Every homeschool parent wishes for self-confidence. There is always the time when someone challenges you or your child in public: “How are you learning math?” Or there is the time your child is unhappy and you worry it’s because of your choices. And there are those times when you realize your child hasn’t learned something that you always expected they would know by now. (Confession: Just yesterday I discovered that my ten-year-old son can’t spell his last name.)

For a long time I’ve been wondering where the confidence will come from. How long will it take me to feel confident with my homeschooling choices? What will it be like to stop feeling defensive?

The path to homeschooling with self-confidence is nothing like the path I was expecting to find, because Self-confidence isn’t based in reality but in how we think about ourselves. And we can train ourselves to think that way.

1. Self-confidence comes from taking risks.
According to Alex Malley, author of The Naked CEO, “The only way to build self-confidence is to take a risk and take action despite your fear of failure, messing up, or embarrassment. If things work out, then you now know you can do more than you think. If things don’t work out, you now know that you can handle more than you think. Either way, you’re better off.”

What’s most interesting here is that the best way to feel self-confident about homeschooling is to actually start doing it. The act of starting is taking the type of risk that naturally boosts self-confidence.

2. Have self-compassion instead of self-confidence.
Be careful because self-compassion is not about letting yourself off the hook. You can be self-compassionate while still accepting responsibility for your performance.  And you can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals. The difference lies not in where you want your children’s learning to end up, but in how you think about the ups and downs of the homeschooling process.

3. Do something shallow.
Buy something expensive. When women have a luxury item they feel like their marriage is more secure. The science behind why this is true is a little disturbing. So you don’t want to read that link, try reading The Primates of Park Avenue—there’s a whole chapter on why having a large, high-end purse changes how you think about yourself. So I always use my wallet from Maxwell Scott Bags. It’s gorgeous and I feel good every time I touch it.

Also I get an expensive haircut. My friend actually cuts it for free, but it’s expensive because I have to fly to LA to see her. Hair is important. If hair looks good we feel in control, and our sense of control is linked to self-esteem. The best research about hair comes from Yale: if you have a bad hair day you feel that you are less capable in life.

4. It’s not about curriculum.
You are never going to know what’s right or wrong for homeschooling. There is no right answer. There is only you and your relationship with your child. There is simply all of you being the best family you can be. And everyone in the household is learning, the best way they can figure out to learn.

Self-confidence is not about being sure you are right. Or even guessing right. Or gathering the most data. Homeschooling with self-confidence comes from the reserves you build inside yourself. It’s self-confidence about life.