Homeschooling your children is a BIG decision. Whether you have one kid or ten, there are some common pitfalls to avoid during your first years of homeschooling.
Every year I will be introducing a new child into my homeschooling classroom. Every year is a chance to learn balance between home life and school life.
As babies crawl around my feet, toddlers are hungry for snacks and elementary children are asking for help it is easy to lose focus and make some major homeschooling mistakes.
Here are my…
Common Mistakes Homeschool Moms Make
Homeschooling Mistake #1 – Comparison
If you have seen my blog 360 View of a Homeschooling Room (with video tour) about our classroom, you may think that my classroom = homeschool success….WRONG!
Actually, if I am honest we do A LOT of school on the couch. We definitely do use our schoolroom, but as I inch nearer to the end of my sixth pregnancy I find that my bed and our couch are more comfortable than hovering over desks on a tile floor.
Comparing your schoolroom, curriculum choices or outlook on homeschooling to those in your homeschooling community is a TOP KILLER of homeschooling joy.
The truth is that homeschooling is messy…sometimes even bordering on U-G-L-Y!
Those Instagram photos of our first day back of homeschooling look like a Photoshopped advertisement for the Texas Home School Coalition. Of course they weren’t at all Photoshopped but compare our first day of homeschooling to our last day…well let’s just say it wouldn’t make anyone jealous.
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We all have our good days and bad. Sometimes all my children are dressed and fed by 9am (rarely). Other times I’m crawling out of bed at 10am and avoiding the call of homeschooling by hiding behind my morning cup of coffee.
Homeschooling Mistake #2 – Not Having the Right Supplies
I cannot express how important having the right tools is to your homeschooling day.
My husband will agree…he continually has to run to the auto parts store to rent a tool or pick up a whatchamadoodle when he is working on our car.
Not only does it slow down progress, it is JUST PLAIN IRRITATING!!! And as we all know irritation is not a good homeschooling buddy.
If you don’t have the tools to do the project I suggest one of two things:
- Do a similar project that you do have the supplies for or…
But don’t wait too long because that leads into my next biggest homeschooling mistake which is…
Homeschooling Mistake #3 – Not Doing the Fun Stuff
Not having the tools to do the fun projects is a bummer for the teacher, but it is a major bummer for the student.
When I attended the Homeschool Mom’s Science Retreat put on by the Landry Academy ($25 includes a 2-day stay and meals…and totally amazing), the founder, Greg Landry, held up a Biology textbook and said something like this:
If you are just reading this textbook, then Science will be boring. You HAVE to do the experiments. It is how we were meant to learn about the world around us.
I HATE experiments because that means I will be cleaning up something. I am a writer…so science isn’t my favorite subject to teach and if I can forgo an experiment…I totally will.
Problem is…my eldest daughter LOVES science. I am constantly amazed by her natural inclination toward it.
Same goes for play dough projects, cut and pasting and painting with the little ones. UGHHH!!! Add in a baby and it just irks me to no end.
But alas, I did choose to homeschool. No one forced me into it. Avoiding the fun stuff just because it means more work for me, doesn’t cut it. (Read: #1 Reason I Homeschool)
Your children absolutely need those projects…that mess. And they are worth it. (Sometimes I hate my own blogs because they are totally preaching to me!!!)
Homeschooling Mistake #4 – Too Much Too Soon (Or Doing too Little Too Late)
Are you doing five hours of schoolwork a day with your kindergartener?
STOP!!!! Let them play! Kindergarten is full of discovering via painting, blocks and play dough (my arch nemesis).
Are you doing two hours of schoolwork a day with your fourth grader?
Maybe you are taking this homeschooling thing a little too lightly.
Finding the balance (especially during the transitioning time between second and third grade) of doing too much schoolwork with too little is difficult. The overreaching idea is that “you know best.” But that isn’t always true.
Take for example, our chore system.
My eldest was in charge of washing dishes. She had been for over two years. Her younger sister was to put them away. The almost-not-a-toddler was in charge of silverware.
It was a flawless system, or so I thought…until my husband said he thought that the next in line was up for a promotion.
I protested. I didn’t want any broken plates. I didn’t think the second oldest was capable of washing dishes.
But I was overwhelmed with cleaning up after five children every day. My husband suggested the oldest take over vacuuming/sweeping/mopping. Someone had to take over her chore because we couldn’t very well make her do ALL the chores!
So we made the switch. The youngest was happy to have her new job of sorting silverware (a Montessori task BTW) and the oldest was relieved to be finally done with wearing dish washing gloves (she hated getting her hands dirty without them).
It took some training, but now I come downstairs to freshly sweep floor and vacuumed rug everyday. And I enjoy a mopped floor once a week. I can do all those other chores I have been forsaking!
The point is…I didn’t see their abilities until someone else pointed them out to me. They were capable of sooooo much more than I thought possible.
The same thing with school. Sometimes we need an outside opinion (albeit our husbands or even our public school-sending mommy friends)!
For example, my husband noticed the beautiful handwriting of our public-schooled neighbor and we realized that we needed to spend more time on handwriting with our first grader. It wasn’t about competition, but recognizing a lack in our schooling curriculum because we saw something from a different perspective.
Homeschooling Mistake #5 – Not Having a Plan
By far, our best semester of homeschooling is the one where I spent the entire Christmas break mapping out folders for each week. I printed off (tore out) pages they were expected to do in each subject and placed them into each folder.
I got the idea from some homeschooling website. I couldn’t find the original blog I liked so I’m linking to Domestic Serenity.
If anything wasn’t done (due to ya know a natural disaster like “mom has morning sickness…again”) we could just slide it into the next week’s folder.
The worst seasons of homeschooling I had was when I clung to the “homeschooling is supposed to organic and super fun” method of learning…ya know where you go to the library twice a week and cook foods from around the world. (Try organizing that around naps of a toddler and a breastfeeding newborn).
While I believe that learning should be fun and organic (at least to some extent) – lack of planning can totally spoil that idea.
I don’t adhere to a “school at home” method or a “let them learn by playing in the dirt” Charlotte Mason method…I’m somewhere in between. I like to be able to “break” from normal worksheets and textbooks in order to explore something that has caught my children’s attention, but having worksheets prepared in advance is a life-saving when you are drowning in the regular demands of a household.
Homeschooling Mistake #6 – Leaving them Alone
This point is probably my biggest personal issue. With so many children the demands are unending. Someone needs a nap, a diaper change, a snack while another needs help with getting out a toy.
“I’ll be back in just a second” turns into a 30-minute gap of teaching. (I confess I might jump on my Kindle to check Facebook and email which totally doesn’t help).
I usually return to abandoned work and my first grader playing Polly Pockets alongside her sisters. My fourth grader will ask me for help as I’m mid-diapering and I say “Just wait.” And she does…even though she has other schoolwork she could be completing.
Maybe this is a discipline thing. Maybe consequences are in order, but I distinctly remember my high school teacher’s going outside for a moment to make “copies” and returning to a room full of rowdy teenagers.
As the old adage goes: “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
I’m working on this one with you guys. All advice will be duly noted.
Homeschooling Mistake #7 – Not Grading Schoolwork
Seriously…why is this so hard? I own the teacher’s manual for goodness’ sakes! All I have to do is compare the answers.
Not grading schoolwork is a huge mistake because:
- You don’t know if your child is “getting it.”
- You not sure if your child is actually completing the assignment correctly (or at all).
- There is no incentive for doing the work in a timely manner if your child knows you won’t get to for a couple days.
I’m a big fan of the Maxwells. Teri Maxwell states that you should “expect what you inspect” meaning that you should NOT expect a job well done when you aren’t inspecting it!
This goes for chores AND homeschooling.
Homeschooling Mistake #4 – Procrastinating SchoolDay
We aren’t morning people. My husband’s job requires 8 hours a day, but is pretty flexible at the exact hours.
I like to wake up at 9am (or later) and groggily trudge around the house while sipping my coffee. The children spend the morning on the trampoline getting in their “gym” time. Fine by me. I get my Bible study in (essential for a successful day. PERIOD.) and wait for the caffeine to hit. Then, I’m all business.
“You and you. Do chores.”
“You. Get your math!”
“You. Let your little brother play with the blocks, too!”
But there are days that the caffeine doesn’t hit…or it does and I crawl onto the computer hoping the children will not see me.
You know those days, right? When you wished that you could have that power on “Out of this World”…the one where Evie touched her fingers and everything paused until she wanted it unpaused?
Now that’s a power every mother could benefit from!
But this is real life. It has no pause button. Procrastinating is bad…bad….bad…but it feels so good…good…good…until you leave your hiding place to find out that the children have ransacked the pantry in search of sustenance and poured the crumbs of the Frosted Mini Wheats all over the floor. It’s 3pm and the public school bus is letting children off at the corner and your children haven’t done a lick of school.
So what is the usual response??? This is a nice segue into Homeschooling Mistake #9.
Homeschooling Mistake #9 – Getting Angry
Whether because you’ve procrastinated school (as stated above) or you have a UTI at seven months pregnant (#truestory) and are in the throes of torturous elimination pain – anger is NEVER a positive addition to your homeschooling ritual.
Take a deep breath (and some antibiotics) and regroup.
Sometimes (like in the case of a UTI) you should probably stop doing school for the day and get some rest. Everyone has sick days!
But sometimes you just need to control your flesh. Throw off your own personal expectations of yourself or your children and go with the flow.
And sometimes some good old fashion discipline is in order.
Whatever is necessary, anger will only impede your progress.
I like to ask myself “What would Jenny do?” Who is Jenny? She is my real life “Michelle Duggar” example. (Sorry if you aren’t a Duggar fan). Seriously, I’ve never seen this woman angry and she’s a pretty good friend. Her words are always sweet. She never gossips. I know she’s not perfect but she’s definitely a touchstone for me – an inspiration. And her children are the proof of the pudding.
I will never be her…I’m way too snarky and I’m cool with that, but it at least reminds me that there is a better way than raising my voice to get my point across.
Homeschooling Mistake #10 – Not Knowing When to Quit
And no…I don’t mean giving up on homeschooling altogether. I mean, as homeschoolers, we tend to push, push, push! We schedule doctor’s appointments and playdates, but then once back home we tell our children to “get to work!”
The truth is when you take a child out of public school for an appointment, they are not expected (most times) to complete all their assignments that same day. They are given a day or two grace period to finish their work.
Learning when to take a break is just as hard a lesson as avoiding procrastination.
I’ve formulated a simple rule to determine when to break and when to work:
- I need to work + illegitimate obligations = Work
- I need to work + legitimate obligations = Break
Legitimate obligations include:
- Dentist/Doctor’s visit (scheduled or impromptu)
- Illness of child/mom
- Field Trip
- Family Emergency
- Pre-scheduled playdate/fun outing
Illegitimate obligations include:
- Not feeling like doing school
- PMS (this is disputable)
- Friend/Family member that calls/drops-in just to chat
- Things that need to get done in a timely manner but can be put off
- Non-scheduled playdates/fun outings
Obviously, as homeschoolers we have the ability to be flexible, but just because we can do homeschool until 9pm doesn’t mean we should!
Homeschooling Mistake #11 – Curriculum Hopping Too Soon
I’ve been there…hating my choice of curriculum. Longing for another.
Sometimes you have to change. I get it. Do what you need to do.
But what about seeing it through? What if the thing you think you hate turns into the thing you love? This happened to me. A friend recommended a curriculum. She RAVED about it. Everything sounded perfect, until I opened up the teacher’s book and realized I would have to spend some time actually teaching.
Ugh…(this was before I have the epiphany that I had actually signed up to be my child’s teacher and not just a “hander outer of worksheets” mind you.) I wanted to just set my student up and go onto the next task, but not with this curriculum. To top it all off, it required memorization via cheesy songs!
Oh, the horror!
I spent much time verbally criticizing the workbook to my child. Needless to say, she jumped right onto that bandwagon!
But then I started to see the benefit in my sitting with my child and doing the lesson. I had a change of heart.
Because of my criticism, I’ve had to do some damage control and reiterated that now I think the curriculum is wonderful. One we still use to this day!
I’ve heard of many people criticizing a curriculum, but when asked if they “followed through” the answer is usually “no.” And I have to wonder if the flexibility of homeschooling can be a hindrance sometimes.
To make a similar point. Finishing a curriculum is important.
When my daughter was on the 98th lesson of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons…it was tempting to give up. But I believe that there is something that happens when you finish what you’ve started all the way to the end.
Curriculum hopping costs money, too.
Change can be good if your child (or you) is really struggling with a curriculum…but constantly curriculum hopping in hopes of finding the “perfect” curriculum isn’t good.
Homeschooling Mistake #12 – Not Doing a Quiet time
If I had to choose one mistake to NEVER make during my homeschooling time it is this one. Not having a quiet time with God (hopefully) before you start your homeschooling day is a total deal breaker.
Frustration during math time that my child isn’t understanding a concept, followed by antsy preschoolers and too many phone calls interrupting my day can set me on edge even when I have my quiet time with God…you don’t even want to see me on those days I’ve forgotten to do it. You may question my Christianity…I’m just sayin’.
Do Your Quiet Time. Everyday.
Not out of obligation, but out of sheer reverence that you NEED your Creator to help you through the trials of your homeschooling day (or any day for that matter).
I’ve never regretted my time spent in my Bible, prayer and worship, but I have regretted NOT doing it.
So, there it is. My Top 12 Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes. If you liked this blog, please share it via the social media icons at the top/bottom of this post. Also, I would love to hear some of the things YOU have learned during your homeschooling career. We are in this together! I would love to learn from someone else!