June 9, 2016

Avoiding the Comparison Trap {Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series}

I am happy to share with you the next post in my continuing Homeschooling: Keeping it Real Series for 2016. This series continues to focus on all the behind the scenes rawness that homeschooling families face. These are things that are challenges. Issues that can wear a homeschool parent down. But the purpose of the series is to show you, that you are NOT alone! There are hundreds, maybe THOUSANDS of families going through the same ups and downs. So please, continue to look at this series as a way for me, and others to encourage YOU in your homeschooling journey! My post today comes from my dear friend (and fellow farm mama) Paige who blogs at Freedom Trail Mama. Paige shares a confession today that I am sure EVERY homeschooling parent faces at one point in their adventure...but it's one that many of us continue to get caught up in over and over again.

Avoiding the Comparison Trap {Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series}

When my husband and I started looking into homeschooling, it was way back when we just had one precious baby who was only 6 months old. We started out pretty ignorant about homeschooling, but the more we read about it, the more we were convinced that it would give us the best chance at the most excellent education for our children. And for the next 5 years we remained convinced of this fact.

When we started our homeschooling journey, we had 4 little girls, age 5 and under. And let me tell you, by then I was not the fresh, young, 25 yr old mother of one baby who slept through the night by age 4 months….no sir. Now I was 30, had been pregnant or breastfeeding almost constantly for 6 years, and couldn’t recall the last time I’d had a great night’s sleep. Or a shower, some days. In addition, my house was a mess. Like, all the time.

Fast forward to the following year. My second born daughter was entering kindergarten (according to the public school calculations), and my oldest would be 1st grade. Now, it’s important to give a few details of what method we were exploring in our homeschooling. We had read a lot about different methods of education, and had settled on the Classical Method as THE BEST. It required no less than 6 hours of school work per day, when you counted up all the recommendations in the book “The Well-Trained Mind”. In my naïveté, I did not consider that to be too much when we were researching things.

However, after one year of just one child in kindergarten, I started to question my ability to teach all these kids for a minimum of 6 hours per day. For one thing, I have a hard time retaining a young child’s attention for any longer than 15 minutes at a time typically. Secondly, it became clear pretty quickly that my second daughter learned much differently than her older sister, and would require a great deal more time to be ready for kindergarten level work. And lastly...who was supposed to be doing all the errands and cooking dinner and cleaning the house and running my kids to extracurricular activities while I was homeschooling all day? I learned pretty quickly that second year that we just weren’t going to be able to fit in 6 hours of school per day.

I felt like a failure. 

Until, I discovered that none of the homeschooling families I knew--did routine 6 hr days either! Wow, that was pretty freeing. I had really thought that that’s what everyone did. In fact I thought that is what you should be doing if you want to give your children an excellent education. Come to find out, many friends, whom I admired as parents and homeschoolers, put in maybe a couple of hours of school work at most per day, for their young children.

But still, I remained plagued by a sort of vague sense of guilt, of letting my children down, because I could not perform up to the standards I had previously set for myself.

Over the next few years, we added two more babies to our growing family, as well as moved to the country, got farm animals and some dogs, and added a home business to my resume. It has now been 2 ½ years since the last baby came along. We currently have 4 school age children (all those girls are now kindergarten through 5th grade), one preschooler and a toddler. And even after all this time of homeschooling multiple children, at times I still struggle with immense self-doubt.

Why? Because, as a very smart person once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

When I look around on social media (blogs, and Facebook, and Pinterest, oh my!) and see what other homeschool families are doing, I can sometimes get discouraged. I see the crafty moms, and the former certified teacher moms, and the moms who wouldn’t dream of taking a sick day, a snow day or beginning the school day after their scheduled start time of 8 am. I see the moms whose children all read by age 5. The moms who have no children in need of speech therapy. I see the moms who create their own unit studies. I see the moms who actually finish a whole year of curriculum in a traditional school year (Sept-June).

And I feel bad about myself.

Now, let’s be clear about one thing.

Those moms should not stop doing those things.
If it works for them and their children, they should go for it!

Good for them!

I believe we should celebrate success when we see things that seem to be working for others.

BUT, we just shouldn’t make the mistake of setting that up as the standard for ourselves, if it is not the standard that God Himself has set for us. 

Because learning and education can look very different from home to home, child to child. And our phase of life and our child’s personality and learning style (and our own personality and teaching style too!) may have a lot to say about how much work we can get done with our homeschooling each day.

I have now come to believe that the most important things are not how many hours a day you put into school, or whether or not you finish your curriculum by the end of June. If you are “behind” regarding what level the public school system says your child should be reading or learning, it’s ok. In fact, try to banish that word “behind” from your vocabulary when it comes to your child’s education. What that system has decided, has nothing to do with our children. Because at the end of the day, it just means we are comparing our children to other children, and seeing how they stack up. No, that’s not the important stuff.

Here is what is important:
Does your child love to learn?
Does your child have a good relationship with you, and his or her siblings too?
Is your child learning how to put others first, but also communicate his or her own needs?
Is your child starting to know God and is he or she working on developing a deeper, lifelong relationship with Him?

Those are the things that matter, the things that will last a lifetime – and beyond.

So today, mamas, I want you to let go of all the rest. Because ultimately that is too great a burden to bear.

Let us not allow comparison to rob us of the joy we could be having on our homeschooling journey. 

Let us try instead to thank the One who gives us the ability and the desire to homeschool in the first place – let’s thank Him for whatever phase of life we are in now, for the children He has blessed us with, for the personalities He has given us and our children – and ask Him how He would have us teach these blessings, how He would have us formulate our days with our children, and how to meet each child right where they are at, coming alongside each one in a way that serves that child’s needs as well as the needs of the family as a whole.

Because there is freedom in resting in Him and in His design for your homeschool, my fellow mamas…and not striving to meet someone else’s expectations and standards for your journey. Do not take that on, sweet one…the weight will be too great and you will falter under it. Let Him be your guide, and you will find your burdens lifted, and your strength renewed.


About Paige

Hi! I'm Paige, a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mama living in the countryside of Michigan with my big crazy family - which currently includes a loving husband, 6 young-uns, a yellow lab and a bunch of chickens & turkeys! I'm here not to tell you how to live, but just to give you a glimpse of our homesteading life, and talk along the way about what it might mean to be truly free in Christ. I don't have all the answers, but I think God has started to lead me out of my chains of bondage and onto a path of true freedom in Him - a real Freedom Trail. Won't you join me?

You can find Paige over on her blog Freedom Trail MamaFacebook, and Pinterest--I know she'd love a follow!
Paige's post hit home for me. I know all too well about the comparison trap. I have mentioned it several times in my posts, because it's something I continue to battle. So if you are battling it too--just know you are not alone. I don't homeschool better than you. Paige doesn't homeschool better than me or you. We just homeschool in the best way for our family! So keep on, keepin' on!
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