Six Homeschooling Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

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Today I’m taking a moment to reflect on the last couple years we’ve been homeschooling, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I made a lot of mistakes in our first couple years!

homeschooling mistakes you don't want to make

Six Homeschooling Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make

1. Not celebrating the small victories

Homeschooling is hard, y’all. When you decide that you’re planning to homeschool for the long haul, you’re taking about 12 years… per child. And education isn’t something that you just do on a Tuesday, and call it done- it’s a process.

A long, frustrating, time consuming, process. Sometimes that process comes with joy and laughter and fun crafts and happy kids… and sometimes everyone is crying because long division is hard, and they can’t remember what sound the letter C is supposed to make, and no one knows how to spell “especially.”

On days when it feels like nothing gets done, you’ve got to take a deep breath and a step back. You have to count the little things that went right, even if the only thing you can think of is the fact that Mr. Man remembered to put a capital letter at the start of his sentence.

Baby steps. Educating your kids is a process. Celebrate the baby steps.

2. Letting the schedule take over

I know I blog a lot about scheduling, and lesson planning, and trying to find a way to fit all the little things you need to get done into a neat little routine.

Neat little routines are great. But you know what else is great? Not missing out on the little things that come up that make life more fun.

For example, your husband ends up with an extra day off, or the sun is shining and it’s a wonderful day to go to the beach. Take the day off and go!

One of the best things about homeschooling is having the flexibility to have adventures and take advantage of all the fun things going on in your area. Be flexible!

3. Not listening to your kids

I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of knowing your child’s learning style, and working with it. I don’t mean letting your child call the shots, but life is so much easier when you are working with your child!

I know you have a list of things you have to get done, and topics you have to cover, but there is flexibility in how you cover them.

Don’t be afraid to let them weigh in on their preferences either. Maybe they really love horses, so you can do a year of Equine Science, or maybe they love comic books, so you can try some comic book math.

Adapting your curriculum plans to your child makes for a much happier home.

4. Thinking the curriculum is the end-all

Repeat after me: You do not have to do everything the curriculum says.

Many programs include more activities, and reading ideas, and substance than any of us could hope to accomplish. If you add that in with programs that overlap (for example, your spelling program and your writing program both cover grammar), you’ll have way more lessons to teach than time in the day.

When you sit down to look at your curriculum, do it with a highlighter. Mark the lessons you want to complete, and give yourself permission to skip the things you don’t. Your child will survive even if they don’t mummify that chicken, or complete yet another worksheet on nouns.

Along the same vein, feel free to skip lessons your child has mastered. For example, many math programs include built in review at the start of the year to account for knowledge lost over the long summer months. You can “test out” of those chapters, or just skip ahead to the new material if you are confident your child still knows her stuff.

5. Ignoring your toddlers and preschoolers

I know a lot of people think you don’t need to do school with toddlers and preschoolers. And they are right, you don’t HAVE to. There is plenty of time for formal schooling when they get older.

However, your day will go much more smoothly if you fill your little one’s cup before starting one on one work with the older kids. Take a little time to do something with your little ones, even if it’s as simple as a bath in the morning, a story read, or letting them help you do the dishes.

During the school day, you can have the big kids take turns playing with the little ones, or even provide them with a coloring page and crayons and have them “tag along” with lessons.

If you need ideas on homeschooling with a toddler underfoot, check out our series!

6. Not taking care of yourself

This is a big one, and the one mistake I make the most often. It feels like there are a million things I have to get done, and making time for myself just doesn’t seem that important. More often than not, I am in yoga pants with my hair in a ponytail… and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I felt good about myself like that.

But I don’t. I feel better in cute clothes with my hair done nicely. I need to make the time to let myself get ready in the mornings, so I can have more pep in my step all day long.

I don’t mean you always have to get “done up”- some people don’t need to do that to feel human. This is about more than clothing and hair though. You have to make time for things like the dentist and doctors appointments, and eating well, and keeping your home at whatever standard you deem liveable.

Make time for you. Even if it means having the kids work independently a little more, or dropping one of the extras on your list.

Have you been homeschooling a while? What would you add to this list?

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  1. This is fabulous advice. I, too, have made these mistakes. We are now relaxed homeschoolers and try our best to enjoy the moments we can. Not everyday is wonderful but just as in life, we start over the next day.

    I hope this makes it’s way into many first time homeschoolers minds. This is great advice.

  2. One thing I would love to add, although it somewhat goes hand in hand with allowing, or not allowing, the schedule to take over, is that breaks are important.

    Not everyone needs to be “in school” regardless of the location, nine full months out of the year, or anything remotely close to it. As already stated, one of the beautiful things about homeschooling, is flexibility. If someone in your family is sick, or you are sick, or as with many families, multiple people are sick, it is perfectly ok to take an entire day, heck even a week, off if necessary. It will not traumatize you, your children, their learning experience(s) or your beloved schedule, should you have one. Breaks are necessary in life. While I would not necessarily say taking an entire day off each and every time someone is sick, I see nothing at all wrong with sick days. In fact, I see nothing at all wrong with mental health days, either. We take them when necessary. Many people seem to be under the impression that if you cannot do it once out in the workforce, or while attending some type of brick and mortar school, you cannot, or should not, do it while homeschooling. I call shenanigans on that one, personally. Of course I want to prepare my children for the real world, and what they can and cannot do once they enter a higher education environment, or a work environment. However, at these ages, while at home, learning, they are NOT in these places and I should not(nor do I) have to treat the environments the same. The environments are not the same, nor should they be looked at as such. Just because you cannot take a week off while in the work force, or from college courses, does not mean you cannot take a week off from formal learning, or your curriculum, at home. That is one of the benefits of learning at home, the fact that you CAN adapt, CAN take time when needed, and CAN allow life to happen as it so often does, and interfere with your best laid plans for learning.

    Another thing to consider is the length one chooses to spend in each “school year”, as it were. I have taken part in numerous homeschool groups, blogs, forums and discussions catered to homeschool families over the years. One thing I have noticed is the sheer awe and that “I know you’re glaring sideways at me through the screen as you read this” feeling I get from others when I say things such as we are completely done with our schooling by April(as an example). Part of the reason we are done with our schooling by the end of April, if not shortly before, is because we do not follow any kind of traditional schedule(as defined by others, well, honestly, as defined by most I have encountered). We take every opportunity to turn things into lessons, and learning experiences. This can, easily increase our “time spent learning”…aka, our “hours” as required by law. Most seem to be under the impression that we do this simply so we don’t have to do “school work” during certain months. That is not even remotely true. We do it because, well, our curriculum, as planned(or amended) has ended by that particular date. All requirements have been met, and we can officially declare our school year over. That doesn’t mean we stop learning, or teaching, it means we stop the formal learning, and teaching. We, typically, move on to something else. As an example, ebcause we are almost always done by the end of April, we typically take May off. Often times, I have trips that need to be taken during this month, and my children spend that time with their grandparents. When I return, we usually do one month(June) of specific learning. My children will choose the topic or subject they want to focus on, and we go with it. There is no coverage of multiple subjects, or formal learning, merely them exploring their learning desires. This helps to keep them from losing whatever knowledge they have gained over the years, keeps them somewhat busy(especially when no other kids are out of school yet, so playing with friends is still somewhat limited to certain hours, or days of the week) and they really love it. We then take the typical July, August and part of September off. Sometimes we start our school year off in September, sometimes we start it off in October. If I have work that needs to be done in either of those two months, we switch off which month we begin. It is absolutely no sweat off our noses that our typical school year “seems” shorter to others than it really is. We do not define our school year based on whatever school year definitions others have. We define our school year based on both the hours required by law, and the subjects we need to cover. Those are the measurements we use to define our school year, or “time spent learning”. Despite the odd looks, weird commentary, and general disgust some people seem to have for our methods, they work fantastic for us.

    I suppose that also goes hand in hand with the previous poster, in not allowing others’ definitions define you, your schedule, your curriculum, or really any aspect of your schooling and learning. It really is not a one size fits all sort of topic. What works for some, does not work for others. If everything were ideal in the learning world, so to speak, none of us would be here in the first place 😉

  3. I would add don’t try to copy what others do and don’t compare yourself to someone else’s perceived “togetherness and success”. The grass is always greener and what works amazing for one family may really bomb out with yours. Homeschooling is something that can be made to fit your life and not fitting life in around it. Especially new homeschoolers need to know this because it’s so easy to get caught into the “I have to do it just like Mrs. So and So because they are always so together and her kids are practically geniuses” and then, frustration because it isn’t working for your style or family. It’s OK to make things work the way that is best for you and not anyone else!

    Also, as a former teacher turned homeschooler, I would add to the curriculum area that curriculum is meant to fit the child and NOT the parent. I can’t count the number of times people have said to me “this isn’t working for me and the kids really like it but, for me, it’s not what I want”. Please remember that curriculum isn’t meant to fit the parent but the one who is learning it and their learning style (and that it is ok to have to use different things at times for different kids! Just because Susie thrived in Saxon Math doesn’t mean her brother Billy will when he gets there). Something to keep in mind!

    The last thing is remember why you removed your children from the system to begin with and don’t try to copy it at home. Homeschooling will look different every family that you talk to but it should NEVER be a copy of the systems way of doing things. If it worked so great, what was the purpose of removing your kids in the first place? It’s OK to remember not every kid learns great at 8 am and you don’t always need to do things for set amounts of time. Some days math will take an hour and others it may take half the time. It’s OK and we all need to remember that!

    1. Thank you for leaving such a helpful comment! I love all of these ideas. Not comparing, and not trying to replicate school are two mistakes I’ve made (again and again)!

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