What’s the difference between a confident homeschooler and someone who isn’t?
I absolutely do not want to call anyone out here but I’m guessing we all know where we fall on the homeschooling/teaching confidence scale. And I want to start off by assuring everyone that there is nothing wrong with not being confident in your homeschool.
However, I also know the huge weight that is lifted when you can look at your average homeschool day and feel pretty good about it.
And I think the difference between confidence and uncertainty is very small. Just a few small tweaks.
Wouldn’t we all agree that a few small tweaks that take you from uncertainty to confidence might be worth it?
What’s the Difference Between a Confident Homeschooler and One Filled with Uncertainty?
To be fair, there isn’t one difference or even two. I’ve found people tend to become more confident over time. Or find a natural confidence with one or more of their kids graduate and find success (whether in a career or college).
But I don’t want you to wait that long to feel confident as a homeschooler.
So I thought I’d include a list of things I see my confident homeschooling friends do.
They value small wins. Not every win has to be a huge victory. Celebrate the small wins, too. For young kids we tend to have this idea that they can either read or they cannot read. But in reality, learning to read happens over time. Celebrate the first word your kid reads. And the first sentence. And the first paragraph. Don’t wait to celebrate until you think they can read every single word and passage that comes their way.
They don’t judge. This applies to judging themselves and judging others. The most confident homeschoolers I know don’t judge their approach to homeschooling against others. And they don’t judge how other people homeschool in general.
They make changes. Not all homeschool curriculum works for every child. Not every approach is a good fit. If something is not working, try something else. This includes that incredibly expensive homeschool curriculum that you just knew was perfect. I’m not saying to quit everything at the first difficulty. But also, don’t be afraid to give up something that isn’t working.
They aren’t trying to be perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. My idea of a perfect homeschool and what actually works for my kids are two very different things. When I stopped trying to mold them into the homeschool I wanted, we found a lot more success, ease, and confidence.
They don’t use a lot of social media. This one is hard for me because I really like social media. If you aren’t going to give up social media (like me) remind yourself that everything you see on social media is not necessarily as it appears. Social media can give us this impression that others are doing better. And I know I already mentioned not judging ourselves, but it’s really hard not to compare ourselves to social media.
They set goals. Or at a very minimum, they track progress somehow. There are many ways to accomplish this so don’t overthink it. I go over a few in the list below.
How to Go from Uncertain to Confident
I wanted to lay these out as things you can do instead of just things other people are doing. Most of them are completely separate of each other and can be done in any order. Peruse the list and find something that you think will help you.
Define your goals.
I don’t mean this in a ‘take 100 hours, write out every goal in step-by-step detail, and drive yourself nuts trying to make a perfect plan’ kind of way.
I mean for you to put into a few words what you want your kids to get out of homeschooling.
It might be for them to return to public school at a certain point. Or turn into an adult with a career path they enjoy. Or maybe your goals are just to have your kids know a few more things at the end of the year as they did at the beginning.
- Keep your goals realistic.
- Don’t forget what’s going on in your life that might change these goals. (i.e. when I was going through a divorce, our goals got way simpler for a period of time).
- And don’t spend too much time here. Remember, we’re aiming for confidence in homeschooling right now, not a super detailed homeschool plan.
I’ll end this section with my own example. My goals for my kids are to provide them with an education that exposes them to many different topics, teaches them how to learn and find information, and sets them up for a life they enjoy (whatever they may look like for them).
Are you already meeting your goals?
Now that you have your very simple goals, do you think you’re meeting these goals? I bet many people are already meeting their goals when they really think about it.
A lot of us worry about how they’re doing in math, do they know enough science, are they getting enough exercise, and all the other worries that parents tend to have.
But when it comes down to it, our goals are often far simpler and more achievable than the worries we invent.
Are your expectations too high?
There is a saying that we (as in humans) tend to underestimate what we can get done in a year and overestimate what we can get done in 12 weeks.
I take that further and think that the shorter a period of time, the more we overestimate what we can get done. And the longer the period of time, the more we underestimate.
As I’m writing this, I have my ‘to do’ list (or what I lovingly refer to as my side-quests) next to me.
It’s a list of 10 things to get done. They range from things that take 5 minutes to things that take multiple hours.
It’s not all getting done today. Part of me knew this when I wrote the list, yet I still wrote it out thinking ‘but what if?’.
I find the same trend in homeschooling very often.
People want to tackle every subject every day. Or have daily school lists that many people don’t complete in a week.
So think about your expectations of what you can get done and consider that maybe your expectations are too high.
I belong to a lot of homeschool groups both online and in person. I love homeschooling, love talking about homeschooling, sharing about homeschooling, gathering ideas about homeschooling, etc. If it’s homeschooling, I’m probably interested.
So I hear a lot of other parents discussing homeschooling wins and woes.
And some of these woes are repeated many times over by many different people.
If they ask, my advice is usually the same.
Let me lay out a quick example.
“My son takes 2 hours to write one sentence. He’s 9 years old and I know he can write a sentence. He’s just lazy and doesn’t want to do it. But if he would just focus, he could have it written in 5 minutes. I don’t understand why he makes it take hours and hours’.
I bet a lot of us have been there.
I know I have. I have no judgment against people in this same prediciment.
So what would my advice be?
Stop making them write.
They’re sending a message loud and clear that something about your system isn’t working. And continuing to assign them writing tasks that are similar is going to result in the same battle.
It’s up to you to figure out what is going on and how you can fix it.
So if you’re feeling uncertain in your homeschooling, reevaluate. What is it making you feel uncertain? Is it battles like the above? Is it that your kids aren’t doing enough? Is someone else making comments that make you feel inferior or not good enough?
Reevaluate what you’re doing and make changes.
For reference sake, the changes we made to writing were simple. I simply asked my kids what they didn’t like about writing. They didn’t really know so I offered solutions until we found one that they liked. You can offer to write the words for them (have them dictate to you). Ask them if they would like a different topic. Offer to let them work on their writing in little bits and break it up throughout the day. Let them use colorful paper, pens, markers, etc. Or let them write on a whiteboard or chalkboard instead. There are many alternatives.
Stop the comparison trap.
How many of us have felt great about our homeschooling only to see someone else doing it better and then feeling bad?
Stop doing that to yourself.
First of all, you don’t know if it’s really going that perfectly in someone else’s homeschool. They might choose to present the positive. Or the day they shared happened to be a good day.
Second, what does it mean to do homeschool better anyhow?
I have a good friend who often says that I am a fun and creative homeschooler and she is not. I don’t know how accurate that is (although it’s true that I sprint towards fun while she says she doesn’t) but I can tell that her kids are thriving. Is one of us doing better or are we just doing it differently?
Ask yourself what this other person is doing that you think is better than what you’re doing. Is it something you actually want to do in your homeschool? Is it just that their kids are cooperating more than you feel your kids are?
If it’s something you wish you did, consider trying it. Or at least ask yourself why you wish you did that thing, if it would be good for your family, if it’s worth the stress of implementing, and whether you really want to do it or not.
If it’s something else less in your control, just brush it off. You cannot force your kids to cooperate. You can tailor your homeschool to meet your kids needs and, therefore, probably reduce the resistance. But that’s a topic for another day (and also will not be fulfilled by comparing yourself to someone else).
Write it all down
Do you remember everything you did last week?
Think about house chores. Do you remember everything you cleaned, fixed, put away, etc?
And you probably don’t remember every school thing that happened.
It can be hard to see progress on a day to day basis. We need benchmarks to show us or something that proves to us how much we’re really moving forward.
I realized this recently with my work out. I was whining over the fact that I’ve been doing a group workout for almost a year now and I don’t feel any better physically, my clothes don’t fit better, and I didn’t think I made much progress.
I know I have made progress. Heck, I can do a push up now (a real one). But a year ago I didn’t think to write down where I was or set up benchmarks for myself. I’m changing that this year so I don’t have to complain about my “lack of progress” ever again.
Homeschool can work the same way. Schools try to do this with standardized tests and grades. We don’t do either so I wanted to come up with my own benchmarks.
And where I settled was just recording what we’re doing.
I already write out a list of what we need to get done for school every day so I just hold on to the lists. Now if I ever feel like we’re not doing enough, I can look back on the lists and see how much we’re getting done.
Honestly, this is also a really good tool when reevaluating. I can see what’s working, what’s not working, what’s taking shorter or longer than I thought it would, and more.
I would be remiss to not include affirmations in anything involving confidence.
When I first learned about mindfulness I was also introduced to affirmations. I immediately took to mindfulness exercises but I thought affirmations were a bunch of hooey.
And then, like I do, I set out to prove they didn’t work through science. I did two things. 1. I started searching for articles in science journals about affirmations. 2. I decided to test them on myself. It wasn’t a well designed study, but I also wasn’t aiming to publish something on the matter.
What I found out was that science supported the use of affirmations and that they worked on me, too.
I was a little angry to be so wrong but a little bit pleased to have such a simple tool in my belt. I’ve used affirmations ever since and encouraged many others to give them a shot.
Whether you’re a seasoned affirmations pro or feeling really skeptical, I encourage you to give them a shot.
I’ve even prepared some affirmations specifically for homeschool parents.
There are two sets available that pretty much mirror each one.
One is sweary affirmation cards. I prefer my affirmations with swear words for two main reasons.
- It’s a pattern disrupt. The swear words make me stop and bring me into the moment.
- It makes me laugh. And I need that when working with something that tends to be serious. I’m a pretty silly person and serious things are tough for me. So if it’s not something that really needs to be serious, I like to sillize it.
The second set is non-sweary cards. The affirmations are very similar but complete without swears. I recognize that not everyone has the same needs so I wanted to make sure to provide cards that would appeal to everyone.