Homeschooling’s Dirty Little Secret

Things had gotten bad in our support group.  The battle lines had been drawn. Two of our homeschooling membership had gotten into a competition of sorts. They came to each meeting with scripture on their lips and a quiet smile plastered on their faces, but there was a squint-eyed gleam in their eyes.  And it was getting worse with each meeting.

Barbara Ann arrived just a tad early to every meeting practically bursting to share her son’s latest feats.

“Why yes, this past month my son Reginald was accepted to the NASA Jr. Space internship program, <pause for effect>, his essay got 1st place in the Patrick Henry Brains-of-America  contest, and with the sheer power of his mind he rid himself of the measles. Praise be to God.”

The room held its breath and waited, for they knew that now… it was Wilhelmina’s turn.

“We’ve got a praise report, too!” Wilhelmina popped up.  “Our little Desmond’s building design has been chosen for the new Presidential library, the book he wrote last year is in its third printing, and <tearful eyes…sniff, sniff> he touched us all with finding a little orphan boy in Croatia and giving him his spleen.”

Wilhelmina triumphantly sat down, but Barbara Ann now looked menacingly at her son Reginald’s abdomen, presumably searching for spare parts.

I will admit to you that this is a slight exaggeration. The Barbara Ann/Wilhelmina exchange is only an example of how some praise reports make me feel, not what they actually report. In fact, most of the time the comments are perfectly reasonable, and the women doing the reporting are actually…well, lovely. But there definitely are two camps in homeschooling circles.

Camp 1–those whose kids are on an upward spiral to be more and more impressive with each passing month and

Camp 2–those whose parents are working harder and harder to hide the fact that their kids’ best accomplishments include falling out of their chairs and burping through the names of the apostles.

Actually, there’s also a third group—and that is the vast majority of those who fall in between groups one and two. Most kids won’t be a starting forward for the NBA, or missionaries in Peru, or winners of the televised Spelling Bee. Most kids learn their times tables relatively “on time” and can generally read at grade level. And most kids will graduate with some sense that George Washington, George Gershwin, and George Clooney are not contemporaries.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s that we all tend to judge our success by those who are achieving more than us. And of course the bad news is that there is always someone achieving more than us! Everywhere you turn there is someone doing something that you have yet to do.  You start homeschooling by creating a reasonable list of expectations for the school year, but that creeping virus of borrowing from everyone else’s plan begins to set in.

At first you decide to read Bible stories to your children. But then you learn that Julie’s child is studying the Greek and Hebrew roots of words in selected verses.

Scratching scribble sounds. It goes onto your list.

Then you planned on working through a sweet little science book. But you learn that Rebecca’s children are splicing their own DNA.

Scratch. Scratch. Scribble. Scribble.

Every monthly visit to your support group adds 3-4 items on your ever growing list. But even if you don’t go to support groups, you can do the same thing with homeschooling magazines. Pam, another homeschooling mom, shares “I quit reading home school magazines years ago when a mother wrote in about how her 18 month old had a heart for the unsaved Asian children of the world.  18 MONTHS old!  At the time, my 18 month old was sitting on the back porch picking the fuzz out from between her toes!”

There’s nothing wrong with being on the lookout for new ideas that might be well-suited to your children and your academic objectives.  The problem is when ALL the new ideas sound like they might suit. Even with good ideas, there can simply be too many of them on your list. You cannot do it all at once. You may be providing a huge variety of wonderful, enriching exposures for your children, but the downside can be a frenzied activity-filled day that leaves everyone exhausted.

So what’s a homeschooling parent to do? It’s really an issue of trusting yourself.

Make your plans. Determine your objectives for your child. Then, stick to your guns.

And when the Barbara Anns and Wilhelminas of the world amaze and astound with their superhuman achieving children, just smile, nod, rejoice with them in their good fortune…and then pray that Reginald gets to keep his spleen.

Carol Barnier is a fresh, fun and popular conference speaker unlike any you’ve heard before. Her objective is to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. She is a frequent guest commentator on Focus on the Family’s Weekend Magazine broadcast, has been a guest on many radio programs and is a speaker to conferences nationwide. She’s the author of three books about dealing with (or possessing) a non-linear mind in a linear world:  How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On To Learning, If I’m Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where’d I Leave the Baby?, and The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles. You can find Carol at her main website, and

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