Tag Archives: homeschooling

Top Five Homeschooling Mistakes You’re Making (and it isn’t your curriculum!)

by Holly Williams Urbach

I love homeschooling and homeschoolers. As a long time homeschooler (since 1993) and the director of an enrichment academy for homeschoolers, I talk with many parents about the issues that they encounter in homeschooling their children. Here are the five most common mistakes I see folks making.

  1. Comparing your homeschool to someone else’s homeschool. Folks, comparing what you can do to what someone else in entirely different circumstances can do is one of the most damaging things you can do to yourself and your children. Some people school year-round, some people school four days a week. Some people’s children have a propensity for languages and speak more than one, while some children struggle with English. Try to take inspiration and encouragement from what others are doing, instead of using their accomplishments as a way to make yourself feel inadequate. Please, please, please-if you take away only one thing here-do not compare what you are doing to what others are doing!
  2. Doing too much. 

    If there is no park day in your area, consider starting one.

    One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the freedom to choose classes and activities for our children. I often see homeschoolers whose children are involved in so many activities that they are rarely home, family life suffers, and the children begin to suffer burnout. The younger the child, the less they should be involved in formal extra-curricular activities. A low commitment activity such as park day is likely a better choice than a high commitment activity such as a full season of soccer for a young child. Older children also need to be helped not to have too full of a schedule. I have had students at our academy who told me that they were exhausted because they worked, did sports, played an instrument, had rigorous honors and AP classes, and also were in Scouts or other youth civic organizations. We all want our children to be well rounded and have a great education, but it is important to find balance and make sure that every family member (you too, Mom and Dad!) has time to just be. Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing. Everyone (even kids) needs a work-life balance.

  3. Doing it all yourself. The homeschooling life is a full life. By choosing to homeschool, you took on another full-time job in addition to what you were already doing. It is all too easy as a homeschooling parent to feel overwhelmed by all your responsibilities. You do not have to do everything yourself. You should not do everything yourself. Get your children involved in helping to make meals as well as to clean and maintain your home. Even young children can be taught to do real jobs that are a big help to the household. Get other adult family members to assist you with your homeschooling. Grandma and Grandpa (if they are supportive of homeschooling) can be great resources in your family’s homeschool endeavors. If there is a field trip you would like to take, see if the grandparents want to go with you or take your child for you so that you can do something else-like earn some money for new curriculum. 🙂
  4. Not having an end to your school day. One of my children taught me a valuable lesson early on in our homeschool, when she asked me to spell a word for her one evening. I suggested that she get the dictionary and look up the word for herself. She responded, “Can’t you just be my mom right now and spell the word for me?” At that moment, I decided that the school day would have an end, just as public and private schools do. While it is true that we have teachable moments outside of our lesson plans, we also need to designate school hours. This is a help to us and our kids. Knowing that we have only so much time to complete work helps all of us to be better managers of our time. It also allows us to be a family after school is done for the day. Our kids need us as their parents as well as their educational facilitators.
  5. Not making time for yourself.

    I fell in love with yoga. Anyone of any age can do it.

    Making time for yourself as a home educator is very important. You may think you don’t have time to exercise, go out to dinner with your spouse or partner, or go to that really cool monthly Moms Night Out. But the truth is, those things are what give you the physical and mental energy you need to homeschool your child. I neglected the physical care and upkeep of myself as a homeschool mom until 2009, when I woke up and realized that I needed to make my health a priority. I feel better today than I did twenty years ago. I wish I had made time to care for myself earlier. If you have not made your physical, mental, and social well being a priority, I encourage you to start immediately. You and your family will benefit immensely! 

So there you have it-the top five mistakes you are making in your homeschooling and I didn’t mention curriculum. As homeschool parents, we need to consciously create balance in our lives so that we have endurance for our whole homeschooling career. What are some of the challenges you have overcome in your homeschooling and what did you do to solve those challenges? Please let us know by clicking on Leave a reply above this post. 

Extra-curricular or Essential?


Colorful notebooks for students in elementary schoolColorful not

The Texas Education Code requires home schools to teach the following subjects: reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a course in good citizenship.

There were days when that was all I could teach, having begun my home schooling career in 1993 newly pregnant, teaching a first grader, kindergartner, a three-year old, and an eighteen-month old. There were days when I was relieved that is all that is required  of homeschoolers to teach!

Over the years of teaching my six children, participating in several co-ops, and leading or assisting in youth organizations such as Boy Scouts and 4-H, I have become convinced that extra-curricular subjects and activities are just as essential as core subjects. I believe that extra-curricular subjects actually provide more real life skills to students than core curriculum does.

In the world outside of school, people compete, set goals, plan projects that have actual applications, and receive rewards for the successful completion of their projects. Conversely when people do not meet goals, the consequences of failure also teach important skills. Many times we learn more from our failures than our successes.

One advantage of extra-curricular subjects and activities is that often the choice is student-driven. When a student has an interest in an area he or she is more likely to be more invested in obtaining and utilizing the information presented. It is a joy for both student and teacher when there is enthusiasm for a subject, activity, or event.

When my daughters participated in 4-H they read the monthly newsletter avidly, telling me about the various workshops, competitions, and community service projects in which they wished to participate.

Through their participation in the food show, fashion show, livestock show, and Round Up, they learned how to prepare balanced meals, to insure food safety, to comparison shop for food and clothing, to write and present a speech, to care for and train animals, and to identify and serve the needs of their community. They earned credits in family & consumer sciences, speech, health, citizenship, and community service in a fun, challenging, encouraging atmosphere.

Another asset of extra-curricular subjects and activities is how they strengthen skills in core curriculum areas. Whether my students were preparing for an upcoming 4-H competition, earning badges in Scouting, or participating in a co-op class, they used and improved the math, reading, writing, and spelling skills they had learned in their regular coursework.

Opportunities to pursue extra-curricular activities are everywhere and can be as expensive or inexpensive as your budget allows. We have utilized home school co-ops, private lessons, youth organizations, volunteering, and the Internet as a way to incorporate extra-curricular subjects to our school day.

Some home educators may feel that the school day is already so full with math, English, science, grammar, foreign language, literature, history, and other required coursework that they could not possibly add anything else. I would encourage home schooling parents to make time for extra-curricular subjects and activities-especially in the high school years when these subjects offer a way to “try on” careers and interests.

Extra-curricular studies also pave the way for lifelong hobbies and skills that develop the student into a well-rounded individual. If college is in your student’s future, a transcript that has a variety of courses and activities detailed on it sets your student apart from the rest of the pack. Scholarships are often offered in extra-curricular areas or through community service organizations such as 4-H. My youngest daughter received a 4-H scholarship which made all the time she did invested extremely worthwhile. Youth enjoying kayak trip

In conclusion, I would encourage everyone to make room in their school schedule for extra-curricular subjects and activities. These activities breathe life and excitement into your school day and your students. You and your students will reap many continuing rewards as a result of the time you invest. What kinds of extra-curricular activities do you do in your homeschool?

(written by Holly Williams Urbach, previously published in the THSC Review, all rights reserved)

Who is the teacher and who is the student?

When I began my homeschool journey in the summer of 1993, I was pretty confident that I could teach a second grader and kindergartner. I was fairly certain I could also manage a three year-old and 18 month-old while teaching their older two siblings. I was sure I know who the teacher was and who the students were . . . Apple for teacher

We weren’t very far into our homeschooling expedition when I realized that I was actually the first student in our little school! This came as a surprise to me, though in retrospect, it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all because I definitely had a lot to learn.

I thought that because I had worked with children since I was old enough to be older than another child and that I was familiar with children’s development, and that because I was literate and knowledgeable about many subjects, that I would be able to teach my children easily. However, getting information to children in a form and fashion that they can relate to is not always an easy or intuitive task. Learning to recognize when my students were getting frustrated and helping them to keep going when topics or skills were difficult wasn’t always easy. I had to hone my skills and to adjust them to each child’s learning style. children reading

My nearly six year-old son was a very active child and one of the primary reasons we took the leap into homeschooling. He literally NEVER sat down or if he did, it wasn’t for a very long time. Teaching him to read involved taping letters onto our carpet and allowing him to jump to each one to say its name and sound. My third child sat sweetly next to me while learning her letters. My fourth child needed a multi-sensory curriculum (we ended up using Sing, Spell, Read, and Write with huge success) while my fifth child thrived using just A Beka’s Blue-Backed Speller. Each child stretched and added to my teaching skills. I was a good student and not only learned what I needed to learn, I retained that knowledge for future use.

In 2010, I got involved with a little homeschool enrichment academy when my two youngest children were teens. They started attending classes there on an a la carte basis. I did the cleaning to offset my tuition and taught a class. Eventually I was hired as the director and now I am the owner of Hill Country Academy. I use the time management, child development, and teaching skills I honed with my own children in our academy. I have come a long way since I was the first student in my homeschool!

Who knows where you will end up with what you learned while teaching your children?