Renee’s Biggest Homeschool Mistake: Giving In To Fear

Written by contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY

When Jamie proposed this series to us a couple months ago I was stumped for a topic.

Not because I haven’t made mistakes. Of course I have. I just don’t look at life that way – looking back to mistakes, wishing or wondering if I should have done something different.

I happen to be married to an idea-generating, forward thinking optimist (I bring a dose of realism to the mix which makes for an excellent partnership). If I so much as utter, “oh, I wish I would have” or even worse, “that was stupid of me,” I am sure to be stopped in my tracks with a loving reproval from my husband.

I think this is a healthy perspective to have on homeschool mistakes and life in general. And when I am tempted to think “if only” I find it more helpful to face forward with proactive ideas for change instead of looking back.

Lest you think I think I’m perfect (my family will be the first to set you straight!) there have been homeschooling mistakes I’ve made along the way.

One in particular comes to mind.

Giving in to fear.

Not only is giving in to fear the worst reason to homeschool it’s also, I believe, one of the worst mistakes we can make in our homeschool practice.

I know. I’ve done it.

Photo by Renee Tougas

Fear is incidious and destructive in our lives, and without a doubt can have negative effects on our homeschool practice. It usually sneaks up on me (see what I mean about insidious) and I don’t even realize I’ve let it into my mindset until I see the following behaviors in myself.

Fear makes me compare myself and my children to others in a negative light. Either they are bad or we are bad.

At times I have compared my children to others, fearful that we are behind in something. This is absolutely unproductive thinking.

I homeschool my children to give them a family-focused, personalized education. Why should it matter to me what books other nine year olds are reading or what level they are at in math? It shouldn’t.

And let’s not even go into the comparison game we sometimes way too often play as mothers. Talk about destructive behavior.

These comparisons, motivated by fear, are definitely mistakes I can own up to.

Fear makes me panic and make hasty, uninformed decisions.

Over the years my children have gone through short term “slumps” of feeling lonely or bored.

These might last a few days or a few weeks. And during intense growth periods that feeling of just being off can last longer.

Motivated by fear that my kids might not be “properly socialized” if they experience occasional periods of blah I have over-responded to such situations with too many outings, activities, and social opportunities. This pattern of behavior leaves us all exhausted.

We need to listen to our children and do our best to meet their needs, but boredom and yes, even occasional loneliness are part of the human condition and can’t be “activitied” away.

Photo by Renee Tougas

In fact, learning how to deal with this natural part of the human condition is a skill we need to teach our children. When we rush in to fix every single moment of pain or boredom – with outings, video games, or sugar – we do our children a disservice in their growth and development.

When I see comparison and panic rearing their ugly heads I know I need a mental shift.

This is not a one day, quick fix solution but an on-going transformation and renewing of my mind through prayer, gratitude, scripture reading, connection with loved ones, time in nature, and other meditative practices.

Photo by Renee Tougas

Misha wrote an excellent article here at Simple Homeschool about slaying the giants of insecurity, comparison and fear. If you struggle with fear and need strategies to help overcome that her post is an excellent read.

Can I share a little secret with you? We all struggle with fear, even our friends and family who send their kids to school. So don’t think for a moment, “Oh, if I was only sending the kids to school I wouldn’t have to walk through this uncertainty”. Oh no, sister, you’d just be walking through different fears.

Choosing to give fear even a teensy bit of wiggle room in our lives will mess with our homeschool happiness.

And that has been my biggest mistake – giving fear a place in my mind and in some of my decision making.

I’m not going to ask you what you fear. Jamie already did that. Instead I’m going to ask you to be proactive.

What strategies do you use or plan to use to renew your mind and speak truth to your heart in those moments of fear?

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About Renee

Renee is a creative homemaker and homeschooling mama of three. She loves to write, take pretty photos, and be in nature with her family. Her mission is to nourish, encourage, and teach; build relationship and create beauty. FIMBY is where she tells that story. Drawing from her years of experience and training, Renee also offers individual and personalized Homeschool Coaching.


  1. Ahhhh this speaks to me! We’re in our second year of homeschooling (grades 3 & 5) and I’m dealing with the Panic of “Oh dear should we send our oldest to middle school next year because what if we don’t and then he misses the boat for high school and then he doesn’t get in to college and then his life is WRECKED?!” Oh I hear you loud and clear, and take this as encouragement. I’ve already started on a journey away from this fear, but it is a real battle. Thank you for your words.

  2. Oh I am loving this series and this post is why!!! You are so right!!! I find myself humming along wondering about this and that but generally happy… and then a neighbor makes an idle comment and a comparative study ensues and the great seed of self-doubt is sown!!! Weeks later I will still be thinking my children will never get to college because they missed a week of science experiments. (Um they could be English majors, not everyone is a scientist)… I really try to avoid comparisons, which is hard if you aren’t a hermit – so always finding the balance between heaps of friends and comparisons, and reclusing and contentment!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Happy Birthday to the Celebrity Chef, Se7en At Last…

  3. thanks Renee I REALLY needed to hear this, especially this week.

  4. This post is perfect! My blog is named “Be Not Afraid” for this very reason! hahaha. Acting upon fear has never been fruitful!

    Being proactive for me means to try new things that seem out of my box, or go against my need to control the universe ; ) It’s usually difficult on the outset but that uncomfortable feeling goes away quickly as I give in to enjoying the moment.

  5. I love that you said a family-focused, personalized education. I love that! You couldn’t have wrapped up in a better 4 words why we homeschool. And no matter what, the only place my kids can get that education is here, at home…mistakes and all.

  6. Keeping fear in it’s proper place is so much easier said than done. I agree that fear can be damaging when using it to make decisions for our families, so it is something to work on for sure. I am just starting out on this homeschooling road (my oldest of 4 is Kindergarden age) and I have recently shifted into a more “child/interest led” and “better late than early” attitude about education. When I first knew I would homeschool this is totally NOT how I pictured it going, but then, I had unrealistic expectations that did not fit with our family’s personality or with the way I actually want to live life. Thanks to blogs like this that allow for open honest discussions like this one, I believe I have now found “what works for us” (for now) and I will never look back with regret either. The fear that I now need to overcome is the fear of “how do I make the people close to me that don’t understand why I homeschool understand that this IS what is best for my children”.
    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds’s latest post: Routines

  7. Wow! Thank you, Renee! Just reading this post has already made me feel better.
    When I feel this way I need to get out of my house and my head and see other people who are genuine and uplifting. I also do yoga (at home with like a maniac when these times strike. The yogis also have some wonderful words to center and ground me.

  8. BEST SENTENCE I’ve read in a while! You need to come tell the parents in DC that “…boredom and yes, even occasional loneliness are part of the human condition and can’t be ‘activitied’ away.”

  9. THANK YOU! I’m preparing to set-out on a homeschooling path which does not include the same academic push at ages 4, 5, 6 that I’m seeing in all of our peers. I know my kids are going to appear to be behind in the early years & I hope/believe that by 13 or 18 they will not be behind. . . .but that fear of comparison, by myself & others, keeps sneaking in & making me do some big academic thing with my 4-yr-old that I don’t really believe in.
    Mitri’s latest post: Apple Seeds

    • Mitri,

      My children, when compared with their school peers “look behind” in certain subjects. But as my oldest is now coming into her young adult years and is “catching” up because her interests are turning more academic in nature I am encouraged that it will all work out ok in the end. Better than ok. Because when they tackle those academics it’s because they are truly ready and have had a childhood of learning, growing, exploring and figuring out who they are.

      I know this in my heart to be true but man, it takes some trust to not push when our kids are little, potentially turning them away from their innate love of learning.

      Keep following your heart mama.
      Renee’s latest post: Let’s Talk About Fear

  10. So good. It definatly takes practice not to be worried about what the ‘school system’ is doing. I loved ‘The Well Trained Mind’ and their concepts, they were much bigger than grade by grade goals.

    Hope schooling for fear/protecting kids from other influences is also wrong. Sure, it is a perk of home school and can often lead to a home school decision but I do things in my life for the positive reasons not out of fear/or to stay away from the negative ones.

    Great thoughts! thanks!
    Lorilee’s latest post: Overlooked Perks of Home School Part 2

  11. “Fear makes me panic and make hasty, uninformed decisions.” Amen sister. That rings soo true with me. As soon as I succumb to the compare and despair game, I decide the way to make us better is to get involved with this or sign up for that. And a week later I completely regret doing it and renege on my commitment and feel guilty for flaking. It’s a vicious circle. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who reacts to fear that way–and that there’s hope to overcome it.

  12. I really agree about fear being a very poor reason for homeschooling…but I learned that part way in. It is wonderful that Damien is such an optimist. I am working on choosing a more hopeful, optimistic outlook on life in various areas – I tend towards more anxiety/worrying/constantly (over) analyzing choices.

  13. Fantastic post. After a year of homeschooling I have consciously let go of comparing my son to where he ‘should’ be if he was still in school. Reading a fair bit about unschooling (not really our approach, but I take what I want) and realising that he has a whole lifetime to pick up the skills he needs and use them, has helped me deal with this. Add to that the thought that we don’t panic if our kid is ahead of his peers in one area, and it will all balance out in the end.
    Natalia’s latest post: Home Education linkage goodness

  14. This is absolutely lovely. YES! We all know this feeling! Thanks for writing it and helping us remember that we ALL have these feelings of insecurity, not just me! 🙂
    Kiersten’s latest post: What I wish I could Tell you!

  15. I don’t usually worry about what others are doing or not doing compared to my son. But, perhaps for the first time, I had fear this week about a topic that others are doing that we have not yet. Geometry. I felt horrid for a few days. It had come into my head twice in a few weeks that others his age had started geometry. Maybe we will too. But not for the wrong reasons, not because others are and not because I was fearful that I was missing something. We travel at our own pace and we like what we see in our travels. I hope to keep it that way.

  16. Most of the mis-steps I’ve made in life have been the result of fear.
    TheActorsWife’s latest post: what mama’s learning at swim class (and it’s not how to swim!)

  17. You always know how to speak to my heart, Renee.
    Shelli’s latest post: Gone to the Beach

  18. Thank you for talking about the boredom and loneliness phases. I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade, and I vividly remember a time when we’d been in the house for days, the weather was crummy, and I was desperate to get out and interact with somebody besides my immediate family. My mom and dad simply blew this off, and this memory stuck with me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being homeschooled. I plan to homeschool my own children, and my mom was a wonderful teacher that I can’t possibly outdo…. but she missed something that was a legitimate desire for me. We spent lots of time at activities… but I didn’t have close friends, and she didn’t allow us to have people over to our house much. I didn’t learn how to “hang out” until college. We socialized… but there was something missing. I want to figure out how to find a better balance with my boys. It’s just nice to know I wasn’t the only one having this loneliness as a homeschooler. I haven’t heard it addressed before….

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