The Top 15 Smart and Stupid Things I’ve Done as a Homeschool Mom

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This article originally appeared on the blog of my dear friend, Patrice Lewis, Rural Revolution . As the school  year winds down and amid a lot of controversy about the Common Core curriculum, many parents are wondering if homeschooling is for them. Here in all its glory is a list of the smart and stupid things we have done as a homeschooling family. Trust me. If we can homeschool, anyone can!

The Top 15 Smart and Stupid Things I've Done as a Homeschool Mom via The Survival Mom

For the past ten years I have homeschooled our two kids.  My daughter is now finishing 9th grade, and my son is a 6th grader.  I’d like to say it’s been smooth sailing, but I have made some pretty stupid mistakes.  I’ve also made some smart decisions that have ultimately been responsible for ten wonderful years.  Here are a few of the smartest and stupidest things I’ve done as a homeschool mom.

SMART:  We decided to homeschool long before my kids were ready for school.  This gave me lots of time to research and time for our families to get used to the idea.  All the other grandkids were headed off to public schools.  Ours weren’t.  That took some getting used to.

STUPID:   It was futile to argue with family members about our decision.  With time, they saw that our kids were turning out just fine.  In fact, just two years into our homeschooling venture, I heard my mother-in-law comment about a particularly well-behaved kid, “I’ll bet he’s homeschooled!”  Bottom line: you make the decision to homeschool based on your own beliefs, research etc., and let family members think what they will.

SMART:   I introduced my kids to literature that I thought was too advanced for them.  We either read it aloud, listened to the unabridged recorded versions, or they read it on their own.  I was so proud of my daughter for reading Little Women, Robin Hood, Mary Poppins, and other unabridged classics that no longer appear on public school reading lists. As a former teacher, I’d been used to basal readers, aka dumbed down literature. It was refreshing to see my kids enjoying the real thing. Currently, my son and I are both engrossed in Treasure Island.

STUPID:  Initially, I thought we would always use the same curriculum.  We began with an activity-based curriculum, KONOS.  It was fun building our own model of a medieval castle and turning a chicken into a preserved mummy, but after a while, it became burdensome to constantly have major projects to prepare for.  When I saw that our next unit included making leather moccasins by hand, I started looking for something different.

SMART:  We formed friendships with other homeschooling families.  We’ve vacationed with one particular family at different times of the school year, gone on numerous field trips together, and it’s turned into a whole-family friendship. We now belong to a very large homeschool group that offers clubs, sports, field trips, and numerous other activities. It’s a matter of picking and choosing what we want to do. I highly recommend connecting with other homeschooling families, if for no other reason than you can schedule playdates in the middle of the day and aren’t tied to a public school schedule.

STUPID:  I was naïve in not realizing that politics and personalities can cause problems within homeschooling groups.  The first group we joined was wonderful, or so I thought until I learned that one of the moms had taken a singular dislike to my six-year-old daughter.  The woman was deranged, but we ended up leaving the group when we realized she had influenced other families and we no longer felt welcome.  Yes, it was bizarre and maybe not the norm, but I was probably too trusting.

SMART:  I’ve been willing to stop using a particular curriculum or method when I found it wasn’t working.  Saxon Math was a terrific choice when my daughter was in kindergarten, but halfway through first grade, she started freaking out when faced with a page of dozens of math problems.  After a few weeks, I switched to Singapore Math, and it was a much better fit. As a freshman, she’s back in Saxon! Flexibility is key, as is giving yourself permission to say, “This just isn’t working. Let’s find something else.”

STUPID:  At times we really overdid it with field trips and extracurricular activities.  In our city, there are dozens of possible field trips.  We belong to an email loop that informs me of every ballet, play, and other cultural events, all with unbeatable ticket prices.  After two years of one, and sometimes two, field trips a month, I realized it was too much.  The field trips were great but between traveling to and from and then a good dose of socializing at the event, we ended up losing entire school days.

SMART: Choosing the best over the good.  Field trips and extracurricular activities are all well and good, but ultimately, you have to remember that you’re supposed to be doing school!  One year, we dropped everything: a Tuesday morning Bible study, AWANAS, ballet, and sports.  It wasn’t that those things weren’t important.  We had just started spending less time with school, and I needed to refocus.  Bit by bit we’ve added some of those activities back into our schedule, but I constantly have to maintain a balance and drop the good when it starts overtaking the best.

STUPID:  At first, I didn’t think I needed guidance.  I was maybe a little too cocky my first year of homeschooling.  After all, I had been a classroom teacher for several years and had trained teachers, so homeschooling would be a piece of cake, right?  Well, not quite.  I had some real difficulties with coming up with a schedule that worked for us.  I also hadn’t counted on trying to do school with a three year-old climbing all over me, the table, and the math manipulatives.  It was our third year when my daughter was in second grade, that we started using curriculum that came with a weekly schedule.  It was such a good feeling to check off each activity and lesson and a little humbling for this know-it-all.

SMART:  Not trying to duplicate school at home.  We’ve only used one or two books I suppose could be called textbooks, and my kids have never sat at desks.  Years ago, before we began homeschooling, I saw a poor little eight-year-old boy sitting at his family’s kitchen table with a stack of textbooks and workbooks two feet high.  I felt sorry for him and knew instinctively that this wasn’t how I wanted to homeschool.  We’ve always been, what I call, casual homeschoolers.  Definitely not the textbook/desk type.

STUPID:  I tend to be pretty independent and I didn’t think I needed a boost of motivation every now and then.  I’ve missed several homechooling conventions, but when I go, I leave charged up and ready to take on a new year.

SMART:  Early on we realized that homeschooling is a lifestyle.  Learning becomes a whole-family activity.  Family vacations become long-distance field trips.  Questions from the kids become research assignments.  Yeah, it doesn’t always make us popular with the kids, but life is all about learning, and we try to reinforce that concept every day.

STUPID:  Doing something just because other families are doing it.  It was cute watching my little five-year-old doing ballet, but it took her taking me aside, as a nine-year-old, and saying, “Mom, I just don’t want to do ballet anymore.  It isn’t me,” for me to realize we’d overstayed our welcome with ballet.  I had fun visiting with all the other ballet moms, but while I was busy chatting and sharing recipes, my little sweetie was feeling like a clumsy misfit.  We immediately dropped ballet and never looked back.

SMART:  Taking comfort that tomorrow is another day.  When we have a day when we’ve been busy with errands, chores, and other stuff and no “school” happens, I know that tomorrow we get to try again.  Besides, the kids are always learning something, even if it’s the fact that the dry cleaners will donate a bedspread to Goodwill if it isn’t picked up on time!

My takeaway lesson is that homeschooling doesn’t demand perfection.  It’s more a matter of enjoying the journey, learning from mistakes, and focusing on what is most important, fostering a love of learning in our children.

 The Top 15 Smart and Stupid Things I've Done as a Homeschool Mom via The Survival Mom

11 thoughts on “The Top 15 Smart and Stupid Things I’ve Done as a Homeschool Mom”

  1. Great post – and I strongly dislike being close to children (so needy!). But your post highlights positives and negatives/traps to homeschooling. Each child is unique – so be prepared to have to work out what works best for each. As someone with no direct experience this article gives me hope you can avoid the worst of schools (bullying/sucked into consumerism and strict conformity) and still hope to produce a social, well-rounded, dare I say it thinking adult. Just don’t ask me to do it 😛

  2. Thank you so much for the article! About to jump into homeschooling this coming fall with kindergarten for my oldest of 4 kids! Always up for advice!

  3. I love this- third year of home school ( now in 10th grade!) and have to laugh at how much we’re all alike in this journey! Great to know I am not alone in my stumbling.

  4. Absolutely enjoyed reading this. Recently my husband has questioned our journey (Year 3) we experienced a 3 month pause due to life. However reading your story tells me I am not alone in my evolution. I’ve started one curriculum only to drop packaged stuff and gather a bit from everywhere. We’ve unschooled, schooled at home, relaxed/casual schooled, and pretty much embraced every label out there. (I’ve an Aspie so learning is always about finding that fun approach) It is nice to know there are others who are out there trying several options and that I’m not alone in my learning mistakes either. I actually questioned myself, worried I had done a disservice to my children. Thanks to great support and articles like yours, I’m ready for 3 more strong years.

  5. Julie Hamilton

    We homeschooled our kids for twenty years (1990-2010) and I agree 100% with what you have shared here. When we started, the only other homeschoolers we knew lived out of state. Our first day of homeschool with my oldest (he turns 34 today, back then was in fifth grade) our assignment in The Weaver Curriculum was to go for a walk and make a map of our neighborhood. Perhaps I am a touch too, shall we say, literal, because every building in our area was on that map. Three hours later, when we were finally finished, I should have said to our son, “How did you like your first day of homeschool?” but instead I broke both of our hearts and said, “Time for math!” Good grief. I wish someone had told me to sit down with him and have a snack or something and lighten up a little. All I could think of was, I can’t spend three hours a day on Social Studies!!

    1. The Survival Mom

      Your comment made me laugh! It’s so hard to be relaxed sometimes as a homeschool mom, especially for those of us who are naturally motivated and driven people. I’m very goal oriented, so I’m not exactly a role model in this department. :o)

  6. The wonderful payoff to homeschooling is when my eighth grader independently does her schooling for the day, sets up her own breaks and records what she has done when she is finished. I have been very ‘hands off’ this year, just offering resource material and answers to the occasional math question. Such a change from the early years where I spent hours designing her studies and sat beside her almost every step of the way!

  7. My homeschooled child is graduating college this year. Grad school in a year with plans of pursuing a Doctorate. So yes, you can be the one who helps your child find their passions. After a horrible public school experience with our oldest, we tried private school for the youngest and decided we wanted our own schedule. She blossomed in so many parts of her life from home schooling. We used public school for band and Japanese. I always chaperoned band, so was asked to go to Japan with the teacher and 15 students. Our daughter took music lessons for trumpet. Was first chair in band, jazz band and orchestra. Due to lessons and her desire to succeed, she needed more challenges. I found an audition I thought she should try. She was invited through audition at age 16 to perform with the Natl Collegiate Wind Ensemble performing at Carnegie Hall in NYC, (we are on west coast). A repeat invite two more years. Freedom to learn and experience was such a blessing from home schooling. She was a select soccer and softball player and worked a PT job from age 15. She applied for a private college scholarship that brought her $40,000 for four years. We are getting paid back for our home schooling efforts. She is separate from the pack as she really has no peers due to home schooling. So on “those” days, remember you have way more your child will learn because of your efforts. My hats off to all who undertake this effort.

  8. Pingback: The smartest and stupidest things I’ve done as a homeschooler | Homeschool News Network

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