A Head Full of Hats: Life of a Homeschool Mom

Jan 18, 2017 | Posted by Danielle Olander


Like Dr. Seuss’ beloved Bartholomew Cubbins, parents wear many hats. Unlike Bartholomew, who couldn’t seem to take off all his hats, we are able, at times, to lay aside a hat or two. As a mom who educates her children at home, some of the hats I wear are of a homemaker, mom, and teacher.

My homeschooling journey began in 1987, when my parents decided to bring me home from the large Christian school I had attended. With the exception of one year in a small private school, I completed high school at home. I loved the experience of self-paced learning, but I was ready for the classroom experience and enjoyed all four years of college. After starting our family seventeen years ago, my husband and I decided to rejoin the homeschooling world by homeschooling our own children.

I began teaching IEW writing classes when our son was just a year old. One of the blessings of that was learning from the experienced homeschool moms whose children I was teaching. They became my mentors and freely shared the challenges and blessings of being teaching parents. As a homeschooled student, I remember wishing at times that my dad, who was a teacher by nature and profession, would stop teaching and just be a dad, so when a homeschooling mom I respected advised me to not make every trip to the zoo educational, but to enjoy my children enjoying the animals, it really resonated with me. There is pressure on homeschooling parents to make all of life educational, but I also try to remember that I don’t always have to be the teacher. With the many tasks involved in running a home, I sometimes long to take off my teacher hat and be a mom simply doing laundry, vacuuming the living room, and fixing dinner without worrying about thesis statements, genetic traits, and “i before e.”

Despite the challenges of navigating the multiple tasks, the benefits to being a teaching mom outweigh the challenges and bring joy daily. I love expanding my knowledge and instructional skills. Being a parent/teacher provides multiple opportunities for me to say, I don’t know or Let’s look it up. My excitement over learning new things sometimes brings eye-rolling, but I hope my children have caught the idea that learning does not stop with a diploma. An even greater benefit is being able to choose the pace and style of learning. As we study geography this year, I can bond with my children over a game of Ticket to Ride Europe or 10 Days in Africa. Being the mom and teacher, I can customize our lessons and even add a little extra fun through some games and projects sometimes.

While having my children around me all the time may seem like a challenge to many (and it is some days), I appreciate the little mirrors, reflecting back my failings and weaknesses. When you toss in daily struggles with algebra and long division, I can model repentance and humility as we navigate difficult days together. Being a home-educating parent requires finding a balance among the homemaking, nurturing, and teaching tasks, and receiving a special grace each day, but it is a challenge I embrace daily!


Danielle Olander, an IEW® Accomplished Instructor, is the author of Rockets, Radar, and Robotics and the Advanced Communication Series lesson plans. Married to her college sweetheart, Ray, and a homeschooling mom of five amazing children, she coaches writing via email for students from Michigan to Papua New Guinea. After graduating from her parents’ homeschool in the pioneer days of homeschooling, Danielle graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in English/History Education from Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan. During and after college, she worked as a librarian’s assistant, which only increased her lifelong love of reading and writing as she discovered so many new means of locating fascinating facts.

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