This homeschooling thing has a major benefit: flexibility. We can schedule appointments during school hours, because we can shift our school hours. We can take days off when we want, schedule field trips as often as we want, decide when we start and end our school year (or to school year round), take vacations when places are less crowded because school’s in session, and incorporate life into our schooling so that everything is school, even when we’re just having fun or relaxing.
But all that flexibility can also have its downside. There’s a ton of choices for how to homeschool: unschooling, school at home, Charlotte Mason, Classical Conversations – and those are just to name a few. There’s a plethora of curriculum choices, from being eclectic and printing your own stuff to spending hundreds, or maybe even thousands on a packaged one. There’s homeschooling actually at home, and then there’s deciding to do it at the park, a coffee shop, or the library (whether out of necessity because you don’t have internet or a printer at home or just because you want to).
With so many different ways to do it, it’s easy to wonder if you’ve chosen the right way for your family. When you have a bad day, you might question whether that’s because you chose the “wrong” way to homeschool. When you see other people so confident in their choice, or who talk about how wonderfully their choice has worked for their child, you might question whether that would be the better way to go for your family.
Here’s the thing, though: Just like there are so many choices of homeschooling methods, curricula and places to do it, there are different personalities, minds, feelings, and hopes in the kids being homeschooled.
We all start this homeschooling journey because we either discover, or we feel before they ever start school, that public school just isn’t right for our kids. That cookie cutter education that has 30+ kids sitting in a classroom, doing the same work over and over until everyone gets it, lining up to use the bathroom or go to lunch, spending more time on taking attendance and lining up to go to art and music and PE, wasn’t a good fit for our kids.
So, if that wasn’t right for your kids, why would you think that what someone else is doing for their kids is what’s right for yours? The mother that talks about how she unschools and her kid does so well with the freedom of that and she trusts her kid and never worries about her kid learning? Maybe her kid doesn’t have ADHD and therefore can focus much better than yours can. The one who spends thousands on curriculum for her three kids and is so proud of it? Maybe she and her husband both work, or maybe he has such a great job, that spending thousands on a curriculum is a drop in the bucket, like buying a pack of gum – and you, as a single parent, don’t have that kind of money.
It can be tempting to try new things in your homeschooling – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you’re first starting out, dipping your toes into a variety of methods, curricula and ideas can be a great thing – it’ll help you figure out what works best for you and your family. If things clearly aren’t working, even if they did in the past, trying something new and shaking things up can help you either get out of a rut or find something that will work.
But don’t let one bad day make you question it all. Don’t let one parent’s ridiculously high confidence shake your foundation if you’ve been confident until that moment.
If something is working for you and your kids, if you’re all happy and healthy and things have been going smoothly, stick with it. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It doesn’t matter if everyone else is doing something, if what you’re doing works, don’t jump on the bandwagon to be like everyone else.
It can be hard, I know. When you’re part of a homeschooling group where everyone, or at least the majority, does one thing and you do something different, it can be even more tempting to make that change. We all want to fit in, we all want to feel like we’re part of something, but remember: you already are part of something. Just by homeschooling, you’re part of the homeschooling community. It’s a community that’s huge, and diverse, and enjoys that diversity. Public school doesn’t – public school wants everyone to learn the same thing, the same way, at the same time, and for the same reason. That’s what you’re trying to get away from, remember?
If the group you’re in, or a particular member of the group, tries to make you feel guilty about your choices and like you have to change in order to be part of the group, consider that perhaps the group isn’t right for you, rather than that your choices aren’t right for you. If a group that you’re looking to join requires you use a particular curriculum, method, religion, etc. – that’s fine, they can do that, but you don’t have to join. You can keep looking, or you can create your own group that meets your needs – including being all inclusive.
If one parent seems to brag a bit much about how great her method works, how awesome her kids are as a result of her choice to (insert choice here), ask yourself why she feels the need to go on about it so much. Maybe it really is a great method, maybe her kids really are turning out amazing as a result of that particular choice – or maybe she’s trying to convince herself. Maybe she’s not so sure of her decisions, either, and she’s looking for some reassurance in the form of admiration by others. Maybe one kid turned out awesome while the other didn’t, so she feels the need to justify the decisions she’s made. There could be so many reasons that she’s so confident – and despite what you might think, it’s unlikely that one of them is “your choice is wrong.” Even if she comes right out and says it like that, it’s still unlikely that that’s the real reason. It’s far more likely that she’s trying to cover up her own insecurities by making you feel just as uncertain.
You certainly shouldn’t be stagnant in your homeschool. If something doesn’t work, or doesn’t work anymore, you should open your mind to new ideas, new options, new methods. You should explore, research, and talk to people. If the kids want to try something new, by all means, give it a shot.
But if things are working, if it’s all going smoothly and you’re happy and the kids are happy, and they’re learning – don’t let someone else convince you it’s wrong. Stand firm in your belief that what you’re doing is the right choice for your family. Smile and nod when someone tells you it’s wrong or brags about what they do, and if they get really pushy, say something like, “Thank you, but what we’re doing works for us, so I think we’ll just stick with it.”
You may feel like you’re the only one, but I assure you, you aren’t. With as big as the homeschooling community is, there’s someone somewhere doing what you’re doing. If you need proof of that, just go online. Join a homeschooling group on Facebook, or sign up on a homeschooling website. Scroll through the discussions, and I promise you, it won’t take long before you’ll find the first, and then many subsequent posts, that show you that there are others out there doing exactly what you’re doing.
Your homeschool should be unique to your kids. It won’t be unique in the world, but it should be unique to your kids and what works for them. Don’t let the urge to fit in, a nugget of insecurity, or a moment of doubt inspired by an overconfident mama, make you change something that works. Stick with it, and be proud that you’ve made the right choice for your family.