Episode 307 | 101 Lies I Tell Myself About Homeschooling
Listen, laugh, and relate to this list of 101 homeschool lies. Lies we tell ourselves with the best intentions. Fibs and complete baloney caused by the pressure for perfection and desire for the outside world to pat us on the back. Dreams of educational success can lead to grand expectations and impossible goals we can’t begin to complete with when life gets in the way. Saying them out loud reveals the ridiculousness and frees your efforts to be awesome at this!
Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.
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Jennifer Cabrera [00:01:03] 101 Lies I Tell Myself About Homeschooling. That's today's episode. And really, homeschool lies are just good intentions covered in poppycock. 101 Homeschool Lies is really the short list, and I really did make an actual numbered list. I occasionally suffer from overachievement syndrome for the most useless of things. Now I'm going to share the list in a little bit. But wait, I'm not done making excuses for my sinful ways. However, it wasn't difficult to come up with 101 homeschool lies, especially not after 10 years of homeschooling and overthinking and worrying about everything. And while being a bit, well, hifalutin. And what the heck does hifalutin mean, anyway? Well, the truth is it means I'm full of bull, and most homeschoolers are, really. From the moment we choose to homeschool, we begin to lie to ourselves.
[00:01:51] The homeschool lies often start with fantastical daydreams of educational success and lead to grand expectations of academic achievement, followed by impossible goals we can't begin to complete when life gets in the way. And these grand ideas and plans are just homeschool lies in Sunday dress. But I'm going to share my innermost lies I've told myself and some I've collected from a few homeschool friends of mine because I thought in sharing these real thoughts it would help others to see that you are not a failure if you've thought, done, or said things like lie #78: if we don't read and enjoy all seven of The Chronicles of Narnia, we aren't real homeschoolers. You know, because all homeschoolers love these books, right? But y'all, The Horse and His Boy would never end. And so Prince Caspian never began at our house.
[00:02:41] And so when things like this ran through my head when we first started homeschooling, I felt that maybe we weren't homeschool material because we didn't even see all the movies. And as homeschoolers, and especially new homeschoolers, we're always subjected to other people's worries and they add onto our own, such as those of family, friends, nosy strangers and do-gooders with questions and unsolicited advice. Questions such as "What about socialization? Prom? Learning to deal with test anxiety like a real American student?" Oh wait, you're not even a real teacher. Gasp. So when you combine this late-night overthinking and worrying of our own with that of the homeschool skeptics in our lives? Well, let the lying to ourselves commence. It's a toxic situation.
[00:03:28] I've come up with 101 lies that some of us tell ourselves about homeschooling. Maybe you have a time or two. Something on the list is going to resonate with you. And lastly, I'll get to the four biggest home lies that really affect a lot of us. And I'll do that in order to equip you and inspire you because our little lies, half truths, impossible goals, fibs, negative thoughts, empty promises, silly excuses, well, they all wear down our confidence. And they build and build until we are basically sitting on a throne of homeschool lies that undermine our sanity and enjoyment of homeschooling.
[00:04:06] The minute we decide to homeschool, we lie to ourselves and we don't even know it. Especially if the decision was based on all those promises and statistics of successful homeschooling and flowery blog posts that we might have read. We set out with grand expectations. And so I'll start with lies of great expectations. Our earliest homeschool lies are the great things we believe will happen simply because we homeschool. Lies such as telling ourselves that our kids will be smarter and better behaved than most, that bullies will no longer be an issue, or we will start every day with picturesque family time. Of course, this is bullfiction, which is a word I made up and means "lies read in print or inferred from somewhere on a homeschool blog that year that we started homeschooling." Obviously, our kids don't magically become intelligent little ladies and gentlemen by slapping a homeschool label on them, and bullies can be found anywhere from team sports to Sunday school. But we can dream and hope and sadly be caught off guard when things don't measure up, and they won't always measure up. They may never.
[00:05:11] And then also because we homeschool, we tell ourselves other lies that we scare ourselves with because of rumors we heard. Because we homeschool, I must have it together all the time. Can't let my guard down. Or because we homeschool, people probably think we're weird, have no TV, and raise llamas. Or because we homeschool #5: we should join a co-op. It's what we're supposed to do. Or because we homeschool, the government is spying on us. Or because we homeschool, no one will believe my kid really earned an A because I'm his mom, and I'm making the report card, and I'm making the transcript, and no one's going to believe me anyway. Why are we doing this? I mean, because we homeschool, people expect us to be weirdly religious. Or #10: because we homeschool, my kids will have a harder time getting into college. I mean, that's what I've heard. And also #11: asking for outside help is seen as a weakness.
[00:06:13] So we totally psych ourselves out or build ourselves up with this "because we homeschool" rumor-filled jargon. It's like those rumors that you hear that make no sense, but you believe them anyway, because "what if!" My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with this girl who says homeschooling ruined her life. Well then it must be true because I read it on the internet. And that's it, I quit. This is where we lose a lot of new homeschoolers because the pressure for perfection and the outside world's expectation leads to homeschool dropouts. But for the more hard-headed sort like me, we will stick it out just to avoid the PTA, if possible. And then we move on to the next realm of homeschool life: perfection deception. Because when epic plans and expectations veer off course and goals aren't met, often new homeschoolers just give up, but not us that are homeschooling for spite. No, we are going to double down on those lies and aim for perfection, which is basically just packing the year with more outlandish goals in hopes of proving ourselves.
[00:07:20] The pressure for perfection and the desire for the outside world to pat us on the back leads us to silly excuses for our shortcomings, negative thoughts of perceived failures, and baseless worries such as lie #60: we must do all the written work suggested in each lesson to master a subject. No, it may take you years to figure this out, but a lot of that is just busywork. And yet, other lies we tell ourselves in our pursuit of perfection are things like #12-23: this year, we will stay on schedule, wake up early and start school by 8:30 a.m. daily, begin each day with morning group time, take more field trips and nature walks, make a chore chart and stick to it, take long breaks and epic vacations, finish all our curriculum early, do more art, eat more homemade dinners, join more social activities and make friends, join fewer social activities and actually spend time at home. Or now that it's the holiday season, spend December baking for the homeless, volunteering at toy drives, caroling at nursing homes, and learning holiday customs from around the world just to keep up with the rest of the perceived homeschool culture. Big, heavy sigh.
[00:08:36] Hearing what all other homeschoolers are doing, learning, achieving can leave us feeling inadequate because we don't see their piles of dirty laundry. And then we start to wonder "Who am I? What am I doing?" And we really need a reality check, right? We're doing stuff, maybe too much. Some of it's sticking. We're developing a family routine of organized chaos, and it's working, mostly. But homeschooling is hard. No, it's really hard. No, no, it's really hard, okay? I asked my husband once to help me think of something that seemed somewhat straightforward enough but was profoundly hard that I could compare to homeschooling. Still waiting on his response.
[00:09:17] There is no real magic formula for homeschool success. If there were, I'd have published it and made a lot of money on it already, and it would probably come with a free planner and a sample of essential oils. But since there's no perfect formula out there, we need to just find our balance, which often seems like a battle of laundry versus homeschooling and everything else. I mean, we can learn or we can wear clean clothes, right? The real balance is that our time and effort spent raising productive, morally sound adults should outweigh time spent watching Netflix and chilling out.
[00:09:48] So every new homeschool year, we tweak our curriculum, buy new planners, lie to ourselves about morning time, and with a renewed, calmer approach, our lives become less delusions of grandeur and more approachable goals mixed with half-truths and little white lies, such as #24-38: I will not buy $50 worth of school supplies that we won't use from the Target dollar bins. I will not buy curriculum just because it's on sale. I will not engage in homeschool debate with strangers in the checkout line. I will not make my kid cry over math today or fall asleep or zone out while my kid excitedly tells me what they have learned. I will not lock my kids outside for recess. I will not call my husband three times a day to tattle about the kids' behavior. I will not forget to check the length of my kids' hair and fingernails at least once a month. I will not threaten to send my kids to school more than once a month. I will not wear PJs, yoga pants, or worse outside of the house and try to pass them off as real workout clothes. I will not tell other people how to homeschool correctly. I will not roll my eyes under my breath when other moms brag about their kids and all their activities. I will not do my child's chores because it's just easier than arguing and making them do it. I will not yell at my kids, maybe. I will not covet my neighbor's free time.
[00:11:18] Oh, come on. Who are we kidding? These are the things that we're just going to have to do for survival's sake. Sometimes, we're just going to sleep in. And sometimes we're going to lose our cool and throw the dry erase markers across the room further than our child just did. And we're going to run into the pharmacy in our yoga pants or pajama pants. And it's really hard not to covet the neighbor's free time when she's running to the gym or to get her nails done again or a luncheon out while we're standing in our bathrobe arguing about how long all of this schoolwork is going to take today.
[00:11:53] So these real things that we swear we're not going to do anymore-- just lies, just lies. And then other things we tell ourselves that we will do such as #39-48: lies, lies, lies. I will finish every lesson in the book so my kids don't miss out on anything that someone might ask them at a family function. I will call each of my kids by the correct name consistently. I will only buy the book I came to the bookstore to buy. I will make friends with other homeschool moms. I will know my limits and ask for help when I need it. I will read the novel instead of just pretending I know what the book was about that we're discussing. I will write lesson plans a month in advance instead of writing them as it happens. I will be more social and set an example for my kids. I will let my husband explain things in his own weird way. I will correct my kids' schoolwork and bad behaviors immediately so that these things don't keep snowballing out of control. All of these are valiant endeavors, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up when we fall short.
[00:13:02] Now, the next set of lies I'm going to share are things that we lie to ourselves about what our kids will love about homeschooling. I mean, we want them to. We have all these high hopes and dreams and aspirations of our kids looking back and reminiscing on the wonderful times they had with their mother at home. And we lie. Lies #49-59, to be exact. My kids will love this great unit study I've spent days putting together. My kids will love weekly library scavenger hunts. They will also love field trips to modern art museums and gardening lectures, or getting to go with the whole family to the doctor together and dental appointments. After all, family is friends. My kids will love reading aloud together every night before bed. Or being dropped off at random homeschool social activities where they know no one just so I can check the box for socialization. My kids will love these matching family homeschool shirts. My kids will love keeping up with their own activities in these lovely new planners that I bought for them. My kids will love listening to me talk about how smart they are to everyone I meet just so I can feel good about myself and homeschooling, or at least put up the appearance of success. My kids will love learning to cook things they don't like to eat. My kids will love watching all their science labs on YouTube instead of getting messy in the kitchen (said no kid, ever). If I could teach grammar with a blowtorch and slime, well, I'd be a superhero. So of course, we want some hands-on science at this house.
[00:14:38] Our kids don't have to love everything that we're doing. They don't even have to like some of it for it to be successful. You know you're doing the right thing for your kids. Stay strong even though they whine. Of course they're going to whine to you because you're their comfort zone; they feel safe that you probably won't knock them upside the head with the textbook that you're trying to get them to read. Nevertheless, it is nice when they actually do enjoy some of the things that we planned, and they will. You just may have to hold out longer than you want to to get to those moments. And because all kids are different, one lie we may tell about how we teach one of our children may be absolute truth about the methods we need to use for another child.
[00:15:16] For instance, lies #60-71: when it comes to schoolwork, we must do all the written work suggested in each lesson to master the subject. Or they'll learn it when they are ready and interested. I want someone to point me to a group of more than two middle school boys ready, willing, and excited to learn grammar rules. When it comes to schoolwork, grocery shopping counts as math. When it comes to schoolwork, we won't switch curriculum mid-year. We'll wait and do blank, blank, blank after dinner tonight. We're not doing enough. When it comes to schoolwork, maybe we're doing too much. Or when it comes to schoolwork, I don't need to purchase the answer key. You might. When it comes to schoolwork, grades never matter. When it comes to schoolwork, we're the only homeschoolers not learning Latin, I just know it. When it comes to schoolwork, there will be more time for enrichment studies in the summer. When it comes to schoolwork, I just cannot teach high school. There's just no way.
[00:16:24] Now in that list, you might have agreed with some of that and said, "that's not a lie," or you might have agreed that's a total lie. People shouldn't do that. Everyone has their own methods of homeschooling, but even within your family, you may have a method of homeschooling one of your kids that doesn't work for the other. And when it comes to getting to those scary high school years, I know the end of middle school feels like the point of no return. We've already reached that precipice, and we sailed across it. We had to leap, it felt like, to graduation without looking down because after we start and all classes completed are accepted to the local public school. What have we done? They may have to take placement tests or go directly back to the beginning. Do not pass "go"; do not collect $200. But that's just not true.
[00:17:11] The change between middle school and high school is often the difference between one step up in a math lesson or the next novel in the study that you were already participating in. The difference being that now you need to write it down so you can show someone proof that you did something. And there's templates out there for all kind of high school transcripts. You can even do a scratch and sniff smelly one if you want to. It's your home school. Your prerogative. And then when they get ready to apply to college, if they're going to apply to college, then you can clean it up and make it look just as wonderful or better than any high school out there. Of course, about the time they start those high school years, well, then we start to question even more scary things that we hadn't thought about when they were younger, and science was just making Play-Doh and then seeing what it would stick to.
[00:17:56] So we get lies #72-82. "If then lies" is what I like to call these. If my kid doesn't get into the college of his choice, then I will have failed him. We put the weight of all of that on our shoulders and falsely accuse ourselves of something we may have not had any control over. And another lie: if they don't learn it now, they never will. Education and learning is a lifelong thing. Don't tell yourself that. If they didn't learn it under your roof in the however-many-years that you homeschooled, that doesn't mean they can't learn it later. You can't fill in all the holes. I mean, any type of education looks like a Swiss cheese from God's perspective, I promise you. But to continue in our "if then lies": if we're not having fun, I must be homeschooling all wrong. If my kids ask to go to school, I am not good at this job. If I take time out for myself, I'm letting my kids down. If my kids are quiet and shy, well, it must be because we homeschool. If we don't read and enjoy all those Chronicles of Narnia, we aren't real homeschoolers. Poppycock. If we don't join a co-op, we're antisocial. If we skip a chapter or two, it will affect their future SAT scores. If the kids don't like homeschooling some days, I won't take it personally. But I will, and I'll eat a whole sleeve of cookie dough while crying in the closet. And then lastly, perhaps a wishful thinking lie: if we take off all of December, we'll just make up the work during the summer.
[00:19:30] And these are kind of the lies that we could turn around and laugh at ourselves for saying, such as #83-90: we will never allow our house to look like we homeschool and raise farm animals indoors. We will never sweat the small things and instead will build blanket forts and enjoy family time. We will never let the dishes and laundry pile up and attack us in our blanket fort. We will never join a co-op. We will never use a box curriculum. We will never question our decision to homeschool. We will never let our kids' successes and failures define us as parents. We will never eat more than one takeout meal a week. I will support any and all of my children's career goals. Let's not get crazy.
[00:20:16] More lies and half truths. #91: I will not compare my kids' abilities to others. Yes, we will. Even when we try not to. #92: starting tomorrow, we're setting time limits on computers and video games. I have the best of intentions. #93: my kids aren't getting enough socialization. Says who? Who are you listening to that's making you think something like that? Lie #94: this encyclopedia set, museum membership, laminator, etc. is basically an investment. Not everything that looks educational needs to be purchased and placed in your home. #95: our kids will never appreciate what all we do for them. This could be true in the short term. In the long term, if we're doing things correctly, I feel that our kids will turn around and thank us for providing them the opportunity and the freedom to live their life outside of the brick walls of a school and follow their own interests in the safety, security, and happiness of their home with their parents.
[00:21:21] Now my big lies that I said I was going to share that affect us all that are more on a serious tone for us are as follows and completely out of order from my original list. #99: the lie is-- that homeschool moms often tell themselves-- I've lost my identity and I have no life since homeschooling. Now, I read an article once from a homeschool mom, if you could call her that. She had only homeschooled for two weeks before deciding to return her kids to public school because she felt she no longer had a life. She resented her husband and her kids, even though her kids were loving homeschooling with her. And I shared it on Facebook. People jumped all over her. I was appalled, too, and felt sorry for her kids. Her reaction was impulsive, at best. You can't adjust to homeschooling in two weeks or even two years, for that matter.
[00:22:12] But then I remembered how I felt that first year, and I still do, not very often anymore. But I once had a career, personal time, friends. Well, I thought we were friends and then we started homeschooling and became a different species and their insecurities-- and yada yada. Anyway. But this is one big lie that leads to a bunch of little more lies. Like, all I have to talk about is homeschooling. Well, seriously, going to functions with my husband and his work friends is a chore not because I don't like a meal that I didn't have to cook and occasionally getting out of my yoga pants, but I don't know what to talk about. Everyone's talking about work, inside jokes they have in the office, and then they turn and ask, "And what do you do all day?" And then I'm off like a chatty Cathy doll until their eyes glaze over or they ask some ridiculous question and I say something snarky in response to a question like, "Is that even legal to homeschool?" And once I tried making a list of things that I could talk about for next time that we're in a room of small talk. One: the weather. Two: and then that reminds me of fun weather experiment we did last week. And then, well, that's it. I'm not going. Because inevitably I start talking about homeschooling. See, I have no life. But that's not true. We have a life. We're just putting our family first, that's all.
[00:23:29] And with so much we want to do and teach, it's easy to get caught in perpetual homeschool mode, but our kids can benefit immensely when mom does get out for a time or two, even if just for a quiet cup of coffee alone in a locked room. Or, at the very minimum, a trip to the mailbox. And later when they're grown and gone, there will be time for careers or the grandkids or whatever comes next. But the truth is we haven't lost ourselves because of homeschooling. I know I found myself, my purpose. Sure, the pay isn't so great dollar-wise and my left eye twitches more than I'd like it to these days. But God bless the broken road that led me straight to homeschooling and probably each of you too.
[00:24:07] My next big homeschool lie is "we don't homeschool for religious, spiritual or political reasons." I mean, that's what I used to say, right? It was strictly academics at first for us. I wrote all about it in one of my first popular blog posts entitled "Against My Will: How I Became a Homeschool Mom." You can read it at hifalutinhomeschooler.com. But it was all about their academics for us. They were being held back. I didn't want him to be treated like just another number. I also wanted family time. I thought I could teach them better, let's just be honest. I am the Hifalutin Homeschooler. But I didn't want them to be drones of copying and following. And as my boys got older and we tackled deep discussions on the world around us, our appreciation for and reasons for homeschooling have changed.
[00:24:55] Separation of church and state is not possible when it comes to a thorough education. How do you take religion out of true and complete history? Because I wasn't homeschooled and now I am homeschooling my kids, I can see just how much of history is removed from the public education. In an effort not to offend anyone or squash free thinking entirely, they cut out large swaths of events in history that led to our current state. It's a "don't ask, don't discuss, don't offend" type of education. Kids come out of public school as blank of a slate as they went in, barely understanding their own human rights and how fragile they really are. I mean, I have a friend who is a public school mom who wouldn't discuss marriage or gender fluid debates with her children because she didn't want to influence their ability to form their own opinion. They won't form their own opinion. They'll form the opinion of the first person they respect that has the guts to talk to them about these things. So trying to keep kids a blank slate just means those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.
[00:25:58] Now, my oldest two took a current events class with a homeschool group in the last few years, and it was from a Christian worldview course, and they absolutely loved it. It was the best class I think we ever paid for, and they had to write all these different opinion papers, so it actually got them using a pencil and writing and happily doing so. But learning more than most adults in America know about the state of our world and nation. And we also learned about our country at home together and reading together and learning about the Constitution and the founding principles and how government is supposed to function. And that's not what they're seeing in the news. So we had a lot of big conversations about how we need to help our country get back to its founding purposes.
[00:26:42] But we are supposed to be a country based on certain rights endowed by our creator. Most importantly, the right to life. But abortion is now celebrated. And then what about the right to liberty, not socialism, where everything is free except you. Or a nation where people fought wars and oppressive laws to no longer judge each other by the color of their skin? And a justice system built upon the presumption of innocence to start. And so more and more I realize we home school not to shield our kids from the world, but to prepare them for the harsh reality of it. Armed with truth and reason. And that we absolutely do homeschool for political, spiritual and religious reasons. I mean, we still homeschool for academic reasons, but education is so much more than math scores and reading levels. And this is the time we have now to instill these values into our children. Timing is everything. We should have fun together, but we can't neglect to instruct our kids on how to deal with the world and the values of hard work with a purpose.
[00:27:45] And that leads me to my next big lie-- is that when we're talking to our kids, or our spouse, or ourselves is telling ourselves that we have plenty of time. Lie #100: not today, but soon, we will take that trip, do that project. We'll try that activity. I promise we'll read that book together. We'll build that thing that you want to do. I promise. But time is going so fast. Do the big things that will matter while you still have this time together get done? Are you putting them off? What are you waiting on? That includes having the deep discussions that they need to hear from us before they're out in the world. So when it comes to homeschooling, we won't get it all done like we planned or finish all the lessons, and we'll keep lying for good intentions. It keeps us on our toes aiming for perfection. Doing okay with awesome. But we need to focus on what matters most with the time that we have because it's going fast. So don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today. After all, they're your kids; you can screw them up if you want to, which is lie #101: nobody's going to get this homeschooling thing absolutely perfect. And if you're going to ruin a kid, well, you might as well keep them home and do it yourself. And there you have it, folks: 101 Lies I Tell Myself About Homeschooling. Thanks for listening to another episode with the Hifalutin Homeschooler, and stay weird and homeschool on.