If someone asked me the most important lesson I learned in my first year of homeschooling, I could answer without even thinking: If something isn’t working, it’s probably my fault. Y’all I made so many rookie homeschooling mistakes!
Now, I know. Homeschooling is hard. I can’t expect it to have gone perfectly in my first year – this year, especially. I should congratulate myself and be proud. I have no business placing blame on myself (and by extension, other homeschooling parents). And I assure you, I know all of those things are true. But I also know myself, and I know for sure… most things about homeschooling that didn’t work or could have been better were 99.9% a result of my own neurosis, anxiety, and inability to focus.
But, because I believe that I can not be alone, I’m going to share with you the four homeschooling mistakes I made my first year with the hopes that maybe, they can stop someone else from making the same mistakes, or at least, possibly lead others to be more self-aware at the moment and realize more quickly than I did that they are in fact making a mistake.
Here are four homeschooling mistakes that I made during my first year of homeschooling:
Not taking the time to deschool my kids (and myself)
Before I started homeschooling, I wasn’t even aware of the word “deschool”. If I had heard it, I’d likely have thought it meant the same thing as “unschool”, but they are actually two very different terms.
Deschooling is the period of adjustment a child goes through when they stop attending school and begin homeschooling. It’s a time to unlearn habits and decompress. Me, I assumed the summer was enough for this, but I was wrong. I was also wrong in assuming only my kids needed to deschool. As a parent who attended compulsory school and was also a classroom teacher for ten years, I needed to deschool, too.
Throughout our entire first year of homeschooling, we continually cycled through trying to make homeschool look like “real” school. The problem is, in trying to recreate school at home, we were denying ourselves most of the true benefits of homeschooling!
Being too rigid and inflexible
This was definitely a “me” problem. One of the BEST things about homeschooling is the flexibility. Beautiful day outside? Take advantage and get outside. But, I’m a real stickler when it comes to calendars and routine, and breaking from routine can be a huge source of anxiety for me.
Because of this, I know, we missed many opportunities to try and do things out of our typical daily routine. Next year, I will be making a concerted effort to be more flexible around when and where we do school work. I plan to better take advantage of our freedom. If we are learning about something we can experience in a multidimensional sort of way, I want my kids to not just read but also see and touch whatever it is that we are exploring. This is one of the most appealing aspects of homeschooling for me, and I only need to work on my own anxiety to be able to be more flexible.
Not having ideas for what to do during downtime
There were many days where we ended up getting through what I had planned more quickly than I had expected. I wish that I had some special enrichment activities or outings saved up in my back pocket for those days.
Instead, I found myself asking the kids what they wanted to do, getting distracted by my phone or something that needed to be done in the house, and then ending up doing nothing at all. And in turn, the kiddos typically ended up on their Chromebooks.
I know that if I had something planned, they’d have been excited and had fun. Now, I know that overplanning our kids’ lives isn’t great either and that free time and imaginative play is good for them, too, but they had plenty of time for that this year (with so many places closed due to the pandemic)!
Speaking of those Chromebooks… man, if only I could go back in time and not have introduced them at all! At the beginning of the school year, we purchased each of our kids a Chromebook because I thought they were necessary. At the end of the previous school year (the one cut short due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and subsequent “chaos-schooling” or “crisis-schooling”… whatever you want to call it…), they relied exclusively on Chromebooks and app subscriptions from the school district. I assumed I could not homeschool without them.
I thought I was making responsible decisions and setting healthy limits by downloading FamilyLink to monitor the apps on the Chromebooks and set in-app time limits and screen time limits.
Even so, it’s happened that we use the Chromebooks 0% for learning and the kids are 100% addicted to them. Going forward, I will be trying to figure this one out, but it’s not looking hopeful (suggestions are always welcome, but the pretentious “just don’t allow screen time in the first place” comments will cause me to lash out.)
I realize that homeschooling this year was unlike normal first-year homeschooling. Many homeschool groups and co-ops weren’t meeting. Museums, libraries, and other fun places to visit were partially closed. I’m excited to see how things go next year with more access to in-person events, exhibits, and experiences!
If this was also your first year of homeschooling, I’d love to know what homeschooling mistakes you made and the lessons you learned, too! Or, if you’re a seasoned/pro homeschooler, let me know what important homeschooling mistakes you made in your first year and over the years! We can all continue to learn from each other!