Keeping up with the Homeschooling Joneses

One of the worst mistakes rookie homeschooling parents can make — and sometimes veteran ones do, too — is to compare their kids with another.

“Little Betsy is studying German and French and taking college-level algebra. Her vocal instructor says she has the voice of an angel.”

And while it’s wonderful for Little Betsy, it’s possible that in comparison your own little one, who is fluent in Pig Latin and loves to sing about how Batman smells, might seem less than admirable.

You may start to wonder: Is my child falling behind? Is she missing out on something? Should she be spending two hours a day on Rosetta Stone? Perhaps you’ll even begin to doubt your ability to give a decent education to your child. Don’t go there.

You will be miserable trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, and your child will be miserable forced to follow someone else’s schedule.

Focus, instead, on your child’s own learning curve. Everyone takes in information at different speeds and times, and it is unrealistic to expect your child to learn algebra or Latin or US History just because “everyone else is.” That is not to say to avoid undesirable subjects indefinitely — just learn it when the spark is there or when you feel your child is ready to take on a specific curriculum.

One of my most vivid memories in school was going from a D to an A in Advanced Algebra in the span of a quarter. It wasn’t that I didn’t get the material, I just didn’t care or try. Once I decided that I did care, I worked myself up to an A for the quarter.

Caring about a subject is a great motivator. When I started my son in piano at age four (because every other four-year-old seemed to be taking piano), he hated it and never got past Mary Had A Little Lamb. Now, at age 11, he is taking lessons at his own request and has excelled beyond all expectations.

So how do you know your child is ready for a certain subject?

  1. Frustration Level — One of the first tell-tale signs of unreadiness is frustration. Be aware, though, that many times, frustration will occur until the child has gained some proficiency in a subject. This is true for the younger child and perfectionist. If he wants to keep trying, just go slow and be encouraging. If he is completely put off by the subject and shuts down when presented with it, then you know it’s time to put it aside and try again later.
  2. Genuine Eagerness — If your seven-year-old tells you he wants to learn more about quantum mechanics, by all means, go for it! There is much to be said about interest-led learning.
  3. Expose Them — There is no harm in trying new subjects (after all, your child may uncover a whole new passion). If you really feel learning another language is vital to your child’s future, then show them the language in action. Immerse yourselves in the culture, watch some foreign language shows and listen to music, and try some international cuisine. Your child may just find he loves having the ability to read or speak another language.
  4. Ask — Sometimes the answer is right before your eyes. Just ask your child if he would like to learn a new subject with you. Having a say in the matter may make all the difference in how he approaches the subject.

How do you avoid keeping up with the Joneses?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. Oh man, this struck a chord with me. I have tried for years and years to live up to other people’s expectations in about every area of my life (with myself and pushing it on my kids, too, I’m sorry to say) and I’m working really hard to get away from that this year. Thanks for posting this. Some hard heads like me really need it. 🙂
    .-= Alisha’s last blog: Phriday Photo – My Dog is Smarter than Your Dog =-.

  2. This is so true… I found the world of home-schoolers, certainly in our part of the world, to be very competitive and far far from supportive of each other. I knew I would need support to homeschool and I have avoided homeschool “support” groups and sought my support from a couple of older wiser women that I know care for my kids and their futures and keep me focused on our goal: to raise our children to have servant hearts. The more I do what we do regardless of what everyone around us is doing, the better we fare. As soon as I notice someone else doing something differently then little seeds of doubt enter into my head and I start to ponder: Are we doing enough and so on!!!
    .-= se7en’s last blog: This Week (1 June) At Se7en… =-.

  3. We have been at this awhile, we just graduated our first and have 2 not far behind. Years ago, the guilt would have been overwhelming that we were not doing Latin or chess or whatever the “latest” craze was. Now, I am astounded that home schoolers who are generally pretty sensible can fall into all the same traps as everyone else with “one upmanship”, etc. and not building each other up. (Phillipians 2:3-4) Ironic that as moms, we are the most desperate for affirmation in our efforts as mothers, wives and teachers, yet we are so reluctant to give it to one another. It could be that our insecurity and defensiveness is manifested in bragging about what we have accomplished through our children, or it could really be out and out pride that elevates ourselves by belittling others. Either way, it is time to turn the tide and be a blessing to the families that are doing it differently than us or are more affluent than us or have better behaved kids or whatever. Let us learn from our mistakes and pursue kindness and treating others the way that we want to be treated. Let us shine as lights in the world, not embarrassed about homeschooling but not prideful either, just striving to do the best we can with what we have been given and realizing that it is only by God’s abundant grace that we even have air to breathe. Let us exude thankfulness that we live in a free country where we can homeschool using whatever method we choose………….

    Ok, off my soapbox.

  4. I think this is a great topic to get out in the open. A few weeks ago I was lamenting to my husband that I was so easily swayed by very different points of view on the “right” way to homeschool. He asked me, “What if there’s no right way? Is that OK?” I realized it had to be. Letting that be okay, that there could be many right choices (even for US), and that we can’t possibly do all of them, gives me more peace when I see others doing things that we are not.
    The insecurity is still there, of course, but this does help keep it in check.
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: Adventures in Art =-.

  5. Christine says:

    Speaking of 7 year olds that are interested in quantum mechanic/physics….I’m actually looking for books and others resources to teach my 7 year old son on this subject. 🙂
    Anyone know of any books or websites?

    • Christine, we just finished up with Real Science 4 Kids Physics. It is pretty basic but a good intro to the subject, with a relevant experiment in every lesson. I have written about every lesson on my blog as well, if you wanted to see what kinds of topics are covered.
      .-= Amida’s last blog: Last Physics Lesson =-.

  6. While I don’t struggle with the feeling of keeping up with the Joneses other than I wish we could afford music lessons for our boys but I have been judged because my 1st grader does not read yet. I believe we’ll finally “get it” now that he cares about reading/ learning to read, with the right attitude and dedication he can accomplish this. I haven’t failed him in our education because he has been continually exposed to reading, books, and ideas… I just wished people didn’t think homeschooling or what we’re doing is wrong because he isn’t following their standard…

    • There does seem to be a lot of pressure to get kids reading asap. I used to worry about this as well but now feel it is better to let them catch the reading bug on their own. I think once they “get it”, they will pick it up quickly. And yes, being continually exposed to books (and readers) really does help!
      .-= Amida’s last blog: Last Physics Lesson =-.

  7. I received my first business loans when I was 20 and this aided my family very much. But, I require the auto loan as well.

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