A rainbow of crayons peppers my kitchen table along with at least five different pieces of paper. A child squeals above me, followed swiftly by thundering feet on the stairs as two little boys run after one another, giggling so hard they can barely breathe. The little girl on the couch looks up from her book and grunts, disgruntled by the noise disrupting her reading. Dishes sit in my sink; my coffee maker rumbles as it brews my fourth cup; and the second load of laundry begins the spin cycle. No, I don’t run an at-home day care—I’m a homeschooling mom.

It’s a different life, sure. The vast majority of moms in this nation send their kids off to school in the mornings. Me? I hear my two-year-old yell, “School bus!” as the bus picks up our neighbors and heads on down the road. My daughter draws and my son brushes his teeth while I help Hubby get out the door. Then, we “go” to school.

I get our supplies out of the hutch in the corner of the dining room and stack the folders, books, and binders on the table. At this stage in our lives, my kids rarely complain about doing school. I’m well aware these days are numbered, but I’m just trying to be grateful while they last. Becky goes off to do math in Daddy’s office while I sit down with Ray and walk him through his lessons. If Patrick is in a good mood, he looks at books or plays quietly. If he’s in a bad mood, I give him the iPad and let him watch The Backyardigans so I can do what I need to do.

Becky has a meltdown when she can’t remember the answer to 18 divided by three, and it’s all I can do to keep my cool as she spouts a bunch of guesses instead of trying to think through the problem. 

“No guessing,” I tell her, “do the math.” After wrestling with her tears for a few minutes, I insist that she say the “3 Times Table” until she figures out the answer. Once that problem is sorted and she moves on to spelling and handwriting, I have to manage Ray’s frustrations as he learns to read. He’s very, very close, but he’s impatient. Eventually, we get through the requisite pages via bribery with Halloween candy.

Hey, I never claimed I was perfect.

All in all, the morning passes quickly, and before 11:00 all the books are back in the hutch and my kids are all running around outside while I rotate laundry and load the dishwasher.

It’s a different life, I get that. Most days, I don’t speak face-to-face with an adult other than my husband. Wherever I go, my kids go, too. When I go grocery shopping, I have to navigate three different sets of harnesses and buckles and load a 34-pound two-year-old in and out of the cart. I make breakfast for everyone, I make lunch for everyone, I make dinner for everyone, and since we’re living on one income, eating out is rare.

Some homeschoolers try to pretend that homeschooling is perfect. It isn’t. I lose my temper. I often feel overwhelmed and under appreciated. The kids fight with each other and have meltdowns over math. I wonder how I might be messing up their education and worry about them spending enough time with their friends. And, yes, I get lonely.

That being said, for us, homeschooling truly is the only way. I could talk about how bad the local public schools are or how standardized tests are ruining children, but I won’t. I homeschool because I see my daughter reading well above her grade level and drawing and writing her own books. I homeschool because my fidgety four-year-old son spends most of his day moving around and exploring the world, not sitting in a chair. I homeschool because I get to hug my children and celebrate all the milestones.

Occasionally, I get tired of being around my children all day. Still, I wouldn’t trade a little more peace and quiet for the joy it brings me to watch them grow and help them learn about this world and its many mysteries.

H. Lee McMillion

H. Lee McMillion was homeschooled kindergarten through 12th grade and graduated from Baylor University in 2011. Now a homeschooling parent of three awesome kiddos, she enjoys coffee and biscotti, playing video games, writing fantasy stories, drawing comics, and walking her dog in the blustery Oklahoma wind. See Lee tweet about life, family, and homeschooling @twitter.com/2ndGenHschool and check out her comics and insights into homeschooling at Second Gen Homeschooler.