5 Threats to Successful Homeschooling: A look on the inside
After 12 years of homeschooling, I have been asked many times how to have a successful homeschooling experience. I rarely write about homeschooling these days, because I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on the subject. I am in complete awe of the grace of God on my life.
The term, “successful”, is so arbitrary as the definition varies among families. Who would deem our homeschooling journey as a win? Who would view it with disdain no matter how my kids turned out? My definition of success has always been based on the goals and vision we had for our family; to know and love God, to know our purpose and reason for existence, to love and serve people, and to learn and grow in character of mind, body, and soul — growing in knowledge according to their abilities, giving time to develop their personal gifts and strengths, and traveling at their own pace in areas of weakness. They learned to care, work hard, and use their knowledge to be independent members of society.
To others, our success is that one is a college graduate, one is attending college, and they both have the ability to take care of themselves. While that is a mark of educational success, it certainly isn’t the “be all end all”. So, to begin, each family will need to consider how they will measure their success.
As homeschooling is so dependent upon individual family dynamics, it is hard to give all around advice. I did my own thing. I never went to a homeschool conference. I borrowed curriculum, used the library, and pieced an eclectic course of study together based on their passions and curiosities. We did a co-op at times. In high school, they did a hybrid of options that included dual enrollment, online studies, work studies, Classical Conversations, and community programs. I studied my kids and knew what made them tick and thrive, and I built their studies around those findings. I was diligent but not rigid. We enjoyed life while practicing discipline and rigor, with freedom to veer off course when an adventure presented itself. While I don’t have the answers for creating a success story for your family, I did discover that there were five main threats to our family’s homeschool success, and they had more to do with what was within us than the curriculum used to teach us.
5 Threats to Homeschool Success
“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”Matthew 12:25
I believe that for any venture to be successful, the leaders need to be in unity about the direction to be taken. They might bring different skills and abilities to the team, but they will have the same mission and be headed in the same direction. This is the same with a family unit. I would dare to say that the family itself will have a hard time surviving if the members are not united in purpose and design. Homeschooling is one aspect of family life that I believe needs to be done with all involved adults in agreement. It needs to be a harmonious place for the kids to thrive. They need to see the parents or other guardians working together to educate and shape their children. Whoever is doing the bulk of the teaching needs to be supported and not undermined. Kids don’t need to feel the tension created over educational decisions. Don’t let a lack of unity be a threat to your homeschool success!
Comparison is a saboteur of any healthy relationship or venture. Scripture says that comparing ourselves is unwise.
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (ESV)2 Corinthians 10:12b. The NLT says “How ignorant!” The NKJV says “they are not wise.”
As parents, we are constantly comparing our children to other children. We want to know when a friend’s child accomplished a milestone and then either get puffed up when our child mastered it earlier or feel anxious that our child has not accomplished it yet. It can get exhausting.
Educational choices are a common source of comparison and debate. Homeschoolers and traditional schooling options each tout their strengths as the best choice. We are often unkind in our comparisons and judgments on those who make choices different from us. If we could let go of this need to be validated through the choices of others, we could learn to rest in our own. Eyes on Jesus. Then work diligently to please the Lord in your decision.
From curriculum choices, co-ops attended, sports and music options, and standardized test scores, there is no shortage of comparison traps. While we can learn a great deal from other people and glean wisdom from those who have led their families well, their path might not be the one God is leading you to make. Their choices may not be in the best interest of your children.
Comparison is a thief. It will rob us of peace. It creates envy, anxiety, and unhealthy relationships. Your family dynamics and children’s needs and personalities are each unique. There is no one perfect way to educate a child as flawed individuals. Every educational endeavor has holes and gaps. Focusing on your own family’s goals and vision will help to remain focused on the work before you. If you want to sustain this lifestyle for many years, you will need to have a firm understanding of your “why” and not be distracted when others misunderstand it. Don’t let comparison be a threat to your desired success.
“let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”Hebrews 10:22 ESV
If you are a Christian homeschooler, chances are some people will accuse you of running away from the public school system. You will probably be called neglectful of spreading the gospel or caring for unsaved children. Even non-Christians will be charged with failing to contribute to their communities and trying to right the educational woes. It is an American institution that many feel we should all be fighting to improve by daily participation. But here are some truths:
Your children only get one shot at childhood. Please let go of the guilt often imposed on us by ourselves and homeschool opposition.
You do not have to feel guilty about not participating in a system that you didn’t create or desire. You can support local schools/communities in many other ways.
You don’t have to apologize for wanting to be the main influencers in your children’s lives as God gave them to you.
You don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to spend time with them. Enjoy life together!
You don’t have to feel guilty that their life doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s childhood. Traditions can be cultivated in a new way.
You don’t have to feel guilty about reading and learning alongside your kids, giving them skills that will benefit them for life, or focusing on their unique strengths and weaknesses. Those are good things!
Guilt is condemning not life giving. Don’t let it threaten to steal what you are trying to create.
As Christians, we know that fear destroys our faith and trust in God. His perfect love casts out all fear. He provides peace and joy when we lay down our fears.
” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. “John 14:27
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”Psalm 94:19
Whether you homeschool or not, a family should be a safe place; not fear inducing. If you as a parent are worried, anxious, and fearful over your choices, your children will bear the brunt of those feelings through how you behave in daily life. Fear is insidious. You will never truly enjoy homeschooling if you are always worried about what everyone thinks and dwell on all the cynical “what-ifs” that run through our minds. We all have these moments. Parenting is hard, and we know we aren’t going to always get it right. But if we want good things for our children and serve them with joy, God will bless it.
Joy for life is infectious and contagious. If you want your family to thrive, make learning exciting and interesting. Be a parent that has their own interests and goals. Let them see you reading, writing, and doing. Ask them to join you in these endeavors. Share your passions. Show interest in their passions and provide them ways to live that out. Don’t let fear threaten the joy and success of your homeschooling adventure!
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”James 4:11-12 ESV
Here are some lessons I have learned from my homeschooling experience:
Everyone knows someone that has homeschooled that they will say has ruined their image of the lifestyle. Anecdotal stories go both ways. When the majority of the world is educated in a traditional, public school way, it is easy to find your own examples of dysfunctional people in those systems. Rise above that and view each family as a unique entity. If you see things you don’t like, don’t apply them to your life. Look for things others do well.
“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”Galatians 6:4 ESV
Everyone thinks everyone is odd that doesn’t live like them. Don’t even try to persuade them otherwise. It is a waste of time and energy. Those people that are kind and want to get to know you will spend time with you and find out the truth for themselves. Don’t let criticism grow bitterness in your heart and threaten your homeschool success!
If you have discerned that homeschooling is the right option right now for your family, start from a place of quiet, confidence. Move forward with your vision in mind. When you have days of doubt, revisit your “why”. When you begin to fear the “what-ifs”, revisit your vision. Keep your eyes on your own work and work as a united team. When you are anxious about the future, speak truth into the situation. If you are stuck, ask for help. Be free to use parts that work for your situation and leave the rest. Don’t let the threats of disunity, comparison, guilt, fear, or criticism destroy a good thing from the inside out. What is on the inside always comes out! How can you guard your heart today to live in confidence in your decision tomorrow? If you need encouragement or prayer or have questions, please leave a comment, and I will respond!