Becoming a homeschooling parent for the first time can be stressful. It can feel like navigating a minefield. You want to make the right choices on behalf of your child, to encourage their independent interests and exploration while ensuring that they remain academically in-line with their peers. Your child is full of potential and you want them – and the world – to see that. So, naturally, you’re afraid of making an error along the way.
Many mistakes are just a part of learning how to be a homeschooling parent. Every parent endures missteps and stumbles. However, there are some things that you can do to minimize these incidents so that you and your child have a more successful homeschool undertaking.
This article tackles some of the most common mistakes that new homeschoolers make – as well as solutions to help them avoid making them.
Expecting Too Much – or Too Little
It is of the utmost importance to make sure that you are forming your curriculum to match your child’s level of academic performance. Don’t expect them to go through advanced material before they’re ready, even if you think that they have genius-level potential. The kind of burnout that you and your student will experience can seriously deter motivation and overall success.
Similarly, don’t sell your student short. If you fail to cultivate a curriculum that is stimulating and educational, success will be harder to achieve. And never, ever assume that your child can “skate by” on the fact that they are homeschooling. This is not a “slacker’s” approach to education. What they learn in the home via homeschooling is just as vital to their future success as anything that they would learn in a school environment.
Basically, it’s all about balance. If you overwhelm yourself and your student, everybody will become discouraged and scores may slip. The same will happen if you don’t place any expectations upon yourself or your student.
Forgetting to Take the Student’s Input into Account
One of the greatest draws of homeschooling is the fact that you can create a customized, individualized approach to education. You have the power to design a curriculum that meets their needs and encourages their interests, but you can’t do that if you don’t know or care what these needs and interests are.
If your child seems engaged and enthusiastic about the material, keep doing it. You’re doing wonderfully! If they seem to become tearful, agitated and overly frustrated at any of the material, it may be time to change the course and either put the material away for now or try to find a new approach to it.
The children that we’re teaching are the barometers by which we can measure the success of any homeschooling curriculum. Don’t try to force material that simply isn’t working, at least not without addressing what the cause of the frustration is. And when some material, project or trip really seems to inspire your student, consider amending your curriculum to incorporate more of what they love. That is how you will keep your child enthusiastic about continuing their education.
Isolation is one of the biggest concerns that new homeschooling parents experience at the start of their educational journey. After all, most children meet their friends through school. This isn’t possible via homeschooling, but that doesn’t mean that you and your child have to sacrifice social time. There are many routes that you can take to ensure that neither you nor your child student have to forego making friends and learning about other people.
Consider joining a homeschooling group, if there is one in your area. Likeminded parents are like a breath of fresh air to talk to after spending all week at home, and your child will be thrilled to meet up with other kids that are similarly homeschooled. Not only do homeschooling groups facilitate important social milestones for children and companionship for adults, but they can be a valuable resource.
Your area’s homeschooling group could help clue you into local activities that are perfect opportunities for homeschooled kids to meet new people. More experienced homeschoolers could also help connect you to educational resources if you or your child are struggling to stay on-track.
Houses of worship, libraries, schools and citywide organizations often host child-friendly events that are open to all. Keep an eye out for these opportunities! If nothing is coming up for a while, you can still take trips to the park or other local places of interest to get them out of the house and seeing new faces.
Expecting Everybody to Get on Board
A lot of enthusiastic homeschooling parents want to spread the word of the brilliance of homeschooling – sometimes to people who aren’t interested in hearing their speech. It’s true that homeschooling is not for every family in every circumstance, so remain aware of that fact when talking to other parents about your decision.
Now, we understand that some people consider homeschooling to be an unorthodox or even bizarre way of educating children. And it’s perfectly acceptable to say something to the effect of, “While you might not agree with it, it is my choice for my family. We will see how this goes and consider other options if it doesn’t work out.” Getting hyper-defensive about your decision to homeschool does nothing to help your case. In fact, it can be a contributing factor to the isolation concern that we addressed above.
Homeschooling is Great, but it is Also Hard Work
You’ve likely spent a lot of time mulling over the decision to homeschool your child. Similarly, a great deal of time should be spent contemplating how to successfully navigate this new world of homeschooling to fit your family’s circumstances. If you take a thoughtful, child-centric approach to your student’s education, you will be astonished at how much they are capable of outside of the traditional classroom setting.