Want to make sure your homeschooling year goes smoothly? Here are the biggest beginner homeschool mistakes to watch out for.
I remember when I first started homeschooling.
I was all starry-eyed dreaming about how amazing it was going to be. And I couldn’t wait to dive in and start enjoying all the benefits of homeschooling.
But I was also super nervous. I really wanted homeschooling to work for us. I wanted our first year to go well so I could prove to myself (and everyone else) that this was the right decision for our family.
In case you’re feeling the same way I did, I’ve put together a list of the top 20 beginner homeschool mistakes. These are things I’ve learned from myself and others that make that first year of homeschooling a lot harder than it needs to be.
Steer clear of these mistakes and you’ll have a much smoother homeschool year.
Ready to get started?
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The 20 Biggest Beginner Homeschool Mistakes You Want to Avoid
1. Copying public school
The first beginner homeschool mistake I see is parents trying to create public school at home. They think they need to spend the same hours teaching each day, cover all the same subjects, and create the same learning environment.
This is totally unnecessary for homeschooling and often creates a lot of extra stress and anxiety.
Public school is set up to help one person teach and manage a group of 25-30 kids. As a homeschooler, that’s not something you need to worry about.
You get a lot more freedom to do what works best for you and your kids. You won’t need to spend as long trying to teach 1 or 2 children the same information that it takes to teach a group of 25.
As long as you stay within the homeschool laws of your state, you can decide what subjects to teach, how you teach them, and whether you want to do school at 8 am Monday through Friday or 5 pm on the weekends.
Don’t feel confined to the traditional school structure and routine. Feel free to relax a little and only do the things that make sense for your homeschooling journey.
2. Being too rigid with your schedule
Next on the list of beginner homeschool mistakes is being too rigid with your schedule. A lot of new homeschoolers are super committed to making sure they get their work done each week.
They worry about what might happen if they miss a day or get behind.
This is a shame because some of the best parts of homeschooling are being able to learn and explore without all the pressure of strict timelines and expectations.
When you’re too strict with your schedule, you miss out on following rabbit trails of learning and interest. You don’t get to go on impromptu field trips and playdates.
A good schedule is nice to have, especially when you’re new to homeschooling, but don’t be so strict with it that you forget to have fun with learning.
3. Not making enough time for fun
Speaking of fun, next on our list of beginner homeschool mistakes is not making enough time for fun. A lot of new homeschooling parents think they need to be super strict with how they teach.
They either model what they’ve seen in public school or their own experience with learning.
One of the best things about homeschooling is the freedom to make learning fun and interesting for your child. Don’t be afraid to be silly or think outside the box.
Get outside, go on adventures, make up silly songs, play, and explore. The more fun and interesting the lessons are, the more engaged your child is going to be and the more they will learn.
And even better, the more they will want to learn.
4. Doing too much
Another easy trap to fall into when you first start homeschooling is to do too much. This was definitely one I struggled with. (And sometimes still do!)
Especially when you’re new to homeschooling you feel the need to do “all the things.” You’re worried about what your child might potentially miss being homeschooled instead of going to public school, so you overcompensate and sign up for too many activities.
Co-op, music lessons, swim lessons, art club, park days, and boy scouts…
This all sounds good in theory, but it’s also a quick way to get burned out really fast. It’s ok, and even a good idea, to add in an extra activity or two throughout the week.
But keep it simple and manageable. Especially as you learn how to teach your child for the first time.
It’s more important to get in your groove with homeschooling than it is to make sure they take advantage of every extracurricular activity out there.
5. Not paying attention to your child’s learning style
Next on the list of beginner homeschool mistakes to avoid is not paying attention to your child’s learning style. How they learn best is going to make a big difference in what curriculum you use and how you teach them.
Most kids have a predominant learning style. The three main learning styles are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.
Auditory learners learn best by listening. Visual learners learn best by watching things be done, and kinesthetic learners learn best by actually doing things hands-on.
If you’re teaching in a way that’s the opposite of your child’s learning style, it can make everything so much harder and more frustrating for both of you.
My first daughter was a mainly auditory learner. She loved being read aloud to and she liked me to explain things to her and then she was good to go.
I tried a similar approach with my second daughter and everything felt so much harder. She would constantly get distracted, I felt like she was never listening to me, and I was often frustrated.
She also hated worksheets and would take forever to get them done.
I finally realized the curriculums that had worked so well for my older daughter were not going to work for her. I looked around and switched to some more hands-on lesson plans and added in some videos and the difference was night and day!
She was getting through her schoolwork so much faster and she was retaining the information better.
If you haven’t yet, take some time and figure out what your child’s learning style is and how they best understand information. This will go a long way in making your homeschool experience a lot more enjoyable.
6. Not paying attention to your teaching style
And speaking of learning styles, another big mistake to watch out for is not knowing your teaching style. Homeschooling is a two-way street: your child learns while you teach.
This means whatever curriculum or teaching method you choose needs to be something that works well for you as well as your child.
When I first started homeschooling, I loved the idea of unit studies. Being able to build lesson plans around things my children were deeply interested in sounded amazing.
Once I spent a few months trying to teach with those, I realized how much work it was planning everything out. I eventually got to a point where it just wasn’t working for me.
Instead, I found that I much preferred curriculums that laid everything out for us. I could pick and choose what we covered and how much, but I didn’t have to do all the planning.
Not every teaching style or curriculum is going to be a good fit, focus on picking curriculums that work for your kids and you.
7. Paying too much for curriculums
Another big mistake I see new homeschoolers make is paying too much for curriculums. They want to make sure they do a good job teaching their child, so they pay for the high-priced curriculum that so-and-so is using.
Until you learn your child’s learning style and your teaching style this can be a big mistake. The last thing you want to do is spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a curriculum that both you and your child hate a few months in.
Then you have to decide if you struggle through and make the rest of your year miserable or you cut your losses and find something new. At which point you’re scared to spend any more money because you wasted so much the first time.
Instead, opt for cheap or free curriculums for the first year. Spend some time figuring out what works best for you and your child before you make a big financial investment.
8. Comparing your kid to others
Next on the list of beginner homeschool mistakes is comparing your kid to others. Part of homeschooling is taking things at your own pace.
Allowing your child to take longer on some subjects and skip ahead on others. This means that your kid probably isn’t going to be learning at the exact same pace as other kids.
That’s ok! Better to take more time and learn the information correctly than to rush through and have a hard time later.
9. Not having a plan in place for each day
Although it’s important not to be super strict with your schedule, it really helps to have a plan in place for what you’re going to do each day. As homeschoolers, you have a ton of options for how to learn.
There are endless curriculums, extracurricular activities, and lots of groups you can join. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or spend so much time looking at all your options that you don’t get anything done.
I have found it really helpful to at least have a basic idea of what we’re going to do each day. Sometimes we throw it out the window and do something else, but when I make a plan, I always have something to fall back on.
10. Not connecting with other homeschoolers
Another big homeschool mistake beginners make is they don’t connect with other homeschoolers. Homeschooling can be tough when you first get started and it really helps to have some sort of community to support you.
I’ve had countless conversations with other homeschool moms about curriculums, when you’re struggling with certain subjects, when you’re kids just won’t pay attention, and everything in between.
Homeschool groups are the best opportunity to build relationships with other families who understand the unique journey you’re on and can help guide and support you.
- 17 Homeschool Tips for Beginners – What You Need to Know to Get Started
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11. Having unrealistic expectations
One of the toughest beginner homeschool mistakes I see is when new homeschoolers have unrealistic expectations. They think that because they decided to homeschool everything will be perfect.
Now their kids will magically love to sit down and do schoolwork and they won’t ever struggle with it again. Their days will always be calm and relaxed and everything will be easy.
Unfortunately, as much I love homeschooling, that’s not the case. You will still have hard days.
You’ll still have to nag your kids over schoolwork and deal with sibling fights and drama. You’ll still get tired and occasionally overwhelmed.
That’s just a part of being a mom whether you homeschool or not. I definitely think homeschooling is a fabulous choice for families, but keep in mind that it has its upsides and downsides too.
12. Not listening to your child’s input
Another mistake I often see with new homeschoolers is that they don’t listen to their child’s input when it comes to schoolwork. A lot of parents think that the direction a child’s learning has to come from an adult.
Parents know best right? Well, as much as we need to be a strong guide for our kids, letting them have input in their schoolwork can make a big difference.
It can really help keep them more engaged. They will feel a sense of ownership with their learning and enjoy it more.
It could be as simple as letting them decide which books to read for a book report or letting them decide their end-of-year project. Or you can let them decide which subjects to learn for the year.
It all depends on your homeschooling philosophy and goals for the year. Either way, be sure to let them have some input.
They might surprise you with how much they’re willing to do when they have some say in the matter.
13. Comparing your homeschool to other’s homeschool
Another beginner homeschool mistake you want to avoid is comparing your homeschool to others. No two homeschools look alike.
Why and how you decide to homeschool is going to vary from family to family. It might be because of religious reasons, special needs, troubles at public school, long-term education goals, and everything in between.
This means that every family has different goals and expectations for what they get out of homeschooling. They’re going to prioritize different subjects, have a different schedule, and have different measurements for success.
Don’t worry about whether they’re doing something different than you. Decide what you want out of your homeschool and just focus on that.
14. Ignoring life skills
One of the mistakes I made when I first started homeschooling was I focused entirely on education and didn’t worry so much about life skills. As I got further along, I realized that a benefit of homeschooling is that you get to incorporate life skills and education into your learning day.
Teaching my kids things like sewing, cooking, cleaning, and managing a household are all things they need to know how to do as an adult. And if I spend all my time and effort focusing on just academics, I’m not setting them up for success like I want to.
Make sure to spend some time each day or week working on life skills as well as schoolwork.
15. Sticking with a curriculum for too long
One of the most common beginner homeschool mistakes I see is sticking with a curriculum for too long. Even after realizing that the curriculum doesn’t work for them or their child, they feel the need to just suffer through to the end.
Usually, because they spent so much money on it they don’t want it to go to waste. Or they feel like they have to finish because then they’ll be starting another curriculum “in the middle.”
As someone who has switched as many as 3 or 4 different curriculums in a year in one subject, I can tell you, it’s ok to switch! In fact, if both your child or you aren’t enjoying the curriculum, please switch!
Your child isn’t going to have a good learning experience if every day is a fight to get them through their schoolwork. They won’t learn as much and they will develop a negative attitude about learning in general.
No one will know or care if you switch curriculums in the middle of the year because the one you had wasn’t working. There are no rules that say you have to finish the one you started.
That’s one of the best parts about homeschooling. Just find something better, look through the book until you find where you kid is at, and start there.
And if you’re worried about the financial investment, look into selling your curriculum to another homeschooler. Homeschoolers love buying used curriculums for the very same reason you are selling yours.
16. Focusing on grades instead of learning
A lot of new homeschoolers make the mistake of focusing on grades instead of learning. Traditional public school has taught us that proving our child can pass a test is what matters most.
That’s why you see a lot of focus on grades and standardized tests. However, this doesn’t focus on actual learning.
Learning isn’t: did your child memorize all the state capitals and can repeat them on demand. That’s memorization.
Learning is what is a state capital, why do we have them, and how do they decide which city becomes a state capital. It’s answering questions of who, why, what, where, and how.
These are things that it’s very hard to assign a letter grade or check with a standardized test. However, they will help your child build a stronger educational foundation.
17. Focusing too much on book work
Next on the list of beginner homeschool mistakes is focusing too much on book work. A lot of new homeschoolers think that’s the only way to learn.
In reality, there are so many different options out there. You can use videos, living books, projects, crafts, experiments, discussion, fields trips, and lots of other types of activities.
It’s fine to still make book work a big part of your homeschooling, especially if your child learns well with it. But don’t forget to add in other activities too.
18. Not planning time for yourself
A big mistake I see new homeschoolers make is not planning enough time for themselves. Parents get so focused on making sure they do all the things for their kids that they have no time and energy for themselves.
This will quickly lead to overwhelm and exhaustion and make you question whether you can really do this homeschooling thing. You won’t be able to show up well for your kids if you’re exhausted and worn out.
Make sure to plan time for yourself so you’re better able to really give this homeschooling thing your best shot.
19. Expecting all your children to learn the same
Another easy trap to fall into when you first start homeschooling is to think that all your kids will learn the same. I definitely made this mistake.
I thought what worked for one would work for the others and it made for some very stressful learning days.
So far all three of my kids have different learning styles and speeds. This means all three of them need a different approach to how I teach each subject.
It makes sense to try with one child what worked with another, but be open to switching it up if you notice that it’s not going as well as you thought it would.
20. Rushing through your day to “get it all done”
Last on the list of beginner homeschool mistakes that you definitely want to avoid is rushing through your day to get it all done. This can lead to a very stressful and hectic day.
As someone who loves to “check all the boxes” I have struggled with this a lot. I get caught up in thinking that making sure we do everything means we had a successful day.
But often it means I’m rushed, cranky, and anxious. Sometimes a good day of learning means slowing day and making sure your kids really grasp a concept rather than rushing through.
Taking an extra day for my daughter to practice telling time is more constructive for her learning than rushing her through to the next lesson or other subjects just because I want to say we “got through it.”
One of the best benefits of homeschooling is that you can take all the time you need to make sure your child learns well in a nurturing environment.
Final Thoughts on The 20 Biggest Beginner Homeschool Mistakes You Want to Avoid
I hope this list of beginner homeschool mistakes makes you feel more confident in your homeschooling journey. I know it can be a little scary deciding to homeschool and stepping away from a traditional education for your kids.
The most important thing to remember when homeschooling is that you know your child best, and there’s no one better suited for teaching him or her than you!
Have any questions about these beginner homeschool mistakes? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Pinterest for more homeschool tips and advice.
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Candice is a mom of 3 who has been homeschooling since 2013. She has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Studies and cares deeply about helping other parents get the information and resources they need to help them homeschool their children with confidence.