Dare to NOT compare

I think one of the challenges of homeschooling is the pressure to compare your kids with those in public or private schools in their age range or even other homeschool kids their age. I think this is common of parenting in general, but I think the reason it’s so prevalent when you’re homeschooling is because you feel like others are comparing your children to others. They might be. They might not be. The truth is, IT DOESN’T MATTER. When I’m talking about comparing, I’m not referring to things like placement tests that gauge where your child is academically in specific subjects. Placement tests help you to make sure you are teaching your children at the correct level. The joy of homeschooling is you can tailor their education to their needs. Some children struggle with certain subjects and may academically be at a different level than in other subjects. For example, a child may be at a 1st grade level for math but a 2nd grade level for other subjects. Does that mean the child should be in 1st grade? Well, with homeschooling you can actually teach them at the needed level for EACH subject, which means you’re not pushing them too hard in in certain areas but not holding them back in others!

So if I’m not talking about academics in regards to grade/learning placement – what do I mean by comparing? Well even 2 children who are learning at appropriate grade levels in all subjects can still be completely different when it comes to learning styles. One child may find reading really easy and read a simple sentence smoothly after just learning the words. Another child may learn the same words and read the same sentence, but they read it a little more slowly and may have to sound out each word. Each child completed the task of reading the sentence, but they did so in different ways. Neither way is right or wrong – it is just unique to their learning style.

I think this holds especially true for homeschooling special needs children. I will never forget my initial fear of homeschooling our oldest. I remember telling everybody I always wanted to homeschool but knowing he was on the Autism spectrum I knew “I couldn’t do it.” At least not with him. I still planned on homeschooling our other children (little did I know they would have special needs, too!) I also will never forget my friends who went out of their way to talk to me and encourage me because they felt called to reach out to me. I remember telling them that I understand people homeschool their special needs children, but I just can’t. Of course, now I look back and laugh remembering how God woke me up. It wasn’t one of those slow nudges into it to show me it was His Will, it was a straight forward PUSH. Something had to make me SO uncomfortable I couldn’t imagine NOT homeschooling my children, and that is exactly what He did! I do still feel pressure, though. I feel like people are always “watching.” What is important for me to remember, though, is He is watching, and when I’m following His calling He won’t let me down!

It doesn’t mean I don’t have those moments, though! I’m definitely human! Recently, a well-meaning loved one expressed concern that our 5 and 6 year old aren’t reading yet. By reading I mean picking up a simple book and just reading it – no stumbling over words, no sounding words out, etc. Part of me found humor in it because well, Aurora JUST turned 5, and yes, she’s in 1st grade, but she’s 5! What about Brayden, though? He’s 6 1/2 – SHOULD he be reading? The question nagged me again when I signed up for our local homeschooling Co-Op, and there was one class I wanted him to take, but I had to opt out because he was required to be able to read and write fully on his own. Of course, I didn’t think twice about the fact that the age group is 6-8 year olds, which means there is a big learning curve in regards to reading and writing within those years! So then I turned to comparing him to myself. Wasn’t I reading at his age? I thought about it long enough to realize I WASN’T. In fact, I vaguely remember struggling A LOT with reading when I was in the 1st Grade, and I was 7 when I was in the 1st Grade. Now, comparing your children to where your learning level was might not be completely unrealistic because they are, after all, YOUR children. Perhaps they do have a similar learning style to you. You could be setting yourself up for more worry in the future, though, because although I struggled with reading in the 1st grade, by the time I was in the 3rd grade I wrote long stories! Our kids may not do that, and that’s OK!

What ultimately matters is – are they progressing? If not, perhaps we do need to turn to our Student Education Plan (this is the special needs homeschooling plan I mentioned in my SchoolhouseTeachers.com review) and re-evaluate. By turning to our SEP we’re not comparing them to OTHERS – only to themselves and their progress. You can apply this to any child even if they don’t have special needs or an SEP. I think this is the key. It’s a lot like the growth charts. Our kids are all on the low end of their growth charts, and sometimes doctors got on our cases about our kids being small. Once they looked at the chart, though, one thing was certain – there was an upward curve. There is nothing wrong with their growth, and they’re growing – they’re just a different size than a lot of kids their age. Learning is a lot like that. They may be at a different place than others their age, but they’re progressing steadily. THAT is what we need to focus on – the progression. Comparing will only cause you to worry about unnecessary things! So, dare to NOT compare!

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  1. stephanie hastie says

    It sounds like you are doing this right, keep it up …. your kids will benefit from the time you spend with them,

  2. I understand what you mean. I chose to put my son in Catholic school after much deliberation, I wanted to homeschool but was not confident enough to really give my son a great experience.

  3. I have read that alot of parents are choosing homeschool because of all of the violence in the schools today and I dont blame them one bit. My granddaughter is 2 so I still have some time to think about it.

  4. It’s so important to remember that kids each have different learning styles: visual, physical, etc. Progress on an individual level is indeed the key.

  5. Sarah Hayes says

    This brings up several good points. . Id love to be able to homeschool because of, like you said, you can tailor the learner experience to the needs of the child. Each child is so different and learns in different ways. Tht makes comparison unfair.

  6. I love our home schooling experiences—it is so tailored to there learning, and mine too– there is no comparing anything– somethings we are 2-3 yrs above the age/grade level others we are at the same age/grade level–it is so much better– what we don’t get today we have tomorrow–or later till it is clear

  7. home schooling would be a wild experience one that im not sure i would be up for good luck to anyone who is patient and good enough to tackle this

  8. janie vezina says

    we have an autistic son and although i would love to homeschool him, him being in a school with other special needs kids allows him access to special services that i couldnt provide for him. so for us thats the best choice, i am glad you could homeschool your oldest with special needs

  9. Thanks for the reminder! I’m so excited to be following you!

  10. My personal struggle with comparing is NOT to other schooled children but when my girls were very small I struggled with comparing my girls to each other. One of the things I love about homeschooling is being able to customize and tailor the education for each individual student. This helps to cut down on the temptation to compare! So excited to be following you now through Netblog Blogs!

    • Oh, I definitely do that, too – particularly since our 5 and 6 year old are learning at the same grade level. I have to remind myself not to do that, either, because they both have different learning styles!

  11. I’ve faced this with my youngest especially. She’s been a late reader, and I’ve heard those questions about why she isn’t reading yet when her older siblings learned so quickly.

  12. Thank you for the reminder. It’s so true that I need to look at my own child’s progress and not how he/she measures up to some other arbitrary standard (that honestly may only exist in my imagination).

    I’m so excited to be following you!

  13. Father_And_Best_Friend says

    I’m sure it’s a struggle homeschooling, but I’m betting it’s a great alternative than traditional schools. Considering the obstacles that students have these days not only with teachers that are uncaring but students that cause problems with other students.

  14. This has been one of my biggest joys, and a daily challenge– Jesse the youngest– is so very bright in many things, but its a daily fight with spelling– we didn’t start homeschooling him till he for 7 or 8 second grade–Bad move on my part–I should had started earlier–but I had to work, and there just wasn’t enough time–I first had to unschool him–and go back to phonics–I think he is at the end of the 4 th grade and the middle of the fifth.–We had to have him tested –not required in our state but wanted to see where he fell and what I needed to work on–So we went to the Scottish Rights –how perfect for him–And it seems we are just a little above the average, except for spelling– How a child can read 5-6th grade material and still be a fourth grade spell– oh well will just keep working on it

  15. I think you are completely right. As parents, we always compare and it begins right from the beginning. For instance, I had a friend who had a baby the same month as my son. Her daughter has been very quick to speak and learn words. My son, who still has a completely normal range of vocabulary, has not been so quick. This fills me with so much anxiety because I am afraid I am doing something wrong. Many times I think it is about our own insecurities as parents. We are planning on homeschooling our kids and I hope that I will be able to get away from comparing. This was a great post! Thank you!

    • You are right! I know I definitely have insecurities as a parent and still have to remind myself, too! It doesn’t help that from the time a child is born we are given so many lists from milestones to growth charts. It can be hard to not to break the habit if comparing when that’s what we’re told to do from the beginning!

  16. I am so excited to hear it working. I thank you for the enlightenment.

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