the CHOC Board
a Christian Home School Resource Directory for the extended Portland Oregon metro area
Getting Started: Why and How
Know the Law
Deciding What to Teach
Deciding Which Curriculum
Planning Your Homeschool
Real World Solutions
Teaching the Three R's
Pitfalls to Avoid
Pitfalls to Avoid

Homeschool 101


WHAT SHOULD I ASK THAT I DON'T KNOW TO ASK?

Some Pitfalls to Avoid for the New, and not so new, Homeschooler
(Or How to Want to Give Up On Homeschooling Before Your First Year is Over)

 1. The SUPER Homeschooler (or how to perfect going nuts)
You'll recognize it…the idea that your homeschool must achieve perfection.  All the children are clean, obedient, bubbling in their matching outfits as they carefully recreate Martin Luther's 95 theses in playdough, in Latin. 

Relax, the Super Homeschooler is a myth.  Instead of focusing on being super, or the real sin, comparing your homeschool to others unfavorably, focus instead upon what God has called you to accomplish in your homeschool for that particular child, for your particular family.  Leave the Super to Him.  He alone deserves it, and He alone is the author and perfecter of your homeschool. 

It is through Christ that we are enabled.  Pray as Solomon did, Lord give me wisdom to guide your people--and give me knowledge to guide your children.  That is a prayer we can personally testify the Lord will honor abundantly.
 

2.  The Perfect Curriculum (or thy neighbor's educated ox)There is no such thing as THE "perfect" curriculum.  As our favorite homeschooling pundit put it, all curriculum works if the teacher does.  The goal is to find the best fitting curriculum for your family that does not require you or your child to work needlessly or in a direction in which you do not wish to devote your energy. 

Constantly changing curriculum is confusing and costly.  Sometimes all you need to do is hang on a little longer to see the fruit of it or tweak a little here and there so it works better for you. So resist the temptation to be constantly comparing your curriculum to your homeschooling neighbor's curriculum, and coveting their accomplishments (there's that comparing thing again). 

 3.  Weak Disciplinary Control (or help…my kids are holding me hostage!)
Many moms bail out because their little darlings are running wild, refusing to do their work in a thousand irritating, teacher-derailing, foot-dragging ways.  You must have a clear cause and effect authority structure for your child and be willing to enforce it if you are going to teach him and keep him on track. 

Dad can be a big help in this area as he can be the principal to report to as well as the adoring father that the child displays his work to at the end of the day. 

Also, remember to think discipline in the positive sense as well as the punishment sense.  Reward systems are excellent motivators for the sluggish child, such as "store" dollars given for certain levels of performance to be exchanged at a weekly time for goodies.  Our kids, by the way, also learned a lot of economics from this method!

 4.  But We MUST ALWAYS finish ALL of it (or page after page, as the homeschool turns)
You'll know who you are when beads of sweat break out on your forehead at the mere thought that maybe, just maybe, little Johnny doesn't need to do all 100 problems on the 2's times table since he knows them thoroughly even though the workbook page includes them.  

While repetition often is beneficial, and seatwork can be a good tool, please don't feel compelled to finish every problem, read every page, do every quiz, finish every supplemental book and additional worksheet, etc., etc., ad infinauseum. 

Publishers purposely sell a  lot of stuff because that's how they make money.  Also, they are offering options for teachers to pick and choose from for that extra seat work to keep the masses quiet.  Remember to make the curriculum work for you. Focus upon your child's mastery.  If he's truly mastered a subject feel free to  move on! 

5.  Why are you always so squirrelly/whiny about your work! (or the square peg/round hole)
Please seek God's guidance for your child's learning style and stage.  Not every child learns best from abundant seatwork problems.  Not every child is meant to master Algebra at 9 years of age (most don't!). 

Please take time to prayerfully consider the wonderful being God has created in your child and be satisfied with that. Remember you are stewarding a whole life. Maybe your child will excel in learning through more hands-on crafts, as he needs more physical input to help focus his mind.  Maybe they won't master Algebra until later in high school (or, gulp, ever).

Please learn to see your child's gifts as God does. Maybe, God never intended your child to be a doctor but meant him to be a fine mechanic for his Kingdom.

6.  The All-Consuming Homeschool
(or is this ever going to end?)
You'll recognize it.  The children wince when today's promised family-time, a fun walk in the park, once again has to become a nature lesson on the migratory patterns of yellow finches.

Or, when your husband plaintively wonders, if he gives you a month's notice, do you think possibly you could go out to coffee with him? And you can't remember the last time you studied your Bible for you, rather than coordinating a lesson plan for the kids? 

Remember balance.  You are a family first, and then you homeschool.  Trust me, it will still get done (remember homeschool is more efficient!).

7.  Lack of Vision and Conviction (or why am I doing this again...afterall, who really cares?)
There are two sides to this issue.

On one side of this issue, many homeschoolers don't so much as give up as they just drift away due to lack of vision and conviction and then regretfully wonder why they don't still homeschool.  First, they never really knew why they were homeschooling, or their reasons, honestly, were pretty shallow. It will take deep commitment and prayerful diligence for yourself and your spouse to homeschool faithfully year after year. Ask God to clearly show you His Vision, searching His Word, so you know why you are doing this and write it down so you can refer to it again in times of discouragement or ambivalence.

On the other side of this issue, while most homeschoolers, by nature, tend to over achieve (if you generally worry that you might not being doing all you should, you're one of those, and read the paragraphs above), there is also another result from a lack of vision and conviction. We are beginning to meet more homeschoolers who under achieve because of a lack of high standards in their homeschool.  While they see the benefit of the homeschooling lifestyle for their family, their lack of vision and goals do not reflect a standard unto the Lord.  We are taught to do all things as unto the Lord, even our daily chores.  While homeschooling is wonderfully more relaxed and flexible, don't be tempted into shoddy workmanship because "it doesn't really matter in the eternal picture" or "we aren't interested in what the world thinks anyway."  While that lesson topic may not be earth-shattering or bring hundreds to Christ, the work ethic reflected will be important as well as the standard of workmanship we reflect to those who witness our homeschool.  Not every lesson or subject carries equal weight, and that is reflected in our focus and intent. But if the lesson is worth taking the time to teach, teach it with purpose and expect it to be executed by the student to a standard that you wouldn't be ashamed to admit under closer srutiny. 

 
8.  Help, I've fallen behind and I can't catch up! (or a 1000 distractions does not make a homeschool)
Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and it is flexible, and important lessons can be learned outside the books and schoolroom.  But there is a difference between flexibility and continuous uncontrolled chaos.

If you become overly committed even with really "good" ministries and activities, soon you may find yourself shoving homeschooling so far into the back or juggling it with so many other things that honestly you are not getting important work done. 

Homeschooling will require a constant watch on your priorities and a constant effort to make it a main priority.  Learn to say "no" and put the answering machine on. 

 9.  The Robinson Crusoe Homeschool (or who needs friends?)
Please remember to reach out and encourage one another as homeschoolers.  Homeschooling is an individual, family decision, and the torch we carry we must carry ourselves.  However, God has given us each other to help along the way. 

Don't forget to bless one another in Him while you homeschool your children.  Trust us, you'll receive way more than you give, and you will steward relationship skills in your children as you demonstrate them with others!

 10.  The Constantly Discouraged and Fretful Homeschooler (or gloom, despair, and agony on me!)
Every homeschooler will experience doubt or uncertainty from time to time, and we all have seasons that are more difficult, but we must learn to quickly give our concerns to the Lord and trust in His guidance, or we can become constantly worried and discouraged.  

You'll recognize this pattern because the fretful homeschooler is always second-guessing their decisions out of fear. They zig this way and then that way never landing long on any method or curriculum or schooling choice for that matter.  And all the while driven by guilt that they are not measuring up or that they chose wrongly.

Often too much isolation breeds imbalance as we focus on our own troubles causing them to grow in our eyes. Over commitment causes harriedness and fatigue. Fear of failure or envy of another's success robs us of our peace. 

When we become fearful until indecisiveness and confusion takes root in our homeschool, emtions can swing madly up and down as if on a roller coaster and termpers can flare until children are disparing as we jag this way and then that way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will direct your paths. 

Ask Him for His guidance, and then trust Him to answer. Rest in His peace for your homeschool and family, and know that what He has called you to do, He will enable you to do.

 

11. TINSTAAFL...There is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (or who's in charge of our kids' schooling again?)
As taxpayers, it can be very tempting to take government dollars for education in our homeschools, especially since we as homeschoolers most often are one-income families. 

From the new abundance of public-school-at-home programs and government curriculum hand outs, often with a new computer attached, the government seems happy to grow this arrangement. 

It should be a win-win situation, right?

One issue, of course, is the fact that the government sponsored curriculum and classes will be secular with a lot of the material in contradiction to Christian beliefs.

Futhermore, tax dollars do not belong to the individual taxpayer (as much as we'd all like to believe that).  Tax dollars belong to the government to be used in trust for tax payer benefit upon proper legislative approval. Always, oversight of those dollars will be called for--sooner or later.

Unfortunately, most often a small group of legislators control the money for a specialized group of tax payers in a politically sensitive manner.  They have to if they want to please the masses, please powerful lobbyists, and get re-elected.

Each family must decide whether or not they want to accept government curriculum freebies and the school-at-home hybrid charters or allow their homeschooled child to take open public school classes.  However, a word to the wise. 

What is "free" is not really free.  Government oversight always follows the government dollar. 

A main reason given by anti-homeschooling lobbyists in attempt to legislate more control over all homeschoolers is those growing numbers of homeschoolers who accept government curriculum and participate in government classes.  This proposed control is deemed necessary to follow the government dollar used on homeschoolers. 

Most often these anti-homeschooling lobbyists then attempt to justify a  mandate for state teacher credentials upon any teaching parent, state approval of any curriculum used (not always only that which was bought with government dollars), and even the end of homeschooling itself as it is viewed as non-successful if homeschoolers need constant government educational assistance.

Fortunately, pro-homeschooling advocates have been able to correctly channel the additional governement control to only those families who willingly accept and want government programs or dollars.

Large numbers of homeschoolers have traditionally banded together and shown that parent-directed home schooling is more effective and cost efficient than government-controlled education.

If we do that on our own private dollars, the government has little left to say in the face of our sucesses, and we are more likely to remain in control of our homeschools and our children's education.

 

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