Here’s some tough love. Some of you are doing all. the. things. And you’re driving yourself crazy in the process. Let’s get real. Today let’s look at 6 ways you’re making homeschooling harder than it needs to be.
When I first started homeschooling, I was only a few years out of being a classroom teacher in the public school. I felt like we needed a schoolroom. And boxed curriculum. And we needed to cover all the subjects so that my bright kindergartener wouldn’t fall behind.
Whoa! If I could go back and talk sense into my younger self, I would say to relax, enjoy the kids, teach the basics, but definitely don’t try so hard.
That geography curriculum I printed out from a well-meaning homeschool blogger back in the day? The one with printables and worksheets to fill in for all the countries? Yeah, that was overkill. I was trying too hard.
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Here are the 6 ways you’re making homeschooling harder than it needs to be.
Detailed Lesson Planning
I’ve shared in another post that I don’t lesson plan (and you shouldn’t either). Seriously, if you think you need a big teacher planner with all 180 days planned out for each kid and for each subject, then please stop! You don’t need to know what you will be covering on day #138 when you’re just starting day #1. Yes, you need a general plan with goals and topics, subjects and benchmarks for proficiency, but you certainly don’t need detailed lesson planning to homeschool.
Printables or Confusing Curriculum
If you are using curriculum with a massive teacher’s manual that requires time to for you to read and implement each day, then you are making homeschooling harder than it needs to be. If you’re printing every cute printable you find on Pinterest because you think that reams of paperwork means that your child is learning, then you are making homeschooling harder than it needs to be.
Okay, so if you’re not supposed to use confusing curriculum or massive amounts of printables, what should you do? If you’re going to use curriculum, then choose resources that are open and go. This means that your child should be able to put a bookmark in where he leaves off today and open the book tomorrow and pick up right where he was. No guessing about whether the teacher planner book specified page 63 on day #87. Just keep moving forward, little by little. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you are consistent day to day.
And please, stop thinking that piles of worksheets means that your child has learned. Yes, we do use printables over here on occasion, but we don’t rely on them. For the most part, I don’t use printables (and you shouldn’t either). It will seriously simplify your life. And save your printer ink.
Get ready for a truth bomb: Your kids don’t need to participate in all the things to have a well-rounded childhood. No, you will not ruin them if they don’t try every sport. In fact, it’s far better for growth, development, and character lessons in perseverance to pick ONE thing and gain mastery in it over the long haul. Pick one sport. Pick one musical instrument. Choose one hobby to pursue.
If you scale back all your kids from doing all the things, you may just find a bit of peace in your schedule. And you won’t be working harder at this homeschooling gig than you need to be. If you’re in the car chauffeuring kids back and forth because you think all the “good” moms do this (and you’re super stressed out while you’re doing it), then you need to take a step back and embrace planned neglect.
Treat your schedule like a zero-based budget. Take everything off, then start with the essentials, the non-negotiables. Once they’re in place, you can slowly add back activities and commitments that fit your priorities at this season and that you are able to handle physically and emotionally. Get rid of over scheduling that you can control. This also helps in a season of homeschool burnout.
Trying to Replicate School at Home
But the little school desks are so cute! And the chalkboard on the wall, the American flag at the front, and those flashcards of all 26 letters of the alphabet circling the top of the wall are filled with nostalgia.
But if you’re requiring math at 8, handwriting at 9, and recess exactly at 10, and you and the kids are not loving it, then loosen up and stop trying to replicate school at home!
You need to find your own homeschool groove with your kids, not try to copy what you think is the one right way. There are as many flavors of homeschooling as there are homeschooling families! Sure, jump in and try some teaching and learning styles on for size. And sure, your kids might actually need some structure. But if you’re trying to create a mini public school experience in your homeschool, then you’re probably working too hard.
When we first started out, we had the cute school desks. We had the dedicated school room. But we always somehow gravitated toward the kitchen table, to read books and snuggle on the couch, or to play. Just go with it! The goal is for your kids to love learning and to grow more independent in their learning. Use what gets you there.
Mom is Working Harder than the Kids
Do you remember being in a class when you were in school where the teacher obviously put lots of effort into their presentation, all for a classroom full of bored students to passively let the information go in one ear and out the other? I sure do!
You are probably working harder than you need to be in your homeschool if your kids are passive learners. Are you staying up all night on Pinterest crafting the perfect unit study with (gasp!) printables, which you present to your child the next day, only for him to carelessly scribble in the answers and tell you he’s done in ten minutes? What? That was supposed to be a comprehensive unit study! No deal.
Find ways for your kids to learn that keep them active. This is why I try to stay away from printables. Sure, they are filling in sheets of paper, but this tends to require low level thinking skills. They take up more time than brain cells. What if your child decided to investigate, experiment, try out an hypothesis, discuss scenarios with you, write a persuasive essay, create a visual timeline, or take control of his learning in another high-level way? When that happens, you as the parent step out of the “teacher” role and become more of a mentor and coach. Kids are naturally curious and love to learn when they’re born. Let’s not school it out of them.
Expectations are Too High
Now certainly, if your kids spend their whole “homeschool day” playing Minecraft and watching movies, then this point doesn’t apply to you. I’m sure most of you reading this tend to err on the side of expectations that are too high. Let me explain what I mean by this.
Some of us have it in our minds that our children will be successful if they are able to master every subject from K-12. So, we spend the big bucks on the best curriculum. We make sure they have every learning opportunity available. They are reading Homer’s Iliad at age 4. We just know that if we tirelessly work to craft the perfect homeschool experience, our kids will have arrived. They will be poster children for the homeschool movement.
Okay, that might be slightly exaggerated, but only slightly.
I found such a great weight lifted off my shoulders when I read this quote from Michael Farris of HSLDA. He said that other than language and numbers,
You’re not going to master . . . anything . . . in the K-12 sequence. You’re going to give your kids exposure. Exposure is good, and exposure to a broad range of things is good. But you don’t have to master all this stuff. As long as people understand this, they can avoid a lot of sleepless nights about some of the details.
So go for the delight-directed learning and follow your child’s natural curiosity and passion down those rabbit trails, especially in grades K-8. There is so much freedom to allow our kids to love learning. Don’t stifle it with an educational straight jacket.
In what way are you making homeschooling harder than it needs to be?
Listen on the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast: 6 Ways You’re Trying Too Hard
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