3 Rookie Mistakes I’ve Made as a First-Time Homeschooler


I never thought I would homeschool my kids, but here I am homeschooling during a pandemic. I am doing my best to adapt, but I have made many mistakes. Maybe I am learning through my mistakes.

We love our neighborhood public school, but the coronavirus pandemic led us to a different decision for this school year. We chose to homeschool for two main reasons. First, we have a son with chronic lung issues who is considered high-risk for coronavirus complications. Second, our son has needs that make remote learning incredibly inefficient and difficult for him.

Three Rookie Mistakes I've Made as a First-Time Homeschooler, ABQ Mom

I started homeschooling our first and second-grade boys (with a wild three year old underfoot) a few weeks ago. The transition has been difficult. I’ve made some rookie mistakes, I’ve adjusted the plan about 10 times, and I’ve learned a lot about what works. I hope you can learn from my errors, or at least take comfort in our mutual struggle.

Mistake 1: I Assumed My Kids Would Behave at Home Just as They Did at School

The biggest struggle I’ve encountered in homeschooling thus far has been . . . my children’s behavior. Yep. Their teachers have always described my two sons as “very respectful” and “well-behaved,” but apparently those traits don’t automatically carry over to homeschool. Kids always behave worst for their moms, right?

They are just so comfortable with me, and they view me as “mom” and not “teacher.” So if my son is feeling tired or bored, guess what he does? He dramatically lies his head on the table and says, “I’m tired and bored!” Would he have EVER done that at school? Nope.

If my son is distracted and wants to talk about what he’d like for Christmas, guess what he does? He starts talking about what he wants for Christmas in the middle of a math lesson. Would he ever attempt this at school? No way!

My Recommendation

Don’t be shocked (like I was) if your kids push the limits at home. From conversations with other parents, I’m learning this is very common. Most kids who have never been homeschooled view their home as a place to kick up their feet, relax, and play. After all, many adults even find it difficult to motivate themselves to work from home.

Don’t be afraid to institute rules and reward systems. In most physical schools, kids receive rewards and punishments based on their behavior. I’m establishing a reward system for listening and completing their work, and I’m amazed at how motivated they are for small rewards.

Three Rookie Mistakes I've Made as a First-Time Homeschooler by ABQ Mom

Mistake 2: I Selected Curriculum Based on Grade Level Instead of my Children’s Actual Skills

Another rookie mistake! Both of my sons have subjects where they are really strong/advanced and other subjects where they need some extra practice before moving on. To complicate things more, many homeschool curriculums don’t exactly line up with the standards taught in public school. For example, I learned that the Level 2 Language Arts curriculum I’m using is actually closer in content to a third-grade curriculum. It was not appropriate for either of my boys.

My Recommendation

Attempt to assess your kids accurately and pick a curriculum that fits their needs. You don’t have to pick the grade level that corresponds with their grade in school. With homeschooling, you can tailor the material to your children’s exact skill level. If they have already mastered something, you can move right along! If they are struggling with something, spend more time on it!

Mistake 3: I Lacked Knowledge about Attention Span

Although I spent time researching curriculums, I didn’t invest much time into researching attention span and appropriate ways to schedule a day for my young children. I was expecting them to work for too long without breaks. I was expecting perfect focus for unrealistic chunks of time. Everyone was frustrated. At one point when my kids were whining and begging to be done and I was taking deep, dramatic breaths to control my frustration, I couldn’t help but think, “Hm, they don’t seem to be developing that deep love of learning that I’m also supposed to be instilling . . . ”

Three Rookie Mistakes I've Made as a First-Time Homeschooler by ABQ Mom

My Recommendation

A little research goes a long way! I learned that homeschool students can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. My early elementary boys used to spend about six hours at school, and they can finish all their “sit down” school work in about two hours at home. This chart provides a helpful guide.

Additionally, my boys can’t seem to focus well for more than 30-40 minutes, but they can do an hour of quality work if I provide a short break in the middle. In the younger grades, teachers change activities very frequently to keep children interested. Setting a realistic schedule is key to happy, productive learning.

Homeschooling is hard. As you learn what works for your family, give yourself grace. If everyone is having a bad day, take a break! Regroup, adjust, and try again the next day. You can do it.

Originally published August 2020.

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Three Rookie Mistakes I've Made as a First-Time Homeschooler

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.