10 Bad Habits You Need to Break for Successful Homeschooling

Over my many years of homeschooling, I’ve seen how these 10 bad homeschool habits derail homeschools and prevent successful homeschooling.

The habits start out small. Just a few minutes more. Just one more subject. One more activity won’t hurt.

And the next thing you know, your homeschool is spinning out of control and you’re screaming at the kids!

1. Screen & Phone Time

Facebook and email are wonderful for staying in touch with family living out of state. The phone is perfect for chatting with parents, siblings, and friends.

But there’s a time to hang up the phone and put it away. Turn off your computer. Step away from the technology and sit down to homeschool your kids.

Too often as homeschoolers, we think we have plenty of time for school, and we check our Facebook feed one more time. We respond to just one more post.

We check what’s happening in the local Facebook group. After all, we’re educating ourselves about local events. We’re staying in touch with friends and family. We’re learning about how to be better homeschoolers.

But we’re not homeschooling.

For successful homeschooling, you have to sit down with your kids and educate them. 

Put in the time and hold a discussion. Pull out the art supplies. Read books.

Successful homeschooling requires diligence.

2. No Set Time for School

When is school scheduled in your house? What are your dedicated school hours? One common mistake homeschoolers make is to have no set time for school.

Later becomes the mantra.

I’ll start school later. After I’ve scrolled through Facebook one last time.

I’ll start school later. After I’ve checked my emails.

I’ll start school later. After the kids are done playing with Legos.

And on and on it goes.

The next thing you know it’s 2 in the afternoon and it’s time to get ready for your afternoon activities. Where did the day go!

You need to set school hours for successful homeschooling.

Hours that you put down your cell phone. Turn off your computer. Put away the toys. And focus on completing your schoolwork.

If you have elementary kids, you don’t need to schedule six hours each day for homeschooling. Start at 9 or 10 in the morning and aim to be done before lunch.

Middle school kids need a few more hours, but most of mine have been able to complete their work in four hours or so. If we started at 9, they were finishing up by 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

High school teenagers take longer. Plan for 5 or 6 hours of schoolwork, or an hour a day for every credit.

{Related post: Does Homeschool Really Have to Take All Day?}

3. No Plan for Successful Homeschooling

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up on Monday morning, fresh and eager to homeschool my kids. We sit down at 9 am and I realize I have no idea what we should be doing.

What books are we reading in history? Where are we in science?

No homeschool plan means the week collapses.

And I’ll tell you, it’s a common homeschool mistake. You don’t make plans for what needs to be done in your homeschool and you spend too much time staggering through the day.

You don’t have the coloring pages you need.

The kids can’t find the books they need to read.

You stress and start to yell.

Successful homeschooling requires a plan!

So start planning your homeschool ahead of time. You can grab spiral notebooks and spend a few minutes at the end of the homeschool day or in the evening jotting down what your kids need to complete tomorrow.

Or you can plan the homeschool week over the weekend. I prefer sitting down on Friday to take a serious look at what has and has not been done. The kids and I discuss what needs to be done the next week.

You can also use a six-week plan. Personally, I simply find that a multi-week plan doesn’t allow enough room for error. An emergency happens and we only get part of a school day finished.

Guess what? The plans are now a disaster!

So make a habit of sitting down and planning your homeschool ahead of time so you’re not left searching for the books and tools you need when you sit down to homeschool in the morning.

4. Too Many Curricula

If one math program is good, two must be better!

But successful homeschooling requires streamlining your homeschool.

See, another common mistake I see homeschoolers making is to keep adding and adding to the homeschool day. You add another math program so you can take advantage of both conceptual math and procedural math.

But then you wear yourself and your children out with too much school work.

You don’t need two math programs. You need one good math program that works for your family plus math games, puzzles, and fun math activities!

The same goes for language arts. You keep adding and adding. A little subject here, a workbook there, and just a couple more flashcards. And the next thing you know, you have too much schoolwork to complete.

You can’t finish the basics and move on to history and science.

Your kids are miserable and collapsing under the weight of too much schoolwork.

Cut back.

Keep your homeschool day mean and lean. Find excellent curricula and use that. And don’t add more.

Look for curricula with a double purpose. For instance, the Latin program I use teaches derivatives. Between a solid literature program and Latin, vocabulary is covered.

Don’t try to read every book in the library about your current history subject. Choose one or two good books and call it good.

Just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we have to add and add to our kids’ day until they’re collapsing under the burden and we have so much to do that we can’t get it all done.

A successful homeschool is lean and mean. So keep it focused.

5. Too Many Activities Prevent Successful Homeschooling

Just as homeschoolers make the mistake of adding too many curricula to their children’s school day, homeschoolers also make the error of adding too many activities to the week.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids need to get out of the house, socialize, and learn. But too many activities wear you out.

Instead of having time at home to explore, learn, and create you spend all day running around town from activity to activity.

A few classes and activities are a wonderful opportunity. But kids also need to explore their own interests, hobbies, and books.

They need time to curl up on a rainy afternoon and read.

Time to follow the ants in the backyard.

Time to write books, sew stuffed animals, and bake cookies.

The key to successful homeschooling is to give your kids time to hang out at home.

Your kids will have time to develop new hobbies, follow rabbit trails, and enjoy exploring their own interests.

{Related post: What to Do When the Schedule is too Full}

6. No Margin in Your Day

Do you have margin in your day or is your day heavily scheduled? A heavily scheduled day may work for a corporate CEO, but it doesn’t work for a homeschool mom.

Do not plan a day or week down to the minute. You have exactly 27 minutes to complete that math assignment before we will spend 13 minutes reading history and then 5 minutes doing narrations.

What happens when the baby’s diaper explodes? How do you fit that in a heavily scheduled day?

Add extra time to your schedule.

You need this margin because homeschool moms need time.

  • Time to deal with broken teenage hearts.
  • Time to listen to children chatting about the new pet worm living on the front porch.
  • And the time to bake cookies and enjoy a poetry teatime.

Yes, we have a pet worm named Grimlock.

Margin gives you the time you need to deal with an emergency run to the dentist to fix a wire poking a child in the cheek or to fish out a toy the toddler flushed down the toilet.

Plan margin into your homeschool day.

7. Trying to Rush Prevents Successful Homeschooling

So you fell behind by a few weeks. I know. It happens. But that doesn’t mean rushing through the school work is the best answer either!

When we rush through the homeschool, kids don’t have time to master the skills they need to go. Then you end up going back to repeat the information your kids didn’t have time to master the first time around.

Don’t rush! Especially the skill subjects.

The key to successful homeschooling is to give your kids time to master the material. Time to absorb the concepts

And don’t try to figure out ways of completing two lessons a day. You’ll end up screaming at the kids.

Remember the fable about the Tortoise and the Hare: slow and steady wins the race.

{Related post: Festina Lente: Make Haste Slowly}

8. Lack of Diligence

Watch the race in the video above!

The tortoise moves steadily along the race track. The hare bounds out. Quickly hops halfway. And then realizes there’s a crowd watching him. He stops and studies the crowd.

Meanwhile, the tortoise is still moving steadily along. Diligently moving forward without stopping.

Eventually, he wins the race.

In homeschooling, homeschoolers are like the hare. You start out with great plans in the fall. The schoolwork is going well. Then you get bored and switch your curriculum.

You take too many days off.

What’s happened is that you tried to add so much to your homeschool day that you can’t get it all done. You jump around trying to cram everything all in.

In short, you act like the hare.

Instead, you need to be like the tortoise for successful homeschooling.

Have a set amount of work that needs to be done each day. Not so much work that you’re straining to get it done. Just enough work that you’re able to easily complete daily.

Because diligence, sitting down, and completing schoolwork daily is what will eventually educate your kids. It’s not racing to read through all of Shakespeare’s plays.

It’s the diligence of slowly working through one play at a time that will teach your kids the power of diligence and the need for daily work.

You’ll be amazed at how much you learn over 12 years of diligent work.

{Related post: Diligence is Key to the Well-Run Homeschool}

9. Not Putting Supplies Away

Confession time: My kids and I make this mistake all the time! History books are left in the bedrooms or in the car. I’ll walk into the kitchen to find test tubes and beakers scattered across my counters.

Kids leave crayons, pencils, and rulers in their wake.

But when you don’t put your supplies away, you can’t find them in the morning. Hunting for your school supplies is like hunting for the car keys just before you need to leave. Stressful.

Another tip to successful homeschooling is to put supplies away at the end of the day.

Make it a habit and part of your regular routine. It only takes a couple of minutes, but the rewards are immense.

Teenagers won’t fight over who lost the history book. 1st graders won’t cry because they lost their crayons. You won’t freak out because that expensive chemistry textbook now has spaghetti all over chapter 10.

Taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to put the supplies away leads to successful homeschooling tomorrow. You’ll easily find your books and supplies.

And you won’t have to worry about expensive textbooks being damaged.

10. No Fun

Another mistake I see homeschoolers making is not adding any fun to their homeschool day.

It’s all work, work, work. Drudgery work. Math problems that never end. Latin chants for hours. Drill, drill, drill.

But wonder and joy have a place in education as well. Your kids need to wonder. You want to see the spark light up in your children’s eyes as they contemplate the universe.

And you want your kids to enjoy a beautiful poem. To find joy in doing well on a test.

Homeschool should never be all work and no play.

Add fun for successful homeschooling.

Take your kids out on a nature hike and eat blackberries as you walk.

Try that crazy history project. Go ahead and mummify that chicken. Make a codex. Light that alcohol burner for chemistry.

Education should open your children’s eyes to the wonders of the world.

These ten bad habits will derail your homeschool faster than you can spin a globe. And they’ll prevent you from having a successful homeschool.

You’ll struggle to sit down with the kids. You’ll struggle to stay on top of their independent work. And you’ll wonder successfully homeschooling is so hard.

So get off the merry-go-round, break these bad habits, and you’ll be on your way to successful homeschooling!

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15 Comments

  1. my lad has a book bag that holds 98% of his work, the rest is on line… it works, he’s independent. life and schooling is good. 🙂

  2. My biggest bad habit is number 4… which often leads to #10! Great post. I’m pinning this to my homeschooling boards to remind myself that I don’t have to do IT ALL!

  3. Yikes. At one time, I have been guilty of all of theservice except the Too many activities one, I think. Fantastic article and YES, I need to break the ones I am currently doing.

    1. We’ve all been guilty of having bad homeschool habits at one time or another, Jen! The secret is to make a plan to break the habits your currently doing. 🙂

  4. Excellent post! I’ve been homeschooling 18 years and STILL need these reminders. It’s easy to get lazy as the year goes on. Thanks for the motivation to tighten up our ship again. 🙂

  5. Thanks for this! It’s rare I find a mom who home schools with 6 kids. I have 6 myself with ages ranging from 10years to 10 months. I’m scouring the internet trying to find ways to help this year run smoothly (while steadily taking deep breaths). So again, thanks for this! I’ll take a look at your other posts 🙂

  6. Thank you so much! As our homeschooling got derailed by a recent hurricane, I’ve had time to regroup and do a reset. Your tips are fantastic!

  7. i’m so happy to come across this post on FB… i’m a mother of 3 wonderful kids ages 6, 5 and 4. I am new to homeschooling and this will be the 1st time that i will homeschool my kids officially. and i’m thankful to see this..i will be reading more of your post. thanks again.

  8. i’ve been at this homeschooling thing for 30 years, and yes, the struggle times were when some of those bad habits took root…. this article is a great reminder for me, even after all those years. my youngest of 5 will be in 11th grade this fall, so we’re almost to the end of our homeschool journey. thanks for the encouragement in this article!

  9. Hi Sara,
    Thanks for the list of 10 bad habits. It will help the homeshooling students and parents avoid such very common bad habits easily. Points 4 and 5 are harsh practical…..Too many cooks spoil the broth…..

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