There are two things I feel like most homeschool moms absolutely excel at: worrying and feeling guilty. Yep. Most of us are champions at both of these. But why? Why do we feel like we should do these things? Or, maybe the more important question to ask is, Why do we do these things even though we know we shouldn’t?
I think one reason is that most of us feel like the fate of our children rests solely in our hands. Therefore, when we see our kids make mistakes, it’s got to be our fault, right? But yet, somehow, when our kids do well or have successes, we don’t take credit for those. So here are some things I want you, Dear Homeschool Mom, to think about and let go of.
10 Things Homeschool Moms Should Stop Worrying About
1. Teaching Preschool
Will your kids be behind?
So many moms with very young children are convinced that they have to start formal homeschooling at the age of 3 or their children will forever be behind. (I’m not sure who determines who is behind and who is ahead, but we don’t often stop to think about that. We just worry that they’ll be behind–whatever that means.)
The problem is, though, that most very young children just need to play. They need to learn by being kids. They need to learn by helping Mom and Dad do chores around the house like cooking dinner, setting the table, raking the yard, washing clothes, and cleaning up their own toys and messes. They need to play with toys (or everyday objects) that encourage fine motor development and eye-hand coordination. They need to run and exercise and learn by making messes and getting into things. They need to see us enjoy reading and listen to us reading to them. They need to sing songs and dance and move. These are the things they need. Not curriculum. Not when they’re still toddlers.
What about tot school and teaching children when they’re very young?
Some children truly do love a few more structured activities, and that’s ok. It’s fine to do some tot school activities and to introduce them to more formal learning if they’re interested and want to do it. If they only want to play, though, that’s perfectly fine! Our children can learn so very much just from playing and learning through everyday activities with friends and family.
My youngest child (who is a senior in our homeschool this year) was determined to learn to read when she was 4. I put her off, but she wasn’t having it! She would ask me the sounds the letters make and was learning to put the letter sounds together so she could learn to read on her own. My son, at that same age, was not the slightest bit interested in learning to read. In fact, he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in learning to read until he about 8 or 9 years old! And guess which of them turned out to be the better reader. Neither of them. They’re both great readers and both enjoy reading! Yes, my son would have been considered to be behind when he was 6 or 7 and wasn’t reading. My daughter would have been considered to be ahead when she started reading early. But it made zero difference for the future.
P.S. – It’s probably not a good idea to try to introduce handwriting at this age because young children just get frustrated. Most of them simply aren’t ready developmentally to be able to write very well yet. It’s fine, of course, for them to color and scribble and even write letters and numbers if they want to try, but I would suggest that you not emphasize good, legible handwriting until they’re much older.
2. Teaching High School
I now have two homeschool graduates, and my youngest is graduating in a few weeks. We know that hindsight is 20/20, but it can be so hard not to worry when you’ve never homeschooled a high school student!
You have the teacher’s manuals with all the answers! 🙂 Seriously, though, if you think you have to know every answer to every question and every tidbit of information in every book or resource you’re using, you’ll never be able to teach your kids at any age or grade level. Nobody knows everything there is to know about every subject, so you can mark that off your list of things to worry about. Seriously.
Yes, if you use traditional curriculum, you really will have the teacher’s books with the answers. And you and your children can look up (together!) answers to things you don’t know. I think it’s actually a fantastic way to model lifelong learning by allowing our kids to see that, while we don’t know everything, we are willing to learn and have the ability to find whatever information we need at any age! Learning isn’t just for kids or teens!
And you can easily outsource the subjects you don’t feel comfortable teaching. Nowadays there are homeschool co-ops, online curriculum options, and even self-teaching curriculum (directed toward the kids with minimal parent involvement required). Or you might partner with another mom who’s great at math if you’re great at English grammar. You teach both sets of kids the subject you’re best at, and she teaches them the subject she’s best at.
3. My Kids Getting into College
I spent years worrying that my kids wouldn’t be able to get into college or get good jobs after they graduated. And now I can see that all that worry was for nothing! I wish I could tell my former self to enjoy the high school years more and worry about them less!
My son, who graduated 5 years ago, was accepted into college and then decided to go to work instead. My fear had been that, if he chose to go to college, he wouldn’t be able to get in. But he did! The college looked at his ACT score and his transcript as well as his extra-curricular activities and letters of recommendation from his employer and others, and he didn’t have any trouble getting in. In fact, by far the majority of parents I hear from all over the United States say their kids had no trouble at all getting into college. In fact, many colleges are beginning to realize what great students most homeschooled students are, and they’re beginning to actively recruit them!
Okay, okay, you probably groaned when you read this one!! But there are still people out there who think homeschoolers don’t know how to socialize. I happen to think most of the people who want to believe this is an issue will continue to believe it just because they want to even though there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. But, if this is a concern of yours or if you feel like you just have to try to prove to your mom or your cousin or the checkout lady at the grocery store that your kids really do know how to socialize, there is some information you can share.
I wrote an article for Hip Homeschool Moms called Are You Worried About Socialization? In it, you’ll find a few questions to ask yourself and points to consider if this is something you’re worried about. We also have an article by Durenda Wilson on the topic of socialization. And, while it’s not research-based, we also have an article written by a homeschooled teenager! Her article is called Socialization Geniuses, and you might find it interesting and encouraging!
While we’re on the topic of socialization, it makes sense to include some information about the differences between true socialization and forced association. Most people have never really stopped to consider this, so you might be surprised to think about socialized vs. forced association.
5. The Pace and Age/Grade Level at Which My Children Learn Things
Remember the story I told you early in this article about my daughter (who learned to read early) and my son (who, according to some standards, learned to read late)? They both turned out to be fantastic readers! They both enjoy reading and are able to read for fun and enjoyment. It doesn’t matter at all and makes absolutely no difference that one learned early and the other learned later. I once heard a mom say that it doesn’t make any difference at what age our kids learn to read unless a prospective employer asks, “How old were you when you learned to read?” on a job application!
The same daughter who learned to read at a young age took a while to really get a grasp of math. Math just didn’t make sense to her! In fact, she was in about 3rd grade before we really started doing much formal math because, until that age, she just didn’t get it. To be honest, she never did become a super whiz at math, but she learned the basics in order to get into college or get a job after she graduates from our homeschool. In fact, she now works at a small local store and handles money, making change, and even balancing the money and receipts at the end of the day, so she’s very well able to do real-life math even though math never did become her best subject.
6. That My Kids Don’t Always Want to Homeschool
Over my twenty-four years of homeschooling, there have been times my kids didn’t want to homeschool. Heck, there have been times I didn’t want to homeschool! But here’s the thing. Kids have parents for a reason. Parents are the ones responsible for making the best decisions for our kids. Yes, I do believe we should take our children’s opinions into consideration as they get older. Yes, I believe our children should be allowed to make decisions (and live with the consequences–both good and bad) as they grow up. But parents are ultimately responsible for leading and guiding our children and for taking care of them the best we can until they are adults.
One of my children was very easily distracted. This child would have probably been labeled as having a learning disability (even though that was not the case) because of a lack of interest and short attention span. Homeschooling was definitely the best decision if I wanted any learning to happen. I’m not saying it’s a disaster for a child to go to public school, but I am saying it would not have been a good option for this particular child. Several years after high school graduation, this child (now an adult) said to me, “I know I wasn’t easy to homeschool. Thank you for making me do it anyway. Now that I’m working and hear from my co-workers about what went on when they went to school, I’m thankful you homeschooled me.” I was blown away! And that was confirmation to me (years later!) that I had done the right thing.
If there are reasons you choose to have your children go to public school, you have to make the best decision for your family! In my case, though, I knew the best decision was to keep on homeschooling, and I’m glad I did.
7. Not Finishing Every Lesson in the Book
I’ve always loved getting brand new school books at the beginning of a school year! I’ve always loved working my way through the books and learning new things (or refreshing things I’ve already learned) along with my children. And it’s always been hard for me when we don’t finish every lesson in every book. I’ve had to learn to live with it, though, and after almost 25 years of homeschooling, I must admit it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to!
Why? Because I remember being a student in public school and I remember being a school teacher before I started homeschooling. It was rare to completely finish a curriculum. It’s almost impossible (unless I want to make school a horrible chore for everyone) to finish everything because most of the time there is way more information than I could possibly teach or my children could possibly learn in one school year. And that’s ok! I’ve learned to handle this in several ways.
First, I’ve learned to plan for 4-day school weeks. It seems that real life happens quite often! There are days when someone is too sick to do school. There are times a grandparent needs our help. There are lovely days that we just have to go outside and enjoy! There are times when one of my kids just doesn’t get something and it takes more time than I planned. But part of our job as homeschool parents is teaching our children to handle real life. To adapt when necessary and move on with life. We’re teaching them to be adults–not perpetual students.
If you’re worried about finishing the school year, there are some things you can consider to make it easier and less stressful. But don’t let it ruin your kids’ love of learning or your relationship with them.
8. Keeping My House Clean
Okay, okay, I know you laughed when you read this one. Most of us try so hard to keep our houses clean while we homeschool, and it never seems to work. Some days even when I’ve tried my hardest to get things done and keep the house clean, it looks worse than ever! It truly is a never-ending battle to keep the house clean. But I’ve noticed something. The people who keep immaculate homes are the ones who don’t live in them! They’re the folks who stay up late cleaning or get up early to clean and then go to work all day so nobody’s home to mess things up. Those of us who homeschool and are home during the day are using things, making things, moving things, and doing things all day long! In other words, our houses are going to look like people live in them
Yes, we need to do our best to keep our homes decently clean. Yes, we need to teach our children to help keep the house clean. But we also need to give ourselves some grace and realize that our homes won’t look like those in magazines unless we drive ourselves and our families crazy trying to keep them that way. And that’s not worth it. At least it’s not to me.
There are some quick ways to clean the house when company is coming and some strategies for helping to keep the house clean on a daily basis, but it’s a good idea to keep in mind that your house won’t be perfectly clean while you have young children.
9. Other People Who Don’t Want Me to Homeschool
Have you ever been told by a parent, friend, neighbor, or (for goodness sake!!) even the clerk at the grocery store that you shouldn’t be homeschooling your children for one reason or another? It seems that it’s perfectly fine for anybody and everybody to question our decision to homeschool, yet these same people would never consider telling parents of public school children that they made the wrong decision for their children. I don’t get it.
To be honest, most of these folks are worried that our homeschooled children won’t get proper socialization. (Gasp!!) Some of them are worried that our children won’t receive a good enough education. (Even though research shows otherwise.)
We should keep in mind that, most of the time, people who are questioning our decisions truly are concerned about us and our children. That makes it much easier for me to respond in a kind way. (Although I have to admit it can be hard!) Over the years we’ve homeschooled, I’ve learned to quickly tell the difference between someone who is truly curious about homeschooling and someone who is biased against it and doesn’t want to learn more but instead only wants to convince me that I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.
If I get questions from someone who is truly interested in learning about homeschooling, I’m happy to answer questions and point that person to research and my own experiences. If I get questions from someone who is only trying to convince me that I’m wrong, I’ve learned to simply say something like, “Thank you for your concern, but it’s my job to do what’s best for my own children,” and end the conversation there. You have permission to do the same thing. I think you’ll find it’s very freeing!
10. Bad Days
We’ve definitely had our share of bad days over the twenty-four years we’ve homeschooled. Bad days happen. In the early years, I was certain bad days meant I was doing something terribly wrong. I was ruining my life and my children’s lives. I was a failure as a mom and a teacher. With time and experience, though, I began to realize that we have bad days whether we homeschool or not. Our kids have bad days. It’s just going to happen. The thing we need to think about is how to handle those days.
Instead of questioning whether or not we should be homeschooling, we should focus on learning to deal constructively with bad days when they happen. Maybe you’re bringing your child home from public school and you would benefit from deschooling. Maybe you would benefit from reading my list of Top 10 Homeschool Do’s and Don’ts for some tips on things you could do to feel more relaxed (Our kids notice our stress, and they get stressed too.) and enjoy your school year more. Or maybe these Seven Tips for Days When Homeschooling Is NOT Working will encourage you and give you some ideas to use when you have one of those days.
Enjoy Your Kids and Your Homeschooling Years!
As a mom who is about to graduate her last child, I can tell you it’s both exciting and sad to see my homeschooling years come to an end. If there is ONE single thing I could do over, I would choose to worry less and enjoy my children more. Period. I would choose to take more good weather days to play outside and have fun together. I would choose to laugh more and stress less. But, since we don’t usually get do-overs in life, instead I’ll choose to look back on these years and remember the good things and the happy days we spent together. And I’ll watch my children become adults and make their own way in life knowing I’m there to love and support them.
Mother’s Day Giveaway (Closed)
If you read (at the top of this article) about this giveaway, you already know I’ve partnered with a great group of bloggers to bless some moms by giving away FOUR $100 gift cards to the winners’ choice of Hobby Lobby, Christianbook.com, grocery store of your choice, or a restaurant of your choice.
I know the Rafflecopter below has quite a few entry options, but each blogger generously chipped in her own money to bring you this giveaway, so I hope you’ll take a few moments to complete all the entries. And the more entries you do, the better your chances of winning!
The giveaway ends May 7 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email to claim her prize (so be sure you check your email on May 8 to see if you won!). By entering this giveaway, you will be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers. (We hope you’ll love being on their email lists! Give them a try! If not, you can unsubscribe.) Please be sure to read the Terms & Conditions upon entering the giveaway. By entering, you agree and acknowledge your understanding of the Terms & Conditions.