Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home
We homeschoolers are an opinionated bunch. After all, at some level one of the reasons we home educate this is because we want to do things our own way. And, well, let’s get down to it:
We often think our way is the best way, and we want to share that with as many of you as possible.
We are prepared to opine on any number of topics, from science programs to parenting philosophies to clothing choices. We like to raise our eyebrows, give a little shake or nod of our heads, and give you knowing smiles.
Sometimes we turn our backs on you because you are a different breed of homeschooler—an “other.” “Otherness” has to do with anyone who does things differently than “we” do: from wild, unruly unschoolers; to middle-of-the-road eclectic folks; to rigid A Beka advocates; to tight-lipped tomato-stakers (please note: popular stereotypes listed here intentionally to make a point and not reflective of personal opinion). Pick whatever category you fall into, and the rest are “others.”
Every spring I speak at our support group’s Homeschooling 101. One phrase I repeat several times throughout my talk goes something like this:
There is no one right kind of homeschooling family, and there is no single best way to homeschool.
This leads to the two golden rules to follow when integrating into the homeschooling community, be it virtual or real life.
Photo by summonedbyfells’
Rule #1: Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
Imagine this. You are sitting at your homeschooling group’s park day, and Family A arrives. The kids are all wearing red and blue clothing. (You find out later that this is the family’s color theme of the day.) Mom A sits down to chat, and you suddenly can’t breathe because as she speaks, you realize you are the lamest homeschooler ever. Her kids have math done by 7 a.m.? Her 4th grader is reading War and Peace? Her 12-year-old took the ACT already?
But wait. Family B arrives, and you begin to breathe more easily. The kids are shoeless, which you understand since your own 4-year-old left his shoes at home yet again. Mom B starts chatting about their chickens and pulls out her iPhone to show you photos of her kids building the chicken coop and then painting a mural that rivals Rivera on the side of their barn.
On the way home from park day—which was meant to be a time of encouragement and fellowship—you wallow in your own inadequacies.
Or if you are a blog reader, you are familiar with this scenario: you read about a day-in-the-life of a homeschooling family and think, “Geez! I am such a slacker! My kids hate narration, I don’t make my own fresh bread every day, I don’t do the workbox system, and—to top it all off—my 4th grader doesn’t have her multiplication tables memorized.”
And if super-homeschooler blogs aren’t stressful enough, we can now factor Pinterest homeschooling boards into the equation. Holy chalkboard paint, Batman! From spacious schoolrooms painted in contemporary shades of retro to lapbook extravaganzas, Pinterest can make the most confident homeschooler feel utterly deficient.
We all do it—we all play the dangerous game of comparison.
We all need to stop.
Getting ideas, inspiration, and insight from fellow homeschoolers is fantastic. Dragging yourself into self-loathing and discouragement is not.
Rule #2: Follow Your Gut
Not only can we homeschoolers make others feel inadequate, we can also sway you into thinking that our way is the best way. We don’t mean to be insidious; it’s just that when we really, really love something, we want you to love it, too.
Photo by Sarah G…
Does this sound familiar? Your science program works great for your kids, but your friend is incredibly excited about her new program.
You read a few reviews online and begin to doubt your own choice, even though a little voice reminds you that your kids are perfectly happy with your current program.
That little voice is your gut. Listen to it.
Again, gleaning wisdom from fellow homeschoolers is wonderful, but replacing what works for your family with something that works for your friend’s family may not be so wonderful.
With myriad opinions and advice circling around us, we can easily ignore that nagging voice or even think that our intuition, vision, or even our value system is just plain wrong.
Remember: you know your kids better than anyone. Isn’t that one of the reasons you started homeschooling?
Your homeschooling community, whether local, global via internet, or both, can be a treasure chest filled with experience, information, and wisdom. It is up to you, though, to pick and choose what gems work best for your own family.
Don’t be intimidated by what you read and whom you speak with as you navigate the homeschooling community. Breathe deeply, stay true to your own family, and trust your instincts.
Do you struggle with comparing yourself to other homeschoolers? How do you navigate the plethora of advice and opinions without losing your own vision?