Homeschooling Mistakes

10 Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes (and how to avoid them!)

If you scrolled through my Facebook page or my Instagram account, where I tend to only post the photos I want people to see, you might mistakenly believe that I was practically perfect in every way, haha! My kids will confirm, though — that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Just this morning, as I was mowing my lawn, I thought to myself that I should be a dandelion gardener, so I could be ultra successful at just one thing. My lawn is probably 80% dandelions! The rest of our farm is a giant money pit. But I do rock at growing dandelions. I tell you that to illustrate how completely and thoroughly imperfect I am!

Today, let’s rub the lipstick off the pigs (the hypothetical pigs since I don’t actually have any) and talk about all of my biggest homeschooling mistakes, shall we? The truth is, I’ve made a lot of them.

My hope is that you can learn from my mistakes, so you don’t have to make them yourself! It’s always easier and less painful to learn from someone else’s mistakes right? And if you aren’t making these mistakes, pat yourself on the back. It’s always nice to feel like we’re doing something well!


10 Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes: 

Homeschooling mistake #1: Unrealistic expectations.

It’s very stressful to worry about meeting the expectations of others. And even more stressful to meet our own expectations, right? Especially when they’re absurd.

For example, expectations that all kindergarteners read at a certain level and all third graders learn long division seem kind of arbitrary. Who decided on those standards anyway?

And who chose all the subjects students should study, and decided when they should study them? It reminds me of the meme where an elephant, an alligator, a fish, a sea lion, a penguin and monkey are lined up in front of a school teacher. The bubble above the school teacher’s head reads, “For a fair selection everybody has to take the same exam: please climb that tree.”

Homeschooling Mistakes

See what I mean? I’m sure you can see the absurdity of those arbitrary standards. Your children are individuals, each on his own track. How could a child ever be behind grade level or above grade level?

Further, do you ever feel that, in addition to your homeschooling responsibilities, your house should look like a Better Homes & Gardens magazine cover, and your children like Gymboree models? I have to take credit for that expectation all by myself, but I fear looking like a dud compared to all the other awesome homeschool moms.

Solution: Your job is to filter everything through a lens of reality and not hold yourself accountable to unrealistic expectations and pretend standards.

It helps me to make lists. When I feel that I’m lacking, it helps to make a list of all of the expectations I feel pressured by. First, it helps to distill my thoughts into clear, legible sentences and be able to stare them in the eye. Once I see them on paper, black and white, it helps me to see whether they are reasonable or totally ridiculous. More often than not, my unrealistic expectations come from a place of insecurity, which leads me to my second homeschooling mistake.

>>> Read: 5 Homeschool Expectations You Should Kiss Goodbye! <<<


Homeschooling mistake #2: Comparing your family to other homeschool families.

I’m sure you already realize that you inadvertently compare your worst to other mom’s best, right? You probably already know that immediately beyond the borders of that ‘perfect’ photo they just posted is all the clutter they had to scoot out of the way of the photo.

So you might be tempted to think that the other homeschool moms always have perfectly clean homes and picture-perfect bookcases and clean, well-dressed children heartily enjoying amazing science experiments. Duh!

It’s all an illusion, and comparison is nothing but a thief of joy.

Some kids naturally and easily learn to read before or around age 5, but others don’t, and there are no ill consequences down the road. Trust me!

One of my younger children was completely uninterested in reading until he was 8-years-old. He had plenty of older siblings to read to him, so there was no need! When he finally decided he wanted to read what he wanted, when he wanted, he learned to read fluently, with perfect comprehension, in about three weeks. Now he’s a voracious reader!

All I would have gotten from pushing him was unhappiness all the way around, or even worse, I could have made him feel dumb. That would have been disastrous because he is such a smart kid!

You know your kids better than anyone, and you know when they’re ready to learn things. Don’t let anyone else’s expectations rob you of your confidence in your role as your child’s parent.

When outside pressures dominate my actions, I find myself stressed and unhappy. And when mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Solution: At the end of the day, you are absolutely the best teacher for your children, because you love them more than anyone else. Your Heavenly Father has given you those children because you are the perfect person for the job. You are the person He wants to influence them, to teach them, and to set them on the right path so they can fulfill their missions!

>>> Read: A Veteran Homeschooler’s Best Advice to New Homeschool Moms <<<

Homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling mistake #3: Overthinking methods and philosophies.

By nature I am a researcher and a seeker of truth. I never just accept things people tell me — I have to research the bejeebers out of everything and decide for myself whether something is true or accurate.

I knew nothing when I accidentally and serendipitously began this homeschool journey, so I immediately headed to the education and homeschooling section of our local library. I devoured all of the books I could find!

It’s laughable now, but I was convinced that there was one correct method of education — one way in which to create little lovers-of-learning. I was sure that if I just kept searching, the perfect homeschooling method would jump out and grab me.

In the end, none of them convinced me completely. At first, I was drawn to the Classical Method, because I liked the idea of the end results they promised: kids who speak Latin and Greek, dream of Calculus, and diagram sentences for lunch. I revel in rigor, haha!

But after 17 years of experience, we are thoroughly and incurably relaxed and eclectic. I’ll tell you how that came about as I explain my next mistake.

Solution: Honestly, there are enough methods and philosophies out there to make a mom’s head spin! So many conflicting ideas can paralyze you, making it difficult to just start. I’m here to tell you — just start!

>>> These are my favorite homeschooling books! <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling Mistake #4: Overscheduling.

Our first year homeschooling, I had a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and an infant. And I set out to recreate an amazingly robust and rigorous private school I had read about.

Not only was I sure I’d have no problem recreating this model in my basement with my tiny kindergartener, a monkey (my 4-year-old literally swung from the ceiling) and a couple of babies, but I enrolled my oldest in two dance classes, gymnastics, piano and violin lessons, an orchestra, community sports, swimming lessons and a series of co-op classes. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew.

We were slaves to our schedule, could barely fit in our studies, and ate meals in the car. None of us enjoyed having so much going on!

Solution: Keep things simple! Stick to the basics — reading, writing and ‘rithmatic — and explore other subjects intermittently, based on your children’s interests. Let your kiddos each choose one or two outside things to pursue. Prioritize things in your lives based on whether they are merely good (brain candy books, wholesome entertainment, sports teams, friends) or better (developing talents, nutritious meals, exercise,  ) or best (family meals, family prayer and devotions, service).

Don’t let life distract you from the things that matter most. I simplified our lives a little our second year, and even more our third year. It was about that time that my daughter’s dance teacher let me know that if my daughter wanted to progress, she needed to take several dance classes daily.

My daughter loved her Irish dance classes and wanted to continue and progress. I didn’t know what to do. That very week I had a dream that this particular daughter was involved in a car accident as a young adult and lost her legs. I prayed over the dream and knew that my daughter’s path was in music, not dance.

It was difficult for both of us, but I withdrew her from dance and we never looked back (although I did let her take some ballroom dance classes when she was old enough to drive herself). Heavenly Father will help you to know the particular path He has for your child. All you need do is ask.

>>> Homeschool Your Kindergartener (For Free!) In Just 20 Minutes A Day <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling mistake #5: Hoarding curriculum and supplies.

I don’t really mean hoarding in the sense that it takes over your life and house and sanity, like on that hoarder show. But having too much stuff can be frustrating because it’s difficult to organize and store, it costs you valuable energy and brain power, and it’s a waste of your hard-earned money.

You don’t need to purchase all the curriculum you want in August. All the curriculum stores will still be in business next January. Be forewarned that curriculum is like heroin to a homeschool mom. No matter how much you already have, you’ll still want more. And lots of that curriculum will just end up as expensive paperweights if you don’t make a conscientious effort to minimize.

Solution: Channel your inner minimalist. You will never use all the textbooks you will be tempted to hold on to. (Literature is a different story — definitely hang on to ALL the great literature you can get your hands on!) You’ll get busy and forget you have them and basically you’ll just never find the perfect time. Just get rid of them. And try not to buy too much to start with! Also, see if you can sell things you won’t use to recoup some of the cost.

>>> Check out these 12 Tips for Homeschooling on a Budget! <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling mistake #6: Not checking assignments

Why is this so hard?

It really is critical, though. The very most significant learning takes place during the correction process! I can’t say it loudly enough!

We do our math first thing every day, around the kitchen table. As each child completes a problem set we check it together. Then the child corrects each problem missed and I re-check. It takes time and diligence on my part, but we do that until every problem is correct and thoroughly understood.

The problems my children can breeze through are nice. But the ones they struggle with and need to go back and redo, the ones I have to explain multiple times in different ways, the problems that require effort and even tears — those are where paradigms are shifted. Those are the problems that my kiddos can point out as being turning points in their math education. And those hard-won victories are the ones that will build your child’s confidence in his abilities.

Most of my math classes at school consisted of completing a problem set, then passing my work to the child sitting behind me so that we each correct another students assignment, then calling out our scores to the teacher, for grading purposes, then throwing the assignment away as we filed past the trash can on the way out the door.

Is that bizarre or what? The missed problems, the very things that need to be worked on and relearned, the most critical opportunities for learning — just disappeared into the trash can.

Solution: Don’t let that happen in your homeschool! The very most significant learning takes place during the correction process — take advantage of it! Obviously, it requires your presence and your diligence. It’s up to you to make it happen. But it’s worth your time!

>>> Curious about our math? Click here! <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling mistake #7: Wasting time and money on things that don’t matter. 

I don’t know about you, but I often fall into this trap. I blame it all on Pinterest, haha!

First, I thought I needed a fancy-pants homeschooling room in order to set the atmosphere. Twice, in different houses, I’ve spent months and a lot of money creating a beautiful reading nook, complete with a 3-D tree to read under, painting clouds on the walls, and purchasing shadow boxes for our nature-study treasures and whimsical, child-sized furniture to complete the theme.

Finally, I wised up! We remodeled our current house last year, and I just made sure our large kitchen island had an extra bank of drawers and an end cabinet to contain our daily-use materials. We all end up homeschooling around the kitchen table anyway, because that’s where I can best supervise from while also accomplishing my housework.

I also designated an entire closet and several lower cabinets in our library for homeschooling, so things can be tidy and organized. And I added a gigantic window seat and comfy reading chairs to the library. But I had no preconceptions of homeschooling there, and I didn’t try to make it magical and fluffy.

I honestly think some of my efforts to make things look perfect are merely ways to procrastinate the more difficult, nitty gritty work of homeschooling. If I can spend all of my time painting walls and dreaming up enticing corner displays, I never have to sit down to a table full of math books. You know?

Solution: Your weakness might not be home decor. It might be creating pretty printable worksheets or something else entirely. But if it’s distracting you from the task at hand, take a good, long, hard look at whether the thing you’re spending your efforts on adds to what you ultimately want to create.

>>> Read: Lazy Homeschoolers Raise Geniuses <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschool mistake #8: Not taking frequent enough breaks. 

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy homeschooling. We think our science projects, our math investigations, our nature studies, and especially all the great literature are pretty darn fun. But anything (even fun things!) day in, day out gets old.

Breaks don’t have to be expensive. Camping at local national parks can be as much fun as traveling internationally and staying in swanky hotels. They don’t have to be very long, either.

And they can even be educational!

Homeschool learning tends to happen in short, intense bursts that are far more effective than what happens at public school. So you don’t need to spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 180 days a year imprisoned in your homeschool. Not that homeschool is a prison, because it’s not. But that’s exactly my point — it might feel like one if you had to adhere to the number of instructional hours mandated by your state.

Luckily, at least in my state, no amount of time is mandated for homeschools. So you can set your homeschool schedule however works best for your family. You can take a couple of weeks off at Christmas, or you can take every Friday off for field trips, or you can take an entire month to tour all of the U.S. historical sites.

Your kids will feel refreshed and better able to learn when you schedule your homeschool with lots of breaks!

Solution: As you plan your year, be sure to intentionally incorporate breaks. I like to incorporate ones that match what we’re studying, so they can do double duty. For example, after completing a unit on Geology, we took a road trip through a couple of National Parks and hiked Mt. Saint Helens. And while studying U.S. History one year, we took a month-long road trip up the East coast to experience the early historical sites, like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Freedom Trail in Boston.

>>> Read: How to Plan a Fun U.S. History Road Trip With Kids <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling mistake #9: Thinking that homeschooling will be all roses and sunshine 

In addition to always biting off more than I can chew, I also have a tendency to look at things through rose-colored glasses, right up until I fall over the edge of the cliff of despair.

Everything worthwhile in life is difficult. Have you noticed that the very most worthwhile things are usually the very most difficult? Marriage and motherhood are the hardest things I’ve ever committed to, and also the things that have brought the most growth.

Homeschooling is the same way. Not only have I learned to be a better mom and person, but I’ve had a second chance at an education. I don’t know how I earned such a dismal education the first time around — I took all AP classes, graduated high school with high honors, and earned an engineering degree in college.

And yet, somehow, I never learned biology or history or nutrition or gardening or myriad other subjects that I’ve needed since. As hard as homeschooling is sometimes, I really am incredibly grateful for all the ways it has taught and changed me!

Solution: Breathe. In addition to taking breaks as a family, take breaks for yourself. I find that if I have an hour each morning to myself, to exercise and spend some time in my devotions, I’m pretty good. I also frequently send my children to afternoon naps (everyone just reads) when I need some more quiet time. And when I really need some down time, I hold a DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) Camp day for my kiddos.

Gratitude helps my attitude, as well. Well I feel like pulling my hair out, it helps to step back and count all of the tremendous blessings homeschooling has brought me.

>>> Read This When You Want to Quit Homeschooling! <<<

homeschooling mistakes


Homeschooling mistake #10: Forgetting to involve Heavenly Father

The single most important thing you can do for your children and their education is to pray for guidance, patience, discernment, and wisdom. I often forget, but my children were Heavenly Father’s children before they were ever mine. I have a temporary stewardship over them, while His is eternal.

Awhile ago, I was really struggling with one particular child. I was at a public place when that child called me and told me something that broke my mama heart. I went out to the parking lot, sat in my car and cried my heart out to my Heavenly Father.

I felt as if Heavenly Father put His arms around me as He reminded me that my child was actually His and always would be. I didn’t need to carry the burdens of that child’s poor choices, because Heavenly Father would carry them.

Since being relieved of that burden, I’ve been able to love my child better. I can just concentrate on making sure he feels loved, instead of having to worry over his future.

Heavenly Father will never forget or ignore my children’s needs. And He know their needs so much better than I do. He would give each of my children educations that will benefit them for eternity, as opposed to the temporal educations I tend to be more concerned about. What a blessing!

It’s kind of like a very wise and wealthy benefactor offering to provide resources and guidance toward an education that will help each of my children to be like him and share in his wealth. What could be better?

Solution: Pray over your plans in August each year, and every time you work on planning. Begin school days with prayer, whatever your religious affiliation, and ask God to impart to you wisdom, patience, discernment and whatever attributes you need.





Those aren’t the only homeschooling mistakes I’ve made.

I won’t lie, those aren’t the only homeschooling mistakes I’ve made. And I’m sure they won’t be the last of my mistakes, either. But how often are we perfect at things right out of the gate?

If babies gave up learning to walk just because they fell down a few times, how would they ever learn to walk?

I daresay that homeschooling is quite a bit harder than walking, because you just think you’ve got things figured out with one child, only to discover that it doesn’t work for your next child. And then somebody goes through puberty.

Mistakes are inevitable. Forgive yourself and celebrate your successes. When we’re struggling, it helps me to visualize where my children would be if they weren’t learning around the kitchen table with me.




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If you don’t mind sharing in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your biggest homeschooling mistakes and how you overcame them!




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