Let's take a peek inside the head of a homeschooler, shall we?
"Are they learning enough? Should we switch from Classical to Charlotte Mason? I'm not even sure what a Charlotte Mason is, I'm clearly not smart enough to educate my kids! My baby won't sleep through the night, I need 6 cups of a coffee and toothpicks to hold my eyes open while I drag myself through another Sit By Me book. I'm sure Hannah Homeschooler down the road NEVER has that trouble. Am I messing them up? Does homeschooling really make kids weird? I read 13 blogs last night written by moms with 8 kids who are doing amazing hands-on learning units and they have charts and their house looks clean and their 8 year old speaks fluent Latin...I can't even get my laundry folded and two worksheets done with my 5 year old in a morning. Something is definitely wrong with me. Am I messing them up? I. AM. SO. TIRED. but if I complain I just know, that my mother-in-law/neighbour/friend/husband will tell me I should never have pulled them from the classroom. Why does everyone else have it all together? I don't think I'm cut out for this but I really want to make it work. And one more thing...am I messing them up?"
Ever had any of these thoughts or ones like them? Sometimes, the battle for our hearts and minds comes from people and circumstances around us, but I have found that the critical voices that talk loudest & longest come from within. Learning to silence the Inner Critic can be an ongoing struggle for many of us, and homeschooling Moms are no different. We spend a lot of time trying to make our system, our lives and our curriculum perfect, hoping we can silence those nagging thoughts that keep us from enjoying the beauty and joy of the educational choice we've made.
I haven't mastered my Inner Critic, but it is a lot quieter than when I started this journey of homeschooling 7 years ago. Here are some truths I've learned along the way - maybe one or two will ring true and help you realize that you are indeed, a wonderful Mom, who is capable of educating her children and finding joy in the journey along the way.
1) People don't think about you nearly as much as you think they do.
When I started homeschooling I was fairly convinced that people spent all their free time talking to everyone around them about what a mistake I was making by choosing to educate our kids at home. I have discovered that this is not true. The truth is some people won't agree with your decisions, but they are far too concerned with their own lives to obsess greatly over yours.
2) When people do criticize it's usually because of a lack of confidence in their decision that is different from yours.
People that are confident in their choices don't spend a lot of time tearing down others over choices they make. They recognize the abundance and freedom that life offers and find ways to support and encourage people. As I have silenced my Inner Critic, I've found other negative external opinions don't carry the same weight they used to.
3)Even if you do find the perfect system, teach it perfectly, and your children respond perfectly to your perfect teaching, you will not be guaranteed to raise perfect children who will always make perfect choices that you perfectly agree with.
We need to understand that our influence only goes so far. Our kids were created with the same free will that we are. We can do everything right and our kids can still make wrong choices -the way you educate them isn't going to change that. Once I came to terms with this it actually freed me from the shackles of perfectionism and control and helped me relax and enjoy teaching my kids and their unique personalities a lot more. It also has helped build much needed humility in regards to others - we're all doing the best we can- let's cut each other some slack, and just be encouragers whenever possible. It's a lot easier to extend grace if we loosen the chains of perfectionism on ourselves first.
4) It's important to find a group of people, or a person who you can be totally real with.
It might not be "safe" to vent every frustration that comes with homeschooling (because they DO exist!) to every person you meet, but it is important to find a place where you can be open and honest. Being understood by someone else and knowing you are not alone in your struggles goes a long way to keeping that Inner Critic quiet.
5) Social Media in all forms are poor yardsticks for comparing your life vs. others
Author Jon Acuff said "Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes footage to someone else's highlight reel." Social media can be a lot of fun, just remember that things aren't always as good or as bad as people make them out to be online. That is the truth. Don't let yourself believe anything different!
Secondary to that would be realizing that while there might be some amazing "do it all" homeschooling moms out there, they are an exception and not the rule. I like to think of them like I do Supermodels - they represent about 2% of the population - it doesn't mean they aren't real, or should be shamed for being exceptional at something, but they aren't typical and no matter how I try, I can't be 6 feet tall and a size 4. However, there might be some good ideas that I can modify and use for myself in my very real almost-5'6"-and-not-quite-the-size-I'd-like-to-be life.
6) Sometimes you need to let something go
Can we just admit that life doesn't always cooperate? Sometimes you start a fantastic unit on Dinosaurs and the flu visits your house and it's two weeks before the barf buckets and tylenol can be put away and now your perfect schedule is "behind"- right? A wise person once said "When things aren't adding up in your life, start subtracting." There's wisdom there. I found when I held all my plans for schooling a little more loosely and said yes to things because they actually worked best for our family, not because I was trying to prove I could do it all, or that homeschooling was "better" I wasn't nearly as frustrated with myself when I had to adjust those plans along the way.
This list isn't nearly exhaustive, but maybe it's a good place to start. Moms of all walks of life love their kids so much and want what's best for them. Don't make your job harder by believing the lies you tell yourself. When it comes down to it, the only thing we have control over is ourselves and how we react and respond to life. Speak truth, embrace grace, and set yourself free. It changes everything.
What things have you done that have helped to silence your Inner Critic? Share your story in the comments below!