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10 things you’ve got wrong about homeschooling

Post title on photo of chalkboard wall

A number of you have asked for more homeschooling posts, since you’re unexpectedly joining the homeschooling ranks this year.

Zoe sitting at the table

I love reading “here’s what you’re doing wrong” types of list posts, so I thought it might be fun to do one about homeschooling misconceptions.


1. You do not need a decorated/dedicated homeschool room

So many new homeschoolers think they need a specific room for school, decorated in a specific way, with specific furniture designated for homeschooling.

And maybe some homeschoolers DO operate that way long-term…I dunno for sure.

But I can tell you that most homeschoolers I know are much less formal than that!

homeschooling reading time

We do school in the bedroom, in the kitchen, in the living room, at the table, on the floor, in the car, on the desk, and any number of other places.

If a designated homeschool room helps you, then great! Go for it.

But if you, like me, do not have space for (or inclination toward) a homeschool room, know that you’re going to be fine.

2. Your kids don’t have to get dressed to do school

School in pajamas can work great.

School not in pajamas can work great.

pajama pants

Figure out what works for you and your kids and do that. 

3. You don’t need to prepare lessons for every kid, every day

If you have a class of 20 kids, then yeah, you’ll need to do some organizing and planning.

But with just one or two kids in your “class”, you don’t need to get up and present a lesson every day.

A lot of homeschool curriculum is designed so that the kid can read the directions and do the work on their own (assuming we’re talking about kids who can already read).

Sonia sitting at her desk

Most homeschooled kids do a lot of independent work, which is one of the main reasons homeschooling is feasible for parents of many kids in many grades.

4. This is not going to take six hours every day

Your kid IS normally at school for six hours, sure.

But your kid is definitely not doing focused school work for six hours.

There’s lunch, recess, moving between classes, waiting for other kids, distractions from other kids, and so on.

sonia playing a geography game

So, that means you should not expect that your child is going to need six hours of focused schoolwork at home.

If your student works hard and gets their daily assignments done in three hours*, there is absolutely no need to panic. It’s normal!

If the work is done, that’s what matters.

*this is a random number. Early grades, such as kindergarten, do not even require three hours at home.

5. There’s not one right curriculum out there

The homeschool market is seriously overwhelming, right? SO MANY CHOICES.

This is great in one sense, but frustrating at the same time.

messy pile of books

I have a thought that can help, though:

Remember that when you shop, you’re not trying to find the one right curriculum out of 3789 bad curriculums.

Instead, you’re probably looking at at least 3,000 good curriculums, and any one of those 3,000 are probably going to be fine.

Good enough is good enough, and it’s ok to do a reasonable amount of research and then just pick something. 

6. You’re not stuck with a particular book/course

If you do pick something and you find it to be terrible or just a terrible fit for you, you can change it up, even midyear.

This is not the cheapest thing to do, of course, but it’s good to know that it is an option. 

And remembering that it’s an option will help you feel less stressed about choosing which books to buy.

tips for saving on college textbooks

(On a related note, you can almost always sell non-consumable homeschool curriculum, which will help you recoup some of your cost. I sell mine on eBay and here’s how I do it.)

7. You don’t need classroom-y items

Kinda related to #1 on this list: some school items really are designed for a classroom experience (blackboards, whiteboards, posters, and so on).

bucket of chalk on chalkboard wall

The chalkboard wall in Zoe’s room is for fun, not for school!

They’re not going to harm your homeschool experience, but you’re probably not going to find them necessary. 

And sometimes, you can just make do with household items since you have a small class.

For instance, when my kids were in early math, I didn’t buy coin manipulatives; we just used actual coins! That’s not feasible in a classroom, but it totally works at home. 

8. You can’t make your kids love learning/have a good attitude

No matter how peppy or excited or interesting you are, your kids are going to have a bad attitude sometimes.

I’m not saying this to discourage you, but rather to help you set your expectations properly.

sad sonia

(I got Sonia’s permission to share this. She’s crying over a broken flower, not schoolwork. But it still works for illustrative purposes. 😉 )

No parent is able to make a kid like every subject every day of the school year. Do your best to set a good tone, but don’t consider yourself a failure if your kid isn’t enraptured by their education every day.

On a related note, I find it annoying when people won’t just let me dislike something. No one likes everything! So as parents, I don’t think it’s helpful for us to say, “Oh, but quadratic equations are SO FUN.”

If your kid doesn’t like a subject, telling them it’s really fun is probably going to be counter-productive. 

I figure this is a great opportunity to teach kids that sometimes, they don’t have to like it; they just have to do it.

And that’s a great life lesson.

9. You do not have to already know everything your kids are learning

It would be really handy to be well-versed in all of your kids’ subjects. But no parent out there is, except for maybe parents of really early grade kids.

You can learn along with your children, or slightly ahead of your children, and it can still be beneficial. You aren’t really the teacher; the curriculum is there to guide both you and your student.

For instance, I am not a math expert, but I’ve gotten all four of my kids through Algebra 1 now, and I’ve done plenty of refreshing along the way by reading the relevant lessons when my kids are stuck. 

math dinosaur

Kristen’s math skills > dinosaur’s math skills

I am pretty well-versed in Algebra 1 by now (!!), but I wasn’t all brushed up on it to start with. 

(I originally did Algebra 1 in 1993. It’s been a while.)

10. If you think this will be terrible or wonderful, you are wrong either way

I see parents approaching this homeschooling thing with dread.

And I also see parents with a, “This is going to be such a fun time of learning! Woohoo!” approach.

I think these are both slightly wrong (or maybe they’re both right) because like everything else in life, homeschooling is a mix of upsides and downsides.

There will be days that are terrible and days that are wonderful; there will be times when this seems like the best decision in the world and there will be times when you will desperately want to quit.

Both of those feelings are utterly normal. At least, they’ve been normal for me!

What else would you add to my list? What’s a misconception about homeschooling that you’d like to correct? 

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Kathryn B

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

I have loved unschooling my littles who are currently PreK and Kindergarten, and I have an Education degree to teach high school science! My favorite and simultaneously most challenging lesson has been everything counts for school. We do year-round, 3 to 4 day work weeks. Every day we do math and phonics and rotate another subject, science, life skills, social studies, etc. This is our second year homeschooling, and I intend to follow through to graduation. I really appreciate everyone's freely shared wisdom and encouragement!

Tiny's Mum

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Thank you for this post! I myself had been going back and forth about homeschooling for the last couple years only because my son has said that he thought that he would let enjoy it and I would be great at it. however I was very hesitant and it took a lot of convincing for it to happen the best convincing I got and was covid! last year the school year was quite difficult My son was picked on bullied encouraged to do things he probably knew better not to do but wanted to fit in, his shoes were taken from him and tossed as if they were going to be thrown in the trash only to have my son be made fun of for even being upset that his shoes were taken from him. My son was sick quite often with colds and flues already throughout the year. Towards the end of the year my son had his knee sprained during a lunch break that I was not notified about and it took days to even diagnose because my son denied anything was even wrong because he thought he'd get in trouble since no one at school thought it was a big deal. I had complained to the school several times about the thought that they weren't taking proper care of my child or protecting him the way that I needed him to be protected and he was out of school for a week and a half only to go back to be put out of school due to the illness that was spreading. during the last few months of the school year we were able to get an idea of what homeschooling would be like and decided that we would give it a shot. This has been an interesting shot!? My son is all of the things that you described and learning is not something that he puts high on his agenda. And I have had the last few days where I have been at a point where I am ready to quit! not because I'm not willing to do it but because I just want to make sure that it's something that's actually going to help him be the best version of himself through education as well as his own internal development. Even though the days have been difficult throughout the days there's been moments where I can see the light but I didn't know if that was just something I was kind of building up within myself?! So it was very refreshing to read your article randomly and here's so many things that I needed to hear in order to keep the momentum that I need to make this work! All of your tips are extremely helpful and we need more encouragement for the days weeks and years to come if this is the path that most of us end up on so to have insight that's realistic to the fact that we are human beings and none of us really like to have to learn except for when we really want to learn, makes it really nice to know that I'm on the right path and I'm okay with being a little bit rocky while on it. Thank you again and I hope to read further articles that might be insightful or helpful cuz every mom really does need a little bit of help!

Sue Ott

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

So very well written!! I homeschooled my children and found each of the above to be true. This is really helpful for new homeschoolers. Thank you!


Wednesday 9th of September 2020

This is my 8th year homeschooling. For us, we do have to be dressed or school just doesn't happen/happen well. We've never had a dedicated homeschool space (our house just isn't large enough for that). My daughter hates schoolwork. I think she would hate it any way we did school, that's just her personality. So...we just press on through it. I was homeschooled, and my mom would say, "It doesn't have to be fun, it just has to be done!" I don't strive to make things unenjoyable (!) but math is math and if math isn't "fun"...well it just has to be done.


Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Yes! This idea that everything ought to be fun is just not realistic. There's so much about life as an adult (and also as a child) that is flat-out not fun.

It's called, "schoolwork" not "schoolfun" for a reason, probably. Ha.

It's not that learning can't be fun sometimes. But a lot of times, it is necessary to just put your nose to the grindstone and do the work.


Wednesday 9th of September 2020

That it is alright to call a home ec day(major house cleaning day, saved for Fridays) or plan a field trip with other homeschoolers. Those were for us, and can be ground breaking experiences for other kids.

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