This post was originally published as the introduction to an issue of TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter. Sign up here and get access to subscriber exclusive resources.
Who is your homeschool guru, and what does she ask of you?
What is your favorite homeschool book, and what does it ask of you?
What are your homeschool groups, co-ops, and organizations, and what do they ask of you?
What is your homeschooling approach or curriculum, and what does it require of you?
What is your model for homeschooling high school, and what does it require of you and your teens?
On the one hand, having mentors, leaders, guides, organizations, philosophies, models, and curricula can be helpful. On the other hand, they can throttle the life out of your homeschool.
Over twenty years of homeschooling and even more while working with homeschoolers, I’ve seen some parents get attracted to a person, group, book, approach, or curriculum and later lose themselves in attempting to apply the doctrine too prescriptively.
Some parents do re-emerge after a few years and manage to continue homeschooling with some modification. Others burn out on homeschooling altogether, feeling unable to do things perfectly enough to create an “ideal homeschool” according to their chosen guru or co-op.
How do you allow yourself to be influenced by all the good ideas and the wisdom of those who have homeschooled before you, without overdoing it and becoming engulfed in something that sucks the life out of you and your kids?
- Watch your children, not the checklist. If your children are growing and learning, keep doing more of the same things. If you’re going through the motions to check something off and your kids are not engaged, the prescriptive approach is not working, no matter who is recommending it.
- Watch for all-or-nothing messages. Are they insisting that their approach is the one way, best way, only way? Are they critical of those who modify the program to better meet kids’ needs? An all-or-nothing message is a signal of problems.
- Watch for a “homeschool-at-all-costs” attitude. It is not always better to homeschool. If your church or your organization or your guru is telling you to ignore mental health issues, abuse, financial problems, substance abuse and homeschool “no matter what,” find other counsel.
- Watch for an authoritarian attitude about parenting. Study after study shows that children do best with authoritative not authoritarian approaches to parenting. If your guru is recommending homeschooling with punishment-enforced obedience rather than loving guidance, your relationship with that guru may also be about power rather than wisdom.
- Watch for homeschool guarantees. Those who promise the specific homeschooling outcomes you want for all your homeschooled kids (if you just do it “right”) are not being honest. There is no homeschool guarantee.
- Watch the social recommendations. Does your guru or organization insist your family should not associate with non-homeschoolers? Or not associate with homeschoolers who use other approaches? Or not associate with homeschoolers who aren’t in the group? This tactic is meant to engender greater loyalty and less criticism, and it can be a warning sign that the person or group you’re following would rather have you isolated from competing messages.
Homeschool leaders, organizations, and companies who respect your decision-making are only too happy to have you try their products and ideas alongside others, socialize with people you choose and trust, and modify homeschooling so it works for you and your kids.
Homeschooling does not require you to be perfect by anyone else’s standards, and it does not require you to be obedient to a specific group, author, or speaker.
There are many joyful people who write books, develop programs, speak at conferences, publish websites, organize co-ops, and volunteer for our state homeschooling organizations. We are blessed by their ideas, products, and services. They make homeschooling richer.
This year, I urge you to evaluate your relationship with your homeschooling experts and their advice. You should always feel free to take what works for you, and leave the rest. If you’re feeling pressured beyond that, you really can step away from someone else’s dogma and change your homeschooling for the better.
Taking responsibility for your homeschooling rather than giving it to someone else creates a powerful dynamic. Don’t be surprised if you change, too.