We’ve all heard the stories… children graduating at ridiculously early ages from college with a Master’s degree, amazing kid sports stars playing with professionals, young kids attending music festivals, playing several classical pieces from memory and the one common thread between them? They are usually homeschooled. Yes, I know some of these amazing children myself and I’m really glad I do, because they are all wonderful human beings. We also often hear about how homeschoolers compare with their public school peers and how their test scores are on average so much higher than those of public school students. In the homeschool world, however, since homeschooling is a subculture that isn’t always deemed as a legitimate educational choice by friends, family and strangers, we are often trying to prove how homeschooling is so advantageous and superior academically and in every other way, that we engage in showing off achievements of our children, trying to keep up with the Joneses so to speak. I’ve often felt the pressure myself and even added my own comments from time to time, but I realized that it is doing 99% of homeschooling parents and students a big disservice.
Of course we will always have the students who are truly gifted in one specific way or another, but there are so many homeschooled students who are regular, average, and awesome kids with no specifically outstanding ability and the parents, and sometimes the students, feel the pressure of comparing themselves to the stories of the genius who graduated college last week. Too often we have the idyllic picture in our mind of the homeschooled student who sits under the tree outside, peacefully reading their book of the week for hours on end without even having to be told to do so. That just isn’t everyone’s reality, and honestly it isn’t the reality of most.
I’ve lately talked to many parents and realized that as soon as I am honest with them about my struggles, honesty from their side revealed that they often feel very alone in their struggles, as I have felt from time to time, which led me to write this article. There are very few homeschool parents who don’t run into challenges along the road. There are many solutions to those challenges, but it is very helpful, I believe, to first of all realize that there is nothing abnormal about you, your family, and your children if they’re not scoring 100% on all their tests or not retaining those pesky Math facts after one glimpse. Even worse is when one child in a household does have that special gift and the others don’t. All we need to do is think of ourselves. Some of us have special abilities, but most of us are just smart, hard-working individuals who got where we are in life by putting in some serious effort.
Of course everyone is special in their own way, and everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and the world needs us all, but I feel we often fall into one of the traps we are trying to avoid by homeschooling, which is comparing ourselves to the other homeschoolers and making judgments on how successful our schooling is for our children. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t take note if we realize there might be a learning difficulty or some other problem, but as the parents, we are in tune with our children and we usually know or can figure out what they need most. I’m not arguing for mediocrity at all either. I’m arguing for every child achieving their personal best. Let’s celebrate when that is achieved!
Not all children will like reading, because neither do all adults. Not all children will be good at sports, because neither are the adults. Not everyone will be math geniuses, because neither are the adults. Let’s celebrate our children’s differences and stop comparing ourselves to everyone’s success stories only. Let’s be happy for each other’s success and try to help with each other’s challenges. That is what true homeschool support really is all about.