Warning: Avoid These Disappointing Homeschooling Regrets

Overview: It's impossible to have NO homeschooling regrets, but maybe you can lessen the list by avoiding the ones this veteran homeschool mom has.

20-20 hindsight is an amazing thing. :-)

We all have regrets, don't we? We have all made mistakes in our lives, some bigger, some not so big. We look back and wish we had done something more effectively, been a better person, and spent more time slurping ice cream than forcing down brussel sprouts, am I right?

Homeschooling is definitely an area of life that generates regrets.  When we choose to homeschool, we are giving over a big chunk of our lives to one particular emphasis; and something that encompasses so much energy and time is bound to include its share of blunders, wrong turns, and outright failures.  Some of them may be short-lived and easily fixed; others we don't realize until much time has gone by.

Awhile back I posted an Ann-Notated that included a list of articles from veteran homeschool moms about what they would have done differently. I've been intrigued by the topic ever since, and so I thought it was time to add my own hard-won experience to the record.  If nothing else, I'm hoping it will help young homeschool moms to start out well — and to avoid my mistakes, lol.  I'm also hoping it will encourage older moms to know that they are not alone — sometimes that's all we need to know to have the courage to keep going…

It's impossible to have NO homeschooling regrets, but maybe you can lessen the list by avoiding the ones this veteran homeschool mom has.

If you want to avoid homeschooling regrets of your own, my book called Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School spends more time on many of the topics listed in this article. Socialization, maintaining your relationship with your teen, keeping things doable so fun is still an option, and more are all delved into from my perspective after years of experience, so you can manage your expectations and feel confident and successful. You can see more about it here: Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School.

What are my homeschooling regrets?

1) I wish I'd done a better job of keeping up with the daily paperwork.  I tend to get easily distracted doing other things, and I figure the kids are chugging along just fine; and before I know it, WEEKS have gone by with me not checking their work. The problem with this mistake is that it snowballs. When I don't grade the math test from chapter five until many days or weeks after it has been taken, and then I find that my “oh I'm fine, Mom” student really did not understand a fairly major concept, it's sometimes too late to do anything about it. They may have moved so far on that they don't even really remember chapter five anymore. Or they're in chapter seven and STILL doing the same things wrong that they were doing in chapter five. Sigh.  This has happened more times than I like to admit…

Related Reading: Homeschool Paperwork: How to Keep Up (and what to do if you haven't!)

2) I wish we'd not been so secluded and going it alone for so many years.  I've shared about our homeschool journey, and how we moved to very rural Missouri when our children were still in the elementary years. Partly due to finances, and partly due to lack of effort, we became quite secluded homeschoolers. We didn't belong to any homeschool group, we just schooled by ourselves, mostly staying home. This is not a problem if it only lasts for a short season, but for us it lasted many years. Over time doing things yourself can mean feeling lonely, lacking support or encouragement, being without accountability – all of which lead to a shortage of motivation. We got burnt out and my kids were not happy with homeschooling. This year (ten years after the move) is our first time back into a regular co-op situation.  We've joined our local Classical Conversations group, and the kids are already finding school much more interesting. :-)

UPDATE: While we are no longer with Classical Conversations, we are still in a local co-op. I would be fine staying home, but my teen would not, LOL. Are you stuck for ways to socialize your teen? Check out this list for ideas: 100 Ways to Socialize Your Homeschooled Teen.

3) I wish I'd been more willing to learn from other moms.  All along I've battled my own pride in homeschooling.  I think it's a pretty widespread phenomenon among homeschool moms, actually. Most of us are self-assured, self-sufficient types who get things done. This means we rarely want to listen to the way others do things. We think we've got it covered, so we chug along doing it our own way. This can be good to a certain extent – we don't want to be whining bundles of insecurity, after all – but humility is always a good choice. Other moms have lots to share. Our way is not always the right or only way. We can learn even from the newbies.  We can admit when we need help.  I didn't do that enough.

4) I wish I had not worked outside the home for two years while the eldest was homeschooling high school. I left her in charge of four younger siblings for 20+ hours per week, expecting them all to get along and get their schoolwork done. I was very concerned about our budget – and we did pay off some debt – but the costs to relationships and to learning were very high.  I could write an entire blog post about the consequences of that decision; but suffice it to say that if you are a homeschool mom, please try to make extra income any other way before finding a job that requires you to leave your house!

UPDATE: But if you do have to work an outside job—and I'll confess I'm back at one now that there is only one kid left in our homeschool (and I may end up regretting that, too, but needs must… sigh…)—then definitely check out this article by Jen Mackinnon at Practical by Default to gain encouragement and ideas about how to make it all work (haha pun intended): Can You Successfully Work and Homeschool Your Kids at the Same Time?

5) I wish we'd had more fun.  It's easy to get into a homeschool rut.  Somehow over the years, school became something to get DONE — we had to finish the lesson each day; we had to complete the curriculum each year — and fun activities like field trips or learning games went by the wayside.  Homeschooling is the chance to infuse the learning process with all sorts of variety!  I didn't take advantage of those opportunities like I could have.

Related: 150+ Fun Homeschool Unit Study Ideas for K-8

This getting older stuff can be tough, and not just because of the wrinkles, LOL.  As our kids grow up, we look back and see all the things we could have done better over the years.  But that's OK; mistakes and regrets are part of being human — and by identifying and analyzing our failures we can grow beyond them.  And it's never to late to improve.  After all, as Anne of Green Gables has said, “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet.”  Don't you find that comforting?  I do. :-)

It's impossible to have NO homeschooling regrets, but maybe you can lessen the list by avoiding the ones this veteran homeschool mom has.

It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

18 thoughts on “Warning: Avoid These Disappointing Homeschooling Regrets”

  1. Thank you for this. We’re in our 6th year of homeschooling and our oldest is a freshman this year. I work part time at our church and the kids come with me. It’s amazing how much better they work at the church–more efficiently, less arguing, etc. And, there’s always a “fun” job for them to do when schoolwork is done, or one of their favorite staff members is around for a chat.

    We’re also somewhat isolated in that we don’t have a homeschool group. We participate in other things, but our priest has encouraged me to form a group and use our church as the meeting place.

    I second the humility part. I’ve not taken advice from others initially, that has turned out to be so wonderful. I’m glad I was able to see that it was valuable later on.

    1. Olivia, it sounds like you have a GREAT situation for working outside the home. How neat that your coworkers are all so supportive of what you’re doing! You are making memories with your kids. Love it! Thanks for stopping by! :-)

  2. Thank you for your honesty in sharing these thoughts! Having graduated my first two, I’m also much more aware of what I need to do differently with the kids who are still at home. Hopefully we’re always learning and improving. I think your willingness to share what you wish you’d done differently could help someone make improvements without learning the hard way. Thanks again!

    1. That is exactly my purpose in writing, Amy — to help someone before they have to learn the hard way like I did. Thanks so much for your kind words! :-)

  3. I wish I were less distracted. I wish I had made my oldest get his license so I didn’t have to drive him everywhere. I wish I had read to them more (even though we read everyday). There are always regrets, but I will never regret taking the plunge and actually homeschooling. So worth it!

  4. I am a young homeschool mom that doesn’t want to have to many regrets. So I’m trying to learn from others that have done it already. How would you suggest that I do more fun things and still keep up with the curriculum requirements? I also have a 1 and 3 yr old so it is difficult to keep my housework kept up with also. So adding more ‘fun’ stuff sounds great!! It feels like we could easily get in a rut. And I want to enjoy the time I have during this phase. But I don’t see how to make it work!!

    1. That is the rut I got into, Jairus — worrying about keeping up with all the curriculum requirements. We are so afraid we won’t cover everything they’re “supposed” to know in a given grade. But we forget that the beauty of homeschooling is that WE are the ones who determine what they are supposed to know! WE decide the curriculum requirements; we are not bound to the table of contents in a book. We can skip lessons or shorten them or leave the book half done. Most of the time in the early years it just is NOT necessary to finish it, lol. Everything repeats over and over again in those years; if they don’t have it one year they will see it again and again. Tomorrow morning go through your curriculum and axe a bunch of it. Or shorten it. Or find a way to do it orally — because that goes much quicker and leaves time for other things. Really think about whether this is someone else’s idea of what your kid should know or if it is yours. Find educational movies and toys that will accomplish some of the same learning that bookwork would do. I’m not talking here about ditching state homeschool requirements about teaching math (for example); I’m just talking about how much or what kind of math you need to teach. That is negotiable — so find a balance that works for YOUR family. :-)

  5. Thank you for being so honest! I needed a little reminder to add some fun back into our homeschool. I’m trying to cram as much work in before baby #7 comes that I’m forgetting to enjoy my kids and our time homeschooling!

  6. Annie this was inspiring to me and I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing here. Life is too short to spare details when it may be just what someone else needed to hear!
    I’m a firm believer it’s never too late to redeem what you have let go astray. Point number 4 really struck a chord with me. What started out as a low key outside work commitment, has now become a struggle to juggle alongside my home responsibilities. The money earnings can tug at the loyalty strings of the heart. Always thinking that it’s a net to have “just incase” something comes up to buy or pay for. I find myself needing to relinquish what i thought would not interfere and has in fact at times put my family last and not first. Merry Christmas Annie!

    1. These decisions can be so tough, can’t they? It’s hard to know what takes priority sometimes. But if it is possible to be home and still pay the bills, that is where I’d rather be. :-)

  7. Being secluded has been my biggest regret about homeschooling. My daughter is 15 and always homeschooled. Other homeschoolers in the area have not been friendly (their groups were well established before we moved here) so its been hard. I worry my daughter hasn’t “learned” how to make or be a friend. Other than that, and a few bumpy years in her “middle school” years, homeschooling has been great. My daughter and I have a great relationship. She’s smart, friendly, quirky and nerdy. I couldn’t ask fir a sweeter kid!

    1. That’s one of the BEST parts about homeschooling teens — we get to know them so well, and to appreciate them, and to develop that relationship that has worked through the tough times and is more solid as a result. Love it! :-)

  8. Thank you for sharing this. We have been at this for 7 years and I have a few of the same “issues.” The grading work thing – yikes! We are about to move for the 3rd time in 4 years and i am finally clearing out the last few years of papers. I really want to scan and trash the keep pile. I try to do a curriculum plan at the beginning of each year, and convert that to a transcript at the end of the year with a scan if important work competed. Well, that fell apart about 3 years ago. I do well at the beginning and then just keep a flex file – until I get to the computer for scanning. I just found about a semester’s worth of writing from my son that I don’t think I ever even read. This was from over 2 years ago! Luckily he is doing well in general and actually motivated to get some prerequisites done this summer in order to take more interesting course in the 10th grade, this fall. I really appreciate your blogs and FB page to help me get through the idea of preparing my children for college and life!

    1. Hi Rachel, I know how you feel about life taking turns we hadn’t anticipated, and how that affects our homeschooling can be so frustrating. But keep hanging onto the big picture, which is that “he is doing well in general.” That’s the key right there! You’ve got this! And thanks SO MUCH for your kind words! HUGS!

  9. We, too, were secluded for many years. Not going out so much, though, allowed me to have the energy and creativity for meaningful interaction, like poetry teas and engaging science. We didn’t have much luck finding a place we fit in, but we did learn valuable lessons about people by venturing more out into the world. I’d start to regret some of that, but I can see the positive even in difficulty. My kids are not that independent, to do very much on their own, so I might regret that, but not missing a concept they didn’t get. I work outside the home a day a week to substitute teach. I used to really resent it, that I was not home teaching my own children, but now I think it’s stimulating for me and the kids love having a break. I can relate to your I wish we’d had more fun. We have so much freedom as homeschoolers, all the opportunity to get out and do things differently. I was poor, stopping me, but I do think there were things I missed for making fun traditions simply because they didn’t occur to me.

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