10 Homeschooling Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Homeschooling can be an incredibly trying time. If you’re considering homeschooling or have already started doing it, you’ve probably heard the horror stories. But, not to worry! As a provider of online content for homeschool families world-wide, Northgate Academy has some helpful tips for families in need of guidance or just starting out on their homeschool journey.

Turning Homeschooling into Mini-Public School 

It’s important to remember the reasons why your children are not enrolled in public school. Your first step is to remember those reasons to avoid turning homeschooling into a mini-public school.  Although you will want to keep accurate records and a good schedule, what you don’t want is to model your students’ experiences after those of the public school system.  As soon as you start giving out “passes” to the bathroom or refuse to change something because it’s the way you’ve always done it, you’re already veering away from your goal. 

Flexibility and reflection are key for this. If something isn’t working, unlike in public school, you have the right and the autonomy to ditch it. You don’t want your child to have the experience of one among many in a factory of education, so remembering what brought you to homeschooling and reflecting on what you want to do differently before you start, at intervals during your homeschooling path, and at the end of each grade level will be a helpful way to make sure you’re sticking with your goals and values.

Not Setting Up Study Spaces

Although homeschooling offers a lot of flexibility, it’s important to maintain some physical reminders of expectations for when school is in session. Before you start teaching your children at home, identify where they will work on their studies, what locations are best for distraction-free learning, and what areas will ward off anxiety and pressure.

Options are a wonderful part of schooling at home, so take advantage of that! If one of your children can focus better out on the porch when the weather is nice, but they work better in the basement in the quiet when they need to, then those are their designated study areas. If your child is easily distracted by video games, then right next to the Xbox or PlayStation should be one of their No-Zones. 

The great part about setting up study spaces is that you know your children better than anyone, so figuring out a compromise about where they will do their schoolwork should be a great opportunity to teach them about priorities, focus, and working together for a solution. By setting up workspaces for your students, you will show them that school, even at home, is still going to be work, and academics are an important priority for everyone.

Being Too Rigid

Although you want to set expectations and a space to work, what you don’t want to do is be too rigid. Especially if your children experience anxiety or struggle to focus, being too rigid can become a burden for you and discouraging for the creativity and spirits of your children.

On days when you are feeling that burden or discouragement, it might be the day to stop and re-evaluate your plans. It’s okay to stop and do a creative activity! It’s okay to head into the city or the woods for some hands-on learning. Maybe it’s time for your kids to learn how to cook or bake their favorite food, and maybe it’s time to watch the movie version of a novel you’ve been reading together. Your options are endless to break with the schedule while still learning.

Over-scheduling & Under-scheduling

Another mistake homeschooling families often make is to either over- or under-schedule. Sure, you have flexibility, but you still have to meet your student’s academic needs. That means that planning can be tricky. One way to make sure that you are covering what you need while still allowing for days of activity and bonding is to plan a little more loosely by including some flex-days in your schedule.

Setting aside two or three days each month to “spend” when you need to will allow you to assess your children’s and your own needs and not feel guilty about stopping your regular schedule. You can even make a “flex day” jar with activities in it that you or your students can draw from. Whatever you pull out, that’s what you do that day. Over-scheduling is a fast track to burnout, so allowing flexibility while still following your schedule is important. 

Under-scheduling means that your students are going to fall behind and won’t be making the progress that they need. Too often, parents become burdened to push their children to finish way too much work in a short amount of time when too much time has slipped by without a focus on academics. This is difficult for everyone, so planning is important. Use a digital calendar to schedule out your lessons or do what teachers are taught to do: backwards plan! 

Backwards planning is achieved when you set the final goal, and then plan from there. Start with what students need to as a final step to achieve mastery of the skill, then what they need to do right before that, and so on. Once you have the list of skills, divide that up across the time period you want your school year to stretch, and stick to your plan. By backwards planning, you will see everything your child needs to learn in front of you, and it will be much easier to create and follow a schedule.

 

Skipping Daily Breaks 

You need breaks, and so do your students. You will be tempted to skip breaks so that you can finish the school day early. However, brain breaks are essential for young minds to be able to really absorb what they’re learning. Even though it’s fun to end a school day early, use the flexibility homeschooling allows you to have “early release” days without skipping breaks between schoolwork and lessons.

You will get a lot more quality learning from students who have had the chance to recharge than you will from pushing them forward with the reward of a shorter day.

Trying to Go It Alone

You’re not alone when it comes to homeschooling, so you don’t have to struggle through it alone. There are many options for both curriculum and support. You can find homeschooling groups near you through organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association, by doing a quick internet search for homeschool groups near you, or by joining local homeschool organization through social media sources. 

If you’re wondering how you will navigate advanced courses, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed with planning, organizing, and scoring work, you can use resources such as Northgate Academy’s individual course enrollment options. With 12 months to complete the self-paced courses, you will still be able to experience a flexible schedule along with a variety of courses for a well-rounded academic experience. Your students will have instructors to reach out to with questions, while you still have the ability to work one-on-one with your child.

Isolating Your Kids

Your children are a wonderful priority for you; otherwise, you would never have chosen the homeschooling life. However, one regret that homeschooling parents do express is isolating their children. You can avoid this by making sure your students are involved in a variety of activities. Get them enrolled in dance, gymnastics, community theater, or sports. Youth group activities are a wonderful way for students to make connections with other young people, learn to relate to their peers, or experience how to work together for a common goal. 

Homeschool groups plan activities, so involvement in that type of local support is an option to make sure your children don’t feel alone. They can meet other homeschooled students who are experiencing life in many of the same ways your children are. You will be giving them a valuable opportunity to bond with others who have similar values and experiences. 

Comparing Your Children to Others

This mistake is a challenge. It can be hard to listen to other parents talk about their children without comparing your students to theirs. On top of this is the added challenge if you have multiple children in your family to compare. Remembering that one of the reasons you chose to homeschool was to give your children the chance to live as individuals will be an important factor in your fight to combat the comparison game. 

Take a moment to meditate on that fact and the good you are doing. Be grateful for the successes of others, but spend time focusing on your positive experiences, too. There is no comparison between your children and others. They’re all individuals. They will have individual successes and failures. The most wonderful aspect of this experience, though, is that you will be there for those experiences. They will have the benefit of seeing how you face adversity and how you value you them as individuals.

Ignoring Input from Your Children

Being a guiding force in your family, it can be easy to dismiss the input your children are giving you. But one of the reflections homeschool parents will tell you is that it’s important to ask for and graciously receive the input your children give you. Certainly, you are the filter for their ideas and even their complaints. However, simply writing off any feedback they give you will be something you could regret later on.

Teaching them how to give constructive feedback and how to be unbiased is a valuable life skill. Listening to their ideas will help them build confidence, problem solving skills, and respect of other’s thoughts.

Not Recognizing Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

Homeschool parents can be really hard on themselves. Don’t be! We all learn from mistakes, so viewing any mistakes you or your children make as learning opportunities will do a whole lot more to develop their character than beating yourself up for not knowing everything. Teaching your children to recognize mistakes as learning opportunities is a lesson that they will carry with them throughout their lives. Take a breath once in a while and celebrate the chance to teach those lessons through example. 

If you’re looking for a great way to homeschool your children, Northgate Academy offers a well-rounded faith-based curriculum available for both full and part-time students. For homeschooling families, we offer 100% online enrollment in courses with 12 months to complete each self-paced course. You’re going to experience a lot of ups and down on this journey, but through it all, you will create a bond with your children that cannot be replaced by any material possessions.

Are you currently exploring curriculum options for your children online? At Northgate Academy, we strive to provide the best educational material to our students to ensure their success. Get in touch here or give us a call at (800)339-7132 to learn more today!