This post was originally published at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, April 2016.
Avoid the Comparison Trap
Homeschool Conference season is quickly approaching. I can get pretty flustered this time of year. Usually, I begin by doubting my approach altogether.
Am I focusing too much on the school routine? Should I lean more toward Charlotte Mason? Are my expectations too high? I’m not doing enough. I need to add copywork. We should study French. What about PhysEd?
Then, I start questioning our resources. I’ll ask other parents about their favorite curriculum, read online reviews like a madwoman and generally drive myself crazy thinking about the overwhelming rooms filled with shiny new books. By the time I get to a conference, I’m ready to melt down into a puddle on the resource room floor. And that’s before thinking about the dollar value of our purchases. Cha-ching!
When you first start homeschooling, it’s natural to look to what others are doing, to see what is available and what is possible. As time goes on though, we should pay more attention to what is and what isn’t working in our own homes. Thinking this way has helped lower my level of stress around our approach and the resources we use. Now I can enjoy the fellowship and speakers at a conference rather than being bogged down by thoughts new curriculum. I can listen to struggles and successes of friends without thinking I need to change direction myself. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before making changes in your homeschool:
- Are our days consistent with our purpose for home education? Are you trying to meet state or provincial requirements? Are character and developing a love for Jesus a priority? What is your family’s vision for the future?
- Is Mom (or Dad) happy? Do you like specific, daily routines or are you more of a free spirit? Do you feel like a strict teacher all the time or is your teaching style consistent with your personality?
- Are the kids happy? Can you follow their interests, at least some of the time? Are lessons presented in ways they can best understand and retain content? It can be tough to match parent teaching styles with child learning needs, especially with a larger number of children, so compromise may be necessary.
- Have you pinpointed areas of need? If your child is really struggling or everyone dreads a particular subject, a change may be in order.
- Have you pinpointed areas of strength? When things are working well in one area, it might be worth trying the same strategies or resources in other areas too.
- Who’s idea is this purchase? It can be so easy to get caught up in the excitement of something new or useful. Before following a recommendation, take time to evaluate whether it’s the right choice for your family.
Of course my ears still perk up when a friend talks about something she loves. I still read reviews and want to try new things. I even make changes now and then, but because I’m following our needs and interests, I can feel peaceful about the way our homeschool is running.