There are some pretty amazing homeschoolers out there and it is easy to fall into comparing your teen to others. You’ve probably heard of the homeschool prodigy who became a doctor at age 21 or the amazing homeschool cellist who performed at the White House. What about the homeschooled teen who wrote a best seller? Maybe these sorts of stories don’t spark jealousy, but what about the local homeschooler who recorded an album or got a full merit scholarship for college? Or, what about the homeschool family that is always completing some innovative educational opportunity and whose teens are polite and seem to always be in a good mood?
Why We Compare
It is very easy to fall into a cycle of comparing ourselves and our homeschool teens to others. Most of us weren’t raised as homeschoolers, so we are blazing new trails for our family and high school can feel like the great unknown. The decision to homeschool through high school is not one that is always received with support. Facing criticism from friends and family, it can be easy to get into a mode of feeling like we have to prove the validity of our choices. Looking at homeschool families who have done well can provide reassurance but can also fuel insecurity. A troubled economy, rising tuition costs and declining admissions rates at top colleges can add fuel to the fire of insecurity.
Comparisons Undermine Teens
When we get involved in a lot of comparisons it can really undermine the happiness and success of our homeschool. Comparisons can get in the way of seeing the unique strengths and capabilities of our own teens. Comparisons can fuel anxiety – there will always be another teen who is more creative, more academically accelerated, harder working, smarter, or more accomplished. Many of us chose homeschooling because we wanted a unique and custom education that really fits our kids and their ways of learning. Comparisons can nudge us to push options, like dual enrollment or a dozen APs, that may not be a good fit for the individual learning profile of our homeschoolers. Not only may these options not fit well, they may get in the way of other unique homeschooling opportunities.
Comparisons Hurt Relationships
Teens need to be understood and appreciated for their own unique selves. While we all naturally look to the future and want our children to be well prepared for success in college and in life, we need to keep in mind there are many paths to a good future. Just like we’d resent it if our families members compared us to others and felt we came up short, our teens hate it too.
Comparisons Aren’t Even Reality
The reality is that we never really know what another family’s life is like. At homeschool group or in a Facebook update you only see a small slice of the lives of other homeschoolers. The reality is that nobody’s family is perfect. Every teen has their difficult moments and challenges. Every homeschool parent has days that cause them to wonder why they ever decided to homeschool in the first place.
What To Do Instead of Comparing
Take Time to Notice the Good – In the day in and day out with children and teens it is easy to focus on the negative. There’s the geometry that you can’t remember how to teach, the kitchen that never seems 100% clean, your teen’s lack of motivation, your preteen’s eyerolling and the sibling squabbles. Failing to notice all of the good that is happening fuels the feeling that your family isn’t measuring up. When we only focus on the negative of our experiences and the positive of other families we will never be content. Instead, make an active effort to notice the positives. Notice the ways your children and teens are growing and changing. What can they do this year that they could not do a year or two ago? What is happening in the happy moments?
Use Real and Accurate Information – Don’t base your thoughts about the future on anecdotes. Do your research and learn more about homeschool planning and college expectations. There’s quite a lot of inaccurate information about homeschooling and about college admissions floating around the web and at homeschool conventions. Just because a particular path worked for a particular student doesn’t mean it has anything to do with your family or what will work for your kids. Try to base your planning on real and accurate information that is based on up to date research not just anecdotal experience.
Treat Each Teen as an Individual – Before you undertake testing or a particular high school plan make sure it is a good fit for your teen’s strengths and goals. Every homeschooler is a unique individual. High school decisions need to be informed by the realities of planning for success in life and career, but there are many ways to approach this. Your teen deserves to receive individualized homeschool planning based on their unique profile of strengths.
Homeschooling Isn’t A Contest – While homeschooling is great and making the decision to homeschool is something we should feel proud about, we need to avoid the feeling that we have to be perfect. We need to fight the urge that tells us we have something to prove and instead celebrate and enjoy the years we have with our homeschool children and teens. There are many paths to a happy and successful adult life and it is when we appreciate our children’s unique strengths that we will best support and nurture them.