Why I Let My Homeschooler Fail Sometimes


As parents, we naturally want the best for our children. Sometimes, though, children learn best from their mistakes. See why it's important that your homeschool child fails - at least once in a while!

The Dangers of Flexibility

One of the benefits of homeschooling your children is that it allows you the opportunity to create a learning environment that best suits their learning styles. You can control your study schedules and the pace at which you progress throughout the school year. If you find your kiddos are struggling with a concept, you can regroup and present the material in a different way. Or, you can slow down so they can work through the challenges, picking up speed again once they master those difficult concepts.

Homeschooling allows us as parents to give our children the best shot at learning. However, it can also be an open door to be 'too helpful.' With so many of the day-to-day elements of education under our control, it can be easy to find ourselves smoothing every bump in our child's academic road.

Success Breeds Success—Or Does It?

After all, success breeds success, right? The more successful our children feel, the more confident they will become. Learning will be fun; they'll grow up feeling like they can accomplish anything they set out to do...or will they?

Boy thinking

There can be a fine line between providing an effective, nurturing, and adaptive learning environment and becoming an enabling homeschool parent fostering irresponsibility. For example, if your child is a kinesthetic learner (does best with hands-on learning situations), developing teaching strategies that use manipulatives and building activities might really benefit your child; however, what if your child has an assignment due Monday morning and after an uneventful weekend, the assignment is not done?

It can be so easy as a homeschool parent to say, 'Okay, you can turn it in tomorrow.' I know I have done it. In many homeschooling households, learning is more important than grades, so completing the assignment and learning the material might be the primary goal. And after all, you are the teacher. A teacher in a conventional classroom situation could make that same decision. And of course, there are times where legitimate circumstances arise or a little mercy is a blessing. But when enabling becomes a way of life as a parent, is it okay?

Learning to Fail

Of course, no one is suggesting you set your child up for failure. As we have all experienced, opportunities to fail present themselves frequently enough on their own throughout our lives, and your children will be no exception. The question becomes 'how do you choose to react to them?'

upset student and parent

As homeschooling parents, it's easy to feel responsible for every aspect of your child's education, in addition to being responsible for traditional parenting roles. This is a tough world, and most parents do everything they can do to protect their children from harm and hurt. But there will come a point where your children will have to rely on their own inner strengths and abilities to get through the trials of life. And just like learning to read or write, learning to be self-reliant takes practice. Gentle lessons early on can help your child build the confidence and independence to avoid some of the more painful, impactful failures down the road.

Jessica Lahey, parent, educator, and author of The Gift of Failure, agrees. Lahey encourages parents to take advantage of the random failures their children experience and strive to find ways for them to learn from those failures.

The Benefits of Failing

What can children gain from failing? Here are just a few of the benefits we realized in our homeschool family:

Our kids realized that failing wasn't the end of the world.
Very seldom are things truly as bad as they seem at the moment (or in their minds), and our children came to realize that life went on despite the moment of failure.

Failing taught our children that there were consequences to their actions and choices.
If children are never allowed to fail, they may falsely assume that regardless of their actions, someone will intervene. There will come a day where you as a parent can't fix or undo what has been done. The sooner your children understand consequences, the more practice they'll get making the right choices and good decisions.

Failing (in some varying degree) is a part of academic life.
All students will eventually encounter a course, a professor, or a circumstance that results in failure to some degree. As homeschool parents, it's so easy to simply modify schedules, adjust expectations, or even take the blame personally. Don't do it—it's not fair to yourself and it is no favor to your children. Help them learn the importance of doing their best and the possible consequences of shoddy efforts.

parent hugging child

Most importantly, our children's failures gave us the opportunity as parents to show them that our love wasn't based on success.
Loving them through the failure, offering support, and then moving past it was a great opportunity to build healthy, supportive relationships with our children. It's important for your children to know they can turn to you even when things don't go as planned, or if they feel they've let you down.

Failure, like success, is a part of life. Learning goes beyond academics; teaching your children to be self-reliant and resilient is just as important as reading and writing. And remember, it's okay if you fail sometimes, too. Your children will love you anyway, and after all, we can all learn from our mistakes!

Learn about's homeschool curriculum, which engages multiple learning styles and includes an option for earning college credit.

By Laurie Smith
October 2019
teachers homeschooling

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