I go to mentally is, “Okay, what are my realistic options? If I quit, what does that look like?” Let me go there, let me plan it out. Let me see, “Okay, what are we talking about if I throw in the towel?” And often times going through the situations, the budget, the logistics, all of that, I come back to, “Okay, homeschooling’s good and this is why I’m doing it.” Even if there are other options out there, and it may or may not work or whatever the situation is, when I let myself go there, I usually end up back at wanting my kids at home with me.

Sonya: It helps you revisit the Why. Another thing that I like to do mentally is review in my mind, back it up to the last time I can remember that things were going well, when I did not want to quit, and then examine the time space between then and now, and say, “What has changed?” Just try to look at this objectively. You might need somebody else to help you think objectively.

Laura: Or write it down, even.

Sonya: Yes. “What has changed in that space that might be affecting what I’m thinking now?” or “What has not changed that I was hoping would change?” I think looking at those, and asking those two questions and answering them honestly, might give you a hint as to what might be causing this feeling of, “I just want to give up.”

Laura: Which, I think brings us to our fourth thing: a lot of prayer, the spiritual component. Where we’re at spiritually is a hard place to truly analyze. “I was happy and content then, and I’m not now,” or “I was miserable then and I’m happy now.” That’s some soul searching right there. And to try to do that on our own is hard enough, but we need to depend on the Lord to guide our thoughts, to guide that mental battleground to where we should be. And our map, so to speak, is Scripture. We need to have that in front of us at all times to remind us, to anchor us, to give us our footing. There are so many different Scripture verses and passages that motivate us, encourage us—ones we can relate to others when people were discouraged, that we’ve been there.

Sonya: Yes, look at Elijah. He was ready to give up: “Just take me now, I’m done.” But we can relate to that. And then you have the passage of “Don’t be weary in well doing, for in due season we will reap, if we don’t give up” and things like that really can be encouraging.

Laura: “Our labor in the Lord is not in vain.” So we keep those ideas in front of us, to feed our mind and our hearts truth versus living off our feelings. And I think a lot of times, in those moments of wanting to quit, it’s more emotional-based and discouragement-based versus clinging to what we know is true and right and God-honoring.

Often in those moments of wanting to quit, it’s more emotional-based and discouragement-based instead clinging to what we know is true and right.

Sonya: I was listening to a podcast the other day where the speaker said his dad always told him, “Here’s a truth; put that in front of you.” And the idea is what we want to remember, we should always put in front of us; and the things that we want to forget, we need to put behind us. So if we can keep that Scripture, those truths, in front of our eyes, as well as in front of our brains, that’s what we’re going to move toward. You move toward what you focus on.

Laura: That is so true. I feel like the question that we’ve proposed today, “What do I do when I want to quit?” is an honest question. I don’t think there’s any shame in feeling that way. I feel like if you said you never wanted to quit, I would say something is wrong with you! So I want to say that as an encouragement. It’s okay to be in that place, but it’s not okay to not want to get out of it. So question what you’re doing physically, question the emotions, question the mental status, question your spiritual life. If you’re asking that question, “What do I do? I want to quit,” you need to go to those four things and you need to prayerfully consider all of them to help you get over that hump. We’ve all been there.

Sonya: We have. And I think in our own strength it’s going to be very hard to pull ourselves out, but with the strength of the Lord, His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Laura: Amen.

Sonya: So we ask for the grace to persevere. Was it Oswald Chambers who said, “Pray and do the next thing”?

Laura: Yes.

Sonya: So we keep moving, and doing what we know is right. I think Karen Andreola had that wonderful chapter in Mother Culture about, “I can keep plodding. I can do that.” Thanks for that encouragement.