One of the most common feelings expressed to me by other homeschooling moms is self-doubt. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right? Am I organized enough? Am I doing too much? Am I getting through to my kids? Am I measuring up to other moms?
Notice a trend? The relentless “am I” questions are sure to wear you down quickly and steer your focus in the wrong direction. Soon comparison joins in, feeding the self-doubt and robbing you of the joy homeschooling can bring.
This was me in our first homeschooling year. I am a homeschool graduate, the eldest of eight children who was in my last two years of high school when my mom began homeschooling in the late 80s. I thought I had it all figured out because of my background, and pridefully, I thought I could be a “better” homeschooler too. But in the real world of daily ups and downs, I quickly failed to measure up to my own lofty criteria.
Especially when I compared myself to other moms in my homeschool support group that appeared to have it all together. Instead of reaching out for mentorship and support, I put on a good face with my homeschooling friends. Not a wise move, it turns out!
Once I allowed self-doubt to settle in, I careened down a slippery slope that led to anxiety and fear. Halfway through year two of homeschooling, it turned into a daily struggle with physical symptoms of anxiety. Although I needed supportive friends more than ever, I isolated myself for fear of being “found out” as a complete failure.
Praise God that I did reach out to Him for help, and in time, I recovered from this very painful experience. I also realized that I should have never allowed myself to be alone. Not only because God was on my side, but because I had a supportive husband, homeschooling sisters and sisters-in-law, and even a budding network of homeschooling friends that I could have reached out to. God had placed these encouraging people in my life as a safety net, but I had waited too long to stop walking a tightrope of unrealistic expectations.
Defeating the self-doubt that attacks us as homeschooling moms starts with something simple: Get rid of the “I” in these questions! As soon as we realize that we are not in this alone, we can start finding guidance and support in the right places.
The Lord doesn’t want us to simply survive, He wants us to thrive! If God has led you to homeschooling, then He’s laid out a safety net for you, too.
When in doubt:
1) Start with God and His word. If your homeschooling “why” is driven by your faith in God and what you believe He calls you to do for your children, then His answers to your homeschooling questions are the most important. Prayer and bible study is critical for defeating self-doubt and turning the “I” over to God. Allow Him to direct your path, and don’t be surprised when He leads you in a different direction. (Prov. 3:5-6)
It takes real effort to put an end to the constant struggle between “ideal” expectations and God’s plans for you. You have to retrain your brain with the right thoughts about yourself, your identity in Christ, and God’s words of truth about motherhood. In my personal journey to conquer self-doubt, two books have really blessed me: “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer, and “Desperate” by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. If you’re battling self-doubt, comparison, and anxiety or depression, these are both must-reads!
2) Include your spouse. This should have been easy for me because my husband (who was also formerly homeschooled) has always been an advocate for our homeschooling. However, I let my pride convince me that if I wasn’t “working” all day like he was, I should manage my homeschooling problems on my own. To ask for help from him would mean admitting my weakness, and I wanted to be stronger than that.
However, God created the family dynamic for our benefit. Without going into the details of gender roles and family structure, I will say that I believe God designed women differently because of how He intended for us to function in our family — differently from our husbands. Parenting is a partnership, but father and mother have different roles and responsibilities. When we take on the “whole” responsibility (and burden) of homeschooling, we don’t take advantage of the gifts and support our husbands bring to the table.
I realize that not all homeschooling moms have a supportive husband or family member to share the responsibility of homeschooling with. If you are in this situation, I believe the Lord does have someone prepared to support you on your homeschooling journey that you can seek out through prayer — a mentor. Keep reading!
3) Seek out a mentor. You would think that because my husband and I were homeschooled, that I was “set” in the mentor department. Why not just ask my mom or my father-in-law (he did the homeschooling) for advice and guidance?
There are times when I do ask them for help. In fact, they have given me great advice over the years. But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like I could open up to them about my self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Once again, pride and the fact that they thought so highly of me kept me from being honest. Now I know how important it is to open yourself up to a mentor who can walk alongside you when times are tough.
When I think of the often-referenced “Titus 2” woman, what I am drawn to about her is her circle of support. Younger women — and new moms, and new homeschoolers — have a lot to gain from the wisdom of more experienced women who’ve walked in our shoes. Pray for the Lord to guide you to an ideal mentor, whether it’s a family member or friend, or someone new that He leads you to reach out to.
4) Engage in your homeschool community. Initially, I think we all seek out homeschool support groups because we want to belong to a like-minded community. Or maybe you’re looking for practical support: Organized co-ops, enrichment programs, social opportunities. Compared to the days when my mom homeschooled and we drove almost an hour to be part of the closest homeschool group, it’s never been easier to find a group to fit one or all of the support needs on your wish list.
Whatever the reason, I think homeschool support groups are important as long as you proceed with caution. What I mean by this is that once you open yourself up to group, the dynamic can be both positive and negative. Everyone won’t always agree, and you won’t always “click” with all the group members. You also don’t want to fall into the comparison trap with the other homeschooling moms.
For a separate discussion of the pros and cons of homeschool support groups, you can read this post on NextGen Homeschool . Here, I will say that plugging in to the local homeschool community is an important part of building your personal support network. Within the group, you may develop a few close friendships with women you can open up to in times of need, and vice versa.
The bottom line is this: God wants us to depend on Him and trust Him completely, but He doesn’t intend for us to journey alone. Reach out to those He has placed in your life to be your safety net. And if you need more “lines” of support, it’s time to step out in faith, get out of the house, and find them.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. A former journalist, she is currently the editor of NextGen Homeschool and blogs on personal topics at A New Chapter . Her family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.
NOTE: The photo at the top of this post is from www.freedigitalphotos.net.