I grew up a homeschooler when homeschooling was still kind of a fringe type of thing. These days, most people have heard of homeschooling, and they even admit that homeschooling is a way to receive an excellent education.

While it can still be a hard decision to homeschool if it goes counterculture to friends and family, today’s homeschool family can find lots of support, sociality and an array of curricula and resources that are virtually unlimited. Even in small rural communities, homeschool groups blossom and thrive.

It’s kind of nice.

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Heisman Trophy Homeschooler

We have homeschoolers who have excelled in every conceivable area of academia, who have graduated Harvard at the age of 11, who have won the Heisman Trophy…we have pretty much proven that homeschooling can produce great results.

Homeschooling Gold Medalist

Homeschooling Gold Medalist

We have studies! We have thousands upon thousands of homeschool graduates who have been successful and done amazing things and are well adjusted adults who have happy families and successful careers–you would think all of us who are choosing homeschool now would be perfectly confident and at ease with ourselves.

But we aren’t.

I get lots of emails from moms who are homeschooling who feel like they are failing.

This fear of failure is palpable when I am perusing homeschool groups to which I belong. It looms in the background of homeschooling blogs I read. And this fear along with the guilt put upon homeschooling mothers and families can be paralyzing. This fear then leads to massive consumerism and endless discontent.

I would guess that at least 90% of homeschooling parents are afraid that they aren’t doing enough or that they are in some way failing their children on some level, when the truth is, you are doing an incredible job. Yet, you still feel like you need to read and re-read the countless articles, books, and newsletters and attend the hundreds of seminars, webinars and courses on how to succeed at homeschool, and you are all still worried. So, I am going to tell you how you can fail. Maybe it will help. Maybe then, you can just check off that you are not doing the fail thing and go on your way and breathe a sigh of relief and relax.

#1 Constantly Worry That You Are Failing As A Homeschooling Teacher

This is probably the number one mistake that homeschooling parents make. I think I may know why. I did a quick Google image search for “homeschool,” and apparently, this is what it is supposed to look like:


Typical Homeschool

Mom Right Beside My Shoulder

Mom Right Beside My Shoulder Dressed Like An Attorney

Another Image of A Homeschool Day

A Typical Homeschooling Family?


Homeschooling in America

Homeschooling in America?

If you are always taking your temperature as a homeschool teacher, you will never realize how well you are doing, and you will never have time to see how well your children are doing. You will be a mess inside. Your children will feel it.

Sure, you will have some good days, when you look like the photos above. But that can only last for a day or two (in my case, it can last for approximately 10 minutes). Because those photos are from photo shoots.

This is what homeschool really looks like:

Real Life Homeschooling

Real Life Homeschooling: Sometimes It Looks Like This!

A Typical Homeschool Day...From Growing Home

A Typical Homeschool Day…From Growing Home

Real Life Homeschooling

Real Life Homeschooling

A Typical Homeschool Family

A Typical Homeschool Family Day

So, anyway, if you are offering a loving, nurturing environment, where all the basic needs are met then good on ya’. That’s all they need to become a prodigy.

If you offer them an environment that is conducive to study and filled with books and you teach them to read, then you have given them everything they need to succeed at learning. Good job, homeschooling parent.

Everything else is a bonus.  Extraneous. Not necessary. Frills. Strings. Nonessential.

Okay, so to sum up. This is what you need so you don’t fail as a teacher:

  • Loving, safe environment conducive to learning
  • Basic needs met
  • Teach them to read

THAT’S IT! Moving on…

#2 Constantly Worry About Curriculum

Sweet merciful heavens!

Sweet merciful heavens!

Worrying about curriculum is like a part-time job for many homeschooling moms. They wander the internet like lost souls, constantly looking for the perfect curriculum. They read testimonials from other mothers who have tried THE PERFECT CURRICULUM, never realizing that the testimonial was written merely one week into trying it.

(Ask me how I know this.)

Here is something every homeschool parent needs to know: every curriculum package is pretty amazing the first week or two.

The best way to really understand if a curriculum works is to talk to someone who has used the curriculum through graduation–that is a sign that it works. It doesn’t matter how great it sounds to all the ladies in playgroup. They don’t know what the after effects are down the road.

If there isn’t someone you can talk to who has actually graduated someone from the curriculum into a successful life, then the curriculum isn’t proven.

(Unless your goal for a homeschool curriculum does not include a successful life.)

Once you have found that there are people who have successfully graduated real children into the real world with a curriculum and it has worked and you decide on it, then stick with it.

Quit looking for the elusive perfect curriculum.

It doesn’t exist.

I will give you a hint if your curriculum isn’t working. Usually, it’s because there is not self-learning going on and mother is trying to pour knowledge into her children and is trying to “get” them to learn and the curriculum is demanding too much from the teacher and not enough from the student. I like what Dr. Robinson wrote about this:

…will the homeschool movement realize that learning is an individual activity that, at least until the age of 18 requires very little intervention? The academic growth of a student is not a toy for parental self-satisfaction. It is a completely personal activity that takes place between the student and the books. Parents need only to provide their children with high-quality educational materials, a good study environment, and excellent study habits. Anything or anyone who gets between the student and the books diminishes this activity…

So, in order not to fail in this area:

  • Spend NO MORE THAN two weeks researching curricula to insure they are legitimate and proven
  • Decide on a curriculum that works with your personality, number of children, and personal life circumstances
  • Quit looking
  • If it doesn’t work after two months, try again employing more self-learning. You only get two chances to change curriculum.
  • If things get rough, DON’T LOOK FOR ANOTHER CURRICULUM. That means you. Don’t look. Stop. Don’t you dare get on Pinterest. Don’t pick up that catalog. Don’t. Work with what you have. Make it work. You can do it. You can. QUIT LOOKING.

(Okay, you can look again if it really doesn’t work. But don’t make looking for curriculum something you do on a regular basis!)

#3 Constantly negate the importance of your role and your time.

There is something that happens to a homeschooling parent that doesn’t happen to a teacher. People think you aren’t busy for some reason. Sure, they say things like,

Oh, you homeschool? I could never do that! You must be so patient! You must be so organized! How do you do all that?”

But two days later they are calling to ask you to head up the ladies book club, or would you mind watching someone’s children, or can you organize the neighborhood rodeo this year, because, well, you’re home.

I think it’s a compliment. Obviously, they like you and think you are kind, but one of the fastest ways to fail at homeschool is to open up the door and say “YES” to everyone. To sum up, here are things in order of priority:

  • Your sanity, personal balance and marriage relationship (Date once a week, alone time once a week, sleep at a decent hour)
  • Family life and homeschooling come second (schooling in the mornings, wholesome recreation, chores, etcetera)
  • Everything else (not much time left for this)

If it helps, don’t answer the phone during school hours.

Don’t answer the door.

Don’t do play time during school time.

Don’t schedule extracurriculars during school time. It will mess everything up. Keep it simple and keep it at home. The younger they are, the less you should leave home. Littles like consistency and sameness. Some days it might seem boring to you. That’s okay.

Another thing that will lead to failure is not realizing that mom is the key to making the whole homeschool thing work.

If she isn’t happy, it won’t work. (This is really the biggest role homeschool dads play in homeschooling, I think. Just making mom happy and confident.)

So she needs time alone to balance herself out at least once a week for a few hours.

Also, because mom is a full time teacher, she doesn’t need to be a full time maid service, so everyone in the family needs to pitch in and help to clean. So to sum up, in order NOT to fail:

  • Prioritize your time
  • Keep it simple
  • Give mom time alone at least 3 hours per week
  • Realize that cleaning is not mom’s job

#4 Constantly Confuse Being Busy With Being Important

Okay, well, there really isn’t much more to say on that.

So, in order not to fail, realize that quiet time is necessary. Hurry is the scourge of America, as William George Jordan so eloquently put it.

Hurry always implies lack of definite method, confusion, impatience of slow growth. The Tower of Babel, the world’s first skyscraper, was a failure because of hurry. The workers mistook their arrogant ambition for inspiration. They had too many builders, — and no architect. They thought to make up the lack of a head by a superfluity of hands. This is a characteristic of Hurry. It seeks ever to make energy a substitute for a clearly defined plan, — the result is ever as hopeless as trying to transform a hobby-horse into a real steed by brisk riding.

Hurry always pays the highest price for everything, and, usually the goods are not delivered.

A great way to fail in homeschool is to be so concerned about “success” that we try to hurry our children into “being smart”…we make our children and ourselves too busy with workbooks, extracurricular activities and so very many courses, that we try to transform a hobby-horse into a steed by brisk riding.

It’s tempting because here we have government leaders trying to “Race to the Top” and all of this other nonsense, and learning is a lot like growing something–you can’t make something grow faster than it will grow. You coax it and give it good soil, water and sunlight and then…you wait. And you trust in the Master Gardener and in the potential of the seed to transform itself.

As a mortal gardener, you can’t MAKE the seed become an oak tree or a watermelon, and you certainly can’t arbitrarily decide on a timeline for it to happen. It happens when it happens and you absolutely cannot hurry it.

It’s a great way to kill a plant–to try and force it to grow.

So, to sum up, in order not to fail in this aspect:

  • Slow down
  • Relax

#5 Constantly forget that school is in your home

Another way to insure homeschool failure is to forget that you are doing full-time learning in your living space. Adding more stuff to an already very busy homeschool can lead to chaos and irritability. Also, making sure that no one really cleans up the mess is another way to add to the already icky feeling.

For school and home to happily coexist, less is more. Except in the instance of books. More books of good quality are always a plus.

Another good way to encourage homeschool failure is to allow television, movies, video gaming, and throw in junk food and sugar into the mix. This will lead to a very frazzled homeschool day.

So, to sum up. In order not to fail in this area:

  • Get rid of the sugar and the corn syrup and the processed food
  • Get rid of media during the week
  • Get rid of stuff
  • Have lots of good books
  • Have the children work together to keep the house clean (with mom assisting the littler ones in their chores)

So, there you go. Five ways you can fail at homeschool (ask me how I know!), and five ways to succeed. I am guessing that you, like most other homeschoolers, are doing a pretty great job already and hopefully you can now realize that you don’t really need to worry so much! It’s not as scary and complicated as you might think. You really can succeed!