Everyone approaches homeschooling with a different perspective. Some approach it with fear and trepidation; others with excitement and enthusiasm; others feel backed into a corner with no other options; and still others look forward to homeschooling as a way to invest more into their children.
Examine each point carefully and look honestly at yourself and your teaching style. Not every mistake will apply to you-that will depend on your personality and approach-but all can easily occur without warning!
I will never forget 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 classes, and community sports. On the one day per week that we did not have scheduled events, we would get together with fellow homeschooling families for field trips, writing classes (which I taught), and/or just for a fun time.
I have never been so frazzled in my life! We would cram in our studies in the morning, then load up the car to head out to our daily routine.
I can’t remember who burned out first-the kids or me, but I do know we burned out. Soon those creative moments of science experiments, creative writing fun, and history projects were a thing of the past and we became a slave to our activities schedule.
The key: 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 can become much more enjoyable!
Over scheduling can be a nightmare, but under-scheduling can also have its detriments. Kids need variety and opportunities to be with others their own age. There are so many learning opportunities out there!
Find what activities work for your family and take advantage of them. There are many opportunities out there through local museums, art schools, YMCAs, support groups, colleges, churches, and historical sites.
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 then assigned one to each parent to organize, picked the dates (which we all reserved), and looked forward to our once a month outing. On occasion, we would also get together at a local playground or state park for another day of fun or learning.
This smaller network allowed us to support each other on a more personal basis and to feel free to call on another when we needed encouragement or ideas.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of unrealistic expectations. I have met many a homeschool Mom who was upset because her three-year old was not reading yet or because her sixth grade son was not succeeding in Algebra I. I have watched as families tackle huge projects trying to cram a whole year of World History into one quarter and plan a World History Fair to culminate the experience. These are the same parents and kids who are burned out by Christmas and struggling to make it through each day!
One the other hand, I have also seen families who decide to home school with no direction, no formal home school curriculum, and no real goals in mind.
Students will live up to your expectations and if none exist, they will quickly adapt and really enjoy themselves for a time. However, by Halloween, kids long for the structure of school and parents are thinking that the ghosts and ghouls knocking on their door look much more appealing than their bored and antsy children.
The individualized instruction that homeschooling provides opens up the door for students to master concepts much quicker than in a classroom full of distractions. However, it also makes it very easy to coast through the year without really accomplishing anything.
The answer to this struggle is planning.
4.A Disorganized School Room
There is nothing more frustrating than the inability to put your fingers on what you need when you need it. This is especially true when you are trying to keep your children current with their schoolwork.
The inability to find a pencil, a working eraser, a textbook or workbook, dictionary, calculator . . . . you get the picture. These are all extremely frustrating and when piled up can make for a very difficult start to a day.
I recommend you commit an entire day at the beginning of the school year to organizing your home school room. Engage your children in the task-let them decide how to organize their supplies.
Store away your teacher’s guides and answer keys-preferably in a file drawer so they are always at your fingertips and organize the curriculum in a sequence that makes sense.
The more time you devote ahead of time to organizing, the less wasted time throughout the school year searching for items you know “are around here somewhere!”
5.Avoiding Breaks to Allow for a Shorter Day
This is a biggie! We all do it-it seems like such a wonderful thing to tell our kids. “Hey, if you can just 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!”
Let me share some personal experiences. I am ashamed to say, I fell into this one very badly my first year of homeschooling. At the beginning of the school year, I was really good about taking breaks-even heading outside with my children to play baseball, catch, soccer, volleyball, tag . . . you name it. My favorite time for one of these breaks was when one of the kids was struggling, grumpy or looking tired, or when I found myself overwhelmed with the mess around me.
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.
Suddenly, it was essential for my kids to finish up their work in the morning so we could have the afternoon free and breaks became a thing of the past.
I never realized just how frustrating this must have been for my kids until a recent homeschool graduate put it on her top ten list. Sure enough, my kids hated it! To them the tradeoff was not worth it. A “free” afternoon after a grueling morning was not of value to them.
To avoid this one: schedule regular breaks and take them whether you think you need them or not and be sure to spend at least one break enjoying your kids!
In the end a more relaxed longer day is better than a crammed short day any 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 just weren’t getting it, I would push them to complete the assignments we had determined were appropriate for that day.
When I finally learned to back off, our homeschooling became much more effective. On days when my fifth grader just 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. Although in some cases, we did not even return to math that day, more often than not, we found that waiting until the evening when the hustle and bustle of the day was over worked much better! At that time, she could sit down and breeze through the math concepts that were impossible just a few hours earlier.
In some cases, you may need to abandon an entire course and try a different approach. Now, don’t be too quick to make this decision-too many of these decisions can be costly. Take the time to really evaluate whether it is the homeschool curriculum or your misuse of it that is causing the struggle.
Sometimes it just takes a fresh look or slowing down a little to make a course work better for you. But if you find that something just does not work, don’t be afraid to set it aside or pass it on to someone else.
On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of rushing your children through a study that they are passionate about! Take the time to allow them to pursue it further.
Bottom line: watch and learn from your kids and adapt as necessary. Don’t become a slave to your home school curriculum.
7.Doing it Alone
So many homeschooling Moms try to do it alone. Once the curriculum decisions have been made and the curriculum is in their hands, they begin the process of schooling . . . on their own.
Sometimes pride keeps them from asking for advice when things get tough; sometimes just the overwhelming task of schooling the children makes it difficult to seek out socialization opportunities; sometimes, it is the misperception that “That is the way it is for homeschoolers.”
This is a huge danger! Irrevocably, Moms who try to do it alone become frustrated and very lonely. Do you find yourself keeping the telemarketer on the phone as long as you possibly can? Does your UPS man find it difficult to escape from your front door after delivering a package? YOU NEED SOCIALIZATION!
IT is just as important for you as it is for your kids.
Socialization for a homeschooling Mom means a sounding board for ideas, advice from those who have been through it before, friendships that allow us to be ourselves, an easy way to share or access information and ideas, a terrific venue to pass on newly discovered educational events or opportunities . . . all absolutely necessary for Moms who are investing so much into their children.
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 homeschooling endeavors.
8.Super Mom Syndrome
This was probably the most difficult part of homeschooling for me. Days when my friends would say, “Walking into your home is like walking into an Ethan Allen Showroom” were long gone.
Trying to keep those same standards is like trying to rake leaves into a pile in the middle of a tornado.
Face it: your home will never be the same. 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.
But 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. You use your walls as a display for charts, projects, lessons, maps, time lines, motivations, and more.
5. You do not have a large classroom to keep all of your studies in-books and educational materials will naturally take over your home.
6. You use your desk for more than paying bills, checking e-mail, and surfing the net.
If you are going to survive this homeschooling experience, you must learn to lower your standards!
9.Ignoring the Input of your Children
It is so easy to get so wrapped up in your plans and ideas that you forget to check with your children. This can be especially challenging for Moms who were teachers or who served in a managerial role. Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that it can be a two way street.
You set up the boundaries, then, allow your kids some freedom within those boundaries.
Your willingness to bounce ideas off of your kids and to really consider their input will mean so much to them . . . and you might be surprised at what they come up with!
10.Fear of the Internet
Let’s face it-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 out there that is absolutely invaluable to any homeschooling program. From educational and interactive games, to live cam pictures of our solar system, the possibilities are endless.
And if you know where to go, you can tap into homeschool resources and instruction that will never run dry!