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?


  1. Merry, thanks for another encouraging post! I have been trying to stay off of forums lately due to burnout and the trap of comparing our homeschool to others, so this post is quite timely!

    I am gleaning so much wisdom from your blog and especially what you share regarding organizing and planning. What a treat it would be if you made a video on lesson planning! I would pay!! (hint, hint!!) (I've never been a yearly planner, but I'm thinking I would greatly benefit from doing so.)

    Well, our organizing cart arrived and ds put it together-it isn't the one you have, but is similar. Now that we have the workboxes, I'm off to Staples to buy that file box and a Better Binder! :) I think this system you use will also greatly benefit us. I'm taking it slow,though- important for me to take baby steps so I don't get overwhelmed and then quit!

    You are such a blessing to moms on the forums and also through this blog. Thank you!!

    God Bless,

  2. You're welcome, I'm so glad it was encouraging! I know from time to time that I still need to remind myself of these things--it's definitely a journey. I've not made any videos ever--I'll have to see if my son might enjoy figuring out how to upload them for his somewhat technology-challenged mom!

    Good idea on taking baby steps--it's taken me years, literally, to figure out what organizational things are a good fit for me, and you may find they need tweaking for you and your style as well. I do find that people who try to really change everything when they start using workboxes tend to burn out on them, whereas people who take it more slowly and make gradual changes as you are, tend to find more long-term success with them. Good luck & let me know how it goes! Merry :-)

  3. Merry, may I ask if you use a type of 'planner'? I use SL with a 3rd grade Only, so what I need is something for daily planning, menus, errands, etc. - perhaps more of a personal planner? The printable ones are nice but wow! the cost in ink adds up fast! Any suggestions from a HS'g Pro (that you!;) to a 'still working at getting there' mom? (Thanks to SL I don't need to come up with an IG. My degree is in Bus. Mgt., not education!)

    1. Hi Anon,

      For school, I make my own:

      For home/menus/errands, I don't, and this is certainly not my strong suit! I've tried things like Managers of Their Chores, Sidetracked Home Executives, Fly help me become more organized, but all of the "systems" out there just seem to overwhelm and suck the energy out of me. And I've never seen a planner that I thought I'd really use unfortunately, though they intrigue me. The thing that works best for me is just a notepad and paper. I keep it by the computer where I work, and any time one of those thoughts pops into my head, I jot it down, whether it's something I need to buy, someone to call, something to do, something to have the kids do, etc...

      My kids each have daily jobs to do each week as well.

      A list on the fridge that everyone adds to for shopping items (grocery or supplies needed for home or school) has worked well. If the kids start to say, "we need..." we say "go write it on the list." (Sometimes we parents cross off items kids write, LOL! But overall, a good tool here.)

      I keep a pretty simple calendar in my purse for those times I make appointments when out, and I go home and write them on the wall calendar.

      I don't really have a menu-planning system. I try to pull 2-3 meats out of the freezer & into the fridge at the beginning of the week so they can thaw, with some general ideas in mind (let's make pork chops & baked potatoes one night, pull out some ground beef for spaghetti or tacos or meatloaf, and maybe a chicken & rice night...)

      I also try to get the kids to cook since they are older, and I pay $5 anytime they make a meal. My son likes to do nachos a couple of times a month, and has a great spice mix that he and my husband tweaked from a recipe online.

      Most things I make use basic staples, and we just restock when that staple is getting low. Occasionally my lax system does mean I can't make what I thought I might & I have to come up with plan b for that night.

      Told you this wasn't my forte!

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