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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Nine Homeschooling Mistakes to Avoid

By Kerrie McLoughlin

Most parents were thrown into homeschooling when COVID-19 struck. But I’ve been doing it for 14 years with my five children. So let me share some of the tricks of the trade and keep you from making some of my mistakes. Here’s what to avoid, should you choose to homeschool your kids this fall.

1 Playing copycat. There’s a temptation to try to recreate every nuance of a public or private school, complete with desks, chalkboard or smartboard, uniforms, and a rigid schedule. But since you are the teacher, you have permission to be flexible and do things differently.

2 Homeschooling 24/7. The school day doesn’t have to be seven hours long. Consider shorter chunks of teaching/learning time along with occasional days off to go to the zoo, take a nature walk, hit the library, watch some documentaries, or just snuggle up and read. For older kids, volunteering or working a part-time job certainly counts as real-world education.

3 Doing lots of desk time. No need for kids and teachers to sit in chairs all day. We all learn and teach differently. Sometimes I’ll read to my kids while one is doing art, another is playing Minecraft, and I’m doing squats! I also include my kids in daily activities, such as errands, cooking, household chores, budget planning, and more.

4 Keeping up with the Joneses. Don’t compare your family to other homeschoolers or other conventionally schooled children. I might beat myself up because my kids have not learned cursive as readily as my neighbor’s children, while my neighbor laments that she doesn’t do as many educational outings as I do. It’s great to bounce ideas off of a homeschooling tribe, but competition doesn’t help anyone, least of all your child!

5 Shelling out big bucks for curriculum. There’s no reason for elementary school to cost anything at all when there are so many free sources of information, such as the public library,, and Khan Academy. Also check out California Virtual Academies (, which provides free online, teacher-monitored schooling to kids.

6 Not following your child’s lead. It was a sad day when I was in a homeschool store and heard a kid ask his mom if he could study a certain topic he was excited about and she said, “No, these are the books that we are working on this year, and we aren’t going to stray from them.”

7 Sticking with something that isn’t working. Switching curriculum halfway through the year is not uncommon. If a certain workbook makes you and your child cry and want to throw it across the room, don’t power through until the end of the school year! Find something else that works. That’s the beauty of the freedom of homeschooling.

8 Doing everything with and for your child. Children often figure something out when we aren’t looking over their shoulders.

9 Trying to be perfect. The longer I homeschool, the more I enjoy telling newbies about random mistakes I’ve made. The relief I see on their faces when they realize they don’t need to be the World’s Greatest Homeschooler makes sharing my stories so worth it.
If you realize that missteps are totally normal, you might be easier on yourself and have more fun on this shorter-than-you-think journey with your kids! 

Kerrie McLoughlin has been homeschooling her five kids since 2006. You can read more about her family’s fun antics at