Homeschoolers face expectations and judgement everywhere they go. By choosing to remove their child from mainstream education, all eyes are critically watching to see how they perform. We talk a lot about external judgement and pressure, but we don’t often discuss the burden we place on our own shoulders. The truth is, no one is harder on us than ourselves and I was no exception. Day after day, week after week, I was unhappy with my homeschool. I never felt like I was doing enough, I was constantly worried that my children would be behind or look stupid if they couldn’t do what their peers could. I thought the answer was more curriculum. I wanted to make sure there was no gaps and that I was doing the very best I could. I continued to add to our year, filling up our schedule with events and classes and subjects. Until one day I woke up and realized that none of us enjoyed homeschooling anymore. My kids cried and whined every day, “why do we have to do this!” I had lost my homeschool joy and I felt drained and disappointed. Why wasn’t homeschooling looking like I had imagined in my mind? Would my kids be better off in school?
Why I stopped pushing my kids
This guilt and fear-based homeschooling is a downward spiral. If you have found yourself stuck in it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You feel guilty so you do more, you feel like a failure so you try harder. What really needs to happen is a perspective shift and yet we are so caught up in what we aren’t doing that we fail to see what effect that mentality is having on our homeschool. The good news is that it’s kind of like ripping off a bandaid! Once you recognize that this isn’t the way you want your homeschool to look, the next step is to ditch the pressure and start finding how it needs to look for your family!
I saw that pushing was getting them nowhere. In fact, it was having the opposite effect. Somehow the more I pushed them to read or write, the more they hated it and the worse they did. I was basing my success off of theirs, and I found a flaw with my motivation. Why was this so important to me? Why did it matter if they were taking longer to read then some of their friends? The root of my frustration and stress was that I felt I would look bad. I didn’t want someone to judge me based off of that, so I pushed. I didn’t want my child to be made fun of, so I pushed. And instead of teaching them in a light, fun, relaxed way that inspired them to want to learn… I showed them that what other people think of you is the main concern. Do you see my flaw?
You guys, it is a perspective shift! It means evaluating all our curriculum, where our kids are at, and asking ourselves why we are doing this. I had to let go of what other people might think, I had to love and accept my kids for who they were, weaknesses and strengths alike! I had to find ways to identify their struggles and creatively try again. To praise and encourage them for their strengths and teach them how to find confidence in who they are, not compare themselves to other kids their age! In the end, teaching my kids to read when they are 5 or when they are 8 is not going to determine whether or not they graduate. But ruining their self-confidence by pressuring and pushing could effect their desire to learn: a far more detrimental prospect.
Why was I emulating something I disagreed with?
I chose NOT to put my kids in school. I see a lot of disappointing things in our schools you guys, broken things. Our schools rate lower and lower every year, while other countries grades are on the rise. Our very approach to education, the conveyor-belt method, is built to raise blue-collar workers who follow the rules and do exactly what their told. But I want more than that for my kids! So why am I comparing my kids to the very system I lost so much faith in? I knew this in my head but when it came time to the daily grind of homeschooling, I continually went to my old patterns of schedules and lists and checking off the boxes. It took a very deliberate, grandiose action on my behalf to begin to make a change to more relaxed homeschooling (read about the day I abandoned my workbooks here). It took time, it took research, it took taking a break and slowly adding in what I wanted our homeschool to look like piece by piece. It took Brave Writer and hearing encouragement and validation from Julie that I could do this. I needed someone to give me permission, and then show me what that looked like!
I no longer push my kids, I no longer read about learning outcomes or care about them really. I give my kids space to learn if they are struggling and push them if they are excelling. I have FUN with them you guys! We learn together and I take the time to get involved so that I can see firsthand how I may need to adjust my approach and help them better. I base school not on a national average, but on my individual children and their needs. This is why we homeschool, but I think sometimes we need a little reminder and a whole lot of encouragement.