There is nothing like the excitement of starting something new. The sense of adventure, hopefulness, and the promise of new ventures can be intoxicating. Some people experience a new challenge with enthusiasm that borders on fanaticism. I am one of them. It happened to me when I began homeschooling.
I started homeschooling out of a deep conviction that it was the only good option for my son. This was based on my experience trying all the other available options. Those experiences led me to reroute my career and life to meet his needs.
These factors set me up to embrace homeschooling like a drowning person grabs a flotation device. Some great things resulted from those bumpy beginnings, but eleven years later, I see my mistakes during that time too.
1. Jumping Into a Pressure Cooker
The intense responsibility and commitment I felt to my son drove me to extremes. I learned EVERYTHING I could about homeschooling and I fell into thinking homeschooling was the best educational option period. For everybody.
Not only that, but a certain brand of homeschooling that idealized parental authority and influence dominated my thinking. It seemed to provide the remedies for the problems in our culture and educational systems by strengthening the parent’s influence in their children’s’ lives.
I still agree with many tenets of this movement, but recognize that I had thrown my hope into a method as THE answer rather than seeing it as one part of the healing and help my son needed. This led to me being stressed when my family didn’t mirror the results or lifestyle idealized in this group.
I was not a relaxed and joyful homeschool mom; I was striving and driving us towards an ideal that intensified our struggles. You can be wiser than me; avoid the idealization of any one method or even homeschooling itself!
2. Defending Our Decision to Homeschool
We had never known anyone who homeschooled when we decided to pursue it. It seemed such a foreign and radical idea. My struggle with the decision made others’ questioning of it painful.
People who were merely curious met with the same lengthy explanations as those who opposed our decision. Thankfully, none of these exchanges were heated, but I’m sure those on the receiving end of my explanations often wished they weren’t!
Those who disagreed with us did not change their opinions following lengthy discourses. Several friends, professionals, and family DID change their opinions by seeing the results of our choice over time.
3. Homeschooling as Insurance
Some of homeschooling’s appeal for me centered on its insulation from bullying and negative social pressure. That is a benefit of homeschooling but it isn’t foolproof: We have still encountered these things in co-ops and social gatherings.
Maybe all parents secretly desire the formula or program that guarantees successful parenting…I don’t know. I do know that despite my attempts to avoid that trap, I fell into it anyway. Somewhere along our journey, I began trusting that homeschooling was insurance against some of the very human struggles my children would face; within and without.
I overemphasized our influence and underestimated humanity’s sin nature and the natural developmental challenges we all face. My children have not fallen into any great difficulty so far, but I know they might one day. If that day comes, it will not be homeschooling that saves us.
Homeschooling has been a wonderful tool that the Lord has allowed for shaping and disciplining our children, but it is only a tool in the Lord’s hands. He alone has the power to restrain and forgive their sin and to overcome their struggles as they trust in Him.
4. Doubting my Decisions…and Then Doubting Them Again!
A list of all the decisions on curriculum, therapies, and activities that I questioned could fill this page. After lots of research and deliberation for each decision, I would move forward and then proceed to question everything we did. This did not make for a happy homeschool.
Thankfully, time and experience revealed that our choices could be easily changed or tweaked without destroying our children’s future. The weight of each decision was much lighter than my fears led me to believe. More experienced homeschooling moms encouraged and helped me past this hangup. Their assurances that we didn’t have to have it all figured out to be successful lifted the crushing burden I kept picking up.
Oy yoy yoy…this was terrible. If you want peace, don’t compare your homeschool, family or life with anyone else’s. Looking for affirmation that we were not failing our kids in every way, I would at times check our progress against other families,’ hoping for encouragement. No, no and no.
One more NOOOOOOOO. This is a life-stealing, joy-killing practice. If you want to become a judgmental, condemning person or feel like a failure at every turn, this is the path for you. However, if balance and health matter to you, run from this temptation every time it dares to pop up.
Most of us would agree that our families’ needs are unique and that comparisons are fruitless….it’s why we homeschool. Join Facebook forums, support groups or co-ops and it becomes evident that comparisons to others run rampant anyway. We talk about curriculum, lifestyle, method, or educational choice in ways that reveal the comparisons undergirding our positions.
We have to guard against forming harsh judgments of ourselves and others based on what works in other families. Hopefully, you can sidestep this pitfall and be an encouragement to others.
Reflecting on the mistakes of my early homeschooling years hurts a little. Exposing it to you hurts a little more, but I also hope it encourages you. If you find yourself commiserating with my past experience, you should know that homeschooling doesn’t have to be that way. You can change and move forward differently.
If you are wondering how such a crazy, immature, and fearful woman got into homeschooling anyway, I’m with you. But, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and I’m living proof of that truth. Somehow, our sons grew beyond every prognosis we were given and are even likely to be productive members of society (that’s a joke; they will!). We’ve all changed and grown. We are still changing and growing. When I graduate them, I’ll be writing an article about mistakes I made at this point. Stay tuned…