August 4, 2008

Homeschool Envy

Fall--'tis the season of homeschool envy. Now is the time to look at what everyone else is doing, or the time for flipping through catalogs, or the time for searching websites to find THE perfect solution to my homeschool problems. This year we're going to do it right!

I've been homeschooing since 1994, and I've tried just about every major publisher and every type of homeschooling. Those were the years of self-doubt and homeschool envy. Often things would start out with a bang in early September but by mid October, we'd be back to our relaxed/unschooling ways. Why? Because reality would set in and my true belief system would win out. If I really believed my kids had to follow the book and do everything it said, I'd force my kids to do it. But really, interest-led learning has my heart and eventually my head would acquiesce.

I haven't faced homeschool envy for about five years now. I've been quite content with our low- maintenance, low-cost, low-stress homeschooling style. But last week I attended a homeschool conference. I won a ticket to The Heart of the Matter Online Conference from The Homeschool Lounge. One session featured Amy Pak talking about homeschooling history. I was really enjoying seeing pictures of her family dressed in period costume (we like to do living history too) and doing all sorts of interesting activities centered around learning history. That's about the time my heart started to race and I began to feel faint. What have I been doing all these years? I've missed great opportunities to give my kids fun and memorable experiences. I'm a failure at this homeschooling thing.

But I kept listening and looking at all the amazing things she's developed. I started to hit the "forward" button on her visuals and saw where she was going with her talk. That's when I realized her family has a business called Home School in the Woods that specializes in preparing hands-on history materials for homeschoolers. Now I get it! Her business is fun history. She has the time and the motivation to do all this. She's developing projects and materials so the rest of us can pick and choose what we'd like to do. She's not offering a model of homeschooling, just some resources. That really helped my blood pressure go down.

I think this is a good thing to remember. We are all in our unique circumstances with our own mix of people and our vocation. If you look at me, for example, I'm in the later stages of homeschooling. I have one graduated, and two pretty independent girls left at home. And one is trying public school this year! That means I have more time than ever to think and write and develop my blog(s). But not everyone can do that.

Homeschool envy kills--it kills our self-confidence and our joy. The best way to avoid living under that tyranny is to have a couple baseline principles that define your schooling philosophy. Mine? Maintain the joy of childhood and the joy of learning in an environment of love and respect. Establish your anchors and have your best year yet.


Anonymous said...

I think that's one of the hardest lessons I'm learning in our home-'school' journey... that I cannot compare myself or 'methods' to someone else. Why must we be that way?!

thetysonfamily said...

Ah, JUST what I needed to hear! Thanks, Jena!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Jena. You are so wise.

Barbara Frank said...

I've been thinking about you, Jena, because I imagine you'll be sending your son off to Chicago soon. It was five years ago this month that we sent our always-homeschooled son Peter away to college, and it was hard! At least it was hard for me. He did very well, and continues to thrive now that he's out of college and has a job he loves. I will keep you and your family in prayer.

Jena said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words. Barbara, thanks for thinking of us. I've decided Peter's going to camp and he'll be back at Thanksgiving. :) Maybe that will get me over the initial shock.

Heather said...

Being content in ALL THINGS is especially tricky when all the other home school families are doing such cool stuff! :) The friend we visited this weekend is using Konos for ideas and I was SO TEMPTED, that is till I realized that the Lord had already given me TONS of ideas and activities, books and books, and much much more, I mean, due to my background I could probably WRITE books of activities, if I felt like it, which I don't. :)Kind of a "der" moment.

piscesgrrl said...

Ah yes, homeschool envy! I still succumb to it now and again, too. That feeling that *everyone else* is doing *all these cool things* can really send one into a tailspin. But then I'll get a comment on my blog that's tinged with the same sort of envy, or I'll have a talk with a homeschool mom and she'll say "But obviously you don't have that problem, your kids do so many things" or whatnot and I'll realize it's all a matter of perspective. Fact is, when I get wiggy and try to implement something that looked *so great* in another family, my kids sniff the ulterior motive right away and remind me that they aren't into that particular activity. Wake-up call!

(Guess I didn't rush off to freeze sweet corn with my sister, after all!.... Curiosity won!)

Anonymous said...

That post is awesome. I've had some homeschool envy last year, but this year, as we're on an unschooling track, all is well. :) No envy, just happy feelings inside.

Constance Kent said...

Hi, I need some advice on this very subject. I am a mother of 4. I home-school 2. I went to public school so i have really struggled with the concept of unschooling. I have a 9 yo who has been through A.C.E. and he hates work now. My husband is a minister so we travel a lot, and I can't find anything that is inexpensive or portable enough for us. I don't want to cheat my children out of a good education. But, I think anything is better than what any public system gives them. I do have a very good support system, but they know just about as much about the subject as I do. Please Help!

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