What if we all stopped comparing?

comparing

In the past year, I’ve become a pretty passionate homeschooler.

It’s still my belief that we should all have the right to choose what works best for our families, but my confidence that we have found the right path for us has deepened this year.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

But perhaps because I am more open to it, or perhaps because I’ve immersed myself a bit more in the homeschooling universe during these past 6 months, I have been reading a lot lately about the comparison between homeschooling and public schooling; homeschoolers and public schoolers.

(The latter is dangerous. They are all our kids. They are all different. And I reiterate, they are children.)

But today I had a thought: What if? What if there is no point in comparing our homeschooled children to publicly schooled children anymore?

Because homeschooling is not simply the way we choose to educate our children. Homeschooling is a way of life.

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We’ve all seen statistics that should be reassuring — homeschoolers are not only getting into the best colleges, they are being recruited by them. Homeschoolers routinely test ahead of grade level. Homeschoolers kick butt in spelling bees.

But I’m starting to wonder if even those good things matter that much, because they are still rooted in comparison, and I don’t think we need to keep comparing.

I believe as homeschoolers that we need to step away from the trap of thinking that just because something has become the educational “standard” that we need to apply it to children outside of that system.

One homeschooled child might accelerate through a math program because there’s no reason not to; while her brother or sister might eschew math for a year until the time is right.

A homeschooled child might develop an interest and dive into it so deeply that there’s little time for much else. They may spend days, weeks, even months so immersed in a topic that they become an expert. An 8-year-old expert.

They also might waste time. They might flounder. They might lallygag.

They might discover exactly who they are.

Because they can.

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Outside of a conventional school setting, the world opens up. Our kids have time to explore, grow and have adventures.

They also have time to fail. They have time to make mistakes.

They have time to ask questions (oh so many questions.)

So what are we doing even comparing our children to publicly schooled kids? Isn’t it about time we shut that door?

We can let that one go.

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And sure — many of us still have goals for our kids. We can’t help it. We want to set them up for a positive future.

But what I want for my kids isn’t to push them toward graduation.

I want them to find what makes them happy. I want them to seek out loving relationships. I want them to know how to take really good care of themselves.

I want them to know that they don’t have to compare themselves to anyone else.

And I want them to know that as we continue on this journey together, I’m OK with the bumps in the road. I embrace the lallygagging. I love the exploration of life with them. I love being by their side.

I’m not in a hurry.

I learning to let go of ย specific educational goals for my children, because I’m finally seeing that as a homeschooler, I can. And I’m learning that with the space to do so, they create their own learning goals.

My job isn’t to push and cajole. It certainly isn’t to force them into the future with a goal of being “done” by a given date.

My job is to help them facilitate their own learning, and to support them each step of the way. Even if it takes longer. Even if it looks messy. Even if it’s hard.

Because this commitment we make to our kids — when we take on the role of homeschooling parent — it isn’t just to help them learn.

It’s to be their partner on this ride, to hold their hand as they lead us, and to only let go when the time is finally right.

21 thoughts on “What if we all stopped comparing?

  1. So much to say (as usual). Comparison has comprised the majority of my inner work for the past couple of years and I am just now beginning to get some clarity about how I want to harness what I have learned. I keep coming back to the phrase “changing the conversation” because I think that is where it starts (for me anyway). The lines “Isnโ€™t it about time we shut that door? We can let that one go.” remind me of that.
    I have decided to stop doing block summaries on my blog bc I think it invites comparison (whether from homeschoolers or public schoolers) – I know I am guilty of it when I read/hear about what someone else is doing. It is almost impossible not to. So if I don’t even go there, I think I (we) can move beyond it.
    For me, it is being ok in my own skin and sh*t that takes so long and is so, so hard. But . . . that is where I want to be.
    Great post.
    Happy Valentine’s, my sweet.
    S

    • Yes — changing the conversation for sure! Changing our perceptions too — other people may continue to measure our kids against a certain marker, but we don’t have to. But it is hard. It’s so hard to let go — so many of us grew up in a public school setting, and it becomes the default.

  2. mamasuds says:

    I love the idea of this. How do you do this and still meet state requirements? Do you need to? This is a genuine question, I am still learning about homeschooling. Please feel free to refer me to a previous post, if applicable. I am a very new reader!

    • I think it depends on your state. Check out HSLDA’s website (you can google it easily) and find out what your state’s requirements are. In even the strictest of states there is some freedom of choice.

  3. Hey mamasuds! Different states have varying requirements, but I guess my feeling is that even if a state requires testing, we don’t need to make preparing for the test the primary focus of our homeschooling. It doesn’t have to become the way that we chart our kids’ progress, you know?

  4. I agree with everything you’ve said. It’s difficult sometimes, since most of our friends send their children to public school, to not make those comparisons. I know that we are doing what we think is best for our family, and they are doing they think is best for theirs. I sometimes wish some of them would home school as well, mostly for my own selfish reasons. Thankfully, we have found an incredible group of home schoolers not too far away from our hometown. If it weren’t for finding and joining them, I don’t know if we would have stayed on track with choosing this lifestyle. Things have a way of working out though, and we couldn’t be happier with our decision.

    • Hi Shawntae! I agree with you that finding a homeschool “tribe” is incredibly valuable. My kids have friends who go to public school, and I have friends who send their kids to public school, and we are really grateful for them and for their support and. But it’s nice to have fellow homeschooling friends too — someone to look at and say, “This isn’t crazy, right? This is going to work?” ;)

  5. You’ve hit upon a central theme for me here–one size does not fit all in education or in life. I wish our classrooms could be as customized as I’m sure yours is. We insist kids fit into a box b/c of logistics–and I get that–but no one belongs in a box. Really.

    • Ah, yes Kay. So true. No matter how our kids learn, in public school or at home, we need to consider that each child is different and find a way to help them discover their own paths.

  6. molly says:

    Hi Kara! This is so wonderful and just what I needed to hear, thank you! My biggest struggle right now with homeschooling is the feeling of needing to keep up with the standard, the arbitrary expectations based on age and grade level. Argh! It’s frustrating and overwhelming, and I feel a bit like I’m floundering while trying to find a structure that fits with my beliefs. Anyway, thanks again for the reassurance that it’s best to let go of comparisons! xo

  7. MG says:

    I like reading your post. I reached this understanding some time ago. It is wonderful that voices like yours are heard so that others may find some peace in their home education. There isn’t any comparison to creating meaningful rich relationships with the people we hold closest to our hearts.
    Great post!

  8. Forest says:

    My daughter will be 15 next month. She does 1 virtual Chinese course and 1 Driver’s Ed. Dances at a studio 14 hours a week, draws, and spends as much time as she wants on electronics. I do not compare on a “learning” level because I do not read the articles about common core, empathize when I hear parents lamenting about how their and their kid’s lives are achool, homework, dinner, showers, bed, over and over. I say it does not have to be this way. I would like to not compare, however, there is a glaring difference in my daughter’s attitude, energy level, enjoyment of choaen activities, anxiety level, treatment of others, even physical well-being. We eat wholesome meals, her skin is clear as she has the time to take care of herself, her weight is good, as ahe gas the time to ride a bike and dance. She is funny, kind, and gentle. Not perfect, as she does not have to be. No grades, no tests except the virtual courses And she decides if she wants to raise her grade by doing a lesson over. So, when it comes to comparing, I’m human, with sight and hearing. Comparing is natural, but without judgement. I just wish we had always lived this way.

    • Hi Forest, I love what you said — that it doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t — your daughter is proof :) Thank you for your honesty and sharing a bit of your family’s story!

  9. Valerie says:

    This is our first year homeschooling and I agree with your post. The interesting thing is, I think you have to avoid comparison with EVERYONE. My daughter belongs to an alternative scouting group and in her age group there are 15 girls, 13 of whom are homeschooled. And there is still comparison…some do Classical Conversations, some do online curriculum, some do Latin and Greek with their first graders. I avoid conversations about it because I am still feeling my way and what I have learned about my child this year has shown me she does best in a more free-wheeling atmosphere with less formal lessons and more child-driven projects. I’ve had a couple of moms try to convince me their way is the way to go, which is so interesting, but I have thus far avoided feeling like I have to justify the way we do things, and I just try to stay out of those conversations as much as possible. I think comparison is rampant because many of us were public or private schooled, where all that you do is constantly compared to others, not just your schoolwork but also the way you talk, act, dress, and participate in social situations. I think it is ingrained, but I agree it is not useful when you are trying to homeschool, and I keep posts like this on my reading list for days when I need a boost. Thanks!

    • Wow Valerie — so much good stuff there! I agree with you that it’s ingrained in us to compare, and it’s amazing when we can step away from those kinds of comparisons! :)

  10. Something remarkable happens when we stop comparing ourselves to others: We gain more confidence in who we are and what we are doing in our lives (and for our children). It’s very freeing. Excellent post!

  11. “Because homeschooling is not simply the way we choose to educate our children. Homeschooling is a way of life.”
    This was my favorite line. Even made me tear up a little. So grateful to be able to offer this way of life to my children.

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