Top Ten Homeschooling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Some parents approach homeschooling with fear and trepidation; others with excitement and enthusiasm. Some may feel backed into a corner with no other options while others look forward to homeschool as a way to invest in their children. Regardless of their perspective, everyone wants to do it right and enjoy a successful school year full of rewarding learning experiences and enjoyable time with our children.
I want to help you avoid the most common mistakes homeschooling parents make and give you the information you need for an enjoyable school year! Consider each point carefully and examine yourself and your teaching style. Not every mistake will apply to you, but any one of them can happen to you, if you’re not careful.
1. Over Scheduling
In my first year of homeschooling, my children were involved in art classes, gymnastics, classes at the zoo, science center classes, chorus, piano lessons, physical education, and community sports. When there weren’t any scheduled events, we would get together with other homeschooling families for field trips, writing classes (which I taught), or just for fun.
We crammed in our studies into the morning, then loaded up the car for the rest of our daily routine. I can’t remember who burned out first, the kids or me, but we burned out quickly. The fun of those creative moments of science experiments, creative writing, and history projects soon became a thing of the past and we were slaves to our schedule.
SOLUTION: limit yourself to one or two activities at a time and make schooling a priority. When you have more time to commit at home, schooling is much more enjoyable!
2. Under Scheduling
Over scheduling is a nightmare, but under-scheduling can be just as bad. Kids need variety and opportunities to be with other kids. There are so many learning opportunities out there!
Find activities that work for your family at nearby museums, art schools, YMCAs, support groups, colleges, churches, and historical sites, and then take advantage of them.
A great idea that worked for us was to get together with several other homeschooling families and plan out a year’s worth of field trips—one per month. We assigned one for each parent to organize, picked dates (which we all reserved), and everyone looked forward to the monthly outing. We would also get together at a local playground or state park for another day of fun or learning.
SOLUTION: Build a network of families to plan activities and provide support and accountability.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
It is easy to fall into the trap of unrealistic expectations. Many homeschool Moms get upset because their three-year olds are not reading yet or when their sixth grader is not succeeding in Algebra I. I have watched families try to cram a whole year of World History into one quarter with a World History Fair to culminate the experience. This approach will have you and your child burned out and struggling by Christmas!
On the other hand, children will quickly adapt to a lack of direction, formal curriculum, or goals in mind, and really enjoy themselves for a time… Until, usually within a couple months, they long for the structure of school and become bored and antsy.
Homeschooling opens the door for students to master concepts much quicker than in a classroom full of distractions. However, you can easily coast through the year without really accomplishing anything.
SOLUTION: Planning. Make sure you know your child, then put a curriculum plan together that addresses their abilities, struggles, weaknesses, and passions.
Bridgeway Homeschool Academy can guide you through this planning stage with placement testing, open dialogue, and the expertise of certified teachers, experienced homeschoolers, and a trained staff. We can help identify your child’s unique strengths and abilities, then design a learning plan to help you reach your educational goals.
4. A Disorganized School Room
Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find what you need when you need it. This is especially true when you are trying to keep your children current with their schoolwork.
A missing pencil, a lost textbook or workbook, scissors that seem to walk away on their own… you get the picture. This can be extremely frustrating and make for a very long school day.
SOLUTION: Start of the school year with a day dedicated to organizing your home school room. Engage your children in the task, even let them decide how to organize their supplies.
Store teacher’s guides and answer keys in a file drawer so they are always at your fingertips and organize curriculum in a sequence that makes sense. The more time you devote to organizing, the less time you will waste during school searching for lost items.
5. Skipping Breaks to Shorten the Day
We all do it! It seems like a wonderful thing to tell our kids: “Hey, if you can get this all done this morning, we will have all afternoon with no school!”
Guess what? Across the board, homeschooling kids are saying, “We’d rather have a break!”
I am ashamed to say, I fell into this one my first year of homeschooling. At the beginning of the school year, I was really good about taking breaks. I would announce, “RECESS TIME!” and we would head outside for a good 20 minutes of fun. It never ceased to amaze me how easy it was to get back to a difficult task after a quick breather.
But, as the year went on, I became more and more involved with other things. (See #1, Overscheduling) Suddenly, it was essential for my kids to finish up their work in the morning so we could have the afternoon free. Breaks became a thing of the past.
I did not realize just how frustrating this was for my kids until one of our recent homeschool graduates put it on her top ten list. Sure enough, my kids hated it too! The tradeoff was not worth it. A “free” afternoon after a grueling morning was not of value to them.
SOLUTION: Schedule regular breaks and take them whether you think you need them or not. Be sure to spend at least one break enjoying your kids! A more relaxed longer day is better than a frantic short day.
6. Becoming a Slave to Your Home School Curriculum
Another big mistake I made my first year of homeschooling was to allow my curriculum to drive me. Even on days when it was obvious that my kids weren’t getting it, I pushed them to complete all the assignments for that day.
Some days my kids were ready to pull their hair out – days when they just could not grasp a concept while I stood over them like a drill-sergeant. Those poor kids!
When I finally learned to back off, I became much more effective. When my fifth grader could not quite figure out how to reduce fractions to the lowest common denominator, we would take a break and move on to something else. Sometimes we did not even return to the subject that day. I found that waiting until the evening, when the pressure of the day was over, she could sit down and breeze through concepts that were impossible just a few hours earlier.
Occasionally, you may need to abandon an entire course and try a different approach. Do not be too quick to make this decision—as these decisions can be costly. Take time to evaluate whether it is the curriculum or your misuse of it that is causing the struggle. Sometimes a fresh look or just slowing down a little will make a course work better. But when you find that something just does not work, do not be afraid to set it aside or move on to something else.
Similarly, don’t make the mistake of rushing your children through subjects that they are passionate about. Allow time for them to pursue it further and go beyond the curriculum. The Bridgeway Academy Member’s site is full of resources, videos, information and graphics that can enhance any subject!
SOLUTION: Be flexible. Watch and learn from your kids and adapt as necessary.
7. Doing it Alone
Too many homeschooling Moms try to do it alone. Our pride often keeps us from asking for advice or we become overwhelmed with task of schooling children and don’t find a support network. We might even believe the misperception that this the way it is for homeschoolers.
This is a huge danger! Moms who try to do it alone invariably become frustrated and lonely. While the issue is often overstated for homeschooled children, it is often overlooked for homeschooling moms: YOU need socialization!
You need a sounding board for ideas and advice from those who have been through it before. You need friendships that allow you to be yourself.
SOLUTION: Find support groups, homeschool publications, seminars, homeschool conferences, memberships, classes . . . all of these are terrific ways for homeschooling families to socialize with other children and adults. Don’t ignore this! This will make or break your homeschool experience.
By joining a online schooling program like Bridgeway Academy you can have that extra support for your homeschooling program. Your Academic Advisor is always just a phone call or e-mail away.
8. Super Mom Syndrome
Probably the most difficult part of homeschooling for me was accepting that my home would no longer look like the homes in all the magazines. Maintaining that standard is like trying to rake leaves in a tornado! Your meals will not always be healthy, your errands will not always be run, your bills may be late, and your bathrooms may not always sparkle.
Take a deep breath and remember:
1. You live in your house all day.
2. Your kids are in your house all day.
3. You school in your house.
4. Your walls will be covered with charts, projects, lessons, maps, and more.
5. Unless you have a library and laboratory, school materials will take over your home.
6. Your desk is needed for more than paying bills or using the computer.
SOLUTION: Be realistic! Find the one thing that you cannot live with and take care of that every day. Give your children pride in their home by assigning chores they can complete before school each morning and then (part of being realistic) let the other things go.
9. Ignoring the Input of your Children
Ironically, it is easy to get so wrapped up in your plans and ideas that you forget to check with your children. This is especially challenging for Moms who were teachers or managers. Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that it can be a two way street.
SOLUTION: Set boundaries, then allow your kids some freedom within those boundaries. Be willing to bounce ideas off of your kids and really consider their input. It will mean so much to them, and you might be surprised at what they come up with!
10. Fear of the Internet
Yes, the Internet can be dangerous. There is so much out there that we do not want our children to see and so many people out there we do not want them to meet. However, there is also a wealth of information available that is absolutely invaluable to any homeschooling program. From educational and interactive games, to live pictures of our solar system, the possibilities are endless.
If you know where to go, you can tap into homeschool resources and instructionthat will never run dry. While you need to keep an active role in your children’s online activities, the ability to leverage information and resources on the internet is no longer an elective.
SOLUTION: Confine your child’s internet access to a supervised area of your home or homeschool area. Guide your children’s use of the internet by bookmarking resources pertaining to the subjects at hand. Discuss and set rules for personal information and behavior on the internet.
Bridgeway Academy offers a terrific homeschool site exclusively for Bridgeway Academy students and their parents. Parent help, worksheet printables, grade specific educational games, courses, and resources, this site offers more information in one location than any other home school resource site.
Homeschooling can be an incredibly rich and rewarding experience for both students and parents. Yes, there will be tough days; however, avoiding these top ten mistakes WILL make your homeschooling much more effective!
About the author
Jessica Parnell is a former high school teacher and the Director of Bridgeway Homeschool Academy and online school. She has a passion for homeschooling and a desire to provide the best homeschooling options to parents and students all across the globe.