Enhanced – read by the author
Raising Lifelong Learners
Colleen Kessler, M.Ed.
“We need to remember that homeschooling is personal and we each have the incredible opportunity to create the exact environment we know will help our kids thrive.”
The Power of Identifying Homeschool Non-Negotiables

asked my daughter to take a minute to grab all the trash from the car before she got out and then left her to it while I headed inside to see what the other kids had been up to while their sister and I were gone for a few hours. I’d left a list of schoolwork and chores. On some of these “appointment days” the fourteen and ten-year-olds crushed the to-dos, and on others, my house looked like a tornado hit while I was gone. Today was a tornado day…

Homeschooling is filled with seasons of highs, lows, and everything in between. As a homeschool mom, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do it all every day and keep the house, kids, meals, and planning perfect in the process. The reality, though, is that no one can do all the things all the time. In the midst of lesson planning, extracurricular activities, household chores, and the myriad of responsibilities that come with being a parent—it’s crucial for homeschool moms to recognize that it’s okay not to do it all every single day. In fact, acknowledging this truth can be liberating and pave the way for a more fulfilling and sustainable homeschooling experience.

And, if you’re homeschooling neurodivergent kiddos like I am, it’s even more important to manage those expectations. Parenting and homeschooling differently-wired kids comes with therapies, appointments, doctors, and outside classes. When you have kids pursuing passions like voice, acting, or athletics, you might also need to add in private coaching or specialized lessons like we do.

Identifying Homeschool Non-Negotiables
One of the keys to finding balance in homeschooling is identifying your non-negotiables. These are the core aspects of your homeschooling journey that you refuse to compromise on, no matter how hectic life gets. Non-negotiables could include spending quality time with your children, fostering a love for learning, or maintaining a peaceful and nurturing home environment. By pinpointing these essential elements, you can prioritize and focus your energy where it matters most.

For us, non-negotiables tend to be very practical. On top of my philosophical need to raise kind, compassionate, lifelong learners, I also want them to progress in core subject areas a little bit every single day. I tell the kids that these are the minimum things they need to accomplish academically on a day-to-day basis so I know that I’m doing my job as a homeschool mama and so they know they’re doing their job in becoming educated. These include some math, a bit of writing, a little reading, and a few chores to make our home a peaceful place we all want to be.

Your non-negotiables may be different, and that’s okay. We need to remember that homeschooling is personal and we each have the incredible opportunity to create the exact environment we know will help our kids thrive. So, choose what works for you, and communicate those minimums to your kids so they know there are some days you’ll do more, but on the very crazy-busy, out-of-the-house days, they might only have to do their non-negotiables in order to call it a day!

Erring on the Side of Connection
In the quest to cover every subject and meet every academic goal, it’s easy to lose sight of the real essence of homeschooling—building strong, meaningful connections with your children. The truth is, your children are not likely to remember every math formula or historical fact you teach them, but they will remember the time you spent together, the conversations you had, and the bonds you forged.

Instead of fixating on checking off a never-ending to-do list, err on the side of connection. Engage with your children in ways that resonate with them individually. Take the time to listen to their thoughts, dreams, and concerns. Share stories, laugh together, and create lasting memories. These connections will not only enrich your homeschooling experience but also provide a solid foundation for your children’s social and emotional development.

Building Relationships that Sustain Long-Term Homeschooling
Homeschooling is not just about imparting knowledge—it’s about nurturing relationships. As your children’s person, you have the unique opportunity to foster a love of learning that extends beyond textbooks and curriculum. Embrace the flexibility of homeschooling to tailor your approach to your kids’ individual learning style and interests.

Invest time in understanding your children’s passions, strengths, and areas for growth. This personalized approach not only makes learning more enjoyable for your kids but also strengthens your relationship, setting a foundation for a strong future connection. When challenges arise—and they inevitably will—a solid foundation of trust and connection will carry you and your children through.

Leaning Into the Strength in Imperfection
It’s crucial for homeschool moms to recognize that imperfection is not a sign of failure; it’s a testament to being human. You may not accomplish everything on your daily checklist, and that’s perfectly normal. The strength of homeschooling lies in adaptability and resilience.

On days when the curriculum feels overwhelming or life throws unexpected challenges your way, focus on doing what you can. Prioritize the essentials, and let go of the rest. By embracing imperfection, you create space for growth, learning, and the unpredictable beauty of the homeschooling journey.

A mom and her two children in the kitchen, one son is writing in his notebook, the other is drawing on a piece of paper at the table.
Gaining Confidence through Incremental Progress
We homeschool mamas often grapple with self-doubt, questioning whether we are doing enough for our kiddos’ educations. It’s essential to shift the focus from an unattainable standard of perfection to recognizing and celebrating incremental progress. There are little successes all along the way. Take time to notice them.

Instead of measuring success by the completion of checklists or tasks, acknowledge the small victories. Celebrate the “aha” moments when a challenging concept finally clicks, appreciate the effort put into a creative project, and recognize the personal growth your children exhibit. Confidence in homeschooling comes not from perfection but from acknowledging and appreciating the daily strides, no matter how small.

Doing Only What You Can Each Day
The mantra of “doing only what you can each day” is a powerful guiding principle for homeschool moms. Recognize that some days may be more challenging than others, and that’s entirely normal. On those days, focus on the essentials—the non-negotiables—that form the backbone of your homeschooling philosophy.

Rather than succumbing to the pressure of trying to meet unrealistic expectations, take a step back and assess what truly matters. Prioritize your children’s well-being, emotional connection, and love for learning. The beauty of homeschooling lies in its flexibility, allowing you to tailor your approach based on your children’s needs and your family’s unique dynamics.

Some seasons will bring you out of the house for appointments and challenges with one of your kiddos, while others will have you sticking close to home and following a familiar daily rhythm. And sometimes, there’s a mix throughout the week. It seems that the only constant in homeschooling is that it’ll change year to year and kid to kid, so perfection is never attainable.

Remembering that the journey is just as important as the destination will help you navigate the seasons as they come and thrive throughout the process. There’s power in recognizing that you can’t do it all every day. By identifying homeschool non-negotiables, erring on the side of connection, and embracing imperfection, you pave the way for sustained, joyful homeschooling.

Remember, the relationships you build, the connections you foster, and the love for learning you instill in your children are the true markers of success in homeschooling. Confidence grows not from perfection but from acknowledging efforts, celebrating small victories, and adapting to the ebb and flow of the homeschooling journey.

So, take a deep breath, release the burden of perfection, and embrace the strength that comes from doing what you can each day. Your journey is unique, and your impact on your children’s life is immeasurable.

Join Colleen in The Learners Lab!

A community of parents with differently-wired kids—children and teens who are empathetic, sensitive, brilliant, intensely driven, ambitious, always moving, creative, and ready to take on the world. But they aren’t always easy. They need a different approach. In The Learner’s Lab, you’ll find both the resources and the support you need to help your children succeed and feel more connected as a family.
Colleen Kessler headshot

olleen Kessler believes that you are the absolute best teacher there is for your amazing child. The author of more than a dozen books, award-winning educator, educational consultant, and passionate advocate for the needs of differently-wired kids, Colleen has a B.S. in elementary education, an M.Ed. in gifted studies, and is the founder of the popular podcast and website Raising Lifelong Learners and The Learner’s Lab, a membership community for quirky and creative families. Her newest book, Raising Resilient Sons: A Boy Mom’s Guide to Building a Strong, Confident, and Emotionally Intelligent Family can be found anywhere books are sold.

Colleen lives in Northeast Ohio with her reading specialist husband, four delightfully differently-wired kiddos, pug, border collie, and an ever-changing assortment of small animals and insects.