When You Feel Inadequate

Ever have one of those days, or weeks or months when you:

  • Feel woefully inadequate as a homeschooler or mother?
  • Doubt (seriously doubt) that you are up to the challenge of raising and providing an education for your kids?
  • Feel isolated and alone in your journey, either in lifestyle or homeschooling methodology (these two often weave together)?

Yeah, me too. That pretty much sums up the past couple months. 

We've been living a long life season of transition. Everything from where we live to how we work and earn our income. Not to mention our children's changing needs as they grow towards young adulthood.

Transition always rocks me to my foundations. Leaves me vulnerable. Usually these transitions come and go with the calendar seasons. Winter into spring, summer into fall.

These seasonal shifts always shake me a bit. So do big things - having babies, moving, a new job, children growing considerably.

I've been in a place of transition for months now. One transition rolling into another and it's been a ride I tell you. A little like a roller coaster, and I've never liked roller coasters.

Why do I share this now?

I'm starting to find my footing again (at least temporarily) and I can look at this experience through a "yes it was hard and I survived it" perspective. Also, we have some very cool things coming down the pipe. Living dreams not just dreaming them. Just as I want to share my joy in that, I want to share my insecurity in the struggles I encounter along the way.

And one of those areas of insecurity has been in our homeschooling. (I'm sure you're tired of my insecurities by now. I know I am. Sigh...)

Homeschooling insecurities come in waves. Some seasons, like last fall and early winter, I don't experience it at all. But during times of intense transition or lots of unknown I fight doubt, worry and fear. I feel inadequate, not up to the job.

I've made some notes over the past few weeks about weathering these spells. I needed to write them, for me. Maybe they'll help you through your next rough spot also.

  • Don't make any rash decisions from a place of fear
  • Tomorrow will be a better day. Living in the moment is wonderful but sometimes the saving grace of the day is that we get to start fresh the next morning.
  • Tune in to all the self directed learning going on. Step outside your plans and open you eyes. Sometimes I despair my children aren't learning "what they should" (I have some conveyer belt education hang-ups to get over). But then I see what they are doing - totally independent of my guidance. Nature study, writing science reports, doing math to figure out how many new markers they can buy, reading books and engaging with online peers about the ideas in those books, enrolling in courses (with Daddy's help), etc. Pay attention to this. Write it down. (I do, it's the record of our learning.)
  • You're really not alone, even though you feel it sometimes. There are resources available. Even if your local community doesn't offer support, someone on the Internet does. I know this first hand.
  • Stop reading about what other homeschoolers are doing if it makes you feel worse about your own homeschool path. Being inspired, encouraged, and challenged - these are good things. But sometimes when we are feeling especially vulnerable we're easily discouraged. Tune that out and focus on your children instead.
  • You have time, your children have time. Learning is a lifelong process.

I also asked myself these questions.

  • Are we working towards our long term goals and vision? During another season of insecurity and transition (they go together for me) I wrote our graduation goals. I need to tweak those a bit since I am starting to dream bigger for our children than I used to but those goals still communicate the essence of what we're trying to accomplish during these homeschooling years.
  • Are we cultivating joy and peace in our home? This is tricky during difficult spells but cultivating this is more important than "having it all together" - whatever that means for you. This may mean household routines take precedence over schooling or vice versa. Or that a tickle fest or pillow fight is called for.
  • Are we building good relationships with each other? Are we drawing closer through this challenge or spreading apart?
  • Are we reading or listening to good stories and books?
  • Are we getting outdoors? (Daily is the goal).
  • Are we eating well? This is hugely important to me because health is one of our key family values.
  • Are we inspired - by nature, reading, media (TED Talks and good YouTube), conversation, etc?
  • Are we creating? Do we stop to see beauty in our lives?

The more of those I could say yes to the better I felt. That everything was, and is, going to be ok. Working towards answering those with a "yes" also gives me something to focus on when everything else seems shaky. I guess you'd say those "yeses" are the foundation.

I think I might have just found a conclusion to this. (I don't usually write with conclusions in mind, mostly I just want to process my thoughts, or share a story.)

The foundation is important, it's what holds you up in the stormy seasons.

Certainly not an original thought but the truth, through and through.

Do you know what your foundation is?

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Aimee

    Aimee on April 20, 2012, 4:29 p.m.

    Really needed this today. Yes, feeling discouraged/insecure/vulnerable...fatigue with baby #6 which makes me feel like I am not giving our two oldest children (13 and 11) what they "need" school-wise. Relaxed homeschooling feels good in the young years but then those middle school years come and the fear seems to jump in and keep me up in the night (along with that precious baby!)


  • Cari

    Cari on April 20, 2012, 5:44 p.m.

    Thank you so much for this post. I have indeed been spinning a bit these past few weeks. More than misery loving company I so appreciate the questions and reflections you posed to help one move beyond the space of uncertainty.

    For myself, I've come to recognize a few things:

    I need to seek out one or several women (and not a formal "support group") to collaborate with on monthly basis. I do this with my writing and it has changed me entirely in this capacity. I now feel optimistic I will find the same truth within this realm.

    I need to relax and create a different tone in our schoolhouse. As an overachiever myself - teaching a bright first-born perfectionists we have a tendency to pursue knowledge and discipline at the cost of play at times. I so don't want to bog her young years down but also need to respect her true bent toward all things academic.I want to strike this balance with a new sense of grace and imagination. Just this week we pulled out a younger year's story (My Father's Dragon), sat outside and thoroughly enjoyed reading this adventure together. It gave us both some new life.

    I need to be my own advocate rather than my worst critic. How is it that as we have butterflies hatching, water colored renderings of farmer's market produce, an upcoming trip to the J Paul Getty Museum and mastered multiplication tables (with a sweet and spunky three year-old sister in the mix) that I feel as though we're not hitting the mark. I want to celebrate what we've accomplished rather than approaching it with a critical or insecure perspective.

    I need to cast a vision, mission, etc. We've been at it for two years now. It's time to get this down in writing so that when the questions come I can refer to this.

    I appreciate your voice so much Renee. You are one of a few that I consistently follow online; a virtual mentor of sorts.

    Blessing to you and your family.


  • Maria

    Maria on April 20, 2012, 6:41 p.m.

    I have been homeschooling for over 13yrs now, my oldest will be graduating from high school next Spring, so I know about inadequacies and feeling isolated.

    In the beginning of my home schooling journey, I wanted to do it all. Study groups, play groups, home schooling groups, field trips with others, co-ops. I purchased curriculum that promised my children would learn everything that I was not able to teach. I also wanted my children to be able to do far beyond what the school system was teaching.

    Then I realized how wrong this thinking was. I was loosing my children, a textbook at a time. I was not allowing them to be who they were supposed to be. I was pressuring them to become just like the system I was trying to stay away from.

    I began to listen to my children and truly embrace their capabilities. I stopped pushing them and introduced real books to them. No more textbooks, no more co-ops (they really disliked this), no more field trips with others (they wanted to explore at their own pace)...I listened and they began to teach themselves.

    Now, 13yrs later, I have began to teach my disabled daughter how to recognize letters by immersing her in words through the reading of books. I read to her and she follows my finger. What a concept! :-)

    It is ok to feel all of the emotions you have shared here. It is good to talk to others that are in the same journey as you. It is good to share and allow the experiences of the ones that have gone ahead of you show you that the best advice is to enjoy your children. To truly listen to them and to let them show you who they really are.

    Thank you Renee for sharing and for opening up your space for us to stop by and be encouraged!

    (Oh my goodness...I got a bit carried away here - please forgive me for the long comment! )

    Be blessed today,



  • Leslie

    Leslie on April 20, 2012, 7:50 p.m.

    It does come in waves, that's is so true. These are some great truths and tips to keep in mind during transition or those times when we just feel we're failing. Been there recently, too. xo


  • Jacinda

    Jacinda on April 20, 2012, 9:11 p.m.

    Oh you crack me up - you are so strong in your vulnerability. It is so obvious in the way you are living your life that your children are learning exactly what they need to be learning, just in you and Damien figuring out how to best live yours. I've just started reading Donald Millers book that you recommended a while back. Fabuous and funny. Lots of love sent your way.


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on April 21, 2012, 3:26 a.m.

    I love this Renee and we are currently focusing on this particular point here: Are we cultivating joy and peace in our home? This is tricky during difficult spells but cultivating this is more important than "having it all together" - whatever that means for you. What a journey this learning together is... Thanks for your vulnerability, your doubts and your wonderful insights.


  • Erika

    Erika on April 22, 2012, 10:09 p.m.

    This was so great to read - even though I know we all go through this, it really is reassuring to hear it from others. I find I go through waves of feeling completely confident in what I am doing with my children and then a wave of panic will come and I fear that I'm doing enough with them. I wonder if these waves ever disappear or if they are meant to help us reevaluate what we are doing on a regular basis?


    • renee

      renee on April 22, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

      I think you're onto something. They are probably to help us re-evaluate. I don't think they ever totally go away but maybe we get better at recognizing what they are and how to work through them. 


  • mandi@herbanhomestead

    mandi@herbanhomestead on May 2, 2012, 7:35 p.m.

    Thank you for this post! The questions you pose and your reminders are thought provoking and encouraging. Our major life shift this year was moving and all that comes along with that. We are rambling through to the end of our school year here. I find it helpful to keep a list of my priorities out where I can see them. There are only 6 priorities for our day and none of them seem very "schooly". So at the end of the day when i feel especially discouraged I can look back and see that we practiced love, we read good books, we went outside, etc. That has saved me on many evenings!


  • Audra

    Audra on Aug. 31, 2012, 5:32 p.m.

    I just found this article and I so needed it. Thank you! We have just begun homeschooling this year (kindergarten) and although I love it, I am also terrified of it and struggle daily with a multitude of doubts. So glad I'm not the only one and thank you so much for the encouragement. Definitely going to be following your blog. :) Happy schooling!


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