Thursday, March 28, 2013

How Much is Enough? Race to Nowhere

As I've read homeschool message boards for the past 13 years, again and again I hear moms question,

"How much is enough?" 

Sometimes this question stems from a need for reassurance from more experienced educators. However, many times this question comes about because of fear.  Fears about test scores, about children "measuring up," about our children's futures (can they compete? can they get into a good college? can they get a good job?).

This drive to measure up and excel comes from all kinds of sources--from friends and family who may fill us with doubts or even actively oppose our choice to homeschool. From reading message boards or talking with other moms and hearing the list of things they do. (Side note--comparisons are a dangerous thing.  We assume other families are doing all that we do PLUS those other items that we can never get to.  There is ALWAYS a trade-off.  Everyone has the same amount of time.  If someone else is doing something that you are not--then you are doing something they are not, even if you don't know what that something is.) Sometimes the fears stem from our own sense of pride, of needing to prove to ourselves or the world that we can do this and be successful.

If this rings true for you...ask yourself at what cost, and if that cost is worth it.

I believe academic excellence has value, and that we as homeschoolers should pursue this.  But it is not the only thing of value--nor the thing of highest value. If you feel a sense of mounting pressure, or that homeschooling has become a rat race...get out. Not out of homeschooling--but out of the trap of this way of thinking.

Here's an interesting movie trailer about the Race to Nowhere that I think has as much relevance for homeschoolers as it does for public and private schoolers:

If you find yourself feeling stuck, here are a few thoughts for you:

1, Pray.  What would God have you focus on in your family, for your homeschool?

2, Ask your children to pray.  What is meaningful to them?  What would they like to learn?  Encourage them to take an active role in shaping their education.  That doesn't mean you will automatically pursue what they suggest, but that you'll seriously consider their opinions and ideas.  I've often found that my kids had great things to share about what to study as well as how to study, and we do yearly reviews as well as other conversations to discuss these issues.

3, Search the Word.  Proverbs is full of wisdom and might be a good place to start.  My kids and I are reading Ecclesiastes right now.  "All is meaningless! A chasing after the wind!"  Together we are asking the question, "what is meaningful?"

4, Talk with older homeschoolers you respect.  What do they feel has been beneficial?  What would they do differently?  Then, sit with what they have to say and decide whether it fits your family or not.  There are as many ways to homeschool as there are unique individuals in this world, so consider the counsel of others carefully.

How about you?  Have you felt pressured to keep piling on the subjects?  What changes would you like to make for next year?