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Homeschooling Do’s and Don’ts


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It seems unbelievable that our family is so close to the end of our homeschooling years. We have graduated one student and have two in high school. A lot has changed since that first day in 2002 when an unsure, but hopeful young homeschooling mom gathered up her three children for a field trip to launch our homeschool trial year.

I’ve learned – and relaxed – a lot since those early days of homeschooling. Now that we’re near the end of our journey, I thought I’d share 10 homeschooling do’s and don’ts based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.

Homeschooling Don’ts

1. Don’t knock somebody else’s style. I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again a time or two: don’t criticize someone else’s homeschooling style because you never know when it will become your style. There is a time and a season for everything.

Your homeschool is going to change and grow as you and your family go through various seasons of life. What may seem completely foreign to you now may seem like just the right approach in a few years. As homeschooling families, we should learn from and support one another, not criticize each other. We’ve got the rest of the world to handle that for us.

2. Don’t make your homeschool look like a public school classroom. It’s okay to have a schedule – even a strict one – if that suits your family. It’s okay for to use workbooks or have a school-at-home style, if that suits your family. But, don’t model your home after a public school classroom just because that’s the only educational model you’ve ever seen.

If public school worked for your kids, isn’t that where they would be? Don’t feel that you have to copy a broken model. Make your home a homeschool, not a homeschool. You will get the hang of this. You will find your groove. It may take some time, but trust your instincts. You’re not going to ruin your kid in a year.

Kids' First Day of School My kids on our very first homeschooling day ever.

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It may take you awhile to find the style, schedule, and/or curriculum that works for you and your kids. Deciding to change things up isn’t admitting failure. It’s realizing that your first attempt may not have been the best choice for your family.

Change things up. Alter your schedule. Take your time. When you’re doing something you’ve never done before, sometimes it takes some experimenting to figure out what works best.

4. Don’t think you have to jump in all at once. You don’t have to dive into every subject the first day, the first week, or even the first month. This is an adjustment for all of you. Give yourselves some time to get acclimated. Choose to focus on one or two core subjects and something your child really enjoys like music, art, or nature study for the first week or two. Then, add in other subjects, a couple a week, until you’re doing your full course load.

Maybe you’ve found the math and grammar curriculum that you want to use, but you’re still stumped on history and science. Enjoy some great books and videos from the library on history and science topics while you research. The world isn’t going to stop and your child isn’t going to be uneducated if you don’t have every single thing in place on the first day of school. Really.

5. Don’t put your kids in every extracurricular activity under the sun. A big mistake I see a lot of homeschooling parents make is trying to put their kids in every available activity to show how socialized they are. This does nothing but burn you and your kids out (unless you and your kids are extremely extroverted and like being on-the-go all the time).

If you’re signing your kids up for all the things to make yourself and the grandparents feel better about the whole socialization thing, you’re not doing anyone a favor. The people who really care about your kids are going to see soon enough that they’ll be just fine and the ones who just want to argue with you are never going to be convinced anyway.

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Homeschooling Do’s

6. Do glamorize homeschooling. It’s okay to talk up homeschooling to your kids a little bit. Everything from books to TV shows assume that every kid in America goes to a traditional school. It’s okay to show your kids that homeschool can be really cool, too.

Look for books about homeschooled kids. (They do exist.) Go on cool field trips. Take off when the public school kids are at school. The first year we homeschooled, I purposely started a week or two after the public schools just to show Brianna one of the benefits of homeschooling – that we could customize our schedule.

7. Do expect to make curriculum mistakes. You’re not always going to love everything you buy. It is frustrating? Yes. Does it feel like you’ve wasted money? Yes.

However, I’d rather feel like I wasted a little bit of money than stick with something that is clearly not a good fit. Sometimes you can tweak your homeschool curriculum so that it’s not a total loss. Don’t be afraid to do that, but don’t be unwilling to admit a curriculum mistake. We’ve all done it. Chalk it up to a learning experience and move on.

8. Do get involved with your local homeschooling community. The friends I made the first year we homeschooled helped us make it through the adjustment period – through all those moments of self-doubt. Brianna still enjoys a close friendship with the first homeschooled friend she ever made. When you’re doing something radically different, it helps to form bonds with like-minded folks who will encourage you when you’re struggling.

9. Do make learning fun and hands-on when you can. It’s not your job as a parent or a teacher to put on some circus act for your kids. You don’t have to try to make everything fun. However, it’s good to put forth an effort to make learning fun and hands-on when you can.

Having kids actively engaged, enjoying what they’re learning and doing, helps them retain more of the information they’re taking in each day. Think about some of the most memorable lessons you’ve learned in life. How engaged were you in the process? What was it about the lesson that made it memorable? Was it something that you were interested in? Were you actively involved in the learning process? Try to provide these types of opportunities for your kids.

10. Do allow yourself time to adjust. I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s worth repeating. The first year of homeschooling is an adjustment period for everyone, whether you’re schooling a child who’s been in public school for a few years or you’re doing formal learning for the first time with your child who’s always been home.

Your mental image of homeschooling and your reality may be vastly different. It took us nearly four years to really feel like we’d found our groove with homeschooling – and we still lose it from time to time. It’s okay if it takes you awhile to feel like you’ve got this homeschooling thing figured out. You’re not alone. You’ll get there.

If you’ve homeschooled for a while, what tips would you offer a new homeschooling parent?

updated from an article originally published July 3, 2012

This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.

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19 Comments

  1. I stalk your blog because I’m envious. 🙂 I homeschooled my oldest for a semester then a divorce forced me to have to put her in public school. If your kids need homeschooling glamorized, just make them go through a day as if they would at school: stand in line for 20 minutes to go to lunch… then again for 20 minutes after lunch to go to the bathroom… NO talking all day long, even at lunch… and 10 minutes to play outside if they’re lucky. Oh, and throw in a couple of mean girls just for fun.

    1. I’m sorry that you’ve been forced to return your daughter to public school. That must be very difficult for both of you. My kids typically don’t need homeschooling glamorized much — their older sister attended public school for two years. She knows exactly what it’s like and it happy to tell them.

    2. Oh my goodness, that is awesome. You are hilarious. Good idea, though, if my kids decide to give me attitude. So far, they realize they are very blessed to be at home for school… but they are 5 and 6, and I “brainwash” them every school day, telling them how great it is that we can do this or that, because kids at public school don’t get to! (I know, I used to be a public school teacher!)

  2. Thank you so much for these reminders this morning! I’ve been homeschooling for 3 years. I don’t know if I’m the only one out there, but I get depressed at back to school time. I used to teach school and as a teacher I loved back to school…everything about it. I take the girls to Target and Walmart and we buy school supplies, lunch boxes, clothes, etc… just like everyone else. But I have feelings of guilt this time of year. I guess there’s some deep-seated part of me that feels like my kids are missing out. I know in my heart I’m doing the right thing. Don’t get me wrong. I love homeschooling! But this fall my youngest starts kindergarten. She would be going through all the rites of passage associated with school. There’s something about that I miss. Any thoughts or suggestions? Anyone else feel this way?

    As for tips, I agree with everything you said. The thing about not criticizing is SO true. It’s just like parenting styles. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. In 3 years we’ve tried just about everything under the sun and hit every homeschool style at least once. LOL. We’ve finally found our groove…I think 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing these, what an encouragement.
    After our first full year of homeschool, my goal is to make our homeschool look more like home – I am not sure how that will look, but I know RELAX will be part of my job. I definitley see more hands on and more outside as part of this.

    I so agree with the don’t knock others style, I have learned so much from seeing how others build their day and learn differently.

    And lastly, thanks for the glamorize homeschool thought. My little guy, who will be six and thinks being six is all things grown up, thinks that the school bus and the school building are part of what grown up means. (Of course he also thinks sky diving, getting married, and having a really sharp pocket knife should be done at six as well)

  4. Oh! I had to smile and chuckle, and finally laugh! I love what you wrote here, Kris. I just sat down with my husband last week and confessed that I had my kids in every activity I could find to “make up” for me homeschooling them! He looked at me like I just jumped off the spaceship from Mars and said, “They are PRIVILEGED to be homeschooled by their mother!” We took the crazy list of activities that decorated our calendar last year asked ourselves, “Which of these will matter to them when they are older?” That sliced out half of them. Then, “Which of these will they get the most out of, and we cannot do at home?” THAT left us with TWO: Violin lessons and American Heritage Girls/Cub Scouts. With the money we will save opting out of the various other activities, we will be able to buy the books my husbands need for going back to school.

    I also realized right from the get-go that I would be a hodge-podge homeschooler. I borrowed a whole curriculum “set” the first year, then used only 1/4 of it. I supplemented all sorts of other things that suited us better for one reason or another. At first, I was annoyed I was re-inventing the wheel. The set has everything all planned out- almost no thinking required to teach! But then I gave myself permission to do my teaching job. I know what is best for my own style and the needs of my kids. I will probably put together bits and pieces to make up our curriculum every year, and that is just the way I am. I sometimes wish I would just buy the set and let it do its magic…

    Thanks for your blog. When I feel discouraged, I pop in and see what you are up to. I always feel inspired after visiting your site.

    1. Aww, thanks, Bonnie. It makes me feel great to know I can encourage you. Way to pare down those extra-curricular activities! I bet you and your family will enjoy the extra downtime together.

  5. Your first one is very important. I’ve been homeschooling mine for 9 years now. I started out a radical unschooler who was VERY critical of the formal, school-at-home types. 9 years later we’re *gulp* Classical homeschoolers and my oldest (14 yo) does about 6 hours a day of sit down work. You never know where homeschoolng will take you. In our case I was led by my daughter who loves things like Latin and grammar and thrives with an academic routine (which blows my lazy and undisciplined mind). It may take yet another turn with my sons but for now I’ll enjoy the style we’re exploring.

    1. It’s funny how things we think will never change often have a way of doing just that, isn’t it? I’ve learned to never say never.

  6. I needed this – thanks! 🙂

    My biggest hang up is comparing us to other homeschoolers, and just as soon as I think I have a grasp on it – wham! It hits me again. (Even last Friday!!! Just last Friday!!!)

    I have to constantly remind myself that this is me, this is our family, this is our thing, this is how we do it, and it doesn’t matter if Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones is doing it using method XYZ – this is how it works for us. Because if I try it their way, it doesn’t work – and then we are all miserable, especially me.

    Thank you! 🙂

  7. I needed this – thanks! 🙂

    My biggest hang up is comparing us to other homeschoolers, and just as soon as I think I have a grasp on it – wham! It hits me again. (Even last Friday!!! Just last Friday!!!)

    I have to constantly remind myself that this is me, this is our family, this is our thing, this is how we do it, and it doesn’t matter if Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones is doing it using method XYZ – this is how it works for us. Because if I try it their way, it doesn’t work – and then we are all miserable, especially me.

    Thank you! 🙂

  8. I have been homeschooling my two boys (11 and 9) now for three years. My oldest went to public school through 3rd grade. We also have a 4year old daughter. She goes to a Christian preschool 4 days a week in the morning. I feel like we are still trying to find our fit with homeschooling. We had both our kids in Georgia Cyber Academy, and just recently our oldest in tears begged us to pull him out. He couldn’t handle the stress of the demanding curriculum, and had a great fear of failing the CRCT. After much discussion with him and my husband we recently decided to withdraw him. This was the best decision ever. We don’t really have a set curriculum with him, but we see him starting to thrive and seeking out other interests like drawing,etc. Our other son wanted to finish the Cyber Academy so he continues to have a demanding schedule. Especially since the CRCT’s are next week. We will probably withdraw him too. I know that homeschooling is part of God’s plan for our family, but I’ve never felt such a since of inadequacy in my life. My prayer time has slipped away, and I often find myself making excuses in the morning for why I need more sleep. I know reconnecting with Christ will strengthen me in my weakness and encourage me.
    I often compare myself to other homeschoolers and families of kids who attend public school. I have several friends whose kids are in public school, and I feel like there is a subtle comparison game going on. Almost, like they are trying to prove that their kids are just fine in public school. My children definitely have some academic struggles, but I still feel led to homeschool. I also often doubt myself thinking my kids would be happier in public school. I’ve even threatened to put them back in ( on bad days… I’m not proud of this). They tell me they don’t want to go back.
    I believe a huge part of this HS journey is having faith that we are totally called to do God’s will when often times( most times) I struggle with these feelings. Thanks for your words of encouragement with your HS experience. I do have a great support network of HS moms in my area. I think I may need to start leaning into them more.

    1. If it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t until our 4th homeschooling year that I finally began to feel like I’d found our groove.

  9. I agree with all your wisdom, Kris! This is our 15th year of homeschooling (1 graduate, two high-schoolers, one jr.higher and four elementary), and it still amazes me that every year of homeschool looks so different! Not that we change curriculum much; we don’t. But as each child grows and changes and our activities and opportunities are different each year….well, it ain’t boring!! I tell people it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but I wouldn’t trade homeschooling for anything! Precious years of experiencing so much LIFE with your children.

  10. Hi! I am brand new and just wanted to say that I am seriously considering homeschooling my babes. Beginning 2019-20 school year for my son, followed by my daughter 3 yrs later. I am hoping this will be a good transition time For each of them…my son had an IEP IN school and is an absolute sensitive angel who gets picked on constantly and my daughter is a social
    Butterfly…either way. There’s so much wrong and frustrating about sending my most precious people away for 8 hrs a day to be bored, tormented, intimidated and to practice bad behaviors. I just don’t see how it benefits them any longer. I am praying I’m making the right choice and would love ANY feedback on a fresh newbie gearing up and prepping for this venture. I am also a single mom but know I’ll receive the support financially for this so not too concerned about that.
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank u!

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