Peer Pressure in Home Schooling – I Mean…Really?

I was very happy to connect with Beth and more than pleased to have her cover this topic here. I know I have participated in more than a few “what are you doing” conversations in my parenting time. For a homeschool mom I sure haven’t been writing much on the subject lately. I have, however, been noodling some posts I want to write soon on all the different ideologies and philosophies that have phased in and out of my kids education. But until the noodles cook into a good post, read what Beth has to say on the pressure us moms (and dads) can go through.

Beth, a home school mom and teacher, lives with her adorable son and yummy chef husband on Johns Island, SC. She loves her life and sharing her time and energy with parents and kids as they home school. She currently has two blogs, www.classesbybeth.blogspot.com (home school) and Every Spiritual Blessing at www.bethhempton.blogspot.com where she currently features excerpts from her upcoming book.

Peer Pressure in Home Schooling – I Mean…Really?

How many homeschool moms does it take to choose curriculum for one child?

One, but only after she has surveyed at least a dozen other moms for their opinions!

Peer pressure runs rampant in home school circles even though it is only discussed in hushed tones and whispers because we really don’t want to admit it exists. However, we have a responsibility to expose it for what it is! :) I’m not referring to peer pressure among our teens and students. I’m concerned about the peer pressure among our moms!

All joking aside, I first began to realize that that peer pressure existed when I started attending home school support group meetings over a decade ago. Having previously taught in a private school, it took me by surprise to discover that home school moms aren’t overly confident. They are bold in standing up to the government and school boards, unsupportive family members and friends, but struggle with making serious decisions for their home schools and their children without seeking out their peers. In some situations, it seemed that even spouses were considered less influential than other home school moms!  Consider the following:

  • Reasons for home schooling – A few years ago, one of our local private schools lost a significant number of families to home schooling. When I spoke with some of the moms, I discovered that at least a portion of them had decided to home school because other families were taking that route in response to a disagreement with the school headmaster. At that time, I wondered how many would home school for more than a year. By the next year, several of thsoe families returned to the school because they didn’t realize what they were getting into with home schooling. They didn’t really comprehend the absolute commitment required! Reasons for home schooling need to be personally grounded within your family. It is definitely not the time to try to keep up with the Jones’!
  • Number of children – As a mother of two, I found myself explaining to other moms that I had tried for more children, but God chose to give me two. With so many friends having four or more children, I often felt like that girl who just couldn’t afford the latest fashions. I wanted to be belong, but I really couldn’t make myself like the other moms. I have spoken to other moms with one or two children, and while there are more smaller home school families today, sometimes you feel pressured into a having a larger family or feel less than perfect if you don’t.
  • Curriculum – I have many home school friends with shelves and shelves of curriculum. Every year, they seem to second guess what they previously used. As well, if one mom mentions that she has experienced success with a particular curriculum, ten other moms run out to purchase it. I remember my first curriculum convention in Dallas, Texas. I had taught school for over eight years and I felt extraordinarily overwhelmed by all of the options. I couldn’t imagine how moms without any education experience waded through all of the choices!  I solved this issue for my family by writing my own curriculum. For some families, it may not be a particular curriculum, but rather a teaching philosophy such as unschooling or the Charlotte Mason method. I belong to several small groups online designed for those who follow CM methods. Early on, I noticed that many of the moms really didn’t understand CM or what she espoused, but like the “idea” of CM because they had friends in the small group. For some, it could lead to a better understanding, but for others, the time might be better spent.
  • Scheduling – As a mom who is considered experienced, I often get asked about how we schedule our day. This question comes up every year in our support group and I am always surprised that families struggle with how to schedule their school day. I wonder how they scheduled their lives before home schooling. Did they ask their neighbors or family members when they ate meals, bathed, did yard work etc? I doubt it! My advice when moms ask is to design a schedule that fits your family’s values and lifestyle. Many home school families have unique situations like a parent that works at night or a parent with a chronic illness. No single schedule works for everyone and trying to adapt your family to the majority may only cause frustration.
  • Outside activities – You have probably laughed when people ask about your children being socialized. If anything, it seems like homeschoolers socialize in relevant ways more than most kids. Our kids don’t just go to outside classes together, they do service projects, athletics, holiday parties, field trips and more! Since they don’t spend all day with their friends, this time together is even more valued. However, the peer pressure issue bubbles up when moms start talking about what their children do outside of home schooling. So many moms feel pressured to not allow their children to miss out on any experience. I often hear moms complain about schooling in the car because they have so many activities and classes for their children. I teach classes in literature, history and writing. While I encourage parents who need my expertise to put their children in my classes, I don’t think that my classes are for every child. I have noted that in the past, I have greater enrollment among moms who know one another and discuss my courses. On the surface, that sounds wonderful, but the key to all of it is the motivation behind attending my courses. I’ve had parents want to enroll students when they’ve already had the subject matter in another way simply because other friends have enrolled their children. Over-scheduling our children because other families do so ultimately results in frustration and fatigue for both you and your children.

Please don’t get me wrong…I believe that supporting one another through home schooling makes so much sense. There’s a great deal of anxiety related to being solely responsible for our children, but faith in the fact that we were meant to teach our children and no one else could love them more should be our primary focus!

Have you had times when you felt pressured to do certain things or behave in a certain way as a home school parent? Or do you think I’m completely off base? I’d love to hear from you either way!

Comments

  1. Absolutely! We are unschoolers, very relaxed, and it seems that all of the other homeschooling moms I encounter have daily school schedules (with math from 9-9:30, science from 9:30-10, etc.), papers to grade, and lists to check off. Even though I'm doing what I know I've been called to do, there is peer pressure to be able to produce a pile of worksheets to show what you've accomplished at the end of the week. The same is true of activities. I homeschool in part because I want my children home, not so we can spend hours in the car.
    My recent post Friday April 9, 2010

  2. As a 1st year home school Mom of 1, I have a husband who works day and night as a chef so I had to learn very quickly, our schedule is different. This is one of the main reason we chose to home school. If we didn't my son and husband would never meet! It was critical for our relationship and theirs. We also live 45 minutes away from a semi decent school or opt for private school which was financially unaffordable.

    I looked through different curriculum, and found confidence in prayer one day. I said, "Lord I don't know if I can teach him (my son) everything." The Lord gently replied, "Really? Who helped teach him to walk, talk, be potty trained, behave, listen (still working on that one, it's a process), love, to love Me, care for others, respect? I replied," Well, okay…. me." "Then teach him the other things." He said.

    So I began to search for what I believed was the right program for my son. Kindergarten, I taught without a packed program but followed basic guidelines on what subjects and the general progress should be made in each. I did, however, have those self inflicted pressures of, "What if he isn't writing paragraphs by the end of the year?!" This is where I struggle. Then I breath deep and pray and realize, every child is different, and they are allowed to learn at their pace. Then I find my son absorbs much more when I don't feel as pressured.

    • Beth Hempton says:

      Lisa,
      I am impressed that you have such insight for a first year home school mom! It takes some of us many years to come to the truths that you've already discovered. Way to go! My husband is also a chef, so I completely understand the crazy scheduling. Thanks for sharing your comments!
      My recent post What Should My Child Be Writing and When?

  3. L. Campbell says:

    You are not off base. It reminds me of what women do when they tell a new mom to be about the delivery. I agree with you 100%. My schedule, the books that I choose and my style are all unique to my family and myself. While suggestions and support are great we need to remember to be individuals and support each other not try to be like or compete with each other.

    Thanks for writing the article.

    L. Campbell

  4. KarlaMarie says:

    Thanks for sharing! I really do agree with what you've said. "Peer pressure" among the mom's is a scary issue to voice and face. There is a happy medium between seeking and finding HELP and like mindedness, and being scared to death you, as a HSing Mom will mess it "ALL" up. Specifically, your children.
    I faced many years of struggle and fear, and the desire to 'get it right', all while using a state based 'charter school'…and the PRESSURE THEY put on you, to have your child SUCCEED in EVERY SUBJECT is overwhelming as well. I mean, really? ;)
    Once I began learning about my 'RIGHTS' as a home educating parent, I began to understand my OPTIONS way better…and in coming to grips with THAT truth, I was able to confidently began MY selection for OUR home educating process. And I used a LOT of input from other great mom's, and really began to understand what I, as a parent/mother needed to be able to instill in our children the JOY OF LEARNING!
    Thanks for sharing!
    God bless,
    Karla Marie

  5. I am not part of a large homeschooling community. Where I live, it seems, the homeschoolers tend to be more private and only get together every now and then. So, I am sure my response is influenced by that. I have not experienced peer pressure from other homeschooling moms. I am sure it goes on though. People are people. Homeschooling moms, tend to want validation that they are doing the right thing or teaching enough, so they rely on how they perceive what other homeschooling moms are doing. Having the full weight of your child's education is a daunting task, but it should not cause you to compare your family to the family next door. Homeschooling is not a competitive sport. Again, I think it all comes down not wanting assurance and validation. Too often it is assumed that "going along with the masses" or your circle of friends in every decision is the assurance and validation you need. It's not.

    Very interesting post!

  6. Great article. I have chosen to use a public school at home option and there are times that I read things and think wow, that is not nice. I was very choosy when we decided to homeschool and I almost gave up on the idea until I found the cirriculum that we use now. I think in general women need to learn how to support and befriend one another. Women in general tend to be so mean spirited in larger groups, just my observations.

  7. Love your article. I have felt many of these pressures from other moms. The biggest has been the only home schooling Messianic Jews in Utah, who don't use TJ Ed and who have only two children. :o )
    I agree with Amber. After years of trying to fit in with home school groups, I have given up and pretty much stay to myself. Too bad there can't be more Titus 2 women who love and support one another.

  8. I LOVE YOUR ARTICLE!!!!! We have used many types of curriculum, because someone else’s child did well with it. Of course, the company guarantees that their curriculum is the only one that works. We are actually getting ready to switch to an all textbook curriculum. Primarily because they seem to retain more and enjoy it. They also investigate further something they read in the textbook. Because it seems everyone is anti-textbook, I don’t dare tell anyone this is what I am doing. I have found, sadly, that homeschoolers can be among the most critical. I, being one of them. We have homeschooled nine years and seem to finally have found what works. I would have found it sooner, had I did what worked instead of what is popular.