We all make mistakes, and when it comes to homeschooling there are plenty of mistakes to be made. I’m in my second decade as a homeschooling parent of 6 kids, and you would think I’d be beyond the mistake stage, but you’d be wrong. The awesome thing is that, unlike with more traditional forms of education, we have the flexibility to change what doesn’t work. We can learn from our mistakes and do what it takes to avoid them in the future.
There are some mistakes that I see over and over again as a homeschool support group leader, and I’m guilty of making many of these same mistakes.
Common Mistakes Homeschoolers Make
1. Compare your children (and family) to others.
I constantly struggle with this one. 15 years ago it was “my child isn’t reading yet but her child is, and he’s younger!”, today it’s “so & so’s kid passed 6 AP exams, my child hasn’t even finished algebra!”. Maybe you see how well your friend is doing with homeschooling and wish your days went as well. Maybe you’re stuck comparing your own children, wondering why one doesn’t perform as well as another. A little comparison is natural, but I’m here to tell you that:
There is nothing you can to do sabotage your homeschooling more than comparing your children & family to another.
So how do we stop comparing?
First, take a deep breath.
Second, remember why you are homeschooling. You’re homeschooling so you can give YOUR child the best education for YOUR child. You’re not homeschooling so they can keep up with the kid down the street.
Third, talk to someone who understands. I promise that WE ALL feel this way from time to time. Calling or texting a friend and asking them “what the heck am I doing?” is very cathartic, it allows me to vent to a sympathetic ear.
Fourth, shut down the things that cause you to compare. For me, and I hate to say this, it’s Facebook. I LOVE FACEBOOK, everyone who knows me knows that maybe I have a slight addiction. It’s so cool to be able to open one app to keep up with my friends, follow my family, read the news, and get all sorts of neat information within minutes! Facebook is a salve for my ADHD brain. MOST OF THE TIME. Facebook is also a major trigger for my guilt and tendancy to compare, and even after 20+ years of homeschooling I still have to closely monitor my feelings when I see the perfect stories and blog posts online. (Believe me, I may show nice stuff there but let me tell ya, that’s not always how things go!)
2. Use the wrong curriculum.
Do you know how many times in a week I see “What curriculum is best?” or “What curriculum should I use?” asked in the various support groups to which I belong? At least 25. It’s not that the question is bad, it’s just that it’s not the right question to ask and there is no easy or right way to answer it.
There is soooooo much to consider when you are looking at curriculum, and I know it’s overwhelming.
There is SOOOO much to consider when choosing a curriculum. I’ve already written about that subject so I won’t rehash it here. Be sure to check out:
Matching the Child to a Curriculum
Learning Style vs Teaching Style
Finding Curriculum that Works!
3. Bringing the school into the home.
This is a common mistake made by parents who are new to homeschooling, and another one I’m super guilty of, down to asking the kids to raise their hands. No, really. Let me level with you, our kids aren’t in school for a reason, why would we want to replicate the school at home? Now don’t get me wrong, some families do very well with the “school at home” method, and more power to them!, but it just doesn’t work for a lot of kids (and parents!)
You don’t have to follow the school’s schedule. You don’t have to use the school’s textbooks. You don’t have to learn subjects restricted by age or grade level. You don’t have to lecture while your kids sit at desks. You certainly don’t have to teach your children to raise their hands to answer a question.
I know it’s hard to break free from the system you’ve always known, but when you do you’ll see that there is a whole, new, beautiful world waiting for you.
4. Starting too soon. I know the idea of homeschooling is exciting and I know you mean well..but really, earlier is not better. The first six years, minimum, should be spent playing and naturally learning about the world. My family holds off on all curriculum until 8 (and yes, 4 of my 5 older kids were very good readers before the age of 8..and my oldest two got into college at 16 & 14!)
So, what preschool curriculum should you use? None. Go outside. Ask and answer questions. Read. Talk. Count things. Let them play educational games. Go out into the world. Heck, watch good television in moderation. Be a good parent, let your child be a kid. This stage of life passes so quickly, let it happen naturally.
5. Being a slave to the curriculum. You’ve spent all that money on curriculum so now you want to use it, right? Yes, but remember that curriculum is a TOOL. If it’s not the right tool for the job, don’t use it anymore. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying curriculum, but if you find that you or your kids are getting burnt out, shelf it. If you’re constantly turning down awesome opportunities that you know your kids will love because you have to stay home and finish school, just stop. Curriculum is a great tool but it’s not a replacement for real-life learning. In fact, once you gain your confidence, you might make the turn my family did and decide not to use curriculum at all, or to pull your own program together from bits and pieces.
This is just cracking the surface and I hope to add to this later, but for now those are the 5 biggies I see the most. What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments or by visiting our Facebook Page or Facebook Groups, Gameschooling & Secular Homeschooling with Netflix and Digital Media.
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Meg Grooms is a long-time homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle and currently call Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.