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?