Homeschooling through a Rough Start

rough start to homeschool | homeschooling rough starts and failures

In spite of well-laid plans and brand new supplies, the beginning of each new homeschool year seems to bring it’s own unique challenges. Ours is no exception. Our first year of homeschooling, I shut the whole thing down after our first month to revamp everything that wasn’t working. One year, everyone caught the flu on “start week.” Another year, we moved across country, arriving in our new home in September. With all of these challenges and changes, both good and bad, I’ve learned that there is something to say for “soft starts” to a new year and easing in. There’s also nothing wrong with homeschooling through a rough start.

Because we have a few of those unique challenges this year as well, I started a couple of weeks earlier than normal to allow ourselves the opportunity to ease in and break for life’s surprises. Our first day was beautiful! The picture-perfect day of happy kids elbow-deep in clay and learning.

homeschool first day

The next day, I went head-to-head with one of my kiddos, repeating for the millionth time that conversation of “it’s against the law for you to not do school, so you better work with me here.” Day three was somewhat better, and the week slowly improved. Our second week has been up and down as well, and I’ve already decided our math curriculum might not be working out. We’re off and running to our usual rough start.

But experience has shown me, we will get through it, and the year will run its course of smooth turns and rough patches. My friend, that’s life! That’s parenting! That’s definitely homeschooling. We always have visions of the ideal, but we have to remember that rough starts aren’t failures— they are simply rough starts.

3 things to remember if you are homeschooling through a rough start:

  1. A rough start does not characterize your year. Every good book opens with a conflict. Every good story involves overcoming challenges. The fact that your year may be off to a rough start does not mean you are going to have a terrible year. But it may help you to understand the challenges, the conflict, that will be part of your homeschool story this year. And just like a good book has twists and turns, ups and downs, your homeschool year will, too. The greatest stories are about those who overcome the challenges. Your rough start is merely chapter 1 of a great adventure.
  2. A rough start does not define you (or your child). It’s easy to let those difficult moments define us, to think a failed attempt means that we are failures. But that isn’t the case. Often, we can see that in everyone’s life but our own. Your rough start doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out for this. Your child’s rough start doesn’t mean she will be impossible for you to teach or even that she will always be this challenging (though it sometimes feels like it). Accept God’s grace each day, for yourself and for your child. I’ve had some rough patches with my kids, but we love this journey together. And each year, we make great memories. The challenges are often part of those good memories, as we learn to overcome together. 
  3. A rough start is sometimes part of gaining momentum. Remember when you were first learning to ride a bike how difficult the first few pedals were? You wobble along trying to keep your balance until that momentum picks up, and then you are off! Sometimes, a homeschool year has that wobble at the start. You push and push and push. Then, the momentum of learning picks up and things get a little easier. Each time we stop for a break, there is that wobble of beginning again. But just like learning to ride the bike, you hang in there, knowing that if you push past those first few ungraceful moments, you’ll make it.

Are there exceptions? Are there rough starts that just aren’t meant to be? Of course, everyone’s story is different. But as a friend who’s been there a few times, let me say that if you are homeschooling through a rough start, take heart. Chances are, it’s only the beginning.

Making a Beginning

It was with much excitement and a little trepidation (on my part) that we began school this week.

"Places everyone!" My big 2nd Grader and K5 Kid.
“Places everyone!” My big 2nd Grader and K5 Kid.

Though the first day of homeschool always gives me some butterflies and nerves, this year I was especially nervous. Perhaps it was the fact that I’ve spent the last month or more moving rather than preparing. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I have two in serious homeschool this year (2nd grade and K5). Or perhaps it’s that Littlest is toddling into a lot of trouble lately.

But, in spite of it all, our first day was a roaring success. The schedule ran smoothly, the lessons were enjoyable, and the kids were as excited at the end of the day as they were at the beginning—maybe even more excited!

The only one who didn’t enjoy the day was Littlest, who hasn’t been feeling up to snuff lately. He opted for a long morning nap, instead; and I definitely rejoiced in that unexpected grace.

This was supposed to be Littlest's activity for the morning, but Middlest decided she wasn't too big for this kind of fun.
This was supposed to be Littlest’s activity for the morning, but Middlest decided she wasn’t too big for this kind of fun.

First Day Highlights

  • We started our memory work review with a video of last year’s memory work. The kids had a blast watching themselves recite our timeline from last year, and it was a fun way to review. We’ll keep doing that much of this week until we feel fully refreshed and ready to add some new facts.


  • Middlest loved her new phonics lessons. We explored how the letter sounds are made and began our cursive work with a little magic! She used her wand to practice the strokes before we actually wrote on paper. I loved having my teacher curriculum on my NOOK! I wasn’t quite sure how I would like that format, but it was fabulous. Now I wish that all my teacher books were like that!
Middlest practicing her cursive strokes with a little ribbon magic!
Middlest practicing her cursive strokes with a little ribbon magic!
  • Oldest really liked all of his school. When I pulled out his Essentials workbook, he actually kissed the cover; he was so excited to begin again. Of everything, however, I think he liked his audio-history with Story of the World the best. Jim Weiss will read the bulk of their history this year, and I’m very grateful to him for that convenience. 
Oldest working hard on his Essentials.
Oldest working hard on his Essentials.


Our first maps of the year! Mediterranean Sea, Rome, and the boundaries of the Roman Empire.
Our first maps of the year! Mediterranean Sea, Rome, and the boundaries of the Roman Empire.


  • We also took a hot cocoa break during our combined lessons. I’m thinking that may have to be an everyday occurrence. It wasn’t just cozy; it really made the second half of the school lessons something to look forward to. It set the mood for us as we transitioned to history and science (or art and latin on alternate days).

Homeschool First Day


Homeschool First Day

Curious about what we’ll be learning this year? Click the link to see!

First Day and the Flu

The night before our first day, I had all the butterflies and nerves that any mom might have. I looked over my lesson plans a billion times and made sure I got to bed sort-of on time.

But Littlest, who had just caught his first cold, had other ideas. He woke up a little after midnight and was up ALL night. He’d doze a little as long as I was holding him but screamed and cried every time I tried to lay him down—which is absolutely not typical of my laid-back little guy. I got about two hours sleep that night plus a little dozing here and there, and those two hours were thanks to my sweet husband who took over the morning shift with the kids in spite of his own bronchitis and overall misery.

I was still determined to have school. Littlest or not, homeschool must move on. So, up at 8 a.m. I stumbled to the shower and then to the breakfast table (where my once again hero-hubby had made eggs, bacon and toast!) It was then that I discovered that the other two had contracted some germs—Littlest’s cold? Daddy’s bronchitis? Who knew! But sniffles and coughs or not, we were going to have school!

First Day of Homeschool
First day of First Grade


First Day of Homeschool pictures
First Day of K4


homeschooling with baby
First Day in the Schoolroom!

A little after 9, we filed into our little room and started our opening routine: some songs, a Bible verse and poem to memorize, the Pledge of Allegiance, calendar time, etc. The day progressed pretty well overall.

Middlest did really well with all of her activities and loved every minute.

Counting to 100




Oldest didn’t have a full day of assignments because I knew it would take time to explain what each day would look like. He did get to play his beloved Reflex Math, which totally made his day. Otherwise, he wasn’t feeling so hot. Definitely not his enthusiastic self.

Playing Reflex

And Littlest did fantastic.

I wasn’t sure how it would work to keep a formal school schedule with Littlest around, but he played contentedly with his toys, grabbed a snack at his usual time, and then the next thing I knew…

Down for the count!


We finished the day and, believe it or not, all made it to our dentist appointments before the kids spiked fevers. A late evening visit to the doctor, revealed that Littlest (who had been the fussiest) was just fine and the other two had the flu.


But really, could you expect anything else from a first day of homeschool? It’s life! And we learn in the midst of it.

“First Day—Take 2” will be coming soon, after I Lysol everything and take a couple more Vitamin C pills.