Thursday, July 9, 2009

Doing a Good Job: No One Asked Me

I read "A Little Word of Encouragement" in the latest issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine that, rather than encouraging me, really disturbed me. There are six or so half-page "letters" written by popular homeschooling authors in this article, and this particular blurb is by Todd Wilson of Familyman Ministries. Here's how it starts out:
"For the last several years, I've conducted an informal poll asking homeschooling moms a single question: Do you feel as though you're doing a good job homeschooling your children? Would you care to wager a guess as to what percentage of moms feel as though they are succeeding? Let me just tell you—0%. So far, not a single homeschooling mom has told me that she thinks she's doing a great job."

I don't find that at all encouraging; in fact, I find that downright discouraging. And sad. But he didn't ask me, and he didn't ask a bunch of people I know.

Because, actually, I do think I'm doing a good job of homeschooling, and I do think we're succeeding. We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we could do it successfully. I say "we" because homeschooling is a family endeavor. It's not just me doing it all. The kids are partners in this, and of course Dr. H. is too. And God blessed me with gifts and abilities perfectly suited for being a mom and a teacher. I know that many women have reluctant kids and husbands who don't support homeschooling wholeheartedly, but please tell me I'm not the only mom who thinks I'm doing a good job homeschooling.

I understand the motivation of the article; it's supposed to convey a "you're not alone" message as well as to encourage husbands to encourage their wives who are heavily burdened with the task of homeschooling and who feel like failures. I do know a lot of moms who feel inadequate. I know a lot of moms who question their decision on a daily basis.

But I also know moms who approach this journey with determination and confidence and who are homeschooling because they believe they can do a better job than the school system. One of the primary reasons we chose to homeschool was because we refused to settle for the mediocrity that was evident in our state's public education system. I'm certainly not going to settle for mediocrity in my home education.

Why are people even homeschooling if they don't have a modicum of confidence in their capabilities? Please don't get me wrong. I know we all have our ups and downs; we have days when we wonder why we're doing this. But at the end of 12 years, is it really acceptable to say, "Well, we made it but I don't think I did a good job!"?

Of course not.

I think the "I suck at homeschooling" mentality needs to be tossed into the trashcan. God gave us big brains and a desire for learning. Teaching one's children should be a time of continual learning and growth for the parent. However our yardsticks measure success—academic, character, spiritual, athletic, or some combination—we need to have the confidence that we are doing a good job.

Anyone else?


  1. I second that. I think our family is doing well. The kids read a lot and enjoy learning. That to me is a good measure of success. I don't feel everday goes well but, yes we are successfully homeschooling. I would hope most hs moms feel that way. :)

  2. Well, if I step back and look at the big picture, if I look at the school system they could be in, if I look at where we have been and our goals for the future, I can feel pretty good about our homeschooling. When the kids are excited about astronomy and history and Larkin's working on second grade math, I feel like I'm a good non-boring teacher. But if I dwell on things like Miah's reading level, my impatience, the whining and complaining, a certain sweet little child's inability to stop talking at the top of her lungs so the rest of us can think, I get discouraged and wonder if we really will ever reach our goals. So overall, yes, we are successfully homeschooling - just don't ask me on a bad day.

  3. False humility? Wonder how many people feel they have to say they're not doing so well to avoid sounding arrogant. Some women are like that.

    But then again I have known too many homeschooling moms with no confidence in their abilities to guide their children's education. They don't feel they are doing a good job and don't know what to do about it.

    As for me, I think we're doing pretty well. We have our ups and downs, and certainly areas in which we struggle, but overall I think my family is doing fine.

  4. Many moms, including myself take their eye off of the big picture at times and can feel like failures. Sometimes the academics are slow and the attitudes are horrible, but what I am striving for is so much more than academics. Through homeschooling our children are able to become the people that God created them to be and not be molded to look and act like everyone else. I love that my 10 year old son likes to get in Spiderman cars designed for 5 year olds because he is still a kid and still having fun. My daughter knows the scientific name for every tree in our backyard and has given them each a person's name because they are her friends. One in particular is where she does most of her school work. These are results of homeschooling that can't be measured in tests, but add to the whole person a depth and enjoyment of life. Are we successful? Yes!

  5. I second the big picture comment. I think we are doing a better job with our kids than public school would do, but sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees. I look at everything I'm not doing that I think I should be doing. The list is so huge 20 years wouldn't be able to accomplish it. I get discouraged not because I think I'm failing but because my perfectionism doesn't allow me to accept that I'm doing well. I know this is rambling but it's early. I appreciate your article, it reminds me to not be so hard on myself and remember that we are doing well raising our kids. They are awesome. My goal overall is to raise lifelong learners and that is what we are doing. Thanks Sarah!

  6. hey you ... great post! but I don't think I have done a great job at homeschooling. not sure the boys really enjoyed it much. guess that is another reason oldest is going off to high school. oh well ... *I* liked it!

  7. I'm doing a good job; thanks for asking!

  8. Sarah,
    You couldn't be more right? My first question, why does the guy spend all that time on an "informal" poll. Why not do a decent survey? What useful information comes about via an informal poll. Answer, just like the answer he got 0%.

    Second question, why print this guru's 0% poll at all since it is done in such a poor manner?

    I find zillions of these types of identity reports out there amongst Christendom. Why? I remember looking for Sunday School material and virtually all the materials from practically any denomination stresses problems in the culture around us, all the bad things and scenarios that the kids will do, how to avoid negative behaviors, etc.

    Sunday school materials need to major on the Bible and quit all the social/psychology crap! AND, we shouldn't allow it to creep into homeschooling.

    You are correct Sarah, we are supposed to use all of our minds for God's glory. I found in my years that most homeschool moms were doing great jobs. ALL of them in my informal poll 100% did a better job than the state, (sarah in the woods mentions this) gubmint, skrools ever dreamed of doing.

    And any homeschool parent must ask the question doing great in comparison to what?????

    If we compare our schooling to the state-controlled monopoly just keeping them home and doing NOTHING is better!!!!!

    And on humility. True humility IMHO simply is not thinking more highly or lowly of ourselves than we OUGHT. It is a matter of honest assessment and then proper application thereof.


  9. I realize where he was coming from & why but I agree - it can be counterproductive. As some have sad, ask me on a bad day, & I will SO agree with that stat! However, overall, I do believe I am doing a good job - for my family & for my kids.

  10. Even before we started homeschooling, we never put our children in preschool because we felt they could learn and grow and enjoy just being children best at home. People would often comment that they just couldn't do that because they wanted their children to be ready for school. Parents should not feel like they have to have a teaching certificate in early childhood education to teach, share, enjoy and explore the world with their children. Somehow parents today have come away with the idea that they are incapable of guiding their children - even preschool children. Our homeschool days are far from perfect but I believe my children are receiving an excellent education tailored for them.

  11. I do feel like I'm doing a good job. Especially when I hear stories from my friends who have kids in public schools, and the problems and struggles their kids have there. My daughter's first grade teacher (I brought her home after first grade) spelled poorly, and had trouble writing a grammatically correct sentence. I can certainly do better than that!

    I read that magazine too, but really, I think a lot of their articles are rather nutty, as well as poorly written. I probably won't be renewing my subscription. I wish their were more and better homeschool magazines to pick from.

  12. R.e. us starting a magazine ... that's so funny, because as I was writing my comment I was thinking the same thing!

  13. Amen! I think I'm doing a good job. I think people are afraid to say that because (1) It sounds proud. (2) They are not clear about their reason and purpose for homeschooling. No focus= no confidence.
    Just my opinions. :-) But, I'm with you, that's a discouraging thought. :(

  14. Marbel touched on my reaction to the statement but I don't think it was necessarily a false humility.

    Pro 27:2 NIV Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    someone else, and not your own lips.

    I think the other part of the answer is that the job is "never done". It's pretty easy to feel like there's room for improvement, no matter what your accomplishments in homeschooling.

    My $.02 worth.

  15. To my great fortune, my husband has always told me that I am doing a wonderful job with our daughter. That means a lot. And deep down, I think we all know we are doing well -- otherwise, we wouldn't have those dark nights of the soul worrying about NOT doing well. We just wouldn't care. But we do care.

    I guess that's why supportive family and friends are so important -- to keep us on the positive path when it comes to self-evaluation.

  16. Count me in; we're doing just fine. If you ask 1000 women if they think they're good moms, most of them are going to say "I hope so." Most of us are truly humbled by the parenting experience, homeschooling or not. We always know there is room for improvement, so we're not going to go around saying how great we are. Perhaps homeschoolers just don't measure their success in the same terms as everyone else. While his intent may have been to help, I think the author of that quote was a little off. I LOVED what you said about homeschooling being a family affair. It's not entirely about how good a job mom is doing.


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