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?
Thanks for the reminder. Comparisons only cause us to feel inferior or superior to those around us. Neither makes us better homeschoolers!
Hannah’s latest post: Things That Are Saving My Life This Winter
Good point, Hannah! There is nothing productive that comes from comparing!
Great words of wisdom!
As my children are either teens or approaching teens, I try to keep in mind the old adage of don’t jump off the bridge just because everyone else is jumping off the bridge. As we near ten years of homeschooling, I have observed that time spent in comparisons is ill spent. Many families around us have made many, many changes and often times are no longer homeschooling. I do not have insight as to how or why exactly they make their changes and nor is it my business. I am confident that God holds me responsible for my life and not theirs. To model godliness to my children means focusing on the blessings and beams that are present within our own family. Observing and Judging seem components of comparison that must be carefully balanced. Knowing thyself well seems the best use of our time. Great, thought provoking piece. Thank you!
I can only imagine the wisdom you have gained in homeschooling for 10 years! This is only my 3rd year and it is always encouraging to hear from moms who are parenting older kids and teens. Blessings on your continued homeschooling journey and great thoughts – I can imagine that the longer we homeschool, the more changes we will see as well around us and we should keep focused on what we are called to do.
Laura Thomas’s latest post: What I Learned From a 30 Day Facebook Break
Thanks! I will definitely share this on my blog!! Good stuff for sure! Especially for us because this is our first year homeschooling and we plan on having and raising more little ones this same way as well!
My oldest is not the most motivated to read (though recently he’s turning a corner, I think…) But he loves numbers. So we do a lot with numbers. There is sometimes an unspoken rule with kids and homeschool that if they are homeschooling you are pushing them ahead of what their peers would be doing in traditional school. But the beauty of homeschooling is that you are going at their speed. So if that means faster in some areas and slower in others, that’s the right way for that child. Thanks for the great reminder to stay the course on parenting our own children and not worry about where others are…
Johanna’s latest post: January 2015 read-alouds
well said, Johanna! the gift we are given with homeschooling is being able to have flexibility and move at our child’s pace!
Laura Thomas’s latest post: What I Learned From a 30 Day Facebook Break
This is so helpful. I feel like I need a daily reminder to take things slowly and not worry too much what others are doing. We are just getting started and at this point I am compiling materials and formulating plans. It is so easy for me to second guess myself when I see you experienced homeschool moms out there. Thanks for my daily check.
I love this comparison to an Olympic runner! It is so, so true…focus and priorities makes all the difference in the outcome. Comparison doesn’t help anyone, and honestly, more often than not, it just causes issues. I love your idea about putting a new idea of curriculum on our mental shelves for a bit before jumping right into. That alone can save so much stress!