When I walk along in the parks waiting for my kids to finish cross country practice, I like to listen to some of the homeschool talks that I have collected over the years. I find them to be encouraging, inspiring and enjoyable. But sometimes, I can't seem to find one to "fit" into what I need to hear for that day.
For example, I have a number of talks about how homeschoolers are blowing the top out of the ACT and SAT. One mom even talked about how her kids start taking these tests in 8th grade just for fun , and then not being happy with a 27 or 28, keep taking it until they finally graduate from high school.
Another talked about homeschoolers going on to college and surpassing their college school mates in grades and achievements. Or how homeschoolers are winning geography bees, spelling bees or even just raising bees in their background while running a prosperous honey business.
I have heard speakers like this ever since I started homeschooling. Only then it was about kids being able to read the bible at 5, recognize all the capitals of the countries in Africa by 8 and finishing up Algebra 1 and 2 before age 11.
I found those talks to be remarkable and enticing - even a bit scary. But as it turned out, my real life homeschool never did seem to measure up to those results.
- My first kid couldn't learn to read until he was 12, a problem I ran into again later with his right brained sister.
- I poured hundreds into writing curriculum for my second child who just never seemed to master the knack of putting words on paper and never cracked the 20s on the ACT.
- And now I have a third child who just wants to get done with high school, and really would prefer to just test out with the GED.
I can remember cowering in the back of my homeschool support group meeting because the little first and second grade children of my friends were able to read petitions at our homeschool mass, while my kid was still struggling with the pre-primer books. And I remember the shame I felt at a astronomy field trip when all of the children were asking these impressive in-depth questions about the solar system and my student wanted to know which star was the "wishing star!" Oh I could kick myself for having those feelings now. Back then I felt as if I was somehow doing it wrong, or that there was something wrong with my kids!
If I had spoken out, I wonder if any other moms would have mentioned they had struggling readers too. And maybe, just maybe, there were other little kids at that program that wondered about the wishing star too!! Why was I so afraid that my kids wouldn't reach the homeschool community heights of being a super scholar!
But here's the thing... when I look at the other homeschooled kids I know in real life, I can only think of one that would be considered academically "exceptional." That kid is a Fulbright scholar. Most went to our local state college and some to community college. Some chose to go into the military, or trade tech school, or beauty college. One gal followed her passion of working with horses on a farm and a couple of others have opted for motherhood. All of the kids that went to school with my oldest children are now either working or in grad school, living wonderfully normal lives.
So now as I am about to start my 18th year of homeschooling, I would like to tell new homeschooling moms - it's okay to be average. It's okay if your kid struggles with math, or reading, or writing - you'll get it figured out eventually and he or she will be able to function in the world as regular adult. It's okay not to be in the 99th percentile of every standardized test. It's okay not to be able to produce a college level thesis in the 8th grade, and it's okay if your student can't read Moby Dick in the 5th grade! If you're diligent about teaching them, they'll learn. And you'll be diligent because you love them! and you'll love them even if they don't get full ride scholarships, or go into medicine or law. As long as whatever they choose to do with their lives glorifies God and is honest and edifying to family and community - it's all good!