Although I’ve been homeschooling since day one with my oldest and never looked back, I know plenty of people who didn’t start homeschooling until their kids were well into elementary school and beyond. Whether you are just starting your homeschool journey with a kindergartner or have just taken your high schooler out of school, here are some common mistakes many homeschoolers make starting out and how to avoid them. Keep in mind there is no “perfect” way to homeschool and that every family has to do what’s right for their educational and sanity needs!
1. Trying to make home like school. No need to try to recreate every nuance of a public or private school, complete with desks, chalkboard or smartboard, uniforms and a never-changing, rigid schedule. When we first start homeschooling, there is definitely that temptation to do things the same way they were done when we were growing up. But the point is you are doing it at home and the teacher is a parent … things are going to be much more flexible and very different.
2. Thinking you need to homeschool all day and night. No need to spend 7+ hours a day doing school with your elementary school child. Consider shorter chunks of teaching/learning time for each child then take a day off every now and then and go to the zoo to learn, go on a nature walk, hit the library for a few hours, watch some documentaries, and just snuggle up and read. For older kids, a part-time job and volunteering certainly count as real-world education!
3. Trying to keep your kids sitting at desks all day. No need for kids and teacher to sit in a chair all day for learning. We all learn and teach differently, that’s for sure. Sometimes I’ll read to my kids while one is doing art and another is playing Minecraft and I’m doing squats! I also include my kids in real-world things like errands, cooking, chores, finances and more.
4. Trying to keep up with everyone else. Don’t try to keep up with other homeschoolers or other families with kids in school. I personally started each of my kids a year “late” for school and they definitely haven’t suffered. I always wondered what the rush was for our kids to grow up and knew one measly year wouldn’t make a difference. To me, that was one extra year to let them be kids without the “job” of school and an extra year to let them play and explore on their own.
5. Paying an arm and a leg for curriculum. According to this infographic, homeschoolers already spend a fraction of what is spent on public school kids or what they would spend at a private school. With so many free options like ABCMouse.com, Khan Academy, and the public library, there’s no reason elementary school, at least, has to cost anything at all. Also, check into virtual school through your state. With the virtual school option, you could get $2,000 of curriculum paid for by your state for free or only a small price per child, and the lesson plans are already done for you!
6. Not following your child’s lead. I’m not talking about going the unschooling route here, if you aren’t comfortable with that, but it certainly works for many families. I know families who unschooled up until high school and then the kids picked up what they needed to know with little effort and sailed into college with no problems. It was a sad day when I was in a homeschool store and heard a kid ask his mom if they could learn about a certain topic he was excited about and she said, “No, these are the books right here that we are working on this year and we aren’t going to stray from those.” Keep in mind we all learn best in different ways and are all interested in different things.
7. Sticking with something that isn’t working. Switching curriculum halfway through the year is not uncommon. If a certain workbook makes you and your child cry and want to throw it across the room, don’t power through until the end of the school year! Find something else that works. That’s the beauty of the freedom of homeschooling.
8. Doing everything with and for your child. There is definitely a place for independent learning.
9. Comparing yourselves to everyone else. It’s funny how, as I’m beating myself up because my kids don’t know cursive yet and my neighbor’s kids have been doing it for years, she is also beating herself up because she doesn’t think she does enough educational outings with her kids like I do. It’s great to have a homeschool tribe of people you can bounce ideas off of and vent to, but comparing and competition do no good to anyone, least of all your child!
10. Trying to be perfect. The longer I homeschool, the more I enjoy telling newbies about random mistakes I’ve made on my journey. The relief I see on their faces when they realize they don’t need to be “perfect” is priceless and so worth it to share my stories with them.
As a homeschooler, you are a pioneer of sorts and, as such, you need to do what works for your family. Of course you are going to make mistakes along the way, but if you realize that is perfectly normal, you might go easier on yourself … and have more fun on this shorter-than-you-think journey with your kids!
Kerrie McLoughlin has been homeschooling her 5 kids since 2006 and you can read more about their fun antics at TheKerrieShow.com.