Dear Brain Trust,

I feel insecure about what I might be missing… what others are doing – I’m worried that there might be huge gaps in our homeschool.

-Sweating in Oklahoma

There’s not a homeschooling mother alive who hasn’t shared your fears, I’m sure of it. For me, my insecurity in this arena manifested itself in obsessive curriculum buying. Any time I perceived a gap in my child’s education, I’d buy a curriculum to fill the need – as if. Bleh.

After a few years of homeschooling, these failures (in the very tangible form of un-cracked-open books) began to pile up. Literally. At some point, these incriminating stacks made me reassess what I was trying to accomplish. It finally dawned on me that it was simply not possible to learn everything in the world. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But I was setting goals (and buying curriculum) in a way that indicated that I thought we could learn it all.

Now that I have a few years under my belt, I’ve learned to do fewer things better. I select 4-5 major subjects/areas of emphasis, and I make sure we do those things every day. I carve them out as non-negotiable – we’re going to get those things done come hell or high water, come runny noses or overflowing toilets. And we’re going to do it with joy – or someone’s gonna get hurt :) . I also have a second tier of subjects that we get to with less regularity. We’ll either work on these subjects a couple of times a week, or occasionally, I’ll designate a week here or there to work on one of our second tier goals.

We can’t teach our children everything we want them to know; our world is simply too complex. More importantly, I now know, we can imprint them with a love of learning and a commitment to disciplined work habits. With that, they can soar! Eventually, without me! Yippee!

When I began to homeschool my five year old, I asked myself, “How hard can this be?” I was gullible enough to believe that kindergarten was a piece of cake. That self-talk got me through the first month, but the doubts began to emerge as I tried to keep up with our public/private schooled friends. In fact, when I compared my son with his buddies, we were falling behind. We found ourselves in this “hare and tortoise” race and we weren’t the hare.

My doubts quickly turned to fears. Where did I get this notion that this homeschool “gig” would work? Was I willing to use my boy as a guinea pig in this “experiment” knowing that it would be years before I knew the results? I was nervous and insecure. But, I had to make a decision: if I was going to do this, I couldn’t fail. There was too much at stake…so, I began to research, talk to experienced homeschool parents, read books and begin to develop my homeschooling philosophy.

The responsibility to educate our kids was important and I needed to educate myself. And most importantly, I had to stop comparing. Why was I doing this? Was it to produce genius-like kids or were there other reasons? Who were we to be as a family? What were our goals for our children? Did I want my children to be on grade level? Did I want them to go to college? What were my other measurements of success? What was my measuring standard? We were our kids’ parents, so who, more than us, would know more what our children needed? This wasn’t just education, this was life goals and missions. We came up with some simple ideas at first: we wanted our children to be decent, life-giving, lifetime learners and contributors to humanity. Then we began to cater and build an education that would produce that kind of human. This was our map. This was our measuring standard. And it continues to evolve. But we are highly encouraged that this is not just our plan, but God’s.

We have seen over and over, with God’s help and wisdom, we can do this! And yes, we have embraced our tortoise-side. We take our time, which cultivates an environment to learn. We work hard to enjoy the view and the people God has put around us. And we don’t compare! We are on our own course; the one God has marked for us. At any given point somebody could look in and say “that we aren’t measuring up.” I am no longer intimidated. My measuring stick has changed. And I feel like the ultimate winner.

Our evil genius of comparison sure can throw us into a tizzy! It used to be comparing jean sizes with our friends… now it’s curriculum… Oh, how we’ve grown up! Regardless, it’s the same bad habit!

The truth is that it is an improbable goal to hope for NO GAPS!!!!! Everyone, no matter what their educational path, has gaps! For example, I am a terrible speller. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

I must remind myself that the purpose is not to have a gap free education. The purpose, in a classical model, is to learn how to learn and love learning! Through the process of home educating my own children, I have become a life long learner. Now, my hope is to send them down that same path of life long learning.

With that said, I am not suggesting that I don’t have educational standards. Like Hyacinth, we have chosen a few subject as our everyday focus. We are relentless about those. The other subjects are icing on the cake.

I think it is critical to have people in your world who are a few steps ahead of you. I glean a great deal of wisdom and knowledge from people who have already done it! In turn, I hope to help those a few steps behind me.

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