How to homeschool when your kids are smarter than you


There are fewer things more frightening to a homeschool mom than the idea you may not know enough to give your children the best education possible. Even if you have an extremely high IQ, chances are your kids do as well. Even if you are a grammarian par excellence, you may not be able to wrap your mind around algebra. Everyone has holes in their abilities and educational background.

Veteran homeschool moms can attest to those Polaroid moments when we realized we may be in over our heads with our bright children. My daughter could read at age three. Well, I could deal with that. But a few years later when she began to lay out a DNA helix model on the living room floor with a thrilled sparkle in her eye, I just nodded and grinned and thought, “I have no idea what she is doing and I need help.”

Thankfully, mine were diligent students who enjoyed reading and studying on their own. That made it a lot easier to be confident they were learning things I would never be able to understand. But even if your smart kids are not self-starters, there are some things you can do to ensure their success:

  1. Study! No matter how well you think you know the material, take another look at it every time you sit down to teach it again. Re-read the novel, review the periodic table, study the map of Africa, or remind yourself how to use quotation marks properly. Once students smell the slightest fear that you don’t know what you’re talking about, they are bound to lose interest or at least become highly frustrated at your lack of preparation. Of course this means you might miss lunch with a friend, or your favorite TV show, or (heaven forbid!) a nap, but it is only for a season.
  2. Use every teacher’s manual and answer key to its fullest. It is certainly a good cost-cutting measure to skip purchasing a teacher’s manual, but you are bound to pay for it in the end with frustration and wasted time. One thing to note here is that sometimes answer keys contain typos. If your very bright student is arguing a point with you and you’re not absolutely sure about the answer, check with the publisher.
  3. Solicit help from friends and family. Everyone likes to be considered an expert in something. Search out those with an interest in the subject matter you find challenging and ask for assistance. This is a terrific way to create a group of cheerleaders for you and your kids.
  4. Pay for help. We operated on a thin-to-none budget, but there were times when we simply had to find money to pay for a co-op or online class. Sometimes that meant cutting back when we didn’t think there was anywhere left to cut back. I remember whining to my mom once: “Every can and box in my pantry is a yellow label (generic). I just don’t know what else to do.” Eliminate the cable TV, drive older cars, and skip the new phone this year. See if you can volunteer to offset the cost of the class, or barter with a tutor. There is always a solution.
  5. Be honest. If you have a student who is truly a savant, don’t stunt his or her academic potential by refusing to acknowledge when you’re in over your head. (I think most of us err on the other side of that equation and believe our kids are smarter than they really are, which is a mom’s prerogative.)
  6. Don’t be afraid. No teacher in a traditional classroom setting knows everything about every subject. Any honest educator will tell you at some point he or she has been outclassed by a student. Simply recognize when you need help and seek it immediately.


Traci Matt is the author of two best-selling homeschool books available at

5 thoughts on “How to homeschool when your kids are smarter than you

  1. vicki says:

    Oh my gosh!! Where were you 5 years ago??!!! I have been homeschooling for almost 20 years now and got totally intimidated by 2 of my sons for this reason. I realize now, after panicking- with additional issues, mind you, that were going on at the time- and sending him to high school and the other to virtual school so he could work with my husband, that was a wrong response. I should not have done that at all. He ended up coasting through high school because he was not challenged, nor would he seek out challenges. The other thrived because of his work with my husband, not because of school.
    Looking back, I realize I totally blew it. I still have time and relationship with those boys and the rest of the kids I am still schooling, so I am not too worried. God has them covered!!
    He uses ALL things for good so I am praying along those lines for them.


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