Being a part of a large homeschool support group (113 families and growing), the support, the encouragement, the wealth of information shared, and the social opportunities available have far exceeded any expectations I may have had. It has been an incredibly enriching experience for me and my kids. However, I quickly learned that there is a double edge to that sword. In the process of establishing relationships and gleaning information, I had a tendency to pull out the invisible benchmark to measure our homeschool and my child’s progress against those of other homeschools and their children (as well as non-homeschooled children; perhaps the better title of this post should be “Keeping Up with the ACADEMIC Joneses”.)
I was constantly bombarded with moms who were just GLOWING about their latest curriculum choice which was “SO terrific…you just HAVE to buy it!!!” making me question my own curriculum choices.
Then there were the moms who had their kids up, dressed, fed and chores done before 8am, with their kindergartener’s latin, algebra and chemistry lessons finished by noon. Jeez…on my best day I’m lucky if I’M up, dressed & fed by 10am…much less my kids. And on a really good day our lessons start by 11am and rarely get finished before I’m ready for the nap I never get. Why don’t I have it together like those other moms?
Those same moms also have enough organization and resources to schedule every possible outside activity, interest or event for the remainder of their day, get dinner on the table, get their kids bathed and in bed by 7:30pm, have quiet time with their husbands, AND spend a few hours on the computer before going to bed. Most days I don’t even THINK about dinner until 5pm at which point I either start to frantically defrost stale bread for PB&J sandwiches…or find an available takeout menu and order dinner in. And bedtime? Please. I stand a greater chance of getting voted for US President than getting my kids in bed and asleep by 7:30pm.
Now for good measure, throw in the mom who, with the sweetest and best of intentions, SWEARS she can teach my struggling reader how to read with HER fabulous curriculum…without ever having had a conversation with him. Or the mom who gently and kindly suggests there may be a learning disability and encourages me to get my child evaluated. Talk about a punch in the gut.
And let’s not forget the nay-saying, skeptical family members who keep a vigil watch over our homeschool under that proverbial microscope and who secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) believe that my child is doomed by getting homeschooled. Zing!
Or the benign Christmas letter from Cousins Prudence & Reginald proudly sharing that their same aged, private-schooled child is on his third Harry Potter book this year. Ouch!
So how DOES one resist the temptation to keep up with the Jones’s? For me, it all came down to this: I pulled back, shut the doors, closed the windows and pulled down the shades (figuratively speaking) for about a month only to realize the real golden nugget: Enjoy the Joneses music; just ignore the NOISE. Not one of those well-meaning people meant to make me doubt myself or my abilities; they were simply acting out of concern, enthusiasm or just being who they are.
But they do not have (or even know) MY child, his DNA or his associated strengths and weaknesses. They do not have OUR struggles, OUR resources, OUR responsibilities, OUR family dynamic, OUR temperment, OUR style, OUR goals, OUR desires….OUR life. They have THEIRS. And as theirs works for them and their family so does ours work for me and my family. Once I got that…really got that…I was able to roll back the shades, open up the windows and doors…and re-engage once again with confidence in the knowledge that only God and I know my child and our personal circumstances best…and what works best for US in that context.
So newbies…don’t learn this lesson the hard way like I did. Engage, participate, share, listen, and enjoy the Joneses…just filter out their noise. And, for the love of Riley, break that invisible, inaccurate and indiscriminate measuring stick in two and toss it out of your homeschool! Your reward will be to enjoy an attitude of calm and peace about YOUR decisions.