Monday

The Hidden Gems Found in Homeschoolers’ Mistakes

I’ve always been the type of person who learns best from the bad examples of others. I don’t need to hear about the person who got it right; I want to read about the person who got it wrong. I remember and apply those lessons much better. I’m assuming some of you might be the same way as well, so I asked homeschoolers from all different stages of the homeschool journey, from beginners to those who have homeschool graduates, one question: what are your top three homeschooling mistakes? The answers were uncannily similar, insightful, and absolutely convicting. 

The Hidden Gems Found in Homeschoolers' Mistakes

I found myself nodding my head so many times as I read their replies, so the first thing I want all of us to learn is that homeschooling mistakes are normal, and they are usually the same mistakes that homeschoolers before you have made as well. Hopefully this post will help us learn the right mindset and attitude to have as we homeschool so we can minimize the mistakes we make. In no particular order here are the compiled results of the homeschooling mistakes made by the experts.

Mistakes in Expectations

It’s so difficult when you are the person solely responsible for your child’s education not to feel the weight of that tremendous burden. Usually this manifests itself in having unrealistic expectations. One of the most common answers I received had to do with expectations: expecting all of their children to learn the same way, expecting too much academically of their children too soon, expecting independent learners before they were ready, expecting them to love the subjects you love and learn the way you learn. Expectations inevitably set us up for failure because life rarely fulfills our expectations. Adjust your expectations to reality, not your wish list.

Lesson to Be Learned: Fluid, individualized, expectations that are reassessed on a regular basis are much more realistic.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {One of my biggest mistakes is} letting my ego get wrapped up in the academic success of my kids. It's tempting and oh so easy when your life is homeschooling, but it also means that failure becomes personal blows, struggles are frustrating, and the successes are not given their proper context.

Mistakes in Curriculum/Methodology

As a curriculum addict I found this response to be the most common and the most convicting. The homeschool experts had quite a bit to say about curriculum and none of them said they wished they had more! They all said that they had too much, but the reasons for that varied. Some were trying to buy ahead so they bought every level only to regret that decision when the curriculum stopped being a good fit. Some tried to “do it all” and bought enough curriculum to accomplish that task only to find it sitting on the shelf. Misconceptions about using curriculum were regretted as well, such as curriculum hopping from one thing to another instead of sticking it out. Also being a slave to the curriculum or methodology instead of adapting it to your child and following their interests.

Lesson to Be Learned: Curriculum is a tool, use it as such. Don’t let it tie you or your child down.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My number one mistake was} desperately trying to fit ourselves to a method instead of making the method fit us.

Mistakes in the Research Phase

I fell into this trap for many, many years. I call it chasing the perfect. If I find the perfect curriculum, if I have the perfect schedule, if I have the perfect school room, etc., then I can guarantee success. Reading the answers to my question, I discovered I’m not the only one who fell into this trap. Everyone agreed that the fear of messing up led to a lot of problems during the research phase of homeschooling. One homeschool mom even called it “analysis paralysis”, which I thought was perfect. Analyzing everything about homeschooling to the nth degree instead of actually doing something for fear that you will make the wrong choice. All the moms who’d made this mistake talked about the anxiety that comes along with it.

Lesson to Be Learned: You should research before you begin homeschooling or before you start a new school year. It’s always wise to know what you are getting into, but limit the time you spend in this phase. There are no guarantees in homeschooling and perfection does not exist.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My mistake was} overcomplicating things - looking at every possible curriculum in an attempt to find what is THE best, and then stewing over decisions, and second guessing myself, and then going back and spending hours researching other curriculum, and spending oodles of time weighing the pros and cons of everything, to the point that I don't have the energy I need to get down to business.  {I should have} just started DOING and spent less time 'researching and reading'.  I made my best discoveries by digging in and testing and experimenting with my kids.  I should have been more hands-on. 

Mistakes in Personal Care

This one has been on my radar recently and I have been working toward implementing some changes in my life. When I saw how often this popped up as one of the biggest mistakes homeschool parents had made, I knew I needed to be even more diligent. Just like with an airplane oxygen mask, if we don’t take care of ourselves first, it is difficult to impossible to take care of our family and teach our children. One day this homeschool job will be over and we need to make sure that we have not let ourselves get lost in the process.

Lesson to Be Learned: Take time to do things for yourself that you enjoy and that will keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My homeschool mistake was} not scheduling time for me to regenerate and refresh ("me time") rather than being haphazard about it.  It would have headed off burnout. On a related note, not asking for help/accountability for taking better care of myself.  If I had an accountability buddy to make sure I did the self-care before I needed it, I would not have had such a difficult time.

Mistakes in Scheduling

The responses in this area were a little mixed, but the overwhelming majority seemed to fall on the side of wishing they had been more scheduled because they saw the correlation to more productivity. Homeschool parents that were farther down the road repeatedly said that they wished they had been more strict and consistent with school times. They felt that they had been too soft and gave in too much when the kids wanted time off. It had bred laziness and a lack of progress. They wished they had helped their children realize that not everything is fun, and even when you don’t want to do things many times, you still have to do them.  One mom even said that being too flexible with their homeschool time had done nothing but tie them into knots!

Lesson to Be Learned: At some point your child will have to begin a consistent school routine, better to train them to do that now than later.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: I started off thinking not creating a strict school calendar meant we would have more freedom and be more efficient. The opposite was actually true. Creating a calendar had all of us working harder and more efficiently and our vacations were well-earned. We ended up being far more productive long term.

Mistakes in the Home

I don’t know of any homeschooler who hasn’t asked at some point, “How do I take care of my home?!?” Many answers to my question dealt with some aspect of the home life. The physical home was cited as an area when it came to wishing they had decluttered more and been more consistent with chores. Others talked about taking time to nurture relationships in the home, especially with their children, relating to their children as a parent and not as a teacher all the time. One mom talked about taking off her teacher hat, while other moms said that they shouldn’t have made everything be school or educational.

Lessons to Be Learned: Take time every day to focus on the “home” in your homeschool.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My biggest mistake is} forgetting to enjoy my kids.  That's mistake one, two, and three. Academics are important but my first job as a mother is to love my kids and that requires a good relationship.  Sometimes that got sacrificed in the name of "education". 

Mistakes with Children

I read a quote on a blog a while back {I wish I could remember which one!} that basically said, “How you respond to your child when they struggle with a math problem for the 10th time is what you will teach them about how God responds to them when they continually make mistakes as well.” It was unbelievably humbling to say the least. Quite a few homeschool moms cited their reaction to their children’s struggles as one of their biggest homeschooling mistakes. Some felt it was so severe that it actually damaged relationships. Some moms said they should have worked more on character training and obedience during the early years.

Lessons to Be Learned: Frustration and angry words can damage a child. Take a break, count to 100, or read a book, but don’t wound them with your reaction.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My mistake was} working for perfection - anything that was wrong we corrected. My kids translated that into a belief that they can only win my approval by being perfect - not even close to true. {I did} not emphasize how hard work counts as much or more than talent.  I think this would have helped my kid to not feel so inferior as well as encourage my more academically talented kids to have higher goals and be more proactive for their futures.

Mistakes in Self-Confidence

When you go against the grain, it’s easy to let negative voices into your head, to start doubting your path and your decision to home educate. Even the experts aren’t immune from these feelings, but none of them said that these voices were correct. In fact all of them said that one of their mistakes was listening to the voice of doubt. This can manifest itself in comparing your children and your homeschool to the public school or to other homeschoolers. A few even said that there biggest mistake was letting their kids go back to public school or waiting too long to pull them out. A couple of homeschoolers talked about caring too much what others thought of their child’s progress and second guessing their ability to teach their child.

Lessons to Be Learned: Your decision to homeschool is YOUR family’s decision. Stop listening to any other voice. Trust your instincts.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My biggest mistake is} comparing! To public schoolers, to other homeschoolers, to the other sibling... It's never good.

In a nutshell, here is my big takeaway from the homeschool experts: 1) it’s all about balance and 2) we get in the most trouble when we forget that our homeschool should reflect our individual children and our family. Almost all of these mistakes can be avoided if we balance between the extremes of scheduling, curriculum, and self care while letting the uniqueness of our children and family guide our expectations and homemaking while being confident in our choice to homeschool. No problem, right? I wish. It’s a daily struggle, but you are in good company. We’ve all been there.

What’s your biggest homeschool mistake?

Let me know in the comments.

Check out what other expert homeschool advice my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers have found for you. Just click on the picture below:

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Learning from those who’ve gone before me is my favorite way to learn in the tree house,

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5 comments:

  1. This was very interesting. Thank you for your research and insight. ��

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  2. Thank you for the article. I am in my first year of homeschooling and am working with 3 grade levels. I have a very difficult time sticking to my schedule and I hate checking papers. I'm asking the Lord for motivation in these areas, it's a really big struggle.

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    1. The first year is so difficult. Things will get easier, but it took me until about our third year to really feel like I had things relatively together. Praying for you and yours.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this insighteful article. I think you are right on the mark with it. I am a firm believer that each child has his own way of learning. Have a Blessed Day.

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