There’s quite a few things I did right in the past umpteen-years I’ve been homeschooling. Regardless of the teasing I get every day from my own teens, it hasn’t been half-bad growing up in the Garfias homeschool.
I have made my fair share of mistakes.
We all have, right? It’s how we learn and grow as homeschool mommies. Maybe the last child gets the best education because we’ve learned how to do it by then (but maybe we’re too tired to put in all the effort at that point, too!).
I hope I’ve learned from my mistakes and become a more effective teacher, a more patient mother, and a more relaxed homeschooler after all these years of trial-and-error. Looking back, there are a few things I would do differently right from the beginning, if I could start all over. That’s one of the reasons I wrote Homeschool Made Easy, so you can benefit from my pain (or my children’s pain! ha!).
How to Homeschool Better — Don’t Do These
Here are the mistakes I most regret.
1. Making my preschooler do a lot of worksheets.
He was a good boy, my firstborn, and bravely sat through hours of tracing, matching, coloring, and copying. It did him little good — he can’t draw or write legibly. I’m not sure the unnecessary work did him a lot of harm, because he is a good student today who looks forward to a many years of college study. But life definitely would have been easier for both of us if I had just thrown out all those useless workbooks. Or saved money by not buying them in the first place.
2. Pushing reading too soon.
All my children were fairly early readers, three of them reading independently around age five. Only one waited until around seven years old, but what was my big hurry? My first two children endured two years of flash cards, white boards, and paper booklets just to get a year or two jump on the early reading competition. By middle school, I can’t tell a difference between the one who read at four and the one who read at seven. That was a lot of stress for nothing. By my last child, I was much more relaxed — just reading with him on my lap and spending a couple minutes looking at phonics. He got it the same time as everyone else.
3. Following school lesson plans.
Oh, for the love of Pete, why did I get out the big Teacher’s Edition of every curriculum, set my child down on the chair in front of me, and lecture him in every subject? It’s comical to look back on it. What a buffoon I was! Throwing those out was the single greatest homeschool decision I made — looking up from the binder into my child’s eyes and just speaking love and truth to him.
That’s when we started to relax and love learning together.
4. Making lesson plans a rocket science.
This, too, was my big throwback to institutionalized learning. I didn’t just torture my preschooler with workbooks, but I also punished myself with detailed lesson plans. That did me no good. It took me over a decade to get past the grid of boxes (and this feeling I have to fill them up with really useful things) to just listing the plain and simple what-I-need-to-know and leave it at that.
5. Worrying what other parents thought of my homeschooling.
This was reflected in my lesson plan paranoia, and it also spilled over into way too many other aspects of my teaching — drilling facts, repeating memorization, dropping hints about what we are doing lately, etc. For Pete’s sakes, why did I care so much? No one was handing out awards for Super Awesome Homeschool Mom of the Year, anyway (right? Or did I miss the application?). I had to relax and not care, really not care, and just do what’s right for my family, my children, and my self.
6. Not preparing my middle school student for high school.
It was a bigger shock for him to move up to the harder material, more serious grading, and permanent transcript of high school. I didn’t let him ease into it enough in eighth grade, so the freshman year was really hard (like being fourteen isn’t hard enough on a guy!). I really felt bad for him, though he adjusted remarkably well. And now I’m planning ahead better for his siblings.
7. Not recognizing my student’s unique learning style.
The biggest mistake I made as a homeschool mom (and still catch myself making!) is treating my students as the same. But they aren’t. And they’ve never been taught en masse in an institution, so they are hard-wired to expect me to be sensitive to their individuality.
But I’m not always paying attention like I should. I just truck along in my routine, not noticing that I’m not speaking his language or I’m not letting him learn how he is most comfortable or I’m asking him to do something that takes all his attention away from learning (like making my middle son sit still while learning something new).
There is a time (like high school) for practicing how to learn in a classroom and how to learn from different teachers. The early years, though, are not the ideal time for these lessons. If I want my student to actually absorb new information quickly and make it a part of his life, I need let him do so the way God created him to learn. I need to quit being frustrated that he isn’t learning the way I do and start working with his strengths to help him shine.
So these are my worst homeschooling mistakes. I hope I don’t keep repeating them, though I’m sure I still have a lot to learn! I am thankful that homeschooling my children (an elementary student, a middle schooler, and two high schoolers) is a lot easier now than it was in the beginning. That’s why I wrote Homeschool Made Easy — so it can be easier for you, too. Get your copy and start making homeschooling more fun today.