Saturday, March 5, 2011

Unschooling Panic Disorder

Unschooling Panic Disorder (UPD), which I have also seen referred to as Periodic Unschooler's Panic Disorder (PUPD), occurs without warning, even in the most seasoned, and confident of homeschooling homes.

In fact, I suffered an episode, just this week.

Yep, that's right - I had a homeschool breakdown. Me, the person who ends all of her blog posts with a cheery, and optimistic, "It's great to be a homeschooler!" Me, veteran homeschool mother of nine years. Me, the child loving mother, who adores spending days on end with her children.

For those of you new to homeschooling, or outside the homeschooling world, let me explain. A homeschool breakdown is usually marked by periods of extreme self-doubt, discouragement, depression, and frustration. It is often accompanied by short bursts of crying, yelling, or mass ordering of new text books. The symptoms are usually short in duration, but can occur without warning, which can be quite frightening, or disorientating to the uninitiated.

In my case, this week, it involved the immediate ordering, and administering of the 1970's version of the California Achievement Test, from Christian Liberty Press, for my oldest four children. I chose Christian Liberty Press, because they not only allow you to take the tests online, they email you, as soon as the tests are complete, with the results.

It also involved a good deal of whining, lecturing, and threatening on my part, but the Man of the House suggests I not go into that, for fear of setting off a similar, but separate set of panic attacks in our parents. Suffice it to say, I'm better now :)

For those of you currently suffering from UPD, or any of its sister disorders CHPD (Classical Homeschool Panic Disorder), EHPD (Eclectic Homeschool Panic Disorder), or the more general HPD ( Homeschool Panic Disorder), first and foremost, in the words of Douglas Adams, "Don't Panic!" It will pass. Barring any real problem (which is rare), feelings of self-doubt, and discouragement will diminish over time. Knowing that:

  • Do not rush down to your local school registration office, to sign your children up for next week's classes.

  • Do not make calls to the doctor to verify your children's immunization records are up to date. This is not a bad thing to do on a normal day, just not when you're in a state of panic.

  • Do not call your mother, to unload all of your worries, concerns, and fears - unless you want your self-doubt confirmed, by well meaning, pro-school suggestions (except in the case of second generation homeschoolers - then dial away).

  • Do not order a completely new curriculum, or sign up for online classes. Again, these might be alright things to do, but not in a state of panic. If you must have a set of all new books, to make you feel momentarily reassured, that things will be okay - visit your library catalog.

  • Do not declare a one month holiday from school, because you just can't face another day. If you are already feeling behind, doing absolutely nothing, will not help you to feel more on top things.

  • Do give yourself time to breath, and think. Take an evening out, take a bubble bath, take a nap!

  • For Christians - spend time in prayer, and reboot through the Word.

  • For non-Christians - click over to Billy Graham's Five Steps to Peace, follow the steps, then return here, and follow the advice in the point above.

  • Honestly look at what you've accomplished with your children for the year.

  • Lift your head, and look around for external forces which might have brought your condition on. Did you just hear a glowing report from your best friend, about her children's report cards? Did Johnny, next door, receive a "young genius" award for his work in his school's robotics program? Did you catch sight of your child's Sunday School paper, or letter to a friend, and realize every other word was misspelled? Or, have you been cooped up all winter in the house, and spring fever is setting in? Then, deal with those forces appropriately.

  • Leave a comment on almost any homeschool bulletin board. You will receive overwhelming assurance what you're going through is perfectly normal, and most likely, not grounded in any type of reality whatsoever.

It's great to be a homeschooler!


Pebblekeeper ~ Angie said...

I am waking up to a beautiful morning! and could it get better? YES! Cause I read your post and woke up a child with intermitent laughing and crying. Oh thank you for the words of Douglas Adams. Such wisdom. I will carry them with me today.

Christy Killoran said...

I can't picture you crying and screaming. First of all, I hope you realize that you are an amazing teacher and I am always in awe of everything you do with your children. Secondly, even non-homeschoolers have moments of panic. I was ready to pull my boys out of public school this week because of some little frustrations. We are fortunate to have a really good public school system, but sometimes I have issues with it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I can not tell you how helpful it is to hear that seasoned homeschoolers have the same doubts as us newbies. Okay, I'm bookmarking this so I can read it everytime I have a spell flare up.

Have you done a post about your favorite online support resources for homeschoolers? Some of those messages boards you mention etc?

Joyful Learner said...

Sometimes I doubt my homeschooling abilities when I see others doing an AMAZING job (hint, hint). It's good to know it's normal to go through UPDs. Mine is sort of a lingering, I'd better get myself in order one day type of thing. I've already prepared a post to "go under" for the upcoming Lent. It's going to be my time of stepping back from blogging and reflecting on our homeschooling journey and where it should go.

Shonni said...

I have home educated for 16 years and I still love it, but so understand this disorder....LOL
Thanks for sharing!!!
Your blog is so encouraging to me and I am very grateful for it.

Unknown said...

I get the "periods of extreme self-doubt, discouragement, depression, and frustration" but I don't get the crying, yelling, ordering lots of new textbooks.

we don't use text books or achievement tests.

is testing required in your state?

I'm not sure what I'd do differently as a 'quasi-unschooler' is we lived in a testing-required state.

and as an unschooler I do suggest taking a few weeks holiday form 'school'. But that might not work with folks who are following a curriculum, I guess.

I found a week or tow break from 'schoolish' things combines with having a structures schedule for the days helps me. plans & schedules reduce my panic,

I trust you are over your UPD!
Have a fun week with your kids~


An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Kimberly - I know! Ordering tests was a very non-unschool thing to do :) Montana doesn't require them, and I generally don't go anywhere near them - but that was just how deep my panic went. It was more of a "What if instead of unschooling, we're really just leading an uneducated life!?!" kind of panic.
I've had a great time, and learned a lot this year, but I had a sudden feeling that I've been the one unschooling, and the children have just been floating through learning nothing at all (not true at all, of course - but that didn't stop the panic).
By the time they were done testing, I had stopped worrying, and it was more just a fun, look at what the test says, kind of thing. The one who did the very best is the one who is most unschooled - go figure :)

Ticia said...

Every homeschooler needs to read this post when they're feeling down.

Thank you for this post.

Sheltie Times said...

As someone who has come out of the education world tests are only informational, not for purposed of condemnation. As unschoolers they are just another piece of information about how your kids process information, not a statement about what you have or have not done. If you look at the information fairly to yourself and them, you won't panic or abuse yourself, you will understand more about your kids.

The fact that your most unschooled performed the best is a piece of information about how he/she processes information. The others think differently.

Your kids are truly blessed to have this rich learning environment. Not conforming to traditional measurements is not a sign to panic.

Joyful Learner said...

I'm not surprised by your results. I do look at testing questions now and then to see if there are gaps in our knowledge. I discovered that K had a hard time distinguishing various tools for construction. So, we'll be using various tools to build a planter soon! Can't wait!

Kendra said...

HA! Love it, sorry you were suffering. Must share this post, because I think we need to hear it. ;) So glad you said Second Generations (that's me) can lament to parents. LOL

I think to help keep this HPD at bay I've been filling in a homeschool journal so I can flip back through it to see what we've done, but I must confess I haven't done much filling in so far this year. Whoops

MissK said...

Thank you for all those good advices! I hope to remember when it will arrive to me!!

Marcee said...

Great post Leah!!! So true and funny.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I've gone and grabbed a towel to keep with me since the children got the Ipad that might say "Don't Panic" in very large friendly letter. I think Arthur Dent may be my patron saint as a home schooler.

Again thanks for helping.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

eavice - Sage advice! Now, if I could just find a babel fish, all my worries would be over :)

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Christy - I think I said whining and lecturing, maybe some yelling - although stepping outside for a good scream might have solved the whole problem!

Debbie said...

I have my times of wondering do I truly still have what it is going to take to homeschool Selena, in those times I go read the public school website, where they explain that throughout the year every child will read predesignated library books, take a test after finishing each book and be graded upon their accomplishments. Oh and the statement of how the Math has changed and there might be some math terminology and the way the child solves each math problem, which also is new to the teachers, so hang in there everyone is getting use to this, makes me realize I will be just fine homeschooling Selena! Just their reminders about parent conferences, parent contracts, homework every night brings me back to reality!

You are doing a FANTASTIC job with your children!

Anonymous said...

This great and I reposted it on FB. :)!! I was in a panic last month and almost rushed down to sign him up for a charter school 20 miles away! LOL And it was set off by a specific event from well meaning PSers... I love your blog BTW. And good to know the tests went well. I'm sure we'll be doing them. I'll look into them on-line...

Elise said...

Self doubt seems to be a thief of persepctive and it stops one from recognising all of their accomplishments. I should know, self doubt sometimes tries to creep in here too.

sarah said...

Thank you so much for posting this, I am VERY new to homeschooling and have had a major breakdown AT LEAST once a week and was starting to wonder if I was cut out for all this... although I know I am not the only one its nice to be reminded of this!!

Livin’ The Yeh Life’s said...

Thank you SO much for this encouragement! I don't know if these words, written by anyone else, would have such an impact. But, coming from one I consider absolutely amazing is SO encouraging to me. THANK YOU!!

Kylie said...

Fabulous post and one I am sure we could read from time to time....thanks for your great blog!

Susan said...

I just thought I'd add my "thanks for this post!" to the many seems we all go through the same kinds of things every now and again :0)

~liz said...

this post was SO timely for me to read this morning. i just sat at the kitchen table with my husband last night suffering through my very own CHPD. :) after a great night of sleep, i am feeling better, and after reading your post, i am feeling renewed. THANK YOU for your encouragement! :)
~liz (

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I had to laugh at the link to Billy Graham. Do you think UPD is so bad that it might make even secular homeschoolers seek help from Christ? Slow breathing might help too!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Natalie - Slow breathing is okay - but peace that passes understanding is better :)

Wendy@arrowsinourfist said...

This is a very timely post! Truly honey for the soul, thanks for sharing.

Jessica Shock said...

Wow! Was just browsing through to look for easy bake oven recipes, and found your blog...which led me to the "UPD" post! I, too, am a homeschooler, and it's good to know that I'm not completely fact rather normal for a "homeschooler"...ha ha

Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

What a great post. I'm a second generation hs-er and can totally remember my mom having these moments (and they were state hs leaders, writers of curriculum, etc...). We were pretty relaxed, but she still did periodic testing just to get an idea of where we were doing. Once we figured out how to fill in the bubbles correctly, we did just fine! :)

You'd think that since I've had the benefit of a wonderful education like this that I wouldn't have those moments, but I do too.

And yes, I try to remain calm and wait until I can think rationally before making any big decisions. :)

wvugrads said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome post! Have you been looking at our homeschool this past year? lol We just finished our first year and I'm afraid I had/have a chronic case of HPD. I'm totally sharing this post. Just found your blog today. Love it!


Jenna S. said...

I like you!!! I wish I'd had your wisdom when I was suffering UPD back in the day. I just waded through, avoiding most of the negatives & seeking to be reassured by the One who'd given me the task. And now, He's given us another chance (a third child when the other 2 were 14 & 16!) & I'm looking at beginning at home again. Knowing the internet has changed so much since the 90's, I have been looking online for pre-school/Kinder plans & lessons (she's 4 now, in case you gather the mistaken impression that I am starting this search super early!!). Pinterest (you never know what God will use!) led me to you & your encouragement! Thanks for letting your weak moments be seen so that others can know they are not alone!

JuRita said...

love this post! i just found your blog via Mama 3 Blessings and I am totally enjoying it! i was attracted to the name: "almost" unschoolers. this is so our family.
lord bless you and your lovely family!

Anonymous said...

I can relate to what you're saying. I homeschooled 16 yrs beck before the internet. :) I like the label 'almost unschooler'.
I'm now teaching in a small, Christian school (which was a stretch for this 'almost unschooler'!) and am so thankful my own children didn't have to go to any school, even a Christian one. I wish my students could be homeschooled! Keep on doing what you're doing. Your children will turn out to be fine, productive members of society. :)