We've all seen them – those perfect families. Ahem. Those perfect homeschool families. Their children dress in matching clothes they made themselves from hand-dyed wool shorn from the flock of orphaned sheep they adopted three summers ago. They bake their own bread after growing their own wheat and they built their house themselves after raising funds by selling homemade cookies and cute little hair bows.
Dad works from home on the business he started up with tips from his boyhood newspaper route while Mom simultaneously teaches the kids, gives piano lessons, and works at the local soup kitchen.
And don't forget their kids' educational accomplishments! Little Bobby is on his way to being the next Geography Bee winner. Susie just got a full ride scholarship to Julliard. Jimmy took first prize at the State Robotics Convention and Julie cooks all the soup for the soup kitchen from home-grown vegetables (and all at age seven)! Their kids are all about community service, they can quote Shakespeare by the first grade, and Mythbusters is asking them for advice.
They're also totally made up. At least most of the time. They smile out at us from book jackets and glossy magazine covers like the poster children of the homeschool movement, and we stare in breathless anticipation of the day our family can be just like that!
A few years in to homeschooling, and having come into contact over the years with hundreds of homeschooling families, I can say with certainty that, well, there may be families like that out there somewhere, but I sure haven't met any.
Yes, there are families with kids who do extraordinary things. I know families where the tweenager daughters write and perform their own songs on the guitar in front of audiences. I know families whose kids have gotten full scholarships to the college of their choice. I even know families that grow their own wheat and make their own bread!
While these are all wonderful families raising wonderful children to do wonderful things, listen to me when I say YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT TO BE A GOOD HOMESCHOOL FAMILY!
Different people have different learning styles and abilities, different interests and passions. Far too often we hear “Be the best that you can be” and we only listen to “Be the best” without paying attention to “that you can be.” We think that our children need to be tops in everything or somehow we have failed as homeschool parents.
But it just isn't true.
I jokingly said to one of my friends the other day that some days my kids' greatest accomplishment was that the dirt all came off in one scrubbing and no bones were broken! But...isn't that an accomplishment in itself, that my kids spent the day being kids?
For the brief period of time that our oldest daughter was in public school, she was in a Gifted and Talented class. This class had so many projects going on (as in, participation in this competition and that competition) that you really had to wonder when they actually had time to 1) learn anything, and 2) just be kids. The teachers were so amazed (perplexed might be a better word) that Katy didn't want to do all of them. I looked at these lists and thought, “Good grief! I wouldn't want to either!”
While it is good to try to find your child's natural bent and encourage them in that direction, I believe that far too many homeschool parents today are pushing their children simply because they feel like they need to “keep up” with the Homeschooling Joneses. I believe kids should be allowed to be kids.
This does not mean that I think kids should never have responsibility or never be challenged in their work. They should. But they should also have time to run and play, to daydream and to watch clouds. Charlotte Mason had a lot to say on this. She believed that young children (think elementary school age) should be finished with lessons by noon so they could spend the afternoons in play or restful activities. I happen to agree with her.
Your children are who they are, who God created them to be. And while you may have the next Spelling Bee champ or piano prodigy, chances are you have some perfectly normal kids who have strengths and weaknesses of their own. Love them for who they are, don't fall into the trap of thinking they have to be trophy kids so that you can feel like a good homeschool mom. Let them be themselves, let them be kids.
That is an accomplishment worth being proud of.