“I am so proud of my little Johnny – he finished his Latin program today.”
“Oh, we finished Latin years ago. Our Susie spent the last two years learning to speak Chinese and Swahili.”
“Since he has some free time now, I am thinking about enrolling him in an art class.”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you that Susie sold her first painting!”
“Maybe a sport. Do you know of a tennis program for kids?”
“Not locally, but I drive 4 hours to get Susie to private lessons. Her coach says she’ll go all the way to the top – you know she earned three trophies already, right?”
“I also need to look at a new science curriculum for next year. Are you going to the convention?”
“Oh no, I don’t need a convention. Susie already won the science fair four years in a row and got the highest score on the district’s standardized test.”
“I just want to be sure I am doing everything right.”
“I am sure you are. As for me, if I keep going at this pace, Susie will graduate by the time she is 16 and become a doctor before her 21st birthday.”
Homeschooling moms and dads love to talk shop with other homeschooling parents. It can be very helpful to share product and curriculum information and generally hear how other families do things.
There is a problem, though, when one parent always seems to try to top the other. This may be inadvertent, or could be intentional. Either way, it doesn’t do much in the way of supporting the other parent.
Support is supposed to be a two-way exchange. One parent may need more support than the other at times. Over time, however, the tables are usually turned, giving the first parent the opportunity to offer something in return. In homeschooling, or anywhere else, support is traditionally a system of give-and-take.
At least that is how it is supposed to work.
To the givers of advice, that is those who tend to be very enthusiastic about sharing everything they do, I offer this suggestion. When offering homeschooling advice, particularly to new families who are just getting their feet wet, start out slowly. Offer tidbits of information and little snapshots of what you do at home, rather than divulging everything all at once. Going over-board with too much information or continually talking about ones own children can make others feel inadequate. Worse, it can sometimes backfire by intimidating the other parent into feeling that they are unable to homeschool at all – the opposite effect of what real support ought to do.
And to the receivers of this advice, I want you to know that this is not a particularly widespread problem. Actually, most homeschooling parents go very much out of their way to make new families feel welcome and exceedingly comfortable. However, you’ll sometimes meet a very competitive parent or group of families that make you uncomfortable in the ways I have described.
If this happens, I suggest finding a better friend, another group, and an overall better support system. Because there are so many kinds of support (physical, telephone, online), this shouldn’t be very hard to do.
Do not allow others to make you feel as though you aren’t doing enough, or aren’t doing things correctly in your homeschool. Every family is different and everything won’t work for everybody anyway. Trying to be something you’re not will not work and can result in completely the wrong fit for your family.