Welcome to Build Your Library’s “Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 13 – On Feeling Behind.” In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and I will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated!
Today I want to talk about something that seems to be a common and reoccurring feeling amongst homeschool parents. Particularly this time of year, the feeling that you are falling behind can be overwhelming. I want to start with a caveat, I’m not talking about children with learning difficulties or actual educational neglect. I’m talking more about the fear so many of us have grappled with over the course of our homeschooling that we aren’t doing enough.
Maybe you have prying neighbors contributing to negative thoughts about your homeschooling? Perhaps your mother-in-law is always warning you that your children aren’t keeping up with their cousins? Maybe you have a lot of support but feel like everyone else around you is doing so much more? Or maybe your life is in upheaval and you just haven’t been able to spend as much time on academics as you feel you should?
Pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Take another deep breath. Relax.
I want to address that fear today. First, you are doing a fantastic job. Huzzah! Your child is loved, fed, happy, and secure. That alone is so important! You clearly care a great deal about the welfare of your children, or you wouldn’t be spending so much time worrying about it!
We all want what is best for our children, that’s why we chose to homeschool! But with that comes the fear that we’re going to mess up.
Whenever someone says they feel like their child is behind, I wonder, behind what? What arbitrary guidelines are you using to compare your child? Yes, there are specific things your children need to learn. But for the most part, it doesn’t matter when they learn them, as long as they do.
Of course, once you reach the high school years, there are more specific parameters you must work within. Even then, it all really depends on what your state requires for graduation and what your child plans to pursue after they graduate. Let me tell you, it was a great relief that Advanced Calculus and Quantitative Physics was not a prerequisite for art school! I feel like most people I speak with aren’t even worried about high school and transcripts yet, they are still in the elementary years. And guys, you have so much time ahead of you still.
In those elementary years, all you really need is to give them a solid foundation. Can they read? Can they do basic mathematics? Are they writing their letters? Can they compose a sentence? If you answered yes to all of those questions, perfect. You are not behind!
Something I think we forget is that children all learn and grow at their own pace. We tend to think in terms of the public school system, with 25 students that all must stay on the same page as everyone else in the room. Or all 8-year-olds must be doing this, and this, and this. Period. But we really need to let that go. We left traditional schooling behind, so why are we still trying to conform to their system and stress ourselves out?
At any given time, my kids were learning various subjects, at various grade levels. Maybe we are “ahead” in math, but “behind” in language arts. That’s totally fine and completely normal! You know your child best. Rather than worrying about staying on an arbitrary grade level, ask yourself these questions instead: Are they progressing? Have they shown improvement over the course of the year? Will this “delay” really matter by the time they are 18 or if they mastered a concept at age 9 instead of 7?
It’s perfectly valid to worry when your child has learning challenges, or they seem completely stuck and aren’t progressing for months at a time. But if that’s not the case, it’s time to let go of the irrational fear of being “behind.” Spiders, rational fear! Feeling behind, not so much.
If your child is finding a subject exceptionally challenging, there are things you can do to help catch them up. Let go of the extras. An elementary child doesn’t “need” to study history, science, or geography. Yes, they are fun and bring enjoyment and excitement to our homeschooling, but they aren’t strictly necessary at this time. What is necessary are the three Rs. So, if that is where your child struggles – with reading, writing, or arithmetic, focus on that for a season. There is nothing wrong with taking a year or so to focus on a skill they are struggling with.
Then adjust as necessary. If the curriculum you are using isn’t working, try something else. Sometimes what is needed is a different approach! My oldest daughter was a natural speller and writing just came easily to her. The Charlotte Mason method as written worked beautifully for her. My twins were a completely different story! Their spelling was atrocious! We tried so many different programs before finding something that worked for them. And you know what, they are 20 years old and still not the greatest spellers. But thankfully, spell-check exists. My worst speller is in college and getting As on papers. Thank heavens for red squiggles and blue underlines in MS Word and Grammarly! It all worked out in the end, but I worried over it for years.
It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing! This may be one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Personally, I’m thankful that in my early days of homeschooling, Instagram didn’t exist yet. It must be so stressful to see all those beautiful pictures and want to make your homeschool look like that. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they are only showing you the very best bits of their day, with a filter, and cropped out clutter. Most homeschoolers do not look Instagrammable! We’re a mess, and that’s OK! Embrace your individuality! Embrace the chaos of our days! It means we’re doing all the things!
It’s easy to get caught up in worrying that you aren’t doing as much as other parents. But don’t let that consume you. Because it’s a lie. You are doing the best for your children. Is it easy? Nope. But you are fully capable of taking on this challenge. And I promise you, you are not ruining your children! Just take things one day at a time and keep on keeping on. You’re doing amazing!
I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!
Until next time, happy reading!
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.