You’ve decided to homeschool (or maybe have no choice)! As you prepare for your educational journey, keep in mind that there is no perfect way to homeschool. Every family has to do what’s right for their educational needs and schedule. Whether you start with a kindergartener or a middle schooler, there are common mistakes many new homeschoolers make—here’s how to avoid them.
1. Don’t try to make home like school. No need to recreate every nuance of a public or private school, complete with desks, Smartboard, uniforms and a never-changing schedule. There may be temptation to do things as they were done when you were growing up, but when the teacher is a parent, things are very different and require more flexibility.
2. Ditch the desks. It’s not necessary to spend countless hours doing schoolwork at a desk. Everyone learns differently. Consider shorter chunks of teaching/learning time for each child. Take an occasional day off to visit the zoo, go on a nature walk, hit the library, watch a documentary or snuggle up and read. I include the kids in real-world things like errands, cooking, chores and finances. For older kids, a part-time job and volunteering also provide a real-world education.
3. Don’t try to keep up with everyone else. Don’t try to keep up with other homeschoolers or kids in school. I started each of my kids a year “late” for school and they haven’t suffered. I always wondered what the rush was for kids to grow up—I knew one year wouldn’t make a difference. To me, that was one more year to let them be kids—play and explore on their own—without the “job” of school.
4. Don’t pay an arm and a leg for curriculum. With so many free and low-cost resources like www.ABCMouse.com, Khan Academy and the public library, there’s no reason for curriculum to be expensive (especially at the elementary school level). Check into virtual school options as well.
5. Follow your child’s lead. It was so sad when I was in a homeschool store and heard a kid ask his mom if they could learn about a certain topic and she said, “No, these are the books that we are working on this year.” People are interested in different things. Help foster curiosity by exploring topics that interest your kids.
6. Discontinue what doesn’t work. Switching curriculum halfway through the year is not uncommon. If a certain workbook makes you 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 and freedom of homeschooling.
7. Don’t do everything for your child. Encourage independence and independent thinking.
8. Avoid comparing your family to others. It’s funny how I beat myself up because my kids don’t know how to do something my neighbor’s kids can do; and she beats herself up because she doesn’t take as many educational outings as we do. It’s great to have a homeschool tribe of people to discuss ideas with, but comparing and competition aren’t helpful to anyone, especially the kids.
9. Don’t try to be perfect. The longer I homeschool, the more I enjoy telling newbies about mistakes I’ve made along the way. Making mistakes is normal, so go easy on yourself and have fun on this shorter-than-you-think journey with your kids.
Kerrie McLoughlin has been homeschooling her five kids for 10 years.