For better or worse. In sickness and in health. Perhaps you pledged things like this during your wedding vows, but did you also promise to honor your partner during homeschooling and times of sanity? You might make it through those “broke” years or come out the other side from a life threatening illness, but whether or not your marriage can survive homeschooling is a completely different challenge.
Homeschooling is the fastest growing trend in education in America. Studies continuously point to the academic successes that homeschooling can provide.
- Homeschooled students outscore publically schooled peers by an average of 36 percentage points.
- 25% of homeschooled students are enrolled one or more grades above their peers who are in public or private schools.
- Homeschooled students score on average in the 84th percentile in all areas of achievement tests.
And even though there are still lingering doubts in the minds of some about socialization, many in mainstream society also are beginning to recognize that homeschooling does not deter the socialization of children – it enhances it.
Why, then, can this positive education option be dangerous to your marriage?
Homeschooling is 24/7. It is a frame of mind. It is when you turn ordinary activities into field trips, topics for journaling, and opportunities to increase spelling vocabulary. Homeschooling changes who you are, especially if you do it well. But it also changes who you are with your spouse. If you are not careful, it can change your relationship in ways that threaten the stability of your marriage. This is even truer if only one partner in a marriage is enthusiastic about homeschooling. Flying solo as a married homeschooling parent is a challenge at best – a dangerous prospect in the least. Consider the strains that homeschooling places on marital relationships.
Homeschooling and Marraige: Resentment of The Job
Spouses can resent the time you give to your children in this 24/7 job. There are the days when your spouse sees you having a “fun day at the zoo” and thinks that you’ve got the easy job. He didn’t see your efforts to make sure even the car ride to the zoo was educational, the energy you put into each exhibit you saw with the kids, and the contribution that the trip made to the science series your kids are studying.
Not only does it sometimes look on the outside like you have the easy job, but your spouse can feel he’s getting the shaft when it comes to your time and commitment to the marriage. If your idea of “date night” is to watch a movie that would be great for school, see a play you’ve been reading with the kids, or hike a trail where you are considering taking the kids for nature camp, you might be inadvertently building resentment in your marriage.
Over time that resentment can grow – like a tumbling, twisting, and thorn-producing patch of weeds. Homeschooling families on average have several kids – so the years you are committing to your kids can be many, especially if you homeschool all the way from kindergarten through graduation.
In my household this means that I will homeschool my 4 children for more than 23 years when it is all said and done. That is 23 years of dedication to these little people and their activities. That is a lot of years to spend focusing each and every day on the education of children, and if I’m not careful, those can be years of my husband feeling left out of the priority loop.
Homeschooling and Marriage: Resentment of The Financial Picture
Those early years when you factor daycare costs into your decision, homeschooling can seem easier and even financially responsible. It is when the kids are all old enough to be attending school, even caring for themselves after school, where the stark differences lie. A homeschool mom isn’t needed to provide care for her young children anymore. Her role transitions from caregiver to teacher, guiding hand, or even partner. It is when this transition strikes that the working spouse can get a case of the “what ifs”.
What if the kids went to public school and my wife got a job?
This is the dreaded question that makes homeschooling parents wrinkle their noses. In a society where more and more families are living in dual income households the financial and social strains of choosing to live on a single income can be overwhelming. I’ve ridden the financial roller coaster over the 13 years we’ve homeschooled – and I still have another 10 years to go if I homeschool my youngest through graduation. It is a conscious decision to give up a formal 401K, the opportunities to build job security and pad your resume, and live on the constant precipice of risk if the single earner losing that precious job.
Financial strains can be one of the most significant factors in a decision to homeschool, and it can be cause for some of the greatest marital discord. If you are home each day, watching the kids blossom, and truly seeing their progress, your spouse might not get this same picture if by the time he gets home they are restless because they are hungry for dinner or you are tired because you also worked all day.
Homeschooling also costs money – in some form or another. The median amount of money spent annually in the United States each year on homeschool supplies and materials is between about $400 and $600 per student. This number can vary widely – I homeschool 4 children and usually spend that amount in total, including things like museum passes. I also know families who spend only the gas money for trips to the library and not much more.
The majority of mothers who homeschool do not do work that provides a paycheck – a whopping 81%. However, the trend also seems to be growing that more and more homeschooling parents are seeking part-time work of some kind. I am among these ranks, but my youngest is now 9 and I can safely leave him to finish his projects while I tackle some of my own. Working from home allows me to contribute to the bank account, and have something that is mine that I love and can love after the kids graduate.
However, working part-time and taking on the responsibility of the primary educator in the homeschool is a juggling act like no other. I simply don’t think I could have worked 25 hours each week from home and felt good about the kind of education and attention I was providing my children if I would have attempted this 10 years ago. It only would have created even more stress within the family.
Homeschooling and Marriage: Resentment of the Lifestyle
Let’s face it, even though we’re adults we still care about what others think of us – just hopefully not to the same degrees that plagued us in high school. So it’s normal to still feel the sting of judgmental words that are sometimes cast out when you announce “We homeschool” when asked where you kids go to school. If your spouse carries the weight of others’ opinions, being a new homeschooling parent can be – well – traumatizing for some parents.
Announcing that you’re a homeschooling family when you’re among adults who come from dual-income families, where family meals are reserved for holidays, and anything but the local Wild Cats school colors are considered unpatriotic can be intimidating.
Socialization Rears Its Ugly Head in Marriages
Forget the hype. Socialization is overrated. Yet it still rears its ugly head in homeschooling families, especially if one parent already has reservations about the education choice.
Will my child really be able to make great friends?
Will my child really grow up to be normal without recess and assigned seating?
Will my child grow to be the odd duck because he didn’t play on the high school football team?
Many of these fears can only be eased by actually doing it. It doesn’t mean that childhood friendships are instantaneous or easy – anywhere, or that your child will be just like everyone else, but isn’t that kind of the point? Giving children something else, something more, is a common driving motivator for families to choose homeschooling.
And as far as football (or any other sport) goes, homeschooling is not an end. If your child is sports-minded there are many ways to integrate homeschooling and athletics. Just ask my kids – one who has a locker at the local public school and plays on several school sports. He not only plays, but the coaches and teammates want him to play.
How Do I Convince My Husband that Homeschooling is Right for Us?
I hear this question too many times from parents who are divided about making the decision to homeschool. I usually tell these desperate moms – you don’t. He has to find for himself that homeschooling is a viable, positive option for your family.
Don’t drag him. Homeschooling is an amazing adventure, but it can also be an emotional, physical, and mental exercise like no other. You don’t want to take on the responsibility of forcing your spouse into the decision. If your spouse thinks this is the worst idea in the world, or is apathetic at best, you’re setting yourself up for an even bigger challenge if you take the plunge without his support. Instead of rushing into the decision, assess where you are at today, in regards to where you hope to be someday with your children’s education.
A backbone – You’ll both need to be strong to face the questions of the in-laws and the critiques of the neighbors.
Communication – Keep talking, without forcing your values on your spouse. The more you both share your concerns and dreams, the greater the opportunities you’ll have to help the other ease those worries or reach those goals.
Faith – Draw upon the faith that you have – in a higher power, in each other, and in yourself.
Patience – Parents automatically think this is about patience with the kids, but it is about patience with each other.
A well of comrades – One of the best things I did was start a local homeschool group (by literally placing an ad in the paper). My husband met other homeschool dads, saw that there were great families on this adventure, and knew that we wouldn’t be alone.
Shared goals – Write a list together about the kinds of goals you have for your kids. Then take a good, careful look at how you think homeschooling can help or hinder you from getting there as a family.
Financial literacy – Be realistic with finances, and take steps to ease financial burdens. This might mean cancelling those manicure appointments, or working from home as your family situation allows.
Humor – There will be some days when you will daydream about the school bus picking up the kids and the freedom you will have from teaching the quadratic equation one more time. Find ways to grab onto the humor in your homeschooling family, like this uplifting book I got for my husband, and then have passed on to other homeschooling dads.
Resilience – Instead of fostering resentment, build resilience. If you meet your spouse at the door each day crying, complaining, or rolling your eyes because the kids complained all day about math or they were simply driving you crazy with sibling rivalry, this is the picture you will paint of homeschooling. Instead of meeting your spouse at the door with the leftover science experiment clinging to your hair and wild eyes because your kids almost blew a hole in the ceiling, build your own resilience. Take a 15 minute time out for yourself before he walks through the door and remember to welcome him with open arms. Without him you likely wouldn’t be on this crazy-wonderful journey in the first place, so remember to .
How do you keep your homeschooling marriage strong?