Homeschooling can quickly become an overwhelming burden. Are we doing it right? Will our children know everything they need to know? What does successful homeschooling even look like?
Our first response to these questions is to look at other homeschoolers. We find the ones we consider successful and then emulate their version of homeschooling in our homes. If it worked for them, their way must be right. But maybe not. You’re not the same mom, you don’t have the same kids, and that’s just the beginning.
So what is considered successful homeschooling? Well, that’s a matter of perspective.
Who Defines Homeschooling Success?
That’s a pretty tough question. When is education a success? Does it require a high paying job and a college degree? Or is it merely self-fulfillment and independence?
I’ve long had a problem with the over-the-top stories of homeschool success that are accessible for only a select few. Homeschooling doesn’t have to produce National Merit Scholars and teenage millionaire entrepreneurs to be considered successful. The only definition of success we need to satisfy is our own.
Politicians and the media are continually declaring the failure of public education, yet homeschoolers are often held to a higher standard and “success” is demanded. These expectations are partially the fault of homeschoolers because we feel the need to defend our decision to homeschool.
But listen to me, no one has to agree with your decision to homeschool.
Holidays might be uncomfortable, but you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you chose to homeschool, nor a debriefing of your curriculum and methods.
The only people who define success in your homeschool is your family.
How Do You Define Success in Your Homeschool?
I once heard the dad of a 5-year-old homeschooler say his son was going to have as much college credit as possible by the time he completed high school. That’s a big responsibility to place on a young child, but this dad has a definition of success.
My worry is how he will react if that doesn’t happen? How will his son feel if he doesn’t want to go to college? Will homeschooling be considered a failure?
Obviously, many factors contribute to our belief and definition of success.
- Societal expectations
- Familial relationships
- Our personal feelings about success
All of these combine and determine our thoughts about success. We make judgments and decisions based upon all these thoughts, which can sometimes be great and can other times lead us astray.
Societal Expectations of Homeschool Success
In general, most people outside the homeschool world see homeschooled children in two vastly different lights.
The first is the vision of the poor, unsocialized misfit. They wonder how they will ever function in the “real world.” They’re the stranger that quizzes you about algebra, AP classes, and prom.
When you first start homeschooling, these people can unsettle you. How will your child learn algebra? Will you children be upset with you for denying them the life-altering event of attending prom? The decision to homeschool has already required a massive leap of faith, and now you feel the need to defend your choice to a stranger in aisle 3.
But after you have a few years of homeschooling under your belt, you smile, nod your head, and say as little as possible. You know you’re not going to change this person’s mind and it’s not worth your time to try.
However, the second societal view of homeschooling is partially our responsibility. The defense of our choice to homeschool usually comes wrapped in exceptional stories. We want to make a good impression when it comes to homeschooling, so we pull out every story we’ve ever heard of children starting college at 12 or homeschoolers writing New York Times bestsellers.
Those stories are amazing, and their accolades are well deserved, but it can put the pressure on the rest of us. Why isn’t my homeschooler starting their own business? Should my 12-year-old take the SAT?
It’s easy for us to buy into the idea that homeschooling should produce prodigy-level results, and if we don’t have those results, we begin to think we’re not very successful.But listen to me, no one has to agree with your decision to homeschool. Holidays might be uncomfortable, but you don't owe anyone an explanation as to why you chose to homeschool, nor a debriefing of your curriculum and methods.Click To Tweet
Our Family and Friend’s Definitions of Success
Everyone carries around their feelings surrounding the idea of success. Our family and friends can have a checklist of accomplishments that they believe indicate success and we feel the need to meet those expectations to gain their approval.
Homeschool moms can feel the pressure when family members start the quizzing and questioning. It’s not our child they will be judging, but whether we can be considered a successful homeschool mom.
So much pressure.
We’re judged based on our child’s performance, not ours. Unfortunately, this is how the world operates today. Even teachers in a school are judged based upon students test scores. Demanding specific outcomes when dealing with individuals can be challenging to achieve. People have this odd way of doing what they want and what they are capable of, no matter how boisterously we command something else.
Our Personal View of Success
These factors contribute to our personal view of success, and as we all know, we are often our worst critic. We begin homeschooling with a lot of ideas of how successful homeschooling will look, but it doesn’t take long for reality to enter the picture.
I know my initial view of successful homeschooling included charming handicrafts, advanced academics, and harmonious sibling relationships. Yes, there are moments when these things might happen, but you’re more likely to find my children making slime while arguing about the best recipe.
However, it’s so easy to let our idea of homeschool perfection poison our homeschool life with our children. We’re holding on to a vision of homeschool perfection instead of seeing the beauty inherent in the life and children we have.
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Negative Effects of Expecting Perfection
Where do these expectations carry us? We take all these things, societal, familial, and personal definitions of success, and formulate rules and expectations for our homeschool. Oh, this is so easy to do but is so damaging.
- We think we’re not doing enough, so we cram in more until the entire family is burned-out.
- We make unreasonable demands on our children because we’re trying to live up to someone else’s definition of success.
- Homeschooling isn’t perfect, so we think we must be a homeschool failure.
- All the boxes must be checked so they don’t have “gaps” in their education that would prevent their future success.
But by having unrealistic standards, we doom ourselves to failure. Not true failure, but the belief that we can never do enough and will never be a homeschooling success. Shouldn’t we get to define what success looks like in our homeschools?
Homeschooling Success is a Matter of Perspective
Ultimately, our success in homeschooling isn’t defined by what our family thinks, what the neighbor thinks, or what the stranger at the store thinks. Homeschooling success is ours to define and refine.
A few weeks ago I started jogging again for the first time in years. There was a time in my life that running wasn’t optional and I hated it. I was 25 and fit, but every step brought an avalanche of negative thoughts.
My experience jogging at 44 after having six children is entirely different. Every step was a triumph, and my thoughts were of amazement and gratitude that I could still jog.
It’s a matter of perspective.
Parenting and homeschooling are very similar. We start on this journey with preconceived ideas about what constitutes success, and when we fail to meet our expectations, the negative thoughts rush in. However, we get to determine our definition of successful homeschooling.
Yes, we should have long-term goals in mind, but some days success might be getting through the day without tears, theirs or yours.
And here’s the tricky thing about life, the only person we can change and control is ourselves. No matter what clever song and dance we do, we can’t MAKE our children learn their multiplication tables, become fluent Latin, or go to college.
Actually, all education is self-education. A teacher is only a guide, to point out the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you education. What you receive is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book. You must fill in the colors yourself. ~Louis L’Amour
Determining Your Vision of Homeschool Success
It takes some time and thought to determine your vision of homeschool success, and it can change with experience and circumstances. Life is not static, so goals for success are better written on paper than chiseled in stone.
I’ve created a workbook to get you thinking about your personal vision of successful homeschooling. Hopefully, self-reflection will help you to identify those areas where you’re trying to live up to someone else’s standards and help you to craft a vision for your homeschool.
Homeschooling Success is Yours to Create
I know this has been a long post, and I could probably keep going, but here’s the deal.
As with all of life, you get to determine if your homeschool is a success. Your thoughts, beliefs, and goals will guide your vision of homeschooling success.
What’s most important is that we don’t let the negative thoughts rush in when we feel judged by ourselves or others. Of course, this is easy to say but hard to practice.