If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you know that it comes with its own set of pressures. Choosing a homeschool philosophy, curriculum, how you structure your day, and outside activities can all bring out very strong opinions among homeschoolers. Those are the external pressures. There are also internal pressures. Let’s look at some of the external and internal pressures homeschoolers often experience. Then we’ll explore a few ideas for saying “no” to homeschool pressures.
Please understand that these are generalizations designed to make people aware. I am not out to attack any specific group of homeschoolers. I am out to protect new homeschoolers from the pressures they might be blindsided with in the months ahead.
External Homeschool Pressures
We’ve all experienced the external homeschool pressures. Which ones below apply to you?
Family and Friends
These can fall either way. They can be the people who secretly want you to fail because they think homeschooling is the most ridiculous idea ever and you are going to ruin your child.
Or they can be the people who put pressure on you to be absolutely perfect and, in turn, try to put pressure on your children to perform whenever you are around them.
Competitive and Helicopter Homeschool Moms
Think competitive and helicopter moms only exist in the public and private schools? Think again.
Competitive moms and helicopter moms exist in the homeschool world. They seem to especially like to hang out in online forums, Facebook pages, and co-ops where they make sure everyone knows their child is the most awesome child ever and they are the best homeschool mom to ever walk the face of the earth.
These could be bloggers, people in your church, people in your co-op, or anyone else who has determined exactly what is and is not acceptable for all homeschoolers.
They will tell you the only acceptable way to homeschool (Charlotte Mason, Classical Conversations, radical unschooling, etc.). They will make clear the superior way to schedule your day. They will set up detailed plans of how you should run your home and homeschool because they have it all figured out.
Woe be unto any newbie homeschooler who dares to publicly question what they say.
Homeschool Theological Know-It-Alls
These folks take the know-it-all to the next level because they not only tell you how you should homeschool, but they present what they believe are air-tight cases from the Bible that prove their every point.
They are especially adept at talking but not listening.
Large Family Advocates
For some reason, there is a vocal group of homeschoolers who think that Christian = large families. If you are a Christian and not homeschooling a large family, you have totally missed the boat. They can be rather aggressive.
Although I think this has lessened in the past year or two, there has been a vocal group of homeschoolers pushing for adoption, especially overseas adoption. And not just pushing. But basically saying if you don’t adopt an overseas child in need you must not love Jesus and you certainly aren’t following the directions from the Bible about caring for orphans.
In this case, it is Christian = multiple overseas adoptions.
So we ultimately end up with Christian = homeschool a large family with multiple overseas adoptions.
In the mind of this small but vocal group, when you are a Christian homeschooler with a large family that includes multiple overseas adoptions, you have pretty much reached the pinnacle of Christian homeschooling perfection.
(In which case I am a miserable failure with my home-grown only child.)
Internal Homeschool Pressures
The pressures aren’t limited to the external. Let’s face it. We put plenty of pressure on ourselves. What kinds?
Perfectionism and Procrastination
Many people who struggle with perfectionism are well aware of that trait in themselves. But did you know procrastination is a symptom of perfectionism for some people? Whichever end of the perfectionism spectrum you fall, perfectionism can be a huge internal pressure for homeschoolers.
Have you purchased the perfect curriculum? Maybe not? Better get a different one.
Have you signed your kids up for the right number of activities? Should they do more? Less? Different ones?
The list is endless of things homeschool parents can obsess over in their desire to give their children the best. homeschool. experience. EVER.
There isn’t a conscientious homeschooler alive who hasn’t been gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear at least one time.
- Fear that we’re ruining our kids.
- Fear that our kids won’t get what they need academically.
- Fear that people will discover you’re a closet unschooler.
- Fear we’re doing it all wrong.
- Fear that people will find out your kids actually like learning with textbooks.
There’s a lot of things that could cause us to fear.
I’m personally convinced that being gripped by momentary fear at least once in a while is an indicator you are probably doing a good job. It means you sincerely care about your child’s education and that’s a good thing.
But we should never live in fear.
Saying “No” to Homeschool Pressures
So how do we say no to these pressures? We do it by regularly reminding ourselves of these important truths.
Every Child is Different
This is the bottom line. Every single child is different. There is no one way to homeschool effectively. Period. Tell yourself that every day if you have to. The more we focus on the idea that every child is different and every homeschool experience should look different, the sooner the homeschool pressures will dissipate.
Some children learn differently.
Some children are right-brained.
Every child has unique needs, including yours.
Every Family is Different
The only correct way to homeschool your family is the way that means your children learn and you have healthy relationships in your home.
How you get that done is up to you. For us it has meant adjusting expectations even to the point of homeschooling in the afternoon instead of the morning.
It doesn’t matter a bit what Superstar Homeschool Mom at co-op is doing with her kids. They don’t live in your home. And God didn’t give your kids to her. He gave them to you.
Praying and Seeking Direction
Homeschooling your children is one of the biggest challenges you will probably undertake in your life. It’s a huge deal. So we should definitely be praying and seeking direction from the Holy Spirit as we plan, teach, and disciple our children.
We can scour the internet for information, ask for input in forums, and try to reason it out on our own. But asking the Lord to direct our steps in the midst of it will bring the best results and the most confidence as we move forward.
This post is part of my 5 Days of Saying “No” series.
Cait @ My Little Poppies
Fear is my biggest one. I’m always my worst enemy 🙂 We will have several weeks of homeschooling where I think I’m doing a pretty darn good job and then I’ll have a couple weeks of fear. Am I doing it right? Can I do it better? Will he learn enough? Etc, etc. 🙂
I think my biggest temptation to fear is that Caroline isn’t “on grade level” with kids her age which I know is a ridiculous thing to worry about, but that’s usually the one that gets. me. I know there are things third graders are supposed to be able to do that she doesn’t in areas such as writing and spelling, but then I remind myself it really doesn’t matter in the long-term big picture. She’s learning at her own pace and she’s waaaay ahead of third graders in other areas.
And then about the time I’m tempted to worry about it, she pulls something out of the air that totally blows me away and I think, “Where in the world did you learn that?” or “How in the world did you figure that out?” LOL!
“When you are a Christian homeschooler with a large family that includes multiple overseas adoptions, you have pretty much reached the pinnacle of Christian homeschooling perfection.”
Wow! I had no idea that you think we think we are the “pinnacle of Christian homeschool perfection”. Aren’t you judging those that you perceive are judging you? My family is the way it is because we feel that God called us to this family – just like God called you to parent your particular child. I’m certainly not interested in your family size or anyone else’s for that matter. Not my business, nor do I have to answer for how you are raising your family. We did not choose to adopt to further an agenda, we chose to adopt because we wanted to be parents – it’s really that simple.
I agree with your observations on fear. They are right on. However, you missed the mark in pointing out what everyone else is doing wrong in your eyes. We truly can’t presume to know others intentions.
I just saw your comment. I apologize that it got hung up in the queue.
My observations are based on personal interactions with people who have basically told me exactly what I wrote. More than once. While there are certainly many great larger homeschooling families, there is a vocal and aggressive group of them that has no problem condemning those of us with smaller families or (even worse) an only child.
Honestly, I’ve dealt with every kind of person I described up above. Through rude emails, rude website comments, personal life, church, etc. They are all very real homeschool pressures that I know other people deal with as well. That’s why I was very frank about it. I’ve been around the block enough times to know if I’ve experienced it, so have a lot of other people.
I’d encourage you to read the post again. There’s no judgement of anyone in it. But there’s a lot of observation based on many years spent in homeschooling circles.
We have one child. I cannot have any more children, and we cannot afford to adopt. I sometimes feel that same pressure, as if I shouldn’t be homeschooling if I’m only doing it for one child. I admire large families, and I admire those that adopt. In fact, to be honest, I am down-right jealous of those families. But God gave me a wonderful husband and son. So I completely understand where you’re coming from!
I’d add the external pressure to join a co-op. We have one in our town, and this is my first year homeschooling. They just don’t understand why I haven’t attended anything yet. Don’t get me wrong, they are really nice moms. I’m just not comfortable with groups. And they aren’t currently offering anything my son is interested in yet. I just feel there is pressure to join and become “one of them”.
Thank you for writing this, and helping take the pressure off!
Congratulations on your first year of homeschooling! And good for you making the decision to do what is best for your family regarding co-op. Everything about homeschooling is really a year by year process including what to participate in.
Homeschooling an only has a few challenges, but it’s infinitely easier in soooo many ways. One to plan for and no other little ones to keep busy while trying to work with the older ones. We have definite pluses with our onlies! 🙂
Thanks, Sallie for your humor and insight in this post. I have been homeschooling for 26 years unofficially (if you count from when our first child was born), or 22 years if you count when we started “kindergarten”. Our fourth and youngest child is currently a “Senior” this year. We have participated in a local homeschool co-op for several of those years, perhaps 10 or so. I can attest to encountering every single type of approach to homeschooling you mention here. Since I’m at the end of my official journey, I just want to say I’m blessed by your frankness and your no nonsense advice. I could share a laundry list of hurts inflicted on myself and my family by the homeschooling community alone, but I choose not to do that. I just want to thank you for saying what you say, because it’s honest, true, and resonates with me a great deal.
Thanks for your comment and your kind words about my frankness. LOL!
The homeschool community can be wonderful and, like any group of human beings, can also be very hurtful. I’m sorry that you had to experience all of the negatives I wrote about here, but glad you shared it because it just confirms to other parents who read this post that this is the reality.
The other reality is that there are lots of fantastic people in homeschooling circles. The key is spending time with them and letting the rude comments roll of your back. Easier said than done sometimes, but necessary.
Have a good day!
Thanks for your encouraging words, Sallie. I think another key is going back to the original reasons our family had for choosing to homeschool in the first place, which, of course, have nothing to do with other people. I really enjoy your website and blog.