I've long been a proponent of staying in your own lane - in homeschooling and in life. The longer our family educates at home the more this becomes our battle cry.
Autonomy. Freedom. Choice. Flexibility.
When we abandoned the "ideal" of public school it was immensely refreshing to immerse ourselves in the homeschool world. It took me at least a year before I realized we didn't have to do "school" at home and to truly embrace the lifestyle of interest led learning and wonder.
I've now been in the homeschool world a good amount of time, and I've discovered a disturbing trap - that I actually fell into for a period of time.
When I realized I was in the trap it felt a lot like when I had realized we were in the trap of public school.
The Homeschool Trap
I'm sure this isn't going to be a popular statement.
Too many of us aren't staying in our own lane. We are too worried about what our homeschool friends are doing. We are too enamored with the latest program, popular method, or (dare I say) the blog with the largest following.
Here's a good analogy: Do you remember the economic collapse about 10 years ago? A few years prior to that time my husband (then a counselor with a non-profit financial counseling agency) saw it coming and told me, "Mary, people have to stop keeping up with the Joneses, because guess what? The Joneses are BROKE."
Homeschoolers are falling into the same trap. We're trying to keep up with everyone else and it's to the detriment of our children.
There. I said it.
We are falling into the trap of following the crowd, being ruled by conformity and in many cases, fear.
Examples of The Trap
Lest you think I am picking on anyone in particular, I'm going to use MYSELF as an example. Here is how I fell into the trap.
We had been homeschooling for many years and then my oldest got to high school. We made the decision to join Classical Conversations - a good decision for her 7th and 8th grade years. Without re-hashing the story too much (if you want to read about it you can see my post on how we lost the wonder in high school), I decided to follow the crowd and blindly follow the program for her high school years.
This was entirely MY FAULT. No one twisted my arm.
I was too worried about what everyone else would think if we jumped ship. How could I abandon this beautiful model that was so popular? CC communities were sprouting up all over the place - surely something must be wrong with US if I felt the need to make a change.
Why weren't we like the OTHER homeschoolers we knew?
You might be falling into a similar trap if:
- You find yourself reading blogs and social media accounts and putting their advice over listening to your own heart.
- You make a homeschooling decision based on what most of your friends are doing.
- You make a homeschooling decision based on FEAR - fear of your child not reading "when they are supposed to", fear of not being "on grade level" (whatever that means), fear of not getting into college - fear of not being accredited - fear of not being in the fear of any number of things.
- You don't consult with your child and truly LISTEN to them on a regular basis.
Do you see that when you fall into this trap you are right back where many of you probably started - conforming in public schools and frustrated because you're child's best interests are not being served?
How to Avoid the Trap
These years are too precious to waste them. In my experience you can avoid falling into the trap by doing several things:
- LISTEN to your child. Become a student of your child. Know intimately what their particular bent is. Know what motivates them. Know what they love. The schooling should reflect that.
- Put on your BLINDERS. Yes, it's fine to get ideas from friends and to learn from them. But remember - they are not your child's parents. Even if you have been homeschooling along the same path as someone else for many years, sometimes things change. Children change. Don't ever compare your child to another child - or your homeschool to someone else's.
- Pray. As God to direct your homeschool every step of the way. I find myself constantly asking God for help and guidance multiple times a day. Let HIS be the first voice that directs you.
- Educate yourself. Study what's out there - know the ins and outs of math programs. Know about the local homeschool opportunities in your area. Avail yourself of everything possible, because you never know when you might need it. Read. Homeschooling is a full time job! You need to be able to make an informed choice, with your child's best interest in mind.
- Be present. It sounds so trite. Are you really PRESENT with your children? Are you learning with them? Are you fully involved in homeschool or are you trying to "fit it in" with your housework or hanging out on Facebook? Make time for homeschool. It's important.
I enjoy having regular dates with my children to listen to their feelings about how things are going.
In a recent Starbucks date my son shared his interest in architecture with me - and we talked about how we could design a high school education around this interest. He was so pleased to have me LISTEN to him. I felt like we were truly partners in his education.
I missed this step in middle school with my daughter. I was too busy dictating what I thought she should do (based on what everyone else around us was doing). I'm making up for lost time with her now.
Obviously, it has taken me time to get to this place. It takes faith and trust to walk this road.
We are taught to trust the "experts" - when in actuality we should be listening to God and trusting that still small voice that is the Holy Spirit.
Thank goodness for grace.
Recent Resources Keeping Me Out of The Trap
Many of you who follow the blog know that I've been reading A LOT the past few years!
Because we are knee deep in high school with one and have another approaching soon I've been doing reading in this area: