‘My daughter won the prize in her class last week for the highest performer…and she knows all her times tables…oh, do you do times tables? And how do you know if your children are up to the right levels if you home school?’ These were the words spoken to a friend of mine recently…at, would you believe it, the hairdresser!!! It seems that once we take the step out of ‘the system’ and do things differently, people are desperate for us to prove ourselves as worthy, capable and somehow equal to the very system we have stepped out of so that we can do things our way, differently and in a manner that is individualised to each of our children. It’s ridiculous”! All of a sudden, the wind can be taken out of our sails, leaving us feeling inadequate, incapable and perhaps even like we are failing as home educators!! I’ve heard it all over the years. The checkout worker, ‘A day off school today, eh kids?’ ‘No, this is school!’ my boys reply – sometimes I used to feel embarrassed by being at the shop during ‘school hours’ and my children’s responses to such questions, but over time, I have begun to become more confident and witnessed that they can justify perfectly well their reason for doing the grocery shopping at 11am on a Wednesday!
We once even had questions around adding and multiplying while in a taxi! It seems that every member of the public, discovering that we have chosen to educate our own children, feel an obligation to just make sure we’re doing a good job!! It’s absurd! Having started home educating with such ambitious dreams of providing a taylored approach for our children, offering freedom to explore the world, become confident learners, establishing their strengths and passions all of a sudden with a few of the above conversations, all our confidence is gone! We ask ourselves, ‘Am I doing enough? Have I cut too much slack on the children since bringing them home from school? Have I cut myself too much slack? Should I bring in more bookwork, attend more homeschool groups, or perhaps even just put them back in school? I don’t know if or how I can ever ensure my children will ‘turn out alright’! Oh help, I don’t think I can do this!’ We plunge down the slippery slope of self-doubt and confidence is gone! It leaves in a hurry and then we start to find ourselves drowning in a sea of uncertainty and lack of self-belief. If this is you, or if you ever find yourself heading down this slippery slope, let me encourage you with a few thoughts.
1. Remember to keep your ‘WHY’ forefront in your mind. Why did you begin homeschooling? Perhaps the ‘why’s’ have changed over time, but there are still plenty of positive reasons that you have chosen to devote your time and energy to your children. Write it down if you haven’t – or not done so for a while – and post it somewhere you can see regularly.
2. Comparing with others is a lethal trap! Whether it’s the local school children, or another home-school family…don’t line yourself up with them! Sometimes we can learn from and be encouraged by ideas etc. that we see other families practicing, that’s great. But don’t put others on a pedestal of ‘oh, they are wonderful and have totally got it altogether…I wish we were like that..’ Be yourself. Celebrate your strengths and that of your children.
3. Language creates a culture in your home. Speaking positively both externally and internally in your head, will help you enormously to bring a confidence to all that you do. And it will feed your children also! Say positive things about what you are achieving or goals you have set to move towards, rather than looking at what hasn’t been done, or isn’t the way you would like it to be.
4. Remind yourself that home schooling is a long journey! The days can feel like an eternity, a week or term can drag so slowly, it’s hard to keep going. And the end of each day can look like nothing has been accomplished! Day after day, it seems we’re still on the back foot with nothing to show for it!! However, if we make sure we set goals, take intentional steps each day and celebrate the achievements – however small they may seem, we will progress. The children will grow, learn and ‘turn out alright’! Trust the journey!
However, this is not a journey to go alone… join me again next time!