Let’s be honest. We all make mistakes. But don’t let them get the better of you! Today we will look at ten common homeschool mistakes that parents make, and the ways to overcome them.
This post is part of a series on challenges that crop up commonly in homeschool families. If you have a challenge you would like to see addressed on this site, please leave a comment on the series homepage or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Now before we get started I want you to know that I have made most (all?) of these mistakes at some point. And I’m sure I will again. I’m not perfect.
The truth is, we don’t need to be perfect homeschool parents in order to be great homeschool parents.
What makes us great homeschool parents is our love and commitment to our children and to their education.
Why We Need To Own Up To These Homeschool Mistakes
Pretending we are perfect and that we have no problems doesn’t help us or our children. And you know what else? It doesn’t help other mamas either.
Pretending we are perfect doesn’t help the mama who is afraid to ask her friends for help because she thinks they have it so together that they will judge her for a failure. Your honesty can help her reach out when she needs it.
Pretending we are perfect also doesn’t help the mama who wants to try homeschooling but is afraid. She is afraid she can’t live up to the impossibly high standard she is setting for herself, the standard she thinks other mamas are coasting along at. Your honesty can help give her courage to try.
And pretending we are perfect doesn’t help us. It just causes us to become stressed and anxious. It stops us from asking for help when we need it. It stops us for trying something new. Pretending stops us from moving in the direction we want to go.
It stops us from making changes that would help us and help our children.
When we can recognise and admit that we have made a mistake in our homeschool journey we get the wonderful opportunity to learn from our mistake.
Isn’t this what we are always telling our children when they make a mistake in their schoolwork?
We need to take our own advice and stop beating ourselves up for making mistakes. We are human. It will happen.
Recognise the mistake. Own the mistake. Make a change and move on.
You and your children will both be better off for it.
Now, off my soapbox and onto the ten common mistakes homeschool parents make!
These are in no particular order…
Homeschool Mistake #1: Choosing a homeschool style that suits you OR your kids BUT not both
This one happens A LOT. We choose a homeschool style based on what our fav homeschool Instagram family is doing because their days look beautiful and inspiring.
Or we choose what our best friend/neighbour/homeschool mum buddy is doing because it’s the only real life example we have to work from. Maybe we decide to go with the more traditional school-at-home because it’s closest to what we already know.
For me, it generally happens that I have fallen in love with the philosophy behind a particular style (you can read more about our homeschool style here) and I’m just hoping my kids will like it too.
In all these cases we have chosen a style based on what we as parents want, not necessarily what is best for our child’s temperament or learning style.
Examples of how this might look in your home could be taking a Charlotte Mason approach for a child who rejects books and prefers self-directed explorations. Or a project-based approach for a child who prefers book learning and more parent direction.
An equally big mistake is when all we have considered is our child’s learning preference without any thought to our own needs as a homeschool parent.
Yes, we have needs too!
It’s important that we take our needs into consideration as well as ours kids’. Using one of the same examples as before, we are going to struggle with sticking to a Charlotte Mason style, no matter how much our kids love it, if we hate reading aloud and don’t see the value in a strong humanities focus.
(If you are set on reading aloud but finding it a struggle, here are some tips to help you learn to love it!)
It’s really important that you take into account everyone’s personalities and needs. It can be really helpful to have open discussions and be willing to try new things to find a style that suits the whole family. Also, be prepared to do things a little (or a lot!) differently with each child.
We are all individuals.
Homeschool Mistake #2: Skipping the Deschooling Process
Oh boy, did I struggle with this one!
I had read a little about deschooling but didn’t think it applied to us. We weren’t homeschooling because of a bad school experience so I thought we could just jump in to homeschooling.
It worked…until it didn’t.
A few months in we had a brief flirtation with unschooling which in hindsight was the deschooling time we needed.
If you haven’t heard of deschooling before, it is essentially a time for you and your children to learn to leave the mainstream school mindset behind. This could mean learning to relax and have fun together, learning it’s ok to make mistakes, exploring new ways of learning or discovering what is really important to you as a family.
If you haven’t deschooled yet, Kelly at Fearless Homeschool has a really good explanation of the what, why and how that I recommend you look at.
Need more deschooling help? Kelly can walk you through it with this short online course
Homeschool Mistake #3: Not setting goals for your homeschool
Setting goals for your homeschool helps keep you motivated. Failing to write down your goals can quickly leave you floundering.
Imagine you are cooking something new for dinner. Something you have never cooked before. You have your ingredients, maybe even the first few steps, laid out for you. But you’re not actually sure what you are supposed to be cooking.
Are these eggs for a frittata or for meringues?
You don’t know so you put everything away and go buy dinner instead.
The same happens with our homeschools if we don’t know what it is we are trying to achieve. We can have all the ingredients and the best of intentions, but without goals we can’t measure our successes or recognise where changes need to be made. Not having goals is one reason people give up.
So set some goals!
Need help setting homeschool goals? This post has got you covered.
Homeschool Mistake #4: Not having a vision for your homeschool
Similar to not having goals in place, not having a vision for how you would like your homeschool to look and feel can have you feeling like you are swimming in circles or worse still, like you are being pulled under. Choosing a homeschool style or philosophy, and setting some concrete goals, can help here.
The key is to make sure your goals align with how you want your homeschool days to feel.
I find the best way to ensure we are living and learning in a way that aligns with my vision is to have a strong rhythm to our days.
Homeschool Mistake #5: Forgetting to look after yourself
When I first decided to run this series on homeschool challenges, I reached out to the This Whole Home community and asked you what you find most challenging. The number one response was how and when do we care for ourselves?
In fact, so many of you reached out to tell me this is your biggest challenge that I have decided to devote an entire post to this issue. Make sure you are keeping up with the series so that you don’t miss it!
For now, make sure you are doing these 3 things that all homeschool mamas should be making time for.
Homeschool Mistake #6: Having unrealistic expectations
This is a BIG ONE!
We can have the vision, the goals, the homeschool philosophy…the whole shebang…but if we have unrealistic expectation for ourselves, our homeschool and our kids, we are just setting ourselves up for failure.
Your homeschool is never going to look the same as someone else’s. It is never going to look exactly like the pictures you see on Instagram. And it’s certainly never going to be perfect.
You will make mistakes. Your kids will make mistakes. There will be good days and bad days. And that’s exactly the way it is meant to be.
It’s easy enough for me to say, don’t have unrealistic expectations, but in reality it can be a little harder. Try these concrete tips:
- Cut back social media time. Please, don’t spend too much time looking at other homeschool families on social media. SM can be great for inspiration and building community but it can also leave us feeling ‘less than’. Try to reduce social media time and only follow accounts that you find helpful and encouraging.
- Drop the comparisons. Most of us like to know our kids aren’t ‘behind’ but constantly comparing your child’s achievements can be detrimental. Just focus on making progress in the direction you and your child want to go without continually checking in with your friends or checking against mainstream school standards.
- Expect bad days. When we realise that everyone has bad days, it can be easier to accept our own. Once we let go of the expectation that we should be able to make everything perfect all of the time, we free ourselves to let go off the negativity around having bad days.
These are a few tips that I find particularly helpful. I’m sure there are lots more! Please leave your tips in the comments below.
Homeschool Mistake #7: Changing Curriculum
Sometimes when we’ve had more than a few bad days in a row, we can start to think that the problem must be in the curriculum we chose.
Now, I’m not saying to stick with a curriculum that is obviously not working. If you and your kids are dreading each lesson, it may be time to cut your losses and say good bye to that open and go program you were convinced was going to be a perfect fit. Yes, I know the cost of it hurts. Sell it and move on.
But curriculum shopping is a HUGE problem in the homeschool community. Purchasing a new curriculum is not guaranteed to fix all your problems. A lot of the time it just creates new ones because we didn’t solve the underlying issue.
Instead of running out and dropping a few hundred dollars on yet another curriculum or expensive book list, try re-evaluating your homeschool style, taking a break or working on a new homeschool rhythm.
Sometimes all we need is a week of doing nothing, a new social activity to try or even just shuffling the order we tackle lessons each day.
Trust me (and my bank balance) when I say, there is no such things as a perfect curriculum.
Homeschool Mistake #8: Making homeschool all work and no play
Speaking of adding in a new social activity or two, do not make the mistake of focusing so intently on getting the lessons done and finishing the program you bought that you fail to do the fun stuff!
It is really important that we make time for fun in our homeschools.
This can mean making sure we include less academic learning in our days as well as the more bookish learning, but it also means making sure we balance our learning at home with social time with our friends.
Next week’s post will focus specifically on socialisation, so make sure you come back for that one!
Homeschool Mistake #9: Not Organising Your Time
If time management and organisation doesn’t come naturally to you, you might be feeling a tad annoyed at me for including this one. Don’t worry! I’m not going to tell you to timetable everything.
What I do recommend is having some systems in place to help you stay on top of things so you don’t get that awful drowning feeling.
Keep your homeschool materials in one place, include regular outings in your week, give the kids some chores to do.
Working together, keeping as organised as you can (without stressing about not being the organised type) and having a rhythm to your days and weeks can help you manage your time in a way that feels natural and healthy.
If you would like some more specific time management tips, let me know in the comments below.
Homeschool Mistake #10: Trying To Go It Alone
And last but not least, don’t make the mistake of thinking you are alone and trying to do everything yourself!
This one can be tough, especially if we don’t have family to help or we are introverted by nature. Not everyone has a community on hand. But I want to encourage you to find your tribe.
Finding regular homeschool activities to attend gives your children the chance to make friends but it also gives you the opportunity to make friends with the local homeschool mums too. Familiarity breeds friendship!
Reading blogs (and commenting!), joining online support groups and finding a regular homeschool group to attend are three of the best things homeschool parents can do to prevent feelings of isolation. It is important we have someone to share our successes and our struggles with.
Not going it alone also means you aren’t putting undue pressure on yourself to be able to provide all of your child’s educational needs yourself.
Look for online programs, drop off learning activities, co-ops, sporting clubs, music lessons, etc. All of these provide you with a break and allow your children to learn outside of the areas you are comfortable and confident teaching. You don’t need to know everything, you just need to know how your children can access learning in their interest areas.
The important thing is to be honest about the challenges we face as homeschool parents. Learn to recognise when you have made a mistake, ask for help if you need it and once you have made a change move on.
Don’t beat yourself up over it. Because I promise you…we have all been there xx