I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

5 Simple Ways to Ruin Your Homeschool {and what to do instead}

5 Simple Ways to Ruin Your Homeschool {and what to do instead}

It happened again.
I ran into another lovely homeschool momma recently who bore the scars of a bad year.

The slumped shoulders.
The downcast eyes.
The sigh that exhales months of frustration and exasperation.

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This had been a bad year for her. Just one of a string of bad homeschool years. She was tired. She was disappointed. She was ready to quit.

I listened as she slowly unpacked the struggles and wrapped my arms around her in solidarity. I knew her pain. I had heard it from so many other mothers before. I had felt it myself in years past. In that moment, I couldn't tell her the truth. She didn't need it then. She just needed a sympathetic ear.

But, someday soon, I hope to revisit the conversation.

Mommas, can I be really honest with y'all? The kind of honest that my friend might need from me someday? The kind of honest that might sting a little? 

While it's easy to point the finger of failure at our kids, or our curriculum, or our lack of budget. Sometimes, the problem isn't any of these. 

Sometimes the problem is US...you and me. 


Sometimes, we make this homeschooling thing harder than it is supposed to be. Sometimes we ruin the very thing we are trying to build.

Don't believe me? Well, lean in really close and let me share with you 5 simple ways that we, mommas, ruin our homeschool days. 

We pretend that HOME is SCHOOL.

We set up the cute little desks, sharpen all the pencils, create a perfectly ordered nine-to-three schedule. We play school because that is what we know. Our frame of reference is brick-and-mortar. And so, while we don't trust "the other guys" to actually teach our children, we copy and paste their formula of education into our homes and expect that the finished product will somehow turn out differently. But, a home is not a school, and expecting it to be so is a recipe for a square-peg-in-a-round-hole disaster.

Can I give you some free advice? If your homeschool just operates better when the learning happens in the evening, DO SCHOOL IN THE EVENING! If your child likes to do his school work in a tent outside, SET UP A TENT OUTSIDE! It's your home. It's your school. Embrace the natural rhythms of your life and weave the learning into it. Forget about the little red schoolhouse down the street. Do it YOUR WAY instead.

We look at curriculum as a dogma and not as a guide.

A couple of years ago, I was chatting with a friend who shared that while she really loved XYZ curriculum, she wasn't going to order it again next year.

"Why not? If you love it, why would you want to risk a change?" I questioned.

"Because one of the books listed in the scope-and-sequence for next year is boring and I don't want to read it with my kids," came her reply.

"So, just skip it," I casually said. 

"Can I do that?" she questioned. "Can I just SKIP a book? Or a chapter? Or a section?"


Momma, if your child has gotten the first twenty addition facts on his math worksheet correct, feel free to skip the rest! He's obviously mastered the concept. Why beat a dead horse? If he's getting bored with the dry-as-dust stories in the textbook reader, let him read a real book instead. Isn't READING the point? If he doesn't seem all that interested in the suggested writing topics in his grammar book, let him write about a topic of his choosing. After all, that's how REAL writers write.

My point is this...never let someone else's finish line determine your race. Chaining yourself, or your kids, to every jot and title of a curriculum is a sure-fire way to burnout.

Order your pretty boxed set of curriculum, if you must. But use it as a suggestion, not a mantra. Take the best and leave the rest. 

We under-value habits.

In our eagerness to start the school year each fall, we START the school year. We plunge into the new and forget that 40-45% of a day is seeped in habits. Routine. We skip over habit training and just expect that our kids will naturally know how to start the school day well or how to use their time wisely. In the end, our school days last longer and feel more difficult than they ever need to be. Chaos robs our joy and wastes our energy.

Instead of plowing ahead with the book-learnin' on day one, hit pause, and establish well-thought-out routines. Build good habits and ensure the bulk of your day is lather-rinse-repeat. No extra stress. No added burden.

We dangle "carrots."

For whatever reason, we think that prizes, sticker charts, and cheap plastic incentives motivate children. While they certainly make magic happen in the short term, they actually do the very opposite in the grand scheme of things. Will a child work really quickly and with a smile with the promise of candy in his line of vision? You bet. But, what about tomorrow when the candy jar is empty or the sticker chart is all filled up? What happens to his drive and motivation then? It plummets. And when that happens, he naturally develops a "What's in it for me?" attitude.

Education doesn't have to be fun. And it doesn't have to be filled with plastic or sugar-coated "carrots." Education should be engaging. It should propel a child toward curiosity and wonder. Artificial leverage is just THAT...artificial. Nothing will ruin your homeschool quite like the cheap...the vain...the contrived.

We only do the basics.

There is a huge trend in homeschooling circles to GO EASY in order to avoid burnout...that is, to only do the 3 R's--reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. The theory being that if you go light on yourself, your school day will be simpler, you'll avoid stress, and you'll enjoy the journey so much better. But, more often than not, the ho-hum nature of math and language creates an uninspiring school year...for you and your kids. Joy in the journey comes from the extras...the color...the passions.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that you create a three-ring-circus or participate in every.single.available.extra-curricular. I'm merely saying that if you only stick with the black-and-white, rules-based subjects and never branch out into content-rich learning or passion-driven extras, you'll never ignite a love for learning. You'll doom your homeschool and spend your days sloughing through monotony.  

Determine which "extra" really inspires your child and make THAT the fourth "R."

A final word

When the honeymoon stage is over and dreams of the perfect-homeschool have faded, many of us, mommas, are left with longing. We warm up our coffee and brace ourselves for one.more.day. But, it doesn't have to be THIS way. We don't have to settle for some tarnished rendition of what-could-have-been. We CAN homeschool with strength...as long as we first acknowledge our part in the struggle. 


  1. Excellent post. You were spot on with every single point. This year I decided I was only going to focus on the three R's with my 7, 6, and 4 yr. olds because I have 6 other kids to homeschool. A few months ago I started to feel like I was cheating them out of the fun stuff, so I started doing FIAR with them every other day, and they've loved it so far. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love FIAR!! That is awesome that you recognized that need for change.

    2. What's FIAR? A link will do! Thanks.

    3. It's a unit study curriculum for young kids centered on picture books. Five in a Row.

  2. This is an awesome post. It should be shared in every online homeschool group out there. The vast majority of questions moms ask revolve around "what curriculum should I use for...." because they think changing an external variable, like curriculum will solve all problems. A joyful, life-affirming, engaging homeschool springs from all the points you mention, not from having the "perfect" curriculum set up in a model classroom.

    1. Thanks for weighing in and for your encouragement! "Joyful" and "life-affirming"...those are great homeschool goals!

  3. Jamie - Thank you. This is a really nice article. One of the reasons we pulled my daughter at the end of 3rd grade was because we wanted her to be able to be a "kid" and have time to be outside and just play on the farm. We have had our share of struggles over curriculum, but she is in 7th grade this year and doing pretty well. She does the majority of her work on the computer and and everything else is just a bonus. I too worried over curriculum and if she was learning enough, fast enough, working long enough, etc. Then I realized that was the reason we pulled her from public school and when "duh, what are you doing". Now, our approach is building a young woman of faith and strong character and values and while we still do reading, writing and rithmetic, we try to focus on her interests. She is an animal lover and will do anything that revolves around that. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Yes! Yes! Yes! A hundred times, yes!! Exactly what I needed to be reminded of as we get ready to dig back in to "school"! Well said!