At some point, every homeschooler has probably asked, "How do I know if I'm doing enough?"
The short answer: “It’s always enough, and conversely, it’s never enough.” Helpful, right?
The long answer: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about one-third of college freshmen take remedial courses. There are no statistics for how that breaks down into public, private, and homeschool graduates, but homeschool students only account for 3-4% of the K-12 student population. Odds are pretty low that those in remedial college courses are all homeschoolers.
Which means that even some students in public and private schools aren’t “learning enough” to satisfy college requirements. And college may not even be the goal for your student.
If you are concerned that what you are doing isn’t enough, it probably is. As with parenting in general, if you're worried enough to think you're not doing a good job, you're likely worried enough to be giving it your all.
Below are a few tips to guide you and make you feel less adrift, but know that you can’t stop someone from learning without exerting more effort than most of us want to deal with. My best tip is to foster your child’s love of learning (or give them time and space to rediscover it, if necessary), and help them learn how to find answers to their questions. When one enjoys learning, “it is always enough, yet never enough,” because she will always learn what needs to be learned to accomplish a specific goal, yet always be yearning to learn more.
Read on for more concrete ideas.
- Determine long-term goals for each student.
This will obviously look different for a seven-year-old than for a fifteen-year-old. For younger students, it can be a list of skills to learn before entering middle school. (I’m more relaxed, so I’m thinking of life skills and things like reading and basic math, rather than an extensive list of academic milestones, but that’s something for each family to decide for themselves.)
Older students can start thinking about whether college is right for them, and if so, what do they need to do to prepare for the program and school they’re in which they’re interested? If college isn’t in the plan, then what skills do they need (or want) to learn to provide income after (or even during) high school?
Write these goals down, and if the list is overwhelming, break it down into yearly goals. (TheHomeSchoolMom's subscriber exclusive homeschool planner download has sheets to help track long- and short-term goals.) This whole process needs to involve the student—no one will work toward someone else’s goal. If the goal is not the student’s, then have a valid reason for adding it. (Learning to do laundry is probably not on any child’s to-do list, but it’s a life skill that we all need to learn.)
- It’s okay to let your child focus on one topic for a few weeks or months (or longer).
Or even a video game, because kids will become interested in all kinds of things after encountering them in games. My older son developed an interest in WWII and the German language from one video game. Both my boys are constantly asking me if an item, place, or word in a video game is a real thing. Minecraft and Pokemon have started many a discussion in our house.
Don’t allow video games, but your child read something during a lesson, and is now fixated on learning anything and everything about that subject? Is it driving you crazy because she won’t do her math or her history or her literature or whatever doesn’t ring her bell right now?
Relax. Breathe. You have three options:
- You can continue to battle.
- You can find a way to work her interest into the other subjects you want her to work on.
- Or you can just let her go. If it’s a niche topic, she’ll exhaust her resources quickly and be ready to move on. If not, then as she branches out, she’ll learn more and more about other topics. It is literally impossible to only learn about one thing. It’s like Six Degrees of Separation, but with learning. Everything is connected. Knowledge doesn’t exist in isolation.
I’d recommend either of the second two options. Making learning a battleground doesn’t benefit anyone.
- Stop comparing your children to others and stop comparing yourself to other parents.
Remember that you are homeschooling so that you can individualize your child’s education. If you wanted them to have a public school education, you would put them in public school.
No one has it all together. No one (even public school Honor students) can possibly learn everything. Remember that what you see on the surface is never the whole story. Everyone struggles with something. Almost everyone suffers from Imposter Syndrome. (It’s pretty fascinating. Here is one article about it; you can Google for further information.)
So, just relax and enjoy watching your kids learn. You’re already doing enough.