Maybe you’re the mom of a preschooler (or preschoolers), and you’re just considering this whole homeschooling idea. It sounds great, but your biggest concern is: if you don’t homeschool “right,” you might be damaging your kids for life!
If that sounds familiar, take heart! Most of us started in exactly the same place, with that same concern. Here are key insights from more than 15 area moms to help you avoid the homeschool mistakes they made:
Don’t try to make your homeschool a mini-“public school.”
The temptation for many conventional-school-grads-turned-homeschoolers is to think their children must learn the way they did, sometimes even buying mini-whiteboards, school bells, and other classroom equipment.
While none of these things are necessarily wrong, they’re not necessary either. Your children can learn just as much – sometimes more – just by reading a book with mom, exploring a butterfly park, and romping through the zoo.
You don’t always have to sit them down in a chair, either. As one mom put it, “Did you know that you can learn hanging upside down off the couch?!”
Play more, push less.
This is especially relevant in the preschool years, when learning really doesn’t have to be as structured as in high school. In fact, the popular Charlotte Mason approach (see this blog post: 7 Characteristics of a Charlotte Mason Education) is to delay formal academic training until the child is 6 years old.
One mom’s heartfelt advice is to relax more in the early years, just enjoying time with your kids. “I pushed too hard,” she said, “and should have played more.”
Try shorter timespans.
For kindergarten and first grade especially, short timespans are sometimes critical to homeschool success! Children’s attention spans are naturally shorter during these years, and many homeschool moms are amazed to find how quickly their “school day” is over even after they’ve gone through every planned item on their to-do list.
It’s not uncommon for the entire school day to take place in 45 minutes to an hour, with the rest of the day just remaining open to play, eat, nap and follow Mom around as she completes her daily errands. 🙂
Focus on relationships, inside and outside the family.
Kathy Roggow, who homeschooled her three children and now helps homeschool her grandchildren, said in our “how to homeschool” workshop that your children’s respect is crucial to the success of your homeschool.
“Your homeschool will not work if your children won’t listen to you,” she said.
One of the books she recommended in this area was “Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes … in You and Your Kids” by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. The book also tackles honor-based relationships outside the home, such as relating to public figures of authority and other families and friends.
Ask and answer questions.
Have you ever been in the middle of a busy day and your kid just wants to talk and talk, asking you question after question? Maybe you’re thinking, “I just don’t have time right now.” Or worse yet, you may not even know the answers! 😀
We’ve all been there. Instead of beating yourself over the times you may have made homeschool mistakes, take every question as a learning opportunity. If necessary, start asking questions of your child, then explore the answers together. If your child wants to know where butterflies come from, for example, go hunting for information on caterpillars and visit your local nature center.
Treat packaged curricula that promise to “do it all!” with caution.
Especially in the early preschool years, a ton of curricula and books is sometimes more bother than it’s worth.
Did you know that according to NPR, the average cost is $10,615 for one child in public school per year? That’s combining federal, state and local government spending. Homeschooling is often much cheaper, and can produce even better academic results!
Follow your child’s lead.
If you’ve been around homeschoolers for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the phrases “learning style” and “teaching style.” Basically, we all have different ways to process information – visual means, auditory means, or hands-on (kinesthetic) means.
HSLDA has a quick list of personal learning styles for those just beginning to explore this concept. By listening to your children, noting their interests and ways they learn, you can figure out the best approaches for their education. As one mom explains, “If they see personal value and meaning in the learning process, then they will embrace it.”
If it’s not working, drop it.
So maybe all the curricula you bought is still not overcoming your child’s hatred of math. Or perhaps they just cannot seem to spell, no matter how hard you try. The problem is, you’ve been using this curriculum already so long – you may be halfway through the school year already!
Yes, it is a pain, but here’s an open secret – many homeschool moms have switched curriculum or their teaching approaches midway through the school year. Whatever isn’t working just isn’t worth your valuable time (or your child’s). Even if it worked for one kid, it may not work for another.
“Teach them to read and then provide a constant flow of books to read.”
Guess what? You don’t have to be your child’s only teacher. Expose them to nursery rhymes, poems, classics (abridged and/or tailored to their age), and good old-fashioned storytelling. It’s amazing what they’ll pick up though literature … and they may not even consider it “school.”
Perhaps you’re feeling blue because your son still wrestles with the alphabet, while Little Miss Overachiever in the homeschool house next door (same age, same grade) is already writing in cursive.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating, especially in the area of homeschooling. “It’s really not a competition.”
That means you need to give yourself grace, avoiding the temptation to compare your family with others – even your fellow homeschool families!
Turn “failures” into “learning opportunities!”
Here’s another open secret. You will eventually encounter the days when nothing seems to work. Maybe you had the lesson plan and everything all mapped out, but then a family crisis ensues or an emergency doctor’s visit occurs.
When those days happen, adapt! Maybe it will be a “career/field trip day” when you discuss healthcare and medical procedures, or learn about geography and directions as you’re on the road. Many homeschool families have “home ec days” where they’ll bake cookies, do chores together or just run household errands.
After all, someday your children will probably have days like these to contend with. When that happens, for better or for worse, they will probably follow your lead!
This post was originally published in October 2014. It has been updated for clarity and comprehensiveness.
In need of a little encouragement? Our team of experienced mentoring moms stands ready to listen to, encourage, advise, and/or help you solve problems in your homeschool. If they don’t know the answers, there is a good chance they will know someone who will! To be assigned to a mentor, please fill out this questionnaire.