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The Day I Flunked my Homeschool Kid

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 The Day I Flunked My Homeschool Kid - Marty's Musings

It was just one of “those” mornings. The type of day that had been happening over and over for several months in our homeschool life.

I went to check schoolwork and either it wasn’t turned in, printed or couldn’t be found. One day I even had the tried and true excuse that the dog ate it and it was actually true. 

Letting go of “what everyone else is doing” and living the life God has given me has been my goal for the last 21 years.

That’s right. This is year number 21 of homeschooling. I’m a pro. A veteran. An expert. 

An expert who doesn’t have all the answers.

I’m just going to be painfully honest right now in the hope that somehow, some way, lifting the veil of perfection for homeschoolers will be freeing to someone or enlightening to others.

A cat lying on top of a table

Why did I flunk my homeschool kid? 

This is 10th grade year for my two youngest children. I don’t ask my kids to be academic geniuses. Unlike some other parents, I’m not concerned that my kids go to an Ivy League school or make tons of money as an adult. I want them to be men and women of character, prepared to be functioning adults with a plan and a purpose.

If I don’t prepare them for the “real” world then their education hasn’t adequately prepared them for life.

I do, however, want their assignments completed to the best of their abilities and the work ACTUALLY TURNED IN.

Our system isn’t fancy. I fill out their schedule in pencil so if life interrupts or someone is sick I can move the assignment to another day.

For several weeks we’ve been struggling with the issue of work being in their folder. My son would tell me he did it but it was nowhere to be found.

My youngest two are to check the box when they complete the assignment. But not until it’s completed.

All my son’s boxes were checked but he didn’t complete the assignments.

Our system isn’t difficult. Loose papers go in the folder and they have notebooks for each subject. Papers are to be printed at the end of every day if they have been worked on.  

A close up of a book shelf

My son can’t remember to print his work. Often the assignment sheet is nowhere to be found, his files aren’t saved properly on the computer or any other number of excuses and struggles.

Recently he tossed his notebook instead of setting it down on the hutch and it fell in the dog bowl, losing all of his math work. Showing grace, I only made him repeat the chapter that was ruined instead of also assigning the next one.

Instead of getting a piece of blank notebook paper for another assignment he tears one out of his notebook, thereby losing his other assignments and having nothing to show for the work.

I can’t make exceptions just because my son struggles with ADHD and many other diagnoses that I won’t share.

We did that for years and years and have spent over a decade in therapy for attachment disorder because of their wounded hearts

I fully believe with all my heart that there is not one single thing I can say that hasn’t been said for years. There is no magic bullet to fix this situation.

There is only God.

At 15 and 16 I must let  my children go, even if it means pushing them out of the nest.

A pair of feet standing on a wooden bench

Let me just say that I don’t think my son chose to ignore his work intentionally. This was not one of those times like his early years with us when the only thing that mattered was doing the opposite of everything I said. His only safety back then lay in the belief that if he pushed us away he wouldn’t hurt anymore. If he cracked the door and let us in his whole belief system would explode.

Over and over I reiterate to my son that he is not a bad kid. Satan has beaten that into his head from his early years and will take every opportunity to drown my son in this same refrain.

Some of you might say that it was my responsibility to check after him every single day.

I don’t agree. My son is not in elementary school. He’s a high school student with real life decisions ahead of him in a few very short years. I’m not going to be holding his hand when he turns 18 and getting him out of bed each day to go to his job.

He needs to practice these skills NOW in the safety of a loving home.

Even though I’m disappointed and frustrated we will get through this. We have survived more hurt and pain than I ever thought possible and God is doing a great work through our story.

My worth as a mother is not contingent on my son passing English.

I am not a bad mom just as my son is not a bad kid.

To the contrary, I’m a mom who deeply loves her children, especially these youngest two who have struggled heartbreakingly for so many years.

I love them enough to let go and let them reap the consequences, as painful as it may be to watch.

I don’t punish or berate them but God is making it abundantly clear that the time for coddling and allowing their past history to dictate their consequences, or lack of, is coming to a close.

Screwing up means damaged relationships, lost opportunities and situations that can change in the blink of an eye.

What if my son’s prayed for future wife can’t handle the fact that he gets fired because he missed a deadline? What if he doesn’t call a customer back because he “forgot” and loses his job? What if his kids go hungry one night because “I forgot” was his excuse for not going to the grocery store or putting gas in the car.

I shouldn’t rescue my children from hard. Hard work, hard relationships, bad decisions, natural consequences.

This is the refrain I’ve been singing all year long, and I will continue to work to be consistent with this message. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t help. I DO. I am still in the guiding season with my son and will do everything in my power to give wise counsel.

But the truth is, I can’t fix everything and it’s not my job to.

I also don’t believe we are all to be cookie cutter images. God has created each of us with unique gifts and talents and it’s my privilege and duty as a parent to not only give my children opportunities to discover these gifts but to nurture them in expressing their hopes and dreams.


What does this look like in this situation? What were the consequences?

He had to tell his dad (although I texted him when my head was spinning uncontrollably in circles) about his actions.

He got an F for the incomplete assignments, had to do them over again without improving his grade.

No computer for a few days. He doesn’t have internet anyway but he will spend hours on his computer graphic or art programs. He lost this privilege when he didn’t turn in his schoolwork. 

My son was broken by this. His sadness at having failed was real. He did not make excuses other than the papers were written and he just didn’t print them. The empty pages were proof enough that the work wasn’t done.

As the tears formed in his eyes I told him that I wouldn’t always be there to pick up the pieces and he needed to go to God right then with his brokenness.

I do my children no favors by promising them to be with them always. I don’t have to be a negative nelly but God made me way too practical to pretend that life isn’t hard.

I am a fallible human and I will fail them. Most likely, over and over.

The best thing I can do is point them to a loving God who won’t ever leave or forsake them.


In the end, is it really about school? Absolutely not.

A sunset over a body of water

It’s about instilling in  my son the skills and heart necessary for him to be all that God has designed him to be.

One day I’ll watch him soar and these struggles will be a distant memory.

Until then, that F stands as a reminder that there is work to be done.

Have you joined me for my 31 days series yet? It’s not too late to follow along!

31 Days to a Beautiful Home - Marty's Musings

My hope is that my 31 Days to a Beautiful Home series will motivate and inspire you to spend just a bit of time creating a home you will love and embracing the life you have been given! Just click here to view all the posts. 

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  1. You did EXACTLY what I would have done! Bravo for being the mother first, the friend second! I have had so many relatives tell me I am too strict with our daughter. She is seven now. What I tell them is when she turns 18, she will be in College or University, maybe in the same city, maybe in the same province (state for U.S.), maybe in the same country. But there is a real chance that she will not be studying and living at home, and she needs to be an adult at 18. To be able to take care of herself, because the world is not going to coddle her. This post is SO refreshing! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    1. Hi, Sue. What sweet words of encouragement! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s not too early to teach your children responsibility at all. If it’s done as part of the family concept it will be so much easier than trying to convince them to do it as teenagers! God bless you and your children!

  2. Excellent post Marty. If you don’t direct your children they will grow up lost and no one is going to give them better guidance. Smile!

  3. Totally agree with this post. I have started getting my 5th grader to take a bit more responsibility-checking her own work, then I recheck, writing answers in full sentences instead of one word answers, etc…because I know that in middle school, there are more expectations and more work.

    1. Hi, Abrianna. Thanks for commenting. You are definitely coming into the more “serious” years but I’m sure you’ll do great! Blessings! Marty

  4. Thank you! This post has been truly inspiring and a blessing. It’s so truthful and from the heart. Awesome! Thank you for sharing!

  5. This was inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. I swear I was reading about my 12 year old son. All of my fears for his future were printed above. Thank you for this post.

    1. Hi, Michele. I’m so glad I could encourage you with your son even though I know the path you’re walking has to be hard. I write to help others know they’re not alone in the hard places. Blessings!

  6. I love this post. My daughter shared it with me and that is how I was introduced to your blog. I have been homeschooling for what feels like my whole life (20 years) and I am not an expert, just a mom. I needed reminded or encouraged, that someone feels the same way about flunking, redoing or consequences.
    “I can’t make exceptions just because my son struggles with ADHD and many other diagnoses that I won’t share.” I could say the same myself. There will be no easy passes for our children when they are on their own. Consequences that are more severe are waiting than losing tv or gaming time for a day or more! I have graduated six of my seven and I see FRUIT! So glad I stuck to flunking them or giving them consequences when they needed it. Not perfectly of course, cause I am a human. Not a super hero. Blessings!

  7. You could’ve been writing this about my own child! The story is very similar. She was adopted at the age of six, and we have spent a lot of time dealing with attachment issues as well. (She’s 12 years old now.) She is an extremely bright child, but for us homeschooling is not about the academics. One of my main goals is to raise her emotional IQ.
    It was very encouraging to read someone going through the same day-to-day struggles we do. She also hides her homework and tries to make me forget that it had been assigned. I feel very encouraged to know someone else is handling it the same way I am. Sometimes I feel so mean and like a terrible parent for making her figure out things on her own. I pray that she is learning from making mistakes. Thanks for your story.

    1. Hi, Carrie. I’m so glad that you found this post! Our stories are obviously very similar. I hope you make yourself at home in the adoption archives (under family). Homeschooling is definitely hard but it was absolutely crucial for us in attachment. I wish you all the best as you continue on the same journey we are on!

  8. Thank you for this. We’re homeschoolers as well. We’re not religious and we work through a government program that provides curriculum and it’s submitted and marked by licensed teachers. I am his facilitator though. I set the schedule, make sure he works daily and submits his work. “I” didn’t fail our son, but his teacher did and I let it happen. He failed 2 subjects last semester because I just gave up. I asked, then pleaded, then begged, then yelled, punished and then cried for him to be motivated. I wanted him to get his work done on time and to get even just passing grades in subjects he isn’t fond of, like Language Arts and Social Studies. He wouldn’t and used every excuse in the book. The only time he was motivated, was when I was unavailable. Like when I was an hour away from starting work or in the middle of an assignment with his sister. Finally, I gave up. I let him fail. Two F’s on his report card. I was mortified, he was really upset, then got mad at ME for “letting him fail”. We’re working on it now but it makes me think that I don’t know if I can continue this with him much longer. That’s what makes me so sad. Reading some of the other comments helps. Our son is 12 and I think I’m going to blame some of it on his age. I know he’s smart, he just lacks motivation sometimes.

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  10. What a great article. I am saving it to re-read when my son gets to that age. He is eight now and is getting into the time when I have to let him fail on his own out in the real world and it is super hard. I used to teach and coach, and loved children in my classes, but was able to lovingly let them fail after a few times of saving them. It is so much harder with my own child. Thank you again for a superb, thought-provoking article.

    1. Hi, Kelly. I agree that it is so much harder with our own kids! We want the best and sometimes that means rescuing them and sometimes it means letting them fail. Knowing when to do which can be so hard! Thank you for visiting my blog!

  11. Wow!!!! I found this today due to a share on facebook. I needed it extreamly bad. My sons are both struggling with the same issues. It is so frustrating to know what they are fully capable of doing yet they lack the motivation to do what needs to be done. I get so tired of pushing them and even then they rarely finish the tasks set for them. I know that ADHD will not excuse them from life in just a few years and they HAVE to learn these lessons.

    1. Hi, Karen. I’m so glad you found me! My son struggles with so much more than ADHD because of his attachment issues from being adopted. If you read more recent posts you’ll see the struggle goes on, but our kids are worth the battle. If we don’t fight for them, who will? I pray for you to have strength and be empowered by your love for your sons! God bless!

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  13. “I don’t punish or berate them but God is making it abundantly clear that the time for coddling and allowing their past history to dictate their consequences, or lack of, is coming to a close.”

    Yeah, no… that may not be “God,” you’re hearing from. One simply cannot place others’ healing on a schedule. Have you read up on the lifelong effects of early trauma? I encourage you– for your precious children’s sakes– to educate yourself on early trauma, reactive attachment disorder, ptsd, adoption, etc. (I’m an adoptive mom of four.) Good luck to you.

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