In much of the homeschooling advice you’ll hear, whether through personal conversations, online homeschool support groups, or some larger scale function such as a homeschooling convention, you’ll often hear that homeschooling is something you customize to your homeschooling family's personal needs. And there’s a reason for that.
In fact, in many cases, homeschooling families make the decision to homeschool based on their child’s specific needs, especially if there is a child with special needs in the home, with a tailored education plan designed for them. And in the beginning, there is an excitement that no one and nothing can quell. You can almost taste it! You know it’s going to be great, even before you embark on that first lesson.
And then … life happens. As much as we will all warn you about those days when not everything will work out perfectly, it will still hit you like a brick the first time it happens. You’ll wonder what went wrong. Like many parents, you’ll wonder where you missed the mark. And then you’ll start doing what we’ve all done at some point or another. Comparing yourself to other homeschoolers.
Avoid the Comparison Trap When Homeschooling
Not only did Theodore Roosevelt say, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” but we can also find several Scriptures throughout the Bible that speak to the ill-effects of comparing ourselves with others. This was a problem with the Corinthian church, for whom the Holy Spirit gave Paul this admonition: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
But perhaps Philippians 4:11-12 sums it up best when Paul says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Wow. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Homeschool families know, all too well, what it’s like to be completely in control of your homeschool, as well as what it’s like to feel the complete chaos that threatens to take us down. But you know what? You’re in good company!
The important thing to remember as you homeschool your child is that comparison kills your homeschooling confidence, and can damage your child's education. Looking around at what Susie, and Mary, and Beth are doing over on Instagram, or what a host of others are portraying as their normal homeschool day on Pinterest will only lead us to see our humble offerings as “not enough”. But is it really that lacking? Can our homeschooled kids see us making those comparisons and think that they aren't good enough?
Stop the Comparison
It’s easy for me to say, “Stop comparing yourselves with other homeschoolers”. But I’d like to take it a step further and offer some practical solutions that can help you actually do that.
Yes, a certain amount of comparison as an educator can be a driving force that takes you from “good” to “better,” but when you allow that comparison to start creating feelings of self-doubt and agonizing struggles as a parent to keep up with all those perfect social media moms, you’re actually defeating the purpose of homeschooling.
In this endeavor, there should be freedom, joy, faith, and spending quality family time together. There should be a love of learning instilled in your homeschooled children that will last them for years to come. There should be grace for the bad days when they come – and they will come. And nothing feels better than knowing you don’t have to be Mary from down the street. Because you are YOU. And that is exactly what your child needs you to be!
Get Your Focus Back
Lots of movements these days, whether weight loss, fitness, or writing goals, seem to be saying something that can all be translated as “Focus on your why”. This means that, no matter what your undertaking, you must keep the reason ever before your eyes. Maybe you wanted to lose weight to stave off diabetes or heart disease. Maybe you have a writing goal so you can submit it to a favorite publication. Whatever your “why” is should bolster your determination when things look a little bleak.
So today, in trying to steer you away from the comparison you think will help, I say to you, get your focus back. Think about why you started homeschooling, why you left that public school or private school, what you hoped to accomplish, and if you must compare yourself to anyone, then compare yourself to that person you were when the fires of your passion for homeschooling first flickered into existence.
Evaluation, instead of Comparison, is Key
If you’ve reached a point where someone else’s homeschool is starting to look better than yours, it may be that you need to stop and work backward. It’s not that the way someone else works a specific homeschooling curriculum is better than the way you do it. It might be as simple as your having the wrong type of homeschool curriculum for your child’s specific learning style.
Another issue might be that you’re trying to keep a schedule that doesn’t work for your child’s internal clock. Contrary to what government school systems deem necessary, your school day does not have to start promptly at 7 or 8 A.M. My own daughter did so much better when I started letting her sleep until about 10 A.M. Then, when she was ready to get started, she was actually ready. And surprisingly enough, she would work harder and with more fervor than on those days when I made her get up just a short two hours earlier.
These kinds of evaluations are what we, as homeschooling parents, need to be taking a look at. Look at your child and their patterns. What kind of homeschool program or homeschool schedule works best for them?
There are lots of ways to evaluate your homeschooling routine. But the best place to start is whatever makes you the most nervous to think about. Whether that’s a subject, a practice, or something that’s focused on your own input, take a deep look at why it might not be working. Then look at alternative ways of doing that thing. You might be very surprised to find out how easy it is to turn things around!
Include Thankfulness in Your Daily Routine When Homeschooling
Thankfulness often leads the way towards a happier life, and that can certainly work for your homeschooling days as well. If you’re finding that you often slip into the comparison trap, you might want to initiate a greater practice of thankfulness. Keeping it on your mind as often as possible is a great way to remember that you actually have tons of things to be thankful for, and it’s much easier to move through your day with that on your mind.
But don’t just save thankfulness for yourself! Share it with your children in any one of a dozen different ways, even incorporate it into your child's home education. You might start a Thankfulness Jar. Start your homeschooling day by filling out a slip of paper, one for each person in the household, about one thing you were thankful for the day before. On particularly hard days, you can open the jar, as a family, and look back over all the great things that have happened so far.
You might even want to make “Thankfulness” a part of your calendar time with pre-k children. This not only starts their day off wonderfully but can lead them towards the habit of a grateful heart for the rest of their lives. And they’ll always remember where it started.
There are so many ways we can model thankfulness to our homeschooled kids. Especially in middle school and high school, when things can often not go their way academically, socially, or otherwise, the way we handle the things that go wrong in our lives will speak volumes into the lives of our children. During a pandemic, saying things like, "I'm so thankful we have the ability to do school at our own pace without interruption, like other students are experiencing." or "I'm so thankful that dad was able to work from home last year and didn't lose his job.". There are so many little things that happen throughout our day that our children don't see that making it a point to count our blessings helps them to see things going on in their world and count theirs as well.
Don’t feel bad. We all have those moments where it’s tempting to wish our homeschool were just like someone that we think is doing a great job. But the truth is, you may not know how many struggles that person is going through at any given time either. They, themselves, maybe looking to someone else, wishing they could be like them.
What’s even more sobering is the fact that there’s someone out there that’s likely comparing themselves with you! It could be a neighbor who’s always wanted to start homeschooling but just can’t find the courage to do so. It might be a young first-year homeschooling mother from your homeschool co-op that admires any one of a million different things about your own homeschooling practice.
The point is, we may never see the whole big picture. But what we can see is our own. Start there. And better yet, stay there. Because that’s where you’ll make the difference, and that’s where you’ll find your homeschooling confidence again.
Another way to spark a new level of homeschooling fervor is by attending one of our seven regional Great Homeschool Conventions. With dozens of speakers, hundreds of workshops, and countless curriculum and resource vendors, you’ll find this to be a massive help for your upcoming homeschool year.
To make it easier for families who must travel a bit to reach our conventions, we also offer hotel package deals, so be sure to visit the Great Homeschool Conventions website today, to make sure you don’t miss a thing! And remember, Great Homeschool Conventions are: Equipping. Encouraging. FUN!