This post was originally published as the introduction to an issue of TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter. Sign up here and get access to subscriber exclusive resources.
You know what’s hard when you’re homeschooling? When your child doesn’t take to something you love—especially if it has an academic angle like reading, math, history, or science.
Your child is 8, and you’re lamenting they resist reading, no matter what you try. Or they are 13 and have declared that algebra will not help them in “the real world,” and they’re not going to college, so they just won’t do algebra. Or they don’t seem to care about history or science at all.
And then there you are, with your own annual book list of over a hundred books read. You, with a job where you do use math every day. You, working as a chemist or volunteering for a history museum.
You ask yourself: Where did I go wrong? How can my child not be interested in reading? How can my child be behind in math?
We want our kids to love what we love, and we want them to excel in the pursuits our society has deemed “educational.” We want to bond with them over shared academic interests, and maybe we hoped for a vicarious kick from having a mini-me with whom we could discuss electrons and elections.
Our cousin’s kids and the kids at co-op seem to indicate that our desires should be possible. Those kids are scarfing up bagfuls of library books and designing their own science experiments.
I homeschooled a long time—three kids through high school and into college. What I found out over the years was, kids don’t necessarily like the stuff their parents like. They aren’t necessarily good at the same kinds of things their parents are good at.
Also? You can’t make them. Sure, you can use some carrots and some sticks, which will motivate some of the kids some of the time, but carrots and sticks will also be ignored by many of the kids much of the time.
Also? Kids grow and change. Your kid doesn’t love to read at 8, and it might be because—he’s 8. One of my kids didn’t read at all until 8, but he’s an excellent reader years later. He just needed a tincture of time. Not only that, he eschewed math during the years he was easily frustrated with math, but he loves math now that his brain has developed further and his patience has grown.
And finally? Some of the kids who seem so far ahead of yours now will plateau. Of course, there are some smart kids out there who will stay sharp, but there are also a lot of kids who will level off and get interested in less academic-sounding pursuits, and their parents will be lamenting the empty library bags. All the comparisons that made you feel like an incompetent homeschool parent now make them feel like incompetent homeschool parents.
Your kids aren’t you. And they certainly aren’t the adult you. And they surely aren’t their adult selves, either.
You can provide collaboration, resources, modeling, encouragement, incentives, inspiration and tutoring, but you cannot create a child in your own image. And eventually you should kind of start to wonder about your own hubris in having ever had these expectations.
You’ll have to unhook yourself and get your own life, including your own emotional life—yet somehow, continue to homeschool and collaborate, provide resources, encourage, inspire and tutor. That’s the responsibility homeschoolers take on, and learning does happen as a result, even if it doesn’t look like what we expect or happen when we expect it.
This homeschooling thing is about our growth as parents, as people, as much as it is anything else. Our kids are just the medium.