Former Teacher to Homeschool Mom: Why Deciding to Homeschool my Kids was Both a Struggle & a Triumph

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Somehow, going from a teacher to homeschool mom, deciding to homeschool my kids was both the easiest and most difficult decision I’d ever made. As a former teacher, I struggled with straying from everything I’d ever known. As a mom, I knew a change from public school to homeschool would positively benefit my kids and family in ways I could only imagine.

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it might help someone else making the decision whether or not to homeschool their kids.

Disclaimer: I am not sharing this to downgrade or encourage a negative view of teachers in, entering, or retired from the school system! Many teachers are invaluable to our society and should be treated as such. The following is my experience.

Deciding to Become a Teacher

Before I get started on telling my story of becoming a certified teacher, I just need to get one thing out of the way: it is absolutely absurd that we, as a society, encourage long-term career selection at the age of 18. Why are “fresh out of childhood” adults being pressured to make such gigantic life-altering decisions? Another story for another time I guess.

Anyways, after spending a good portion of my teenage years as a babysitter and summer camp counselor, making the decision to become a teacher seemed like a sound choice. I enjoyed being around children, considered myself to be pretty creative and easy-going, loved to read books, and enjoyed learning about the world around me. Having the benefit of “summers off” sounded pretty sweet, too. It made sense, right?

Sidenote: the “summers off” perk exists in speech only…teachers are always working in one way or another!

I ended up applying to and commuting to a University that was well-known for it’s teaching program. As if a strong reputation wasn’t enough, I also came from a line of educators that had gotten their degrees at that very same educational institution. My great grandmother even attended the University when it was a “normal school” and was included in one of the first graduating classes.

There was some intense family history occurring and I wasn’t about to be the one to break the chain of tradition.

Four years later, I graduated, in the top of my class, with my bachelor’s degree in special education. Less than a month after graduation, I secured my very first full-time teaching position.

How lucky was I that everything was working in my favor?!

My Experience as a Teacher

In total, I spent 5 years as an educator within the public school system. I taught in 2 different states and worked with kids having varying special needs in pre-school through 8th grade. As a person with an invisible disability (I’ve had a severe high frequency hearing loss since birth), I genuinely enjoyed my time spent helping all of my students.

I’ve experienced some of the struggles of being “different” and wanted to help my students to be their best selves. To believe in themselves. To know they were capable of achieving success and greatness. That they were just as important as their typically-abled peers. I wanted to make a positive impact on their lives

If you follow me on TikTok, you’ve likely noticed that I put a lot of emphasis on the importance of learning functional life skills and social skills.

Yes, having a solid base of science knowledge, for example, is important. Nowadays, though, we have the beauty of having almost-immediate digital access to a plethora of information at our fingertips all day, every day. Whatever information we have learned and haven’t retained…we can Google it.

school bus on a highway

Life skills, though? Social skills? Many of them must be learned because it just wouldn’t make sense to do an internet search when such a skill is needed. Can you imagine having to Google “how to order a meal at a restaurant” as the waitress stands by the table waiting for your order? Yeah, nope. Life & social skills are invaluable.

When I was a teacher, I taught all of the “main” subjects in addition to social skills and life skills to the best of my ability. Soon after I started my career, though, it became apparent that setting students up for a successful, independent future wasn’t always a priority of the school system for a number of reasons.

One true story before we move onto the next section. I paused my teaching career when I became a mom to my oldest child. Like so many new parents, I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him, so my husband and I did what we could to allow me to stay at home. It was tough, but we knew we wouldn’t regret such a decision. Before this pause, I was teaching a self-contained class of middle-school aged kids that have autism. A large portion of their school day was spent strengthening life and social skills through a variety of lessons, activities, and challenges.

Shortly after giving birth, I found out that their social skills class had been removed from their day and another reading class was in it’s place. Now, I’ll never know for sure, but if that doesn’t sound like an attempt to increase test scores for state funding, I don’t know what is. Learning of that change absolutely broke my heart because I knew how much my students had benefitted from our activities.

Wild, huh?

learning about blacksmithing
We’ve been able to take so many field trips since deciding to homeschool!

Life as a Public School Parent

If wasn’t long before my bundle of joy had reached school-age. At that point, I was a mom of 2 sweet boys battling remnants of PPD (a result of having nearly died after giving birth to my second) while trying to find her place in the world as something more than “just” a mom and wife (thanks to my upbringing of being led to believe I was never good enough).

That’s heavy, I know. Believe me, I’m well aware and I’m very happy/relieved that such a mindset is now in my past.

I signed my oldest up for a pre-school class when he was two and a half years old. Just one morning a week, society had me feeling this was the right choice because “he needed socialization.” Kindergarten was also “the new first grade,” so I felt it was in his best interest to start his education as young as possible. You know, so he could “keep up” with his peers.

For the first few years, he absolutely thrived.

He loved being around people. Loved exploring and learning new things and looked forward to attending pre-school. He couldn’t wait until he was old enough to go to Kindergarten because he wanted to learn more more more! Seeing him so happy made my heart just as happy. My baby was doing well! He was doing all the things he “should be” doing and was learning and growing every day!

I taught him a variety of skills and such at home, but reminded myself often that I was his mom and not his teacher.

Why does society lead us to believe that, even if have received a full public school education that we’re not capable of teaching our own kids the same information? That we’re capable of bringing a newborn baby home from the hospital, with little to no experience at all, but we can’t teach our own children? That we can rely on outside sources, taking classes, and researching various parenting techniques online, but we can’t do the same to educate our children.

10-years-ago me is a very different from today’s version of me.

By the time he entered the third grade at our local public school, his spirit and excitement in regards to school had been absolutely crushed. In an effort to respect his privacy, I will not go into too much detail. Experiences including peers, and even teachers, had turned my happy-go-lucky boy into one that dreaded going to school.

I knew I had to do something about this. I knew something had to change, but I felt helpless.

The thought of homeschooling had crossed my mind, but it’s important to mention that all of this happened pre-2020. The homeschooling stigma and homeschooling myths made me reluctant to pull my child(ren) from public school. Being a former teacher even considering homeschooling made me feel like a hypocrite. Who was I to go against everything I had learned and (at one point) believed in? If I homeschooled my kids, would that make me a fraud? Was I even good enough to teach my own kids? Would I be able to make a successful change from former teacher to homeschool mom?

Was deciding to homeschool my kids the right choice? What would people say? Would I somehow ruin my kids and rob them of the typical childhood?

Virtual School in 2020

I will never downplay the events of 2020. It was a trying time for so many and will likely not be forgotten for quite some time. While so many horrible things happened that year, something pretty amazing happened for our family. We officially decided to start homeschooling!

I picked my kids up from school on Friday, March 13, 2020 not realizing that I would never bring them back as students. “Two weeks to flatten the curve” didn’t really work out as planned, am I right?

From March through June, my kids attended virtual lessons with their teachers and peers every day. I can’t even imagine what being a teacher must’ve been like at that time. To be thrown into completely 100% virtual lessons without sufficient time to learn and plan was likely incredibly frustrating and overwhelming. I didn’t envy them one bit.

As a parent, my life was thrown completely upside down. I had gone from being an up-and-coming local family blogger during the day and hands-on mom after school hours to a fully-involved mom every second of the day. The time & attention commitment reminded me of my time spent raising babies & toddlers. It was overwhelming.

click here...to find your new homeschooling community in our FREE Facebook Group! That Homeschool Family Hangout. homeschooling our kids, one adventure at at time

My oldest was able to complete most of his assignments with minimal assistance. He was frustrated by the distractions that come with learning through Zoom classes, but I just needed to check in on him every so often.

My youngest, though? He was only a few months into his Kindergarten year when “everything” happened and had the attention span of a pea. His poor kindergarten teacher did the best she could, but completing assignments consisted of me sitting next to my child pressing the “play” button on numerous educational YouTube videos. We both nearly lost our minds.

It was stressful, but I kept them on top of their assignments because I didn’t want their grades to suffer. I didn’t want them to fall behind because they’d be going back to school in September, right? Right?

Then, report cards came out. Grades meant so much to me then. I was raised with the expectation of getting good grades and felt it was important my kids do the same.

This year, though, report cards were different. Instead of receiving the typical percentage or letter grade, their report cards said they participated. To say I was annoyed would be an understatement. My kids (and I) stressed and worked hard to receive a “grade” of participation?!

watching a cow eye dissection at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia
Visiting museums are a great way to learn!

It was around that point the stars collided and something clicked. I had a moment of realization: things were different, but they were also (generally) better.

We were spending more time at home because our numerous after-school activities had all been canceled.

We were spending more time as a family because my husband’s office was closed and he was working from home.

My kids were happier and got along more often than not because they had more time to play with their toys & each other.

My kids discovered that they actually enjoyed some foods they thought they hadn’t because we actually had the time to cook homemade meals together.

We were spending more time exploring the outdoors because stores were closed to the public.

We were reading more books and playing more games because we weren’t watching tv (the news was on the tv and that was just downright depressing).

We were spending more time together.

And, if we wanted all of this awesomeness to continue we could make that happen. We’d just have to start homeschooling. So that’s what we did.

the word "homeschooling" on a message board

Deciding to Homeschool: Teacher to Homeschool Mom

My husband and I had a feeling that making the decision to homeschool would be the best direction for our family, but we had to make sure the boys were on board first. At this point, I had already researched the state homeschooling laws and had joined a few homeschooling groups on social media so I could learn about all the ins and outs of homeschooling. I was ready. My husband was ready. Were the boys ready?

Spoiler alert: it didn’t take much convincing.

I remember sitting down with the boys and asking them if they’d like to stay at home and “do school with mommy” next year instead of going back to their school. I expected them to disagree, but they both immediately said “yes!”

2 boys completing their homeschool math lesson together, one using invisible ink pens
Math activity with invisible pens? Yes, please!

I worried that they’d miss their friends and would miss the social aspect that seems to be such an important part of public schools. “Won’t you miss talking with your friends everyday?” I asked. “We’re not allowed to talk in class,” my oldest told me. “My teacher always tells us to be quiet so she can tell us stories about her own family,” he continued. He then proceeded to tell me how being in the classroom bothered him because the teacher had to spend more time getting the students to be quiet than she could actually teaching the subject matter. (not in those specific words, but you know what I mean)

Oh, ok. Things were looking up.

I worried that they wouldn’t want to spend all day with me. That they’d want to go back into the classroom setting. Apparently I was wrong about that, too.

It was settled! I put my fears and self-doubts on the backburner (they’re always there, but now they’re just quietly simmering instead of a running at a full boil and nearly burning whatever it is I’m making) and started the process to un-enroll my kids from public school and began the process of deschooling.

Why this Former Teacher is now a Proud Homeschool Mom

We’re now in our 4th year of homeschooling and really have no plans to return to the public school system. If my kids ever express a sincere desire to return to the school system, we will definitely discuss and make a game plan for them to do so, but I really don’t anticipate having that conversation with them anytime soon (if ever).

Our lives are completely different than they were four years ago. Four years ago, we were all stressed out. We were all exhausted. We were easily upset and felt like we were always in competition to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Now, we don’t have to worry about the kids “falling behind” in their studies because I’ve learned about the history of the public education system and what it was really created for. We don’t to stress over completing homework or in-depth projects that tend to just get done by the parents anyways. I’m not spending hours waiting in car drop off & pick up lines every week. We’re not rushing from a 3:30 school pick up to a 4:00 martial arts class across town and through ridiculous traffic.

Now, my kids actually enjoy learning. They can learn at their own pace (within reason…I’m no pushover) and don’t spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk. They’re able to learn life skills alongside their core subjects. They can wake up when their bodies are ready instead of having to set an alarm for 5:30 every morning!

You guys. My kids aren’t afraid to be their true selves. Bullying does still exist within the homeschool world (and we experienced quite a bit of it in one of our homeschool co-ops), but it is nowhere near the level we experienced while in the public school setting. It absolutely breaks my heart to even imagine how emotionally broken my kids could be if they had continued their public school experience.

We get to spend more time together. We get to travel more. We get to experience life together…as a family should.

For all those reasons, and so many more, I am now proud to call myself a homeschool mom.

Moving Forward

Making the change from former teacher to homeschool mom was not something to be taken lightly. There will be moments of straight up self-doubt, but there will also be moments of pure bliss. You’ll have days of incredible success and mind-blowing “aha moments” and days that aren’t so great. Every day is different, but, for us, every day as a homeschooling family has been absolutely worth it! Deciding to homeschool my kids was, hands down, one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made.

If you’re in the midst of making the decision to homeschool your kids or not, I’m here to cheer you on and help you to make the best, most informed decision you can. There are a number of “how to start homeschooling” articles on my blog, so please take a look at those. I’m always here to help out via email as well!

Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with your family,

- Elizabeth (and the kids. and the husband. even the dog.)

Elizabeth Dukart is a proud Georgia-based born and raised Jersey Girl, wife, and mom of 2 human boys & 1 canine boy.

Created in 2021, Elizabeth owns and publishes That Homeschool Family: a free resource for homeschooling parents and beyond! A seasoned blogger, Elizabeth previously published a popular location-specific family resource blog, but decided to “Pivot!” her blogging focus after she started homeschooling her two boys in 2020. In addition to this blog, you can follow Elizabeth’s homeschooling and family adventures on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She can also be found in her Facebook Group: That Homeschool Family Hangout.

When she’s not busy taking over the world or homeschooling, Elizabeth can be found listening to music (especially The Beatles & Harry Styles!), being silly with her boys, watching movies with family, shopping, or traveling!

Have a question or want to work with Elizabeth? Send her an email!

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