Friday, January 9, 2015

Normal, Average, Regular Homeschoolers?


A "normal" homeschooling morning
 Stories about homeschooled kids doing incredible things bother me. I couldn't figure out why, or rather didn't put any mental effort into figuring out why, until Monday when a mama I admire and respect, Mrs. Elizabeth Foss, shared that her son made Forbes' 30 Under 30 In Media list. Just like many of her other FB followers, I am so happy for her and her family, but (apparently just like her) I was bothered by some of the comments about how homeschooling was a big reason he earned such an accomplishment.

First of all, I know that, yes, homeschooling was a big part of why he was named, because it is a big part of who he is. But, could he have won without homeschooling? Absolutely. There were 29 others on that list, and probability implies that they weren't all homeschooled. As Elizabeth says, "It's taking every opportunity, every learning experience, every chance and working his tail off to make something of it. That's Michael. That's quality." Her entire post notes that there is much more to such great accomplishments than simply being homeschooled or not.

Honestly, not being his mother, none of that is what bothered me. Here was my thought process this week, more or less:

As a homeschooling mom, there is more of a likelihood that my children will be capable of doing something extraordinary. That's what everyone says, right? Homeschooling gives kids more opportunities to follow their passions and develop their God-given talents. Is there a statistic somewhere about the higher percentage of homeschoolers than traditional schoolers that become Rhodes Scholars or win national or international awards? Probably.

An extraordinary homeschooling afternoon at Frontier Museum
We know that homeschoolers score 15-30% higher on standardized tests than public school students and show a higher college retention and graduation rate than the general public. Homeschoolers are known for starting charities and launching incredible service projects. They excel at national competitions such as the 2014 National Moot Court Competition where 11 of the top 16 competitors where homeschoolers. For years, homeschool students have been winning all sorts of awards, spelling bees, and contests.

But, if there is a greater probability for amazingness in homeschooled kids, if they don't end up impacting the world in some amazing (and public) way, did I do it wrong? Did I mess up? Am I providing them with enough opportunities to find their awesomeness? We hardly do any fine arts anymore. What if that's one of their things, and I miss it? How does one identify his/her future wonderful? And if they don't, and they turn out normal and average and regular, is that good enough?
Wow. This is where God stopped my mommy brain from imploding with worry. Clearly I was spiraling away from reality. And, this is how He stopped me.

I am normal and average and regular. But I'm not. In God's eyes, no one is average; we are all special. I have not (yet) done anything to attract national or international attention. But, of course, I wasn't homeschooled, and that's not a requirement anyway. Plenty of traditional schooled kids do amazing things, too. Do I want my kids to turn out like me (normal, average, regular)? Sort of, but better? Overall, though, with an amazing God, yes, I am good enough, and if they turn out at least as good as me, I'll be proud. Wait. If they turn out nothing like me, I'll probably be proud, too. As long as they don't make a total mess of their lives!

An average, extra-special homeschooling field trip to a farm
So, here is what I'm thinking on Friday: My children are who God made them to be. It is not entirely up to me (or homeschooling) to figure out what will make them live impressive lives. In fact, most saints were not well-known, so measuring success based on a huge, noteworthy accomplishment is pure rubbish. Recognizing such accomplishments is not rubbish, though, so congratulations Mike Foss! Nevertheless, I think it is beautiful when children excel, and I want to find more ways to help my children excel. That is going on my list for 2015!

Am I the only mom with these types of crazy-worry thoughts? Please tell me no! And, how have you led your children to find their passions and develop their talents?

P.S. Thank you to Elizabeth Foss for sharing her proud mama moment and inspiring me to think enough to let God remind me how awesome my children are and stop worrying about how awesome they could be!


Lillian said...

Thank you, Jenny! Beautifully said. I know when I read her news I was happy for him but also panicked. I've always admired how she can follow rabbit trails or her kids' passions and I started worrying my kids will never be on any lists since I'm so type A, exhausted and overwhelmed and just not able to follow my kids' interested/ whims. But your post gives me hope that my kids will do fine, even great despite me. because its not about me. As long as they know, love, and serve God, they will find their vocation and that is awesome enough.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog Jenny! I have enjoyed reading your posts, but I have to tell you that when I read this one, it reminded me so much of well, Me, 10 years ago. Now I can tell you that reading the part about our expectations for our kids and how we hope and pray they will be as good as or preferably better, much better, than us, pause and remember. We did not get to where we are overnight. Sometimes there are bumps in the road, like really big ones that pretty much knock the life out of you for awhile because your up until now amazing homeschooled graduate does something completely out of character. Why do I bring this up? Because it was a big dose of reality for me. Intuitively, I know, that I cannot control, force, or assume that our kids will not make some big mistakes just because they have been homeschooled. It has reminded me that I can only do my very best, but nothing is guaranteed. I was a little naive thinking we would avoid such things of the world, because we had done things so differently from the world. Living counter culturally solely for our Catholic faith. If you are still with me, forgive the lengthiness, but I find there are very few blogs that address this. It has taught me to place so much more faith in God and not my own abilities. Homeschooling is messy business with highs and lows coming at you faster than an Olympic mogul run, but we keep on because we truly believe that what we are doing is best and pleasing to God.