by Julie Froisland
As busy homeschool moms, we have plenty of “to-do” lists as we balance homeschooling with “life stuff.” After homeschooling for almost 20 years, I’ve come to realize that as many “dos” as we have, we also have a number of “don’ts” we need to consider. With that in mind, here are ten “don’ts” to put on your “to-don’t” list.
1. Don’t Compare
There are instances in which comparison is helpful. If you have a big family, you might compare notes with another mom of many to get new ideas or tips. This type of comparison is helpful.
The negative type of comparison is that which leaves you feeling “less than.” You see what other families are doing and you think you are getting less accomplished in a day, your kids are learning less, or that your teaching is less effective. Please remember your situation is not the same as another’s. You have different learners than other families have. You are doing the best in the situation God has placed you.
We also need to be careful in comparing our children to each other. As I mentioned before, comparison can have a positive aspect. By comparing your kids, you may see that one needs more intervention in a particular area. Just make sure you don’t get caught up with the notion that you need to “catch up” one child to others.
2. Don’t feel compelled to completely finish your curriculum
When I taught in an elementary school, we never finished the curriculum. We had too much material.
If the thought of not completing a book makes you break out in hives, you have several options. You can always finish the book in the next school year or over the summer. Or you can pick and choose the chapters you want to cover before the end of the year. You are in charge of the curriculum, not the other way around.
3. Don’t be afraid to change your curriculum part way through the year
Oh the guilt; you spent good money on a curriculum that you were sure would be amazing. Now months into it, you realize that it just isn’t working. You can’t stop using it now, can you? After all, you invested all that money into it, right?
Here’s a helpful thought to keep in mind; the money has already been spent whether you finish it or not. It wasn’t wasted; it served its role. Now you can either sell that curriculum or bless another family with it. Banish the guilt!
4. Don’t worry about all that you didn’t do
Are you like me and fully intended to get in some “extras” last year? Maybe it was art appreciation, or composers, or Latin and Greek roots, or poetry, or … and you never got to it?
It’s okay to table those subjects for another year. Or, you can use the summer to tackle one of the extras. If you think your kids will rebel at having to work during their break, you may be surprised. They may appreciate the structure of having a little work to do each day.
5. Don’t get preoccupied with grade levels
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can tailor our children’s education to suit their needs. This means we can choose curriculum from various grade levels. If you use a boxed curriculum, that might be more difficult as all the books are made for one grade level. Pardon the pun, but don’t “box” yourself in, thinking that your child has to perform at one grade level in all subjects. You may have a student that is a “fifth grader,” but needs a fourth grade math book and a sixth grade reading book. You can choose what is best for your child’s development.
6. Don’t stress out about high school
Ah, high school. Credits and units and transcripts, oh my! Teaching high school can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. To make yourself more at ease with terms such as “credits, units, and transcripts,” research them while your kids are still in middle school. Make a general plan for your kids’ high school years, realizing that they are subject to change. Remember that you can make your own graduation requirements for your school. Need tips? You can find some great articles on the CHEA website. In addition, you can purchase The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield, which is loaded with helpful information.
If your child is college bound, you might want to consider community college first. High school students can even earn college credits through dual enrollment. Once they graduate high school, they can enroll as a full-time community college student without having to take the SAT or the ACT. They don’t even need to show a diploma or transcript (though you’ll still want a copy of each of those, which you can create yourself).
7. Don’t become overly focused on academics
Academics are of course important. If your kids are headed straight to a university after graduation, they will have to fulfill certain requirements. With that said, remember that your kids are only young once. You want your students to still enjoy being kids. Balance is the key.
8. Don’t be a helicopter mom
We are really adept at handling everything for our kids. Because we are both mom and teacher, we have a lot of control, authority, and influence on our kids. The trick is in knowing when and how to decrease each so our kids can become more independent. We want to mother, not smother. Remember that we want our kids to work us out of a job. Our goal is to raise our kids to be responsible, loving, and kind people who are productive members of society. They can only do that if we encourage them to do more on their own as they get older. Yes, they will make mistakes, but that is also a part of growing up and taking responsibility for their own actions.
9. Don’t isolate yourself or your kids
I’m sure we’ve all been asked about socialization. As in, “are our kids sufficiently socialized?” Those of us with big families look at people who ask that question with a, “You’re kidding, right?” expression. It’s true that much of our kids’ socialization is done in our homes. However, it is a fair question to ask how much is being done outside the home. After all, our job is to raise productive members of society. This means that our kids need to learn how to interact with people in society.
Do you give your kids opportunities to meet other children? Don’t have the money to invest in extracurricular activities? Are there co-ops, clubs, or other social groups you can join within your homeschool community? What about play dates or park days with other families? Story time at the public library is another option for interaction.
How about you, Mom? Are you staying connected with other moms? This homeschooling gig is hard work. You need support. If you are not a part of a homeschool support group, I encourage you to search one out.
10. Don’t lose your pre-mom identity
When most of our waking hours are dedicated to the care and feeding of others, it’s easy for us as individuals to get lost in it all. After all, once you have a child you become known as (fill in the blank)’s mom.
As a mom, your interests begin to change. You geek out when homeschool catalogs arrive. The majority of your Pinterest boards are devoted to homeschool planners, printables, and freebies. Your favorite YouTube videos are curriculum reviews.
Obviously none of this is wrong, or I’d be in real trouble! What I’m saying is that homeschooling should not be your only interest. Don’t forget about what made you, you, before you had kids. What hobbies did you have? Were you a DIYer, or an avid reader, or a tennis player?
You may say you don’t have time for any of that. I would ask, is it that you don’t have time, or you don’t make time?
One day your kids will graduate and you will no longer be a homeschool mom. If your life is all about homeschooling now, how will you identify yourself then?
That completes our “to-don’t” list. As you’re planning your “dos,” also plan your “don’ts!”
Julie is a mom of eight (four born in the United States, four born in China) who has been homeschooling for 20 years. In her former life she was an elementary school teacher and a preschool teacher. She believes two essentials to homeschooling are flexibility and a good sense of humor (prayer and dark chocolate are requirements). She loves studying and teaching God’s word, reading, practicing martial arts, spending time with her immediate and church family, and baking. In her spare moments, she blogs at hislifelearner.com.