What the “Experts” Would Do Differently

Written by Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

One of my favorite questions to ask homeschool moms who are ahead of me on the path is “What would you do differently?  If you could go back, is there something you did that you wish you could change?”

As the calendar year draws to a close and we all reflect on the way we’ve spent our time, here’s a collection of thoughts from several “been there, done that” homeschool moms:

1. From Mary Ostyn, author and mother to ten kids:

“As a brand new homeschooling mom 16 years ago, I spent a lot of effort putting together a ‘classroom’, right down to the chalkboard, American flag, and desks.  What I didn’t know then is that homeschool doesn’t have to look like traditional school to be effective.

The couch is the coziest place in the world for reading class, and math can be done perfectly well while lying on your tummy on the bedroom floor.  Eventually we gave away the desks, and took down the chalkboard to make room for something homeschoolers really need:  more bookshelves!”

2. From Jamie Martin, author and our fearless editor of Simple Homeschool:

“I would spend far less time worrying….about anything. I often felt, in the very beginning, as though I had to have a plan in place for my kids from preschool through high school-before we’d even really started. Now I recognize that type of homeschool thinking is a panic attack waiting to happen.

But I’ve found that when I just focus on “What should we do tomorrow?” I almost always know the answer. And only planning for the next day or week (as opposed to the next decade) lessens the feeling of responsibility homeschooling parents carry. As a result it lessens our worries as well–and I’m all for that.”

Photo by Jimmie

3. From Angel H., a homeschooling mother of seven:

“If I had an opportunity to do things differently, I would be more content with my curriculum choices instead of constantly wondering if there was “something better” than what I had chosen.

The frequent changes I made in the early years with our curriculum and teaching approaches (especially in math) were disruptive to my children’s learning process and caused them to fall behind in some areas.  They would have done much better if I had completed the programs we had chosen and not made so many changes, especially in the middle of a school year.”

4. From Sheryl T., a work-at-home homeschooling mother of four:

“I would look for homeschooling veterans who are honest about their struggles and weaknesses.  I would sit with these moms and soak up their wisdom!

In retrospect I would use the majority of my day encouraging my children to learn, to serve and to be content.  I would search out curriculum that centers on God’s Word–everything else will fade away, but His Word will last forever! You may never use the quadratic equation or the periodic table when you are 30, but you can always use wisdom, service and contentment!

What would you say to a new homeschool mom who approached you and asked, “What would you do differently?”

About Lora

Lora Lynn Fanning blogged for 11 years about her family life with seven kids at Vitafamiliae. These days, she homeschools her growing brood, teaches writing both in person for co-ops and online for Brave Writer, and writes at her new site, LoraLynnFanning.com.


  1. How calming to read that the overall theme here is ” relax “!
    Gosh, I would have loved to have known these women when I began homeschooling my babes. My days were riddled with stress and over anxiousness caused by worry that I was not doing enough, not doing it right, etc.
    How lovely to know that even people who seem to have it all together struggle with the same things that I do!

  2. relax, take it easy, and enjoy it! that seems to be the theme :). i definitely have the tendency to worry if another curriculum out there would be better for us, but when i stop thinking about that and pay attention to what we’re actually doing i see that my daughter is learning a lot (i’ve learned some things too… from a kindergarden curriculum!) and we’re having a great time together. a couple days after christmas my daughter asked me if we could please do school again. that was just about the best thing ever and so encouraging to me as a just-starting-out homeschooler :).
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  3. I am encouraged! As I move into my 13th year of homeschooling, I realize that my early, idealistic years of homeschooling caused much anxiety and stress. I have taken a more gentle approach and we all have found it much more satisfying, and yet we have done more!

  4. Relaxing is the key, for sure. I feel so sorry, and even frustrated when I hear a mom say “We could NEVER homeschool”, or even worse, “We tried it for part of a year, it DID NOT WORK.” You just wish you could have been there to encourage them, you know? Tell them we’re all just as crazy, and it’s going to be okay. Lol.

    I’m still practically a new homeschooler, certainly not an expert or a veteran, but I think my advice would be: Enjoy your children, and when all else fails, focus on the greatest two commandments. Because like Sheryl T said, most of that “stuff” we feel obligated to teach our children, or at least expose them to, WON’T MATTER IN ETERNITY, and realistically, probably won’t even matter into adulthood. 🙂
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  5. We have been at this for 18 years now, and still have four at home for school. I think the biggest thing for me would be to understand the process the Lord uses to bring forth fruit, academically, spiritually, emotionally, etc. Capturing that vision helps with all our choices concerning our school and gives us the confidence to wait upon the Lord. Recognizing Him as the Author of all content areas makes each area of our studies a pursuit of God, and He knows what is best for each of my children.
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  6. I’ve been homeschooling for 8 years. I think really one of the only things I wish I had done differently from the beginning is to have a compehensive plan for science and history. We did unit studies for years when my kids were younger and I don’t regret that at all. But, now that my daughter has started high school level science, I wish I had made sure we covered all the different areas of science (chemistry, physical, biology, earth). We did TONS of biology because that is what we were all interested in.

    Also, I would tell any new homeschooler not to stress about academics in kindergarten and below and to go at their children’s own pace in the primary years. Really, I wondered if my son would ever hold his pencil correctly, and now at 12, he’s a very good artist (who holds his pencil correctly).

    Most importantly, enjoy the time at home with your children and never forget what a great privilege it is to be home with them.

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  7. Thank-you for this post. I just went through a mini “am i doing everything I should??!!?” moment this morning and came out just fine. This post is a nice pat of reassurance.
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  8. I just wanted to say thank you for this post. Every single time I question myself about our choice to homeschool, I come to this site and feel reassured and inspired. Thank you.

  9. Thank you for your wisdom. This is our second semester of home schooling, my oldest is in kindergarten, so we are still learning and TRYING to relax!
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  10. Bake more cookies….let me explain what that statement means to me….in my first year of homeschooling when my children were 4 and 6, the Lord gave me a mentor – A homeschooling mother of 3 who had just graduated her first, had one entering high school and one entering first grade. I asked her this very question except it went like this: “What are you going to do differently with your first grader now that you have already seen one out and one into high school?” To which she said, “Make the important things important…God’s Word, time with your children, time as a family, discipleship, THEN education. Academics will come when relationships are right. Your relationship with the Lord must be right, then your relationship with your spouse, and then teach your children to enjoy each other. Disciple them. Bake more cookies. Slow down and bake more cookies.” That first year, we met every week and she continually, gently reminded me “bake more cookies”– don’t sweat the academics, they will come. Make our home a home, a safe haven. And she was right. My children now are 14 and 16 and the academics did come. What did she do for me? She encouraged my heart to have my priorities right, to teach my children to have their focus right (on God, family, our home), and then on education. By no means do I think I am an expert nor do I think we do homeschooling the “right” way. But I am eternally grateful for the Lord giving me a Godly wife and mother for the first years of our homeschooling adventure. I would encourage every homeschooling mother to find one:)!

    • Thank you so much for this comment. It is just what I needed to hear! We are in our 6th year of homeschooling, and I have gotten more relaxed each year, but still find myself stressing over the schedule/curriculum. The rest of this school year, I want to bake more cookies!

    • This resonates so much with me too as we head into our 9th year of homeschooling. Prioritizing, getting the relationships right, creating homely spaces and baking together are all things we try and do here. And sure enough the academics follow. Thanks for sharing x

  11. Thank you all for sharing! That is much needed encouragement. We’re homeschooling our two year old and this is something I needed to hear before I start stressing over which curriculum to choose. Thank you!
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  12. Wonderfully edifying advice. Thanks for these quotes.
    (And I’m thrilled to see my photo used here as well!)
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  13. Great post! Thank you!
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  14. Wonderfully encouraging!! As a homeschooled student and now a homeschooling Momma, I have a unique perspective to most. I must confess, it is quite different to be the homeschooling “parent” as opposed to the homeschooling “student.” 🙂

    These words of wisdom and encouragement above are true treasures indeed. Thank you for spurring us all on toward Christ as we desire to raise our kids to do the same. I am so blessed to have found this post. I’m not sure how I found it exactly (click this link, which leads to another link, which leads to another, etc) … but I’m certainly glad I did. I am refreshed and rejuvenated at the same time. Thank you!!

  15. Thanks for the great encouragement. As someone who is at the very beginning of the homeschooling journey, I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the choices and ways to do things. I worry that the curriculum won’t be right or that if we skip a day here or there we will get off track…etc. This post was quite helpful in calming my fears.
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  16. Thank you for this post and your blog. We’re still in the process of deciding where the best place to educate our children will be as our oldest is due to start kindergarten in September. The greater responsibility of homeschooling scares me more than the day to day. Ofcourse this is also true of parenting in general. I find the common sense presented on this site to be so reassuring. Thanks again.

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I’ve just spent the last several nights worrying about doing the “right” curriculum, getting everything in place – I tend to be very anxious about homeschooling and doing things well, and my eldest is FOUR! Sigh. I love the “bake more cookies” philosophy mentioned above – it truly is about relationships, and the academics will come. You have blessed me tremendously!

  18. Great advice! My oldest is in 7th grade now and it’s hard to believe we’ve been plugging away all of these years. My biggest advice is to have fun. 🙂 It sounds simple but it’s the biggest element that I’ve seen ruin it for parents and children. As long as learning is fun, everything else stays easy– and it just keeps it such a wonderful way of life for everybody.
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  19. It’s okay to have a “down” day. Whether it is a break for Mom or just the kids who seem to need to do something different. Sometimes a “down” day may consist of no school, and just be catch up around the house or baking or it may be a day of following the interests of your children and letting them read books and just have a change of pace. Remember that sometimes these days can count as school, too even if there is no official classwork going on, you may just be having a life skills day or a day of learning more about something that interests your child.

  20. Every body remembers that men’s life is high priced, however some people require money for different issues and not every person earns enough money. Therefore to receive fast mortgage loans and sba loan will be a proper solution.

  21. Cari Hall says:

    I e home schooled for the last 8 years, starting with two kids & I’m up to 5, with the youngest being 6 and a half. I had a wide group of moms around me that helped me know not to stress, and I’m a sanguine momma who’s one to take them seriously. I have seen lots of positives in relaxing & much of itI wouldn’t take back. But, my younger three kids are now close to two years behind their peers & while having them be academically in line with peers is of no matter to me at all, making sure I prepare them well to do whatever God calls them to do later in life, when I launch them out (which often includes college), I realize some more structure would have been best. There’s a balance for sure. What I would tell other moms is NOT EVERY MOM SHOULD HOMESCHOOL AND THATS OKAY!!! It’s not some mom failure! I do many things with my kids really well: snuggle, build in character, have created a trustful environment where they take about anything with me & their dad, we have fun & they know that hardship is not a curse but a gift & they persevere well & love others well.
    I serve on the mission field in an isolated region & when the bells & whistles of homeschool resources & communities are stripped away, I’ve realized that if I’m to serve my kids well, accountable before God, ive got to humbly admit that while I’m not great at creating on-going/long lasting structure & doing task oriented repititious tasks, it’s not a failure to provide that for them outside of myself. That IS mothering.

    Take it easy mommas & know that parenting or being a great mom doesn’t mean you have to do it all! Do what you can, do it well; try your best to learn what you can’t & if you can’t maintain it (many, including myself, can learn but not maintain certain things) – then your mom duty is to provide it. That IS still mothering!!
    I’ll be enrolling my kids into a school next year when we are stateside & we’ll have to return to a place that has a teacher or school & that’s OKAY!

  22. As a homeschooled kid of parents who pulled us out of school to shelter us from bad influences and then took a very relaxed approach to our education, I’d say to examine your motivations and don’t make choices out of fear. If you want to homeschool, do it because you love it , you are committed to giving your kids an excellent education, and you are willing to put in the work to prepare them for whatever carreers or opportunities God has for them in the future. Make sure they get to socialize, do sports, and join clubs. Love of God and life is a beautiful example to our children. Fear and hiding from the world, not so much! Having to overcome great obstacles to get intocollege, finding you have large deficits in your education, and having to overcome being socially akward and over shelteted is not fun! Trust, pray, and work your butt off for your kiddos! 🙂

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