Written by Laura Thomas of This Eternal Moment.
I crouched at the starting block for runners of the first ever Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece. As someone who loves to run, you could say that it was, well, a moment to cherish.
I closed my eyes and could imagine the strong athletes with focused brows, the crowds of spectators on the grassy hill to the left, and the moment of truth when the race actually began.
Would they keep their eyes on the path and the finish line ahead or would they allow their gaze to wander to the crowd on the hill or the competitors on their left or right?
Their focus would likely play a large role in securing or endangering their victory.
The Perils of The Comparison Trap
We may not be Olympic runners, but we can take some tips from their games.
As homeschooling moms, it can be all too easy to start our year with a clear goal (or goals) in mind for our children’seducation only to end up in a mental or emotional ditch of comparison to those around us.
Six-year-old Johnny is already reading chapter books and your six-year-old little guy just wants to play in the dirt all day.
Eight-year-old Susie’s mom does six subjects with her every day and even squeezes in three science projects a week.
Oh, and your friend Sharon manages to get all five kids out of her house (including a newborn) for a weekly field trip to some wonderfully educational historical site.
If you interact with other homeschooling families at all (which is super helpful!) or engage in homeschooling websites like this one (which is also super helpful!) it can become all too easy to let your gaze slip from your own goals (you know, the ones you were so sure about?) and find yourself in someone else’s lane, running someone else’s race.
Worst of all, you could end up side-lined and tripped up in the ditch of comparison when you had a clear path before your feet to follow.
Here are 5 tips to encourage and empower you to keep your eyes on the prize:
1. Determine your homeschooling mission.
Create a family or educational manifesto to be read at the beginning of each day or week. Such statements reinforce long-term values and goals, which trump mere productivity and re-focus us on what is most important.
2. Consider a homeschool planning retreat each year.
The purpose of this is two-fold: to think through your last year and assess your children’s (and your) strengths, weaknesses, interests, talents, etc.
This isn’t just a time to plan which curriculum to use, but to thoughtfully evaluate what is best for you and your kids as you begin your year.
3. Put it on hold.
Hear an idea you like about a technique or program? Before rushing out and buying the curriculum, put it on your mental shelf for awhile. Write it down, do a bit of research, and plan a quarterly or bi-annual time to re-evaluate how things are going for your family.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- Is what we are currently doing working well?
- Are my kids thriving?
- Is there an area we should change things up?
Let ideas sweat a bit before you jump the gun.
4. Parent your children.
Remind yourself of the truth – you are not little Susie or Danny’s mother and teacher – you are your own children’s mother and teacher.
Maybe what works beautifully for your best friend’s kids would result in complete chaos and heartache at your home. Maybe six subjects a day would stress you and your kids out.
Do what you know will empower your own kids to love learning and thrive right where they are.
5. Don’t Judge – Keep Learning.
It can be easy (once we have re-centered ourselves) to look smugly at the mother next to us and think, “She’s going to burn out. Her kids won’t be able to maintain that schedule for long,” or “Those workbooks are so dull. Her kids are probably bored to death!”
Dear mother, what is good for one may be bad for another. What is trash for one may be treasure for another.
Stay teachable, appreciate the differences and diversity of this beautiful thing called “homeschooling,” and above all else, stay in your lane!
What ways have you found to avoid making comparisons?