I have had so many thoughts swirling around in my head lately and I have wanted to post about it for a while now, though I needed some time to process what I was feeling and what I wanted to say. There is something going on in the homeschool world that is rubbing me the wrong way, and I know I am not the only one struggling with this. The problem is that there no longer seems to be a place in the homeschool community for the average homeschooler. Of course that shouldn’t really matter for we all homeschool alone, but what I am talking about is how homeschoolers portray themselves online.
When I first started homeschooling all those years ago I felt very welcomed and at home in the community. I was a young single mom with very limited funds, and I never felt like I would not be able to do this. Older, experienced moms encouraged me and helped me with homeschooling on a budget. It seemed very doable, and I felt I could meet all of my student’s academic needs very easily at home. If I was starting out today I am not sure I would feel the same.
There is a ton of pressure on all parents today, and this includes homeschooling parents. I believe that social media and the internet are partially to blame, but I also think some of the blame rests squarely on our shoulders. There is this strong drive today to be the best at what you do, to take things to a higher level, to provide your children with the most amazing experiences. It is hard as parents to filter out all of this, and it is hard to not compare ourselves with others. Unfortunately this is what happens, and because the majority of homeschoolers cannot do everything they see online, many are left feeling inadequate or they end up worrying about the fact that they, as parents, are not doing enough for their children.
I know how hard it is to resist these feelings as I have suffered from them too. In addition, I have heard from numerous homeschooling parents who have left various online support groups and in-person groups due to the enormous pressure they feel from the most vocal homeschooling parents. And it does seem that many of these vocal parents are the ones who have the ability to provide their children with wonderful opportunities that many other homeschooling parents cannot.
Of course there is nothing wrong with what these parents do. It is their prerogative to spend their time and money the way they want and to give their child and/or children the education they want. But there needs to be a balance on these forums and in these support groups. Instead of just being a place where a few voices are heard, we need it to be a place where everyone has a voice. Instead of always talking about what our own children are doing, we need to support all the children. I feel a responsibility to the new homeschooling parents, to the struggling homeschooling parents, to the isolated homeschooling parents to show them that it is possible to homeschool successfully with what you have.
I always felt like homeschooling evened the playing field in a way that schools couldn’t. It seemed when I first started that no matter your background, income, or race that you could homeschool your child and succeed. Today it feels like the homeschooling world is starting to pull away from that ideal and becoming more and more competitive. I suppose this was inevitable given the amazing growth that the homeschool world has seen, but I still hate to see it.
Take for example this article that was recently published in Boston Magazine. In it the author asked if homeschooling is “the new model for creating elite kids?” The article discusses one student who homeschooled and was accepted this year into Harvard. This is a great feat, and one that the parents can be proud of, but it also bothered me to no end. Maybe it was the fact that it seemed every homeschooler was sharing the article all over social media (as if to say “look my choice is valid, this kid got into Harvard!”) or maybe it was the fact that this look at homeschooling was a look at how wealthy parents homeschool, or maybe it was the fact that other articles that discuss homeschooling, such as this one, this one, or this one (just to name a few) are not shared or talked about nearly enough.
In hopes to balance out this phenomenon I am calling on all homeschool parents to share more, to support more, to ask questions more, to help more. I know I have sometimes struggled greatly over the years being a single mom on a very limited income with three children who all have some special needs. It has not been easy. I have to think over every decision I make long and hard before I make it due to these reasons. I have also had to make many sacrifices over the years. I would have loved to travel more with my children, I would have loved to have been able to have a tutor or mentor for each of them, I would have loved to have had more opportunities for them, and I would have loved to have had more individual time for them. But that has not always been possible and that is ok.
As my mom says, the children will all grow up. They will all find their way. In the meantime, for this short period that we can call them our own, could we be a little more kind to each other? Could we support each other and try not to be so competitive? Could we take some time each day to be thankful for what we do and have and remember not everyone has the same? Could we pause a moment before we post something online and think is this beneficial to anyone? Could we perhaps humble ourselves for the greater cause?