In any area where we feel inadequate or unprepared, we want the advice and assurances of experts.
We place great faith in anyone who is considered a professional, who has published a book, or who has earned a college degree in a particular field. As homeschoolers we read homeschool blogs and forums, go to support group meetings, attend conventions, and buy books.
We want the secret of homeschool success.
And why shouldn't we? After all, years of experience and education means that homeschool experts have earned their stripes, and we should respect that.
I agree. But my Quack-O-Meter kicks into the red zone whenever an expert offers guarantees about their theories, process, or published resources. Then insecure parents invest their money, time, and effort into these methods, blaming themselves for their lack of success.
If we have learned nothing else from three decades of homeschooling in America, we should at least be able to walk away with this - each person is a unique individual, and there is no such thing as One Size Fits All.
No parenting method, marital advice guru, or homeschool expert can give you the answers you need. They can offer their wisdom, experience, and encouragement, but your faith should not be placed in specific methods in an effort to clone their homeschool success.
Your kids are not their kids. You did not live in their home, their neighborhood, or have access their resources. You did not experience their trials, successes, or failures. If you try to replicate some famous homeschool family in your home, your family will not be able to fit into someone else's mold, and you'll be wondering why you are such a failure at homeschooling.
What should you do with expert advice?
- Listen. Of course experienced homeschoolers have something valuable to offer. That's why I'm sitting here writing this blog. Like me, many are very passionate about homeschooling, and want nothing more than to be a help and blessing to other families.
- Focus on principles, not on specifics or formulas. Family life is complex, and your children need and deserve to be seen as individuals. In spite of your insecurities and doubts, maintain some objectivity when deciding what is and isn't useful advice for your family.
- Go on alert if you start hearing promises and guarantees about their methods and programs. Don't fall for scare tactics, clever marketing, or homeschool celebrity endorsements. Don't allow others to talk down to you, even if you've only been homeschooling for five minutes. Examine each method, curriculum, or program for how it could work to enhance your homeschool family experience., and feel free to completely ignore anything or anyone who isn't helpful.
- Remember you do not personally know the private lives of most homeschool experts. We want to believe every single person who has written a book, created a curriculum, or hosts a blog is a shining example of integrity and homeschool know-how. But the fact is -- there are shysters in every corner, and homeschoolers are a growing customer demographic. Be an educated, discerning consumer to the best of your ability.
- Discuss what you've learned with your family before implementing anything. Homeschooling should not resemble a dictatorship. Since many homeschoolers left public school because of too much testing and regulation, it's ironic that so many immediately try to systemize homeschooling and create a top-down dynamic in the home. Your child should be able to invest in their own education, so give them a voice instead of pounding the gavel.
- Join a local homeschool network. Few things can replace the intimacy of in-person 'real life' relationships. Online friendships are wonderful and meaningful, but you can't call your online BFF three states (or a country) away for a lunch or play date. There's an indescribable quality of friendships with people who know you and your family, live in your community, and understand the local culture. To put a fine point on it, they usually know when you are faking it, and vice/versa. Don't replace or neglect face-to-face fellowship with reading books, attending conventions, or online support groups.
- Remember the source of all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is revealed in the Bible, and in our relationship with God. The Lord uses other people to encourage and teach us, but He expects us to seek Him first, and place our faith in Him.
I believe we should listen to and respect the insights and wisdom of intelligent and experienced homeschool veterans. But we should never, ever check our own sense of what is best at the door because of the reputation or advice of a homeschool expert. We can't place the responsibility for our choices at the feet of another person, no matter how awesome they seem to be.