Homeschooling, while more popular and acceptable than ever, comes with pitfalls. There seem to be a few common mistakes among homeschooling parents teaching kids of all ages. I was tempted to put a “How To Avoid Them” into the title, but I don’t know that avoiding these mistakes are all bad. And I am not convinced that they are in fact avoidable! As parents, we all do what we think is best. If you can help it, don’t let the happy prospects of homeschooling lead you down the wrong path.
1. Mistake One – One Size Fits All
New homechoolers are often uneasy at providing “everything” a child needs for that first year. This worry increases incrementally with each additional child. While a boxed curriculum (all you need for each year of school in one box) can work for some families, it is rare. If you opt for this route your first year, and you and your kids don’t look remotely like the happy people on the website after a week or two, don’t despair. It’s okay to toss what’s not working. It’s okay if you don’t finish every read-aloud book. It’s okay if you never truly converse in the foreign language of your choice! You’ve made a big investment. Take what you can from it. Sell or donate what you did not use. Your children are not permanently scarred and the odds are they will still get into the colleges of their/your choice!
2. Mistake Two – You Are Not Ma Ingalls
For some reason people start homeschooling and also adopt attitudes about diet and feeding their family. There is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it can be a good thing. However, if you are just starting to homeschool, focus on the homeschooling! It’s hard to teach phonics, grind your own wheat, get your sour dough starter going and make prairie dresses for all the women on your Christmas list in a few short months. These are all worthy things to do, just get a handle on the homeschool thing first. There is time for the rest later.
3. Mistake Three – Gifted
Perhaps you’ve taken a child tagged as “gifted” out of school. Perhaps you’ve decided to homeschool your own child because you’re sure he’s “gifted.” Reality check. Gifted is overrated. When is the last time you asked another adult if they were gifted? Yeah. The beauty of homeschooling is that your child can work as far ahead as they need to and it’s okay to back up if review is needed. Let go of the gifted label. Do not insist that your four-year-old child join a field trip of 10-11 year-old homeschoolers because she’s gifted. She’s still FOUR! She does not need to be hanging out with older kids and developmentally, she probably does not have the attention span for such a trip. If she does, arrange a field trip for just you and your child.
4. Mistake Four – Mismatch
You might love the idea of classical homeschooling or you might love the idea of unschooling. Great. It’s important, though, that you take into account what you and your partner are really like. Are you both enough into grammar, Latin and Shakespeare to pull off a classical education? If you are not interested and willing to learn, do not waste your time. If you love the idea of unschooling, are you willing to truly let your child lead with her interests? Opt for a type of homeschooling that you get and can embrace on a regular basis.
5. Mistake Five – Take Off the Rose-Colored Glasses
You have researched and researched and two months in you find that you hate the reading/spelling/math whatever you chose. If you are experiencing tantrums, crying, hiding or general dismay, it’s okay to switch to something else. Homeschooling is about getting to know your child. You might think something is a good fit. Your child is going to let you know if it’s a good fit. Balking at an assignment is fine. Daily drama and a child who clearly does not understand the program is different. Sell the old, bring in something new.
Homeschooling is a great option. However, it is fraught with pitfalls and challenges. Do not get so hung up on one ideal way to homeschool that you miss the best way to homeschool your own child.