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Can a Homeschooling Mom Neglect Her Kids?

As homeschooling moms, we spend a lot of time with our children.  A lot!  Is neglecting them in any way even possible for us?

Can a homeschooling Mom Neglect Her Kids?

We sacrifice so much to invest in the lives of our children.  We surrender our time and our money.  We give up personal liberties other moms enjoy, and we set our own dreams and pursuits aside, sometimes for decades, all that we may focus on our children’s education during their most formative years.

We’re there for our kids.  We’re involved.  We’re engaged. 

And though I don’t mean to imply we don’t also sometimes struggle with self-doubt, it’s still true we may occasionally be guilty of a slight superiority complex, at least where parental involvement is concerned.  And maybe, just maybe sometimes we begin to think ourselves a mite infallible when it comes to the possibility of neglecting of our children.

But sometimes even the super-involved, hyper-engaged homeschooling mom can be too busy for her own children. 

  • Sometimes we can be so committed to math practice and phonics review that we don’t have time to answer sincere, heartfelt questions about life or death or faith.
  • Sometimes we can be so worried about making it to co-op or participating in the homeschool group science fair that we don’t realize the fear that has gripped our children because of a neighbor’s house fire or a relative’s divorce.
  • Sometimes we can be so dedicated to our lesson planning and our paper grading that we can’t take time for the puppet show the kids have put together for us or the camping trip we promised we’d take them on.
  • Sometimes we can be so focused on getting breakfast and starting our day that we can’t take time for a little one who just wants to be cuddled.

Now I’m not trying to load any moms with more guilt than they’re carrying around with them already, nor am I trying to level unrealistic expectations upon us.  Lessons have to be planned, fractions have to be learned, and dirty clothes have to be washed, folded, and put away.  We have responsibilities we can’t get away from no matter how hard we try.

And I also know some of you are mothers to nonstop, never-take-a-breath talkers.  Listening at all times to all stories Is. Not. Possible.  I get it.  I had one of those question-askers myself.  He asked 14,000 questions per day, every single day, all day long, inevitably saving his most profound questions for bedtime when my brain was totally fried.  Thank God he grew out of that.  Mostly.

I’m also well aware that sometimes life throws us curveballs, and our best intentions get hijacked by real life.  We can’t always do all the things we want to do with our kids or be there for every event or be involved in every way we would like.  We can’t help that, and we can’t beat ourselves up over it.

But at the same time, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that exhausting process we call “school” singularly provides our children with all the time and attention they need from us.  It’s good.  It’s great!  But it’s not the quality time our kids need from us most.

I want to be discerning.

It can be easy to get so busy even with good and needful things, sometimes with just those things revolving around school, that I fail to recognize when a child needs my help in more essential areas.  I want to be in-tune enough to perceive personal problems that need to be discussed, complicated questions that need answers, and character issues that need to be dealt with.

I want to be approachable.

If I am a bundle of stress all the time or forever buried in my oh-so-important To-Do list, why should I expect my kids to come to me with their moral dilemmas or their deep, theological questions?  No, I can’t give each of my children my constant undivided attention, but they need to be assured regularly that the housework and the school planning and whatever else I may be trying to do on the side is not more important to me than they are.

I want to be trustworthy.

If I make a promise to my child, I need to keep it.  If that means I make fewer promises, so be it, but it is neglectful and hurtful to casually push aside promises I’ve made to my kids because I’m too busy or because “something came up.”  Yes, there are sometimes circumstances beyond my control, but if I tell my kids we’ll go out for ice cream if they finish their schoolwork early, then I need to stick by that.  If I tell them I’ll do that craft with them after supper, then I need to do it.  Kids pay attention to those little promises, and the way I handle them will either strengthen or damage their trust and confidence in me.

I want to be there for my kids.  But being there is about far more than math and science and language arts.  It’s about relationships.  And I never want to neglect the part of my homeschool that matters most.

Have you ever felt like you were neglecting your kids?  What changes did you make to ensure relationships were always the priority?

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  1. Beautiful post! My son has some new health issues so I’ve had to scale back our homeschool activities to still have time for him to just be a kid and for my other children. Being there for my kids will count for much more than activities in the end!

    1. We all want our children to learn and excel, but nothing is more important than those relationships. I never want to be so obsessed with the one that I forget the other.

      Thanks for reading, Leslie!

  2. This is a great post! It can be so easy to get caught up in our children’s academics that we miss shepherding their souls. We have such great responsibilities, in so many different areas. I know that I need to keep in the Word, so that I can keep my priorities straight.

    1. Like you said, it can be easy to forget why we homeschool. I never want the academics to become more important to me than my children as individuals. Our time with them is so short — I always want my priorities in check!

  3. Love this awesome reminder!! I am just coming out of a time when I realized I was too stressed out for “one more thing” .. a kids issue, questions,or discussion. Not a good place to be. I am so glad I recognized it and am taking steps to quit it! Our kids are more important!!
    Thanks, vicki

    1. Been there, done that. I’ve had to cut out things, even GOOD things, because I found they were just taking too much of my time and attention. I want to be fully focused on my children ALL the time, not just during math and science.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Vicki!

  4. I get what is being said but I don’t agree with calling it neglect. There is a big difference between being so distracted by phonics that you don’t answer a question, or skipping a puppet show, and neglect. Maybe it’s the foster parent in me speaking but I think the word that better fits here is “distracted”, not neglect.

    1. With your experience as a foster parent, I have no doubt you have seen neglect on a scale far worse than being too busy for conversation with a child. And certainly there’s a difference between not having time for a child’s puppet show and failing to feed, clothe, and care for them.

      My point was simply that, especially as homeschooling moms, we can have a tendency to think “school” is enough because it takes so much of our time and attention and commitment. I just never want to start believing that the time I’m spending with my children doing math or English is equal in value to time spent nurturing and discipling them in other ways. I never want to be guilty of focusing on the academics to the neglect of deeper, more serious issues my children may have.

      Thanks so much for reading, Meg!

  5. Good take. It’s important to remember that homeschooling isn’t a monolith, either. No one sees what goes on in our homes, and by its nature homeschooling means every family is different. We need to accept the fact that, despite what we sometimes tell ourselves, some people are good at it, some mediocre and some really struggle (as do their kids). Sometimes this is age or content specific, sometimes not. We need to decide if the pressure of teaching academics to our children (especially if we have many at different ages) is causing us to be bad at the parenting side and think critically on what options we have to keep first things first.

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