There’s a difference between good worries and bad worries. Psychology Today points out that the cave men who didn’t worry probably died quickly; some level of worry helps us overcome real problems. When we worry about crazy stuff, then worry shifts into the OCD realm. It’s not surprising that the worries of homeschooling parents are different than those of parents who send their kids to school.
Parents who are wise enough to know that obsessing over test scores is outdated are also smart enough to know that it’s the hard-t0-test-for stuff that’s really important. The favorite hard-to-test-for thing to obsess about for parents who send their kids to school is socialization.
What you shouldn’t worry about: Socialization
I’m convinced that no parent can define this term in an acceptable way. Does it mean fitting in with the sadistic peer pressure of high school? Sitting in chairs like girls even though you want to run around like a boy? Learning to not raise your hand in math class so that boys ask you to the dance?
To be honest, I have never heard a homeschooling parent worry about socialization besides me, during my first months of homeschooling. And each time I brought up my worries on this blog, parents in the comments section taught me how absurd it is to have a goal for your child to be socialized.
What should we worry about?
I could worry about chores. There’s research that says I should. A long-term study from Harvard shows that the only correlation they can find between people who go to Harvard and people who are happy later in life is that if you do chores as a kid, you will be happier as an adult. This study had a lot of impact on me. After all, I came from a family where we had household help everywhere including a laundress whose mother had been a slave and she refused to use the front door of my house, let alone ask me to pick my clothes up off the floor.
So I could worry about chores. But it’s pretty easy to just give my son a set of chicks and say, “Water them or they’ll die.” He’s eight. He doesn’t let them die.
I could worry about teaching the value of hard work. Because I don’t make my kids learn things that don’t interest them. Research supports this strategy, but also, in my career coaching business, the people who have the most trouble as adults are the ones who are best at waiting to be told what to learn. They are incapacitated by the overwhelming choices of adult life. And they are unengaged because they don’t know how to learn without doing it to meet someone else’s standards.
But instead of worrying, I just make my kids practice their instruments twice a day. Practicing is difficult. Each day there is something new to learn and you get better and better but there is always more work to do, because the better you are the more you see how much there is left to learn.
I am using the music practice to teach them skills that I think are incredibly important: self-discipline, grit, determination, working a little bit every day, commitment to something large, working with others, and learning a second language.
What I really worry about is that I am wasting away.
I think this is a very common worry for homeschooling parents. If you have kids in school you have eight hours a day to figure out who you are and what you want and to cater to yourself. If you choose to homeschool you are choosing to take care of kids to make family life meaningful and their childhood fulfilling and you are putting your own needs on a back burner.
It’s hard to know if that’s right. I look at people who don’t have kids and for the most part, I think their life is pretty self-involved, which feels boring to me. I did, actually, get bored by it in my early 30s. But I look at people who have time to think, time to pursue their own interests in a huge, unfettered way, and I worry that I am disappearing as a person as I spend more and more time with my kids.
The bottom line for homeschooling parents is that the biggest worries are about ourselves rather than our kids. It’s clear that homeschooling is best for the kids. It’s not clear how to spend the first decade of adult life catering to ourselves and then stop abruptly to take care of kids.