Homeschool Expectations Vs. Reality

Back in January 2022, I asked for some feedback. I wanted to know from fellow homeschooling moms what have been some of their (possibly) unrealistic expectations as it relates to homeschooling.

When I asked about unrealistic homeschooling expectations, a couple of common responses were:

1) That we would keep a set schedule

2) That we would all be motivated to learn on any given day

In fact, I had to make a perspective change that very week, when we all came down with sickness.  I plan- thankfully, I plan in pencil.  Surprisingly, we had met a lot of our goals for the week, but getting there looked very different.  For example, we split up one day’s work over the course of two days (we had built-in flexibility), Daddy taught a lot of subjects as I recovered from illness, the kids’ activities were cancelled, giving us more unscheduled time as a family.  We had to look at this as an opportunity for family bonding and working on some of our challenges, as opposed to a great inconvenience and discouragement. It took reframing our thinking.

How about you?

As we begin a new year, I reflect back on some of the “oops” moments and their opposing “a-ha” moments in homeschooling.

Some of my realizations:

-Relationships trump academics: I had to wrap my mind around this one because I’m such a checklist-oriented person.  But, it’s true that when children feel seen and loved, they are much more ready to learn.

-Plans need to be flexible, but organized. Buffer time needs to be built in.  In April, instead of taking off 3 weeks, we have that third week as a built-in buffer.  If we use it, we have it.  If we don’t, then that’s fine.

-A sad realization: my son and daughter have to be given incentives to work hard.  This is reality.  They are not self-motivated, unless it’s something that really interests them. Karen Andreola does address this in her Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning.

I am going to try to remember this:

“The child is a person, a human being with a spiritual origin. Yet most schools govern by a system of treats: grades, prizes, and competitive placing. Even Sunday schools give out balloons, happy face stickers, candy, and plastic trinkets as rewards for children paying attention to the Word of God! Charlotte Mason believed this type of motivation to be harmful for learning and dangerous for a child’s character. “

So, how do I “grade” my students?

I am going to set out on a journey this year to emphasize admiration, hope, and love.

Admiration: “Children should be taught to recognize and admire the righteous, the pure, the heroic, the beautiful, the truthful, and the loyal in their educational life,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 338).

Hope: “So-called ‘late bloomers’ are only flowers that bloom at a different time, and we all know that the beautiful varieties of flowers in God’s world do not all bloom in the same season,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 339).

Love: “We live by love and the love we give and the love we receive, by the countless tendernesses that go out from us and the countless kindnesses that come to us…” (Andreola, 1998, p. 340).

“Charlotte taught that we live by admiration, hope, and love, and without these three we do not live.”

Karen Andreola

-We do not need to be purists.  There is no one philosophy that fits all people, for sure.  Even within a family, there is no one philosopher or educational reformer who will “meet every need”, but we certainly draw heavily from a couple philosophies (Charlotte Mason, classical, for two).  It’s more a lifestyle than it is an educational philosophy.

-We sometimes get tired of staying at home, but honestly, I expected to feel a lot more “trapped” before I decided to homeschool.  This has not been true, for us.  We have built-in socialization throughout the normal week, and school days seem to fly by. Also, do not rule out hiring help, if you think that you can do this. That has brought me some sense of togetherness, without it being just me and the kids.

-Before I homeschooled, I assumed that if you homeschool, you do not utilize other adults’ help.  Wrong, again.  Homeschooling has helped me realize my NEED for other people and their help/expertise. 

-My expectation that we would have one-source for all homeschool advice and that would fix my problems was so far from the truth.  Thanks to the internet and a book that lists hundreds of curriculum choices, I realized that the one book I thought would be my “bible” was really just another tool I can pull from. 

-I expected that we would study the same subjects all year long.  Not true!  We have picked up subjects in seasons, and have dropped some in seasons (ex.  At-home science was dropped around the holidays, and we relied solely on our co-op for science the rest of the year).

-I expected, based off what I was seeing on Pinterest and Instagram, that all my kids would work in harmony at the kitchen table.  HA!

-I expected that my son would be an early reader because my “one source” made it sound like it was expected for kids to read around age 4, since the author had begun that early.

-I tended to want to make everything like a unit study – you know, connect the science content to the history to the math to the reading, etc.  It does not have to be so!  In fact, it is cool how the connections my kids make are oftentimes unforeseen.  Just reading good books helps facilitate their ability to connect.  (ex. Seeing a word that we studied in context, then connecting the word to the ideas found in that context) You can study Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages at the same time. You will not mess the kids or you up.

-Lastly, I FEARED I would regret homeschooling because we would be “messing our kids up” (not true, but society plays on that fear)

-I feared I would be alone, (also false) but I have found community in expected and unexpected places in our community! Find something that fits in with your normal lifestyle.

One More Thought

Think on God’s joy in seeing you and your children! He made each of you on purpose, for a purpose. I wonder what he’ll do in your homeschool this year? The children he gave you are yours for a while, and your job is to enjoy them and rely on God’s ability to help you do the toughest job on Earth. I wonder what they will become and what all they will be able to do for Him? Such a thought makes my feel hopeful. I hope it helps you feel that way, too.

Other Helpful Resources

I would be remiss if I did not share a few of these podcast episodes with you. Listen to them while you walk, run, fold laundry, wash dishes, cook, or whenever you make the time.

Mothering by the Book (Interview with Jennifer Pepito)

NEW from Jennifer Pepito: Mothering by the Book

Reading, Relationships, and Restfully Homeschooling (Interview with Sarah Mackenzie)

Three Reasons Why Your Child Will Be Ready for the Real World (Pam Barnhill)

Books to Encourage You

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie

Start with the Heart by Kathy Koch, PhD

Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler

Mother Culture: For a Happy Homeschool by Karen Andreola


On Work and Purpose

Focusing on the Heart

Creativity (and Fun!) For You

Reframing the Newsfeed: Homeschooling Ideals, Identity and Security

While I like this idea of using a personal brand to communicate with others, educate them, and provide them with goods and services, it gets a little precarious for me when I attempt to merge reality and image.  Am I misplacing my identity?

I’ve seen it before in my newsfeed: the homeschool family gathered ‘round the kitchen table, each child engaged and working happily on his or her own lessons with the cute mom hovering over her little robins in the nest. The aesthetic is unparalleled!  That orange filter works gloriously with the light!  As I linger over the image, a sinking feeling starts to fester in my stomach.  Then, I ask the question: “Am I doing this right?” It usually follows that pattern.  The image, then the question, then the insecurity.  Sometimes it gets to the point where I am a bundle of knee-jerk reactions to a picture. Image, then feeling, with no thinking in-between. 

Is Self-Branding My True Identity?

I get it.  I do not live under a rock.  We are certainly living in an image-driven world.  Marketing is one thing, branding oneself is another thing.  It seems to me that people are becoming more focused on building a personal brand than a business brand, at least on social media.  This might be savvy, given the world we live in.  A personal brand is like an extension of oneself and is super easy to create.  Interests change, so the personal brand can evolve with one’s changing interests.  While I like this idea of using a personal brand to communicate with others, educate them, and provide them with goods and services, it gets a little precarious for me when I attempt to merge reality and image.  Am I misplacing my identity?

Zero in on said Instagram image of the mom hovering over the kitchen table.  Has she staged anything?  Likely.  Is she using a filter?  I think the orange sorbet one you probably have seen before should be named the filter of 2021 (I cannot say “filter of the decade”, because trends move too quickly)!  This perfectly aesthetic photo does not even begin to address what homeschooling multiple children looks like in actuality, for MANY people.  (As an aside, I think that I would be tempted to use my kids as part of my personal brand.  At best, it is inconsiderate, in my opinion. I digress…)  

It is likely you have had these thoughts, too.  And the reason I am writing about reframing our thinking about homeschool and the newsfeed is this: the images in our feeds are presented as attainable ideals, but do not convey the diversity of the world and reality of life for other homeschooling families, if they even bear authenticity for the photographer.  In fact, four years ago, I would have seen that image on social media and thought, “This is how people must homeschool multiple kids”.  It was the only “right” way, in my mind, because it was a redundant image.  There were countless images like it – the “poster child” of homeschooling the kids!  Before I ever taught my own kids at home, this image was my vision for a “perfect” homeschool.  Physical beauty, order, and sibling harmony all have appeal in a modern, affluent homeschool. I would think these are attractive ideals for any homeschool mom.  What homeschool mom doesn’t crave sibling harmony, beauty, and order?  In fact, I have made some, if not all, of these things idols in the idol factory of my own heart.  I have placed image above all else.  I certainly have!  And I bet you have, too. 

My True Security and Identity

Maybe these images on the feed come from a genuine place.  Maybe the intentions are pure.  Maybe some families do school this way, all the school-day long. It is not my place to judge anyone or to decide how authentic someone is.  It is my job to refute the lies that I tell myself about the way homeschooling must look, or that I must feel shame and undue comparison.  Instead of dwelling on the lies, I choose to put these thoughts up on trial against Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” How would my perspective change if I daily repeated that verse to  myself?

When Seen Accurately, Social Media Can Point Me to God

To be clear, a few wonderful things have come from being on social media, for me.  I have grown over the past year and have developed a healthier relationship with social media.  I have found community in some like-minded folks.  For example, I have been able to connect with a homeschool mom who lives just a short forty-five minutes away.  We have collaborated on newsletters, and I admire her teaching and her own unique style.  We support each other, check in with each other, and hold each other accountable in our writing.  All it took was a quick response to an Instagram story: “You like that book!  So do I!”

Also, I know that there are some amazing perspectives out there, and it is a sheer joy to follow certain people who possess God-given talents that are different from my own.  These people add life and refreshment!  Following these people who are humbly sharing their days and journeys is a pleasure, and I will continue to rejoice with them because at the end of the day I am left with more reverence and awe of God’s creativity found in people He created.  After all, Romans 12:15 calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice!

The Battle: Me Versus My Thoughts

I start refuting lies with reevaluating my own heart.  Intellectually, I know that security and affirmation do not come from the newsfeed, but who does not relish approval from others? For me, the other images have historically been a measuring stick to see my own “fitness” as a homeschool mom.  The self-condemning thinking, “I am not ever good enough,” or the covetous thinking “I wish I had what she has” can be replaced by Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  

The truth is, we have all we need in Christ, and do not need to feel less-than when we have Him telling us we are “co-heirs” with Christ (Romans 8:17).  Who do I believe – my newsfeed or Christ?  I need not look to the newsfeed for this reminder of the security, adoption, and adoration He has for me.  My challenge to you is to read Romans 8 when you are tempted to look to others for affirmation and security.  When you struggle with self-condemnation and doubt, the truth is, you are not enough, by God’s standard.  But you are loved more than you could hope for, and have all you need in Christ.  He makes you enough.  Suffering with Him will result in also being glorified with Him (Romans 8:17)!  This is an ultimate honor! Instead of rising to the top with Instagram, Facebook, or any other platform, we have this assurance that we will rise to become kings and queens in His kingdom, if we receive His Spirit of adoption. 

Remembering the truth of my security that can only be found in my Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ, is what keeps me sane.  I am already secure.  My identity is in Christ.  What else can there be? 

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