By now, you know the drill: every once in a while, you read an article, talk to a homeschooling friend, or discover a new educational blog… and pretty soon your head is spinning. Should we do more? Better? Are we doing enough? Are my kids behind?
I get it. You're afraid.
You're afraid your kids won't learn what they need to know to be successful in life. You worry you're not qualified to teach your kids. You fear that one day you might realize that you failed.
Take a deep breath, my friend.
Learning advanced algebra by a specified date doesn't guarantee happiness in life. Following every twist and turn of your curriculum doesn't automatically lead to a fulfilled life or financial stability.
We often have the same unrealistic expectations about homeschooling as we do about life in general: perfection.
All-or-nothing, high standards, focus on the results, pushed by fear all the way. But life (and homeschooling) is never perfect. And it shouldn’t be.
Living Is a Journey of Discovery
This journey isn’t perfect, and it never will be. Do pay attention, though, because each turn of the path requires an adjustment.
Try to stop comparing your journey to someone else’s. Listen to your gut. Remember, your kids are watching you. And if they see you taking chances, tackling new things, correcting, bouncing back from setbacks, growing, and learning, so will they.
They’ll begin to follow their inner voice, developing independent learning skills, self-reliance, and confidence as they go. It’s true, you don't know what's next. But you're not here to control their learning. Your job isn’t to prepare your kids for college. Your kids will prepare themselves for their future. On their own terms.
Let your kids learn to trust their choices, navigate their learning, practice how to get started, and get things done. It won't be perfect. But trust that it will be exactly what they need.
Have comfort in knowing that you and your kids are always learning. You’re learning from books, life, siblings, museums, documentaries, playing games, talking to strangers, as well as the homeschool curriculum you picked.
Slow down. You don’t have to do all the things. Everything. All the time.
Curriculum Is Merely a Guide
Your curriculum is not written to be followed to a tee. It’s not here to control you. It’s here to guide you. Its purpose is to direct your effort but not to hold you prisoner.
Be responsive to the cues your children give you. Observe. Listen. Give it time. Let it grow.
When you lie at night wondering…
- Is it okay to work across the schedule instead of up and down each day?
- Is it okay to do homeschool in the afternoon, at night, or on weekends?
- Is it okay to take a day off?
- Is it okay to ...
The answer is almost always yes.
We don’t trust ourselves enough. But you know what?
You’ve Got This. You Can’t Fail.
If you go into homeschooling with the mindset that you can’t fail, then the formative choices you make around the quality and quantity of schooling will be more in tune with the whole range of your kids’ educational needs.
When you begin to feel anxiety about skipping a particular topic or about taking part of the day off, tell yourself some good things: “I’m the best teacher for my children. I trust myself. I’m not alone.”
Fear often comes from deep insecurities. One of the biggest myths around homeschooling is that in order to do it right, we must be qualified. This fear is what keeps us forever discounting what we do have to offer. And we have a lot to offer: love, experience, compassion, safe boundaries, stability, security, nourishment, wisdom, sleepless nights, a shoulder to cry on, cookies, hugs, and a passionate desire for our kids to succeed.
I know for a fact that no matter how tired or busy you are right now, you’ve worked fiercely to make sure your children thrive. Today and every day.
But there is a kind of short-sighted preoccupation that happens on some homeschool days. We fixate on the number of pages, the problems completed, and the pages read. The checklist becomes an all-consuming goal. Before we know it, the seemingly ordinary day is turned into a race to get it done no matter what. The kids are not on board; we lose a sense of perspective.
Breathe in. Breathe out, my friend.
Now think: Is this topic vital for your child’s success in life? Can it be learned later today? Next month? In a year? Can it be learned differently? Is this truly necessary?
How often is great effort dedicated to fitting in something that is not supposed to fit in?
So much brain power channeled into doing something that doesn’t have to be done?
Preparing Children for a Future None of Us Knows
We have some funny ideas about success in life. We sometimes think we can predict future success by the number of math problems or spelling words they complete today.
The truth is, we don’t know who our children are going to want to be when they grow up: life extension technicians, space travelers, bloggers? We don’t know what they will be passionate about: quantum computing, space tourism, self-driving cars? We don’t have a clue about opportunities that will come up for them or what life will be like in ten, fifteen, twenty years.
When you go to bed worrying: What do my kids need to learn to succeed in life? How can I best prepare them for a grown-up life, know that you’re not supposed to have all the answers. Not right now, and maybe never.
But you can always, in the words of American poet Mary Oliver, “keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” And trust that you and your child will figure it out as you go.
Let go of the outcome. Your kids are their own people, in their own path, and they need to find their own way.
It means trial and error, mess, learning opportunities that come out of setbacks, more mess, skipping parts nobody cares about, and developing patience and even appreciation for the times when things don’t come out as you had envisioned them.
Reach Out to an Expert
Getting a good education doesn't have to mean devoting strained and frustrated hours to following every little bit of a particular curriculum. Or sticking to a certain schedule. Or trying to live a particular philosophy.
Homeschooling is all about having the courage to blaze your own path. The choice is yours. You can change things up, skip this, add that. You can learn outside, inside, on the mountain top, or in the soup kitchen.
Most importantly, remember that you are never alone. Mentors, guides, and advisors are always available to help if you are truly questioning yourself. People used to say it takes a village to raise a child. I invite you to be part of the Sonlight village, and we’ll be part of yours.