I noticed the change two or three years ago. All those signs and banners that HOAs put up in May with the names of the neighborhood graduates suddenly also included the logo for the student’s college. And I thought, “What about the kids who aren’t going to college?”
I didn’t see one banner with a name with no college logo. Somehow I doubt every graduate, even those in HOA-type neighborhoods, is going to college. Some people just don’t, for a thousand different reasons. So were the families of the non-college-bound students just not participating now? I have no idea. But I do wonder about those who may be left out.
As someone who is pretty much always one click away from ordering a “World’s Okayest Mom” t-shirt, I worry about the constant push to show the world we’re doing better and being more. I don’t mean we shouldn’t do our best or work hard. I recently read an introduction in a professional group in which the writer described herself as “a Type B personality with a Type A work ethic,” and I thought, “I am totally stealing that.” (Note to self: Update bio later.)
I feel like homeschoolers, specifically, feel as if they have to attain crazy high standards. After all, homeschoolers win all the spelling bees and get all the scholarships and all graduate college at age 15 at the top of their class. Overachieving is the norm and being good isn’t good enough.
Well, at least that’s what social media tells us. I’m not buying it.
It’s pretty common for homeschool parents, particularly newer ones, to ask in Facebook groups what other parents are doing or what a typical day looks like. After seeing literally hundreds of responses to such a question last year, I just had to say something. Here’s the post I made on my personal page afterward:
Post in a large homeschool group: What does a typical day look like for your teen?
250 comments: My teen gets up at 6 am, does 6 hours of schoolwork, goes to their job for 3 hours, then church for 2 hours, volunteers for 3 hours, cooks dinner, bathes the dog, writes 2 college entry essays, and reads their little sister a bedtime story before going to bed precisely at 10 pm.
Me commenting: My kid gets up somewhere between 10 and 12. Does his schoolwork for a couple of hours. Does his household tasks. Goes to karate twice a week. Reads a bunch of stuff (I have no idea what he's reading) and plays games online with his friends.
Obviously, I was exaggerating, but not by much. It was as if the moms were all trying to outdo each other and in the process were really making a lot of others feel as if they were doing something wrong or not doing enough. Veteran homeschoolers know that for 95% of those students, those descriptions are for an ideal day, not every day. Life just doesn’t work that way and if you’re going that hard all the time, you’re going to burn out.
And now it’s graduation season. I haven’t been driving around much this year to see what the HOA banners look like, but I can see social media.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your child’s accomplishments. Especially if they graduated college at 15 or whatever. They put in a lot of hard work and it’s time to celebrate. I don’t want to diminish the effort and time that the graduates (and usually their parents) have put in.
But we also have to acknowledge that all that time and effort doesn’t always result in a full-ride scholarship or even a student who wants to go to college. After seeing post after post of graduates come through a homeschooling high school group, I couldn’t help but wonder how the moms felt who weren’t posting. Not all the stories were about kids who were graduating high school with their Associate’s degree and are heading to a four-year college to pursue a higher degree. Or about students who nailed the ASVAB and who are going into the military. Or about students who had the schedule I mocked above and are running for President next week. (Okay, maybe there weren’t actually any of those, but it sometimes felt like it.)
But most of the stories were about high achievers, and everyone can’t be a high achiever. If everyone were a high achiever, it would no longer be high. It would just be normal.
Most of us, and most of our kids, are average. That’s kind of what average is. Public school kids are not one size fits all, so why would we expect homeschoolers to be? I posted the following in a homeschooling group yesterday:
I'm not taking anything away from the amazing accomplishments of the graduates who have been posted, but I also want to share some encouragement for parents whose kids aren't graduating early or even "on time". They may or may not be headed to college, but they definitely didn't get a scholarship. They didn't start their own business at age 12, and they don't have a job waiting for them when they graduate. We've been homeschooling for almost 20 years and one thing I know for sure is that, just like public school kids, homeschool kids are all different. Whoever your child is, and whatever your homeschool journey looks like, don't let comparisons discourage you. You're doing just fine. ❤️
As I’m writing this, there are more than 600 “likes” or “loves” on the post and more than 60 comments from parents saying, “Thank you for saying this,” or “This is our family.” That tells me that the sentiment really resonated with a lot of people. (Also, in case you didn’t catch that, there is no magic “on time”. It’s whatever works for your particular student.)
I would love it if people could be more open and real about their struggles (or even just their mediocrity), but most people don’t feel safe doing that, particularly in this age of mom-shaming and social media amazing-ness.
So for now, just remember, as the meme says, when it comes to social media, you’re comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. Normal is called normal for a reason and it’s okay to be “just okay”.