A Cautionary Tale: The Time I Sent My Kids Back to School

The month of February is notorious for being the most likely time for homeschool moms to suffer from burnoutThe novelty of a new school year has worn off, combined with the post-holiday slump and, for lucky people like me- the long, cold winter season. Those factors can cause even the most seasoned homeschoolers to want to pull their hair out.

I’m not going to lie to you- the first few years of homeschooling can be rough. The combination of getting used to being with your kids all day, learning not to try to recreate school, finding your homeschool groove, and dealing with friends and family members who don’t agree with your decision can be a draining and stressful experience. 

Unfortunately, many, many parents end up making the same decision to counteract this desperate season:

They send their kids back to school.

sending kids back to school because of homeschool burnout


I know. I was one of them.

My Story: A Cautionary Tale of How Burnout Caused Me to Send My Kids Back to School

Making the decision to homeschool was a rather long process for me. My oldest son had been tossing the idea around for about a year before I gave it any serious thought. Having a rather large family already, like many, I assumed that I’d never be able to handle it.

Fortunately, I eventually happened upon a family who only had one less child than we did at the time (we had seven), and who were successfully and happily homeschooling. Like the vast majority of homeschoolers, they welcomed my questions and joined another family in letting me borrow (or keep) some textbooks from them.

The mom of the other family even offered to let me come in and watch a normal homeschool day at their house. Since I thought I knew everything at the time, I never took her up on the offer because I figured that I knew what I was doing. After all, I was a former gifted student. I had it covered…

Big mistake.

big mistake


At first, I actually started out pretty well. I was using the Five in a Row curriculum I had borrowed with my younger kids while my oldest was using the textbooks our friends lent to us. Our homeschool was relaxed, peaceful, and cozy.

And then someone mentioned to me that the school district would provide me with textbooks.

Big mistake, Take Two

another big mistake


Being the nerdy, “I want all teachers to love me” girl I was, I sped off to the schools to get them for my kids. Not wanting to stop using FIAR since we were loving it, I decided that we would complete that curriculum plus do every single subject for every single child separately with the textbooks we got from the school.

You would think the added stress from all of the additional work would’ve helped me to quickly put an end to the madness.


This went on for two years. Even after we were through with the books furnished by the district, I went ahead and bought more unit studies and separate textbooks for every single subject.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I also decorated a room in our house to look like an actual school classroom, complete with some actual school desks I found at a thrift store. An American flag in the corner,a chalkboard, and educational posters were in the background as I lectured my poor children day after day, requiring them to raise their hands to ask questions and, yes, go to the bathroom.

how dumb am I
I’m shaking my head as I write this.

The novelty quickly wore off- for all of us.

At the end of those couple of years, my oldest- the one who wanted to homeschool in the first place- requested to go back to school for 11th and 12th grade. (Can’t say I blame him.) I didn’t put up much of a fight. Around that time, my other kids and I went out for a walk, and we walked past the elementary school. They had recently added a new wing and were having an open house. We decided to take a look around.

I’m sure you can guess what happened next….

Yup. Back to school they went.

At first I was so relieved. I remember opening up the living room window and sitting in the reclining chair listening to the crickets outside because when the kids were home, it was always too noisy to hear them.

It was wonderful.

My house was finally clean, and I had lots of peace and quiet, having only two kids home with me during the day.

peace and quiet

After a few months, however, the newness of school quickly wore off. My kids came home and constantly fought with one another. The after-school hours were a constant battle over who I would help with homework first. (May I add that helping my kids with their homework felt like I was homeschooling all over again?) There were scores of papers that had to be signed, fundraisers that had to be held, and after-school programs my kids just had to attend.

Every morning was filled with the chaos of missing shoes, missing backpacks, missing toothbrushes, and missing homework, even though we always laid everything out the night before.

And while they were gone? I missed my kids.

I missed the closeness we shared while we were homeschooling that no longer existed in this new lifestyle.

Additionally, I despised the assumption of the schools that they had more say over my children than I did.

I won’t even get into the violence my kids encountered and the terrible behavior of their classmates.

Suffice it to say, I came to my senses two years later- yep, it took me two years– and I couldn’t take it anymore. I took my kids back out of school, did lots of research on the ins and outs of homeschooling, which I should’ve done in the first place, and I’ve never looked back. In fact, I refer to that period as our “dark days.”

My point?

If you’re feeling like you want to send your kids back to school because you’re stressed out, think long and hard about it first.

The peace and quiet you may feel at first may quickly be replaced by regret. There are so many ways to counteract homeschool burnout. Take a breather, give your kids and yourself a little break, and take time to reassess where you’ve been and where you’re headed.

I’m here to tell you today that sending your kids to school may seem like an easy solution, but it’s guaranteed to come at a cost.

The question is, are you willing to let that happen?






Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

81 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale: The Time I Sent My Kids Back to School”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Shelly. It always makes me sad when homeschooling moms send their kids back to school when the only problem seemed to be burnout. Of course I never say anything because that is their business, and it’s not the end of the world, but personally I could never bring myself to justify doing so with all that’s wrong with the system today, the hassle of being on a school calendar and following their rules again, plus all the time I’d miss out on with my kids.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Shelly! I sent mine back for a month once, I thought I wasn’t doing “enough” for them. I so appreciate the honesty of your post. It gives those who are struggling with whether they should pull their kids back out of public school or not permission to admit a mistake and pull them back out. We need more honest reporters like you: it is so encouraging. I bet you just helped someone today: I am certain you did! Thank you and God bless

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Two years after your post..?You help me! I am sitting in Children’s hospital with my 13 year old daughter. Formerly homeschooled for 2 1/2 years now in public school since January! The psychological effects on her🤦🏽‍♀️ I am removing her this coming Monday to re-unschool her!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Many new homeschooling parents feel like they have to do everything like the schools do, PLUS all the fun stuff on top of it all. You’re not the only one who has burned out by doing too much. Homeschooling is supposed to be more restful because you can eliminate all the busywork.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing the honest story of your “dark days”. It will be very encouraging to many. My middle son chose to go to high school. He is in his senior year and even he is ‘over it’ now. I am grateful for the opportunity our family had to homeschool. Never a single regret!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can totally agree with you here. Some find traditional school (public, private or charter) that meets their needs since homeschooling isn’t an option for them. However, even though both of us worked outside the home, homeschooling was a much better fit for our preference to give our kids proper rest, flexibility yet find a system that would do the majority of the teacher and we can do the support. Our days are shorter, we school the way that fits our kids and our needs and we really know our kids on a different level than we did when they attended school. I can say I never wanted to send them back. My youngest has asked since he forgot all of the challenges he had in traditional school. I tell him it’s not for him and I work hard to find venues for friendships. I tell him he is compartmentalizing his day. Education for hours in the day, then play for hours in the evening and weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so amazing. I love how determined you are to give your kids absolutely the best education possible, despite working full time along with your husband. You are doing such a wonderful job. 🙂


  5. My first thought: How does your eldest son feel about it, since he was part of the dark days and basically done school by the time you brought them home for good from school? Just curious…but only if you want to share.
    I want to say that we’re in the struggling stage right now… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest, we really don’t talk about it much. I will say, though, that high school was not what he expected, and he spent quite a bit of time trying to find reasons to stay home. I’d say, keep on keeping on. Maybe take a break for a while ( a week or two). Perhaps you could try some unschooling or a bit of relaxed homeschooling. I would definitely try to counteract that burnout by taking it easy for a bit before sending your kids to school. It may seem enticing, but I honestly think it was the worst decision I ever made.


  6. This was fantastic! This is our first year homeschooling the 4 of our 5 boys left at home, and it was a decision made after a lot of thought and prayer. Just before Christmas break, I was having one of those “hairy” days as I call them and wondered just how horrible I’d be if I sent the boys back to public school in January. That afternoon, I went to get a few groceries (by myself–which rarely happens) and saw a friend who asked me how things were going. I was honest. Brutally so. She then began asking me how I KNEW, and as I began to tell her my experience, I was reminded anew that for our family, the compulsion and leading to homeschool was from the Lord. I don’t know if I helped her that day, but she certainly helped me!! I must not have discouraged her too much because they’re homeschooling their 3 children next year. Sometimes, just taking a step back and remembering WHY and HOW you decided to homeschool puts things back into perspective and gives one courage. I’m still finding my feet, and I feel like I fumble and cast about (other homeschooling mama’s are such a blessing and help) but I know within myself that I homeschool my boys not because it’s what ‘s easiest for me, but because it’s what’s best for them. Thank you for this post. I’m sharing it with our little co-op group tomorrow!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is so so important to remain in God’s will- and yes, sometimes it may seem difficult. You have beautifully described how important it is to take all things into consideration. I hope this hopes some people at your co-op. God bless!


    2. This article was great and this post was as well. I Was led by Fod to quit my job and homeschool because we never had family time. But I loved school as a kid and my kids were in a private school I liked as well. It’s a hard adjustment and I feel like I am not teaching enough and failing my 6 year old (almost 7) who basically refuses to do any of it. I am considering sending them back, but I recall I didn’t do this because I wanted to teach, I was led by God. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. I don’t know how to relax and just let them learn naturally, that isn’t how my brain works. Pray for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I sill surely try to pray for you. I don’t think a mother who loves her children and is striving daily to do what is best will EVER fail them. You will find your way.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing!!! I’ve only been homeschooling my youngest son (7 yo) since last February when we pulled him out of kindergarten because he was having such a tough time in public school. It’s a long story that I know others have had similar experiences in so I won’t bore you with the details, but I know the choice to homeschool was right for him and me!!!! However, it is nice to hear someone say that it’s ‘normal’ to start feeling burned out in February when homeschooling because that’s exactly how I’m feeling!!! And, since we are approaching our one year anniversary for our new homeschool adventure it’s great to know I’m not alone in feeling that way!!! Thanks again!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was me a month ago. I promised my kids who miss their friends that they could go back for second semester. Never happened but we’ll shoot for next year. Its to boring for them and are they are actually learning anything we havent done science history or bible in months! Why? Because this curriculum has so much work! Front and back math pages and my 6 year old is expected to write a story when he cant even read! My 6 year old can’t read and he’s going into the second grade….this mom has failed. I just hope they don’t get held back next year. This is our first and last year homeschooling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You haven’t failed. It sounds to me that your curriculum wasn’t right for you. Remember that curriculum is a tool- that’s it. You don’t have to use it exactly like the lesson plan says. In fact, you don’t have to use it at all. Although schools are stuck with using the same curriculum, the beauty of homeschooling is that if something doesn’t work, you can drop it and try something new. Take your kids to the library. Let them pick out books and let them learn from them for awhile. Give them time to explore. Forget about yhour curriculum. It’s only bringing you down. Here are some links to posts that might help you- https://redheadmom8.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/curriculum-we-loved-and-hated/ and https://redheadmom8.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/how-to-homeschool-multiple-children/. Good luck!


    2. There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of curriculum options out there! Lots of homeschoolers change it up more than once before they find one that fits. There are traditional school at home type curriculums, unit studies with more hands on work, and even some almost entirely self-teaching curriculums like Christian Light Education (the only one I have used).

      I do advise getting your 6 year old a learning to read curriculum and working on it with him, especially if he is going to be going back to public school next year. My foster daughter basically failed first grade because she couldn’t read yet (they passed her onto second grade, but she had failing grades in everything but PE). With remedial reading classes at school and CLE Learning to Read curriculum over the summer she was reading at an almost age appropriate level when she started second grade. She has since moved from our home, so I don’t know how she is doing, but in this day and age, reading ability is definitely necessary for even first grade. Which is kind of absurd since when I started first grade I believe I was one of only two children that could read (1992 I believe).

      Another middle of the road option might be online school, either through an independent company or the public school system.

      If you decide to try homeschooling a little more, don’t worry to much about his ability to read. Many homeschool parents (although honestly not me) don’t start formal school (or their version of it) until the child is 6, or even 7. Children can catch up quickly in homeschooling because they have someone working with them individually.

      Sorry for the novel, I just hate to see you quit while feeling like a failure. You can do this!!! Just find the right curriculum, and don’t worry to much.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I don’t know if you’re using the curriculum I’m thinking of, but we have definitely had that experience! I pushed so hard to get my oldest son to read, and the more I pushed, the more he feared it and the more he resisted. I decided to let it go, do lots of reading aloud, and let him work through his reading learning at his own pace (we used Reading Eggs, which he and now his brothers love). He seemed to hit some kind of intellectual growth spurt a short while later, and things that just weren’t clicking started coming more easily. He started reading independently around the time he turned 7, and within six months he was a fluent and voracious reader. Not every kid, of course, some have other challenges, but I think a lot of them (boys especially, I gather from hearing other moms talk about their public-schooled sons) just don’t have the developmental readiness to read in kindergarten, and they get scared and discouraged. Patience around it is so valuable!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Our two daughters were homeschooled for a few years (mostly upper elementary), and have also attended a local Christian school in the other years. I guess we’ve been blessed, because while both schooling options have had pluses and minuses, we’ve enjoyed each season for what it was and for how it worked for our family situation at the time. They are in the Christian school currently, and will likely graduate from there, as far as we know now. Glad you’ve found the best way to school your children and that you are all thriving in that choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Now that we’ve moved to a much nicer school district, my kids ALL want to go to school next year. They’ll be in 10th, 8th, and 4th by then and I am really struggling with it. We’ve always homeschooled and the kids are doing well. I want to give them wings, but I’m worried they’re going to be flying right into the storm. =(

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for the article. I always think I’m not doing enough school work. I remember very little from my public education beyond basic skills (and certainly no dates). My higher education didn’t help at all in my career but experience sure did. I figure what will help my children through life more? Knowledge of history or how to balance their checkbook and fix the washer. Wish I knew a lot more about plumbing and car repair. If they can read, they can learn anything they want. However it has been very hard for me to let go of the school model. Feeling like I’m messing up if they don’t go through all the textbooks at the right level. I’ve noticed though that sometimes they learn stuff on their own and then I feel like maybe I’m doing the right thing. My 12 yo daughter who has always loved music is learning to play the piano on her own with some help from the internet. She is getting quiet good. Certainly a lot better than I ever played with lessons that I can’t remember now. The other day I caught her teaching her brother a song writing down the notes for him to play. I didn’t know she knew the notes. When she started she was just memorizing the order of keys to play. I’m hoping that at least I’m giving them the time to follow their own interests, the confidence that they can pursue any goal and development of a healthy self esteem. I’ve been focussing more on core skills like math, grammar, reading and science and hope I’m not messing up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you answered your own question! You don;t remember most of what you learned in school, right? That’s what happens when there is no interest for a particular subject. It sounds to me like you’re doing great!


  12. Lol! Thanks for this. I just registered my 3.5 year old in preschool because I’m burnt out. I’m really hoping it will be a good thing. The minute it’s not he’s coming back home. I’m homeschooling grades 1 and 3. They aren’t fleunt enough readers to work independently. My three year old just got diagnosed with Autism. He’s functioning at an 18 month level and is non verbal. I just can’t teach the kids while he’s pulling on me every five minutes. I’m in the country so it’s hard to get the therapies he needs. He’ll get them in school. I’ve switched the other two kids to Easy Peasy so I don’t have to lesson plan and it’s easier to bounce between the three of them for the remainder of the year. I’m hoping it will work. I don’t want to send the older kids to school for the above reasons!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is my concern the violence in schools and negative outcomes. My oldest went 5 yrs without good results for learning issues. None of my other kids have ever been to school. We have had to deal with major damage to our farmhouse and decided continuing to rent is not a good idea. 2 mo of renos in late summer/fall, still not all repairs were done, and interrupting our schooling. Most of the labor falls on me and my two older boys 15 and 14 as my husband is gone working (single income household). We have since moved into the rental (long story) put our home on the market and still “putting out fires” as we continue to find more and more damage. I feel we are not learning whats required and we are to report to NYS for our progress. 2 kids have learning issues and I know they are lacking my time to get what they need. I just dont feel comfortable enrolling and yet feel I really am do a disservice to them because of our circumstances! This makes me feel better I guess that school is not the solution for all and that hopefully we can get back on track soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds to me like your homeschool resembles an unschooling routine right now. To be honest, experiential learning is far more useful than any textbook. I do know that NY is pretty strict about homeschooling, but I also knw there are many unschoolers there. Have you considered looking for an NY unschoolers FB group to see how they handle complying with homeschool laws?


  14. Loved reading this as I am preparing to homeschool my son (2½ yo now). If you don’t mind, what was the “research on the ins and outs of homeschooling” that you did that helped you get back on track? I’d like to read as much of those as possible BEFORE I start rather than later. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I highly recommend that you start out reading practically anything by John Holt, especially Learning All the Time and Teach Your Own. I also highly recommend Sarah Mackenzie’s book, Teaching from Rest. I wish I had known about these when I first started!


  15. I love your honesty in this post. I plan to homeschool my daughter but she’s still a toddler so I’m just anxiously soaking in as much as I can about the subject. I’m sure there’s a lot of moms out there that went through what you did and this post will help them feel not so alone in the struggle. Thank you for linking up to #FridayFrivolity last week. I’m one of the hosts and I’m making this post my featured favorite this week! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my goodness, I got to that point once myself! And like you, nearly beat myself to pieces for it. When my daughter came out of public school, she brought with her a diagnosis of severe social anxiety, severe math anxiety, depression and a host of children on the bus had told her that she was so worthless she should do the world a favor and kill herself!! I have never looked back, not even on the “darkest days” at home, because Lord knows, they’ll never be as bad as what she went through in public school. I’m glad you shared this story! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wish I had read this before revoking my statement of intent and signing her up for repeat first grade. My daughter and I are like oil and water. I can’t get her to do even the 3rs if it isn’t her idea! And our state has mandated subjects! Dad can get her to follow his requests, other teachers can, but Mom, NOPE. My physical and mental health aren’t good and there isn’t much support network up here. Isolation and being overwhelmed trying to fulfill state law with a resistant child got the best of me. I hope it goes ok while we get counseling and assessments done but if it doesn’t at the first whiff of trouble we are out.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for sharing. Literally considering removing our oldest from school after transitioning from homeschool to school. Thankfully, having Homeschooled before we challenge the teachers and hold them accountable and we have the courage to remove them from a flawed system. Your post let me know we are not alone. Many families transition well. Many kids transition well. For those that don’t, utilize the options available and homeschool is the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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