The Comparison Trap: a Homeschooler’s #1 Enemy

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“My kids are behind!”

Tell me honestly, as a homeschooler, have you not had the same thought at least once?!

I know I did at least once.

It’s easy to let your mind go there, but don’t. It undermines your confidence, and it’ll stress your children out.

The last thing you want them worrying about is being behind. And, unless you’re a negligent parent, which you’re not or you wouldn’t be reading this, there’s no point in your worrying about it either.

This comparison scenario that starts you thinking about your children being behind happens for one of two reasons:

  • Either you’ve let yourself get derailed by other demands like extended family or even work; and your homeschooling has not been the priority it should be

  • You’re comparing your children to other children

The former isn’t the scenario that I’m going to focus on here, but if this has been your problem then you definitely want to get it under control.

You can start by reading my blog post:   Ten Strategies to Conquer Homeschool Overwhelm & Stay Calm, Cool, and Sane.

The latter scenario, the one I going to talk about, creeps up on us because we probably know more children in public school than children being homeschooled.

You chat with other family members or friends only to hear about their schooled children, who are at similar ages to your own, and they’ve already met certain milestones which yours haven’t.

Maybe you have a second grader who hasn’t begun to read well, yet, because he’s not developmentally to read and recognizing this you’re not pushing him to learn.

But your friend’s children are already reading well.  Or maybe they’ve all learned the name of the dinosaurs and one child even earned an “A” in a dinosaur spelling test, but your child still doesn’t even know what a dinosaur is. !

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Whatever the comparison is you have to remember that your children are on a different trajectory than their schooled peers.

If you find yourself feeling like your children are behind because your friend Mary was visiting and her eight-year-old is the best reader in the class, instead of falling into the trap of comparing your children, focus on the unusual things they have done or the particular interests they’ve developed because they’re homeschooling.

Maybe your eight-year-old son has learned 20 poems by heart or maybe he’s fallen in love with ancient history or maybe he’s memorized his list of prepositions!

Maybe your son has taken an interest in woodwork and has been building things like the homeschooled boy I saw the other day who had a collection of knives that he’d carved out of wood.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
— E.E. Cummings

The woodwork may seem irrelevant compared to reading, but it’s not. This boy has developed a passion in woodwork. A lot of children lack passion and you need passion to excel. You need to care about something!

He’s also developed his fine motor skills because it requires a lot of precision and control over the hands and fingers to carve wood with a knife.

He’s also learned perseverance because he not only carved from wood one knife, but he had a collection of knives. And they were daggers too, so he had also educated himself on the different kinds of knives.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. I want to illustrate the point that because something your child is learning isn’t part of the public school curriculum doesn’t make it useless, and it certainly doesn’t put him behind.

On the contrary, there are a lot of things children do in public schools that are useless like reading silly books and taking standardized tests.

Keep in mind, too, this tendency to worry about what your children’s schooled peers are doing is usually a problem during the earlier years until about age ten. Once your children are about nine or ten, you and your friends will begin to notice a big difference both academically and in their character.

You’ll start to notice that they’ve passed their public schooled peers up in most subjects, and they may already know some subjects very well, but more than that, they have a passion for learning.

But until then you’ve got to be patient and keep your blinders on. Become a homeschooling race horse. Not that you’re in a race,—you’re not—but to get to the finish line horses that might be troublesome wear blinders, so they don’t become distracted or steer off course and consequently lose the race.

(NB: the horse in the picture is not troublesome!)


Your finish line is the completion of homeschooling your children through high school if you plan to homeschool that long.

Wherever you set your finish line doesn’t matter, but keeping your blinders on does. You don’t want to be distracted into thinking your doing a poor job when you’re not, because you’ll become at risk for falling out of the fictitious race.

Comparison is your enemy when you’re homeschooling. Focus on what you’re children have done, not on whether or not they’re doing the same things as their public schooled peers.

If they are doing the same things, you should be concerned about your approach to homeschooling.

One thing you’ll notice amongst homeschooling circles, when moms and dads get together for park days and such, is that the conversations tend to be around the unique interests of the children, and the children’s pursuit of these interests rather than how one child compares to another.

You might hear about Shelly’s love of needlework or her obsession with the Ann Montgomery series. Or you’ll hear about Adam’s fascination with fencing or Medieval times, but you seldom hear parents comparing their children to one another.

Part of the reason for this is because the children are seldom learning from the exact same material, so there’s nothing to compare. You’ll hear parents discussing different homeschooling books and programs, but not where their children are at academically compared to someone else’s children.

Instead, the focus is more on individual pursuits and interests which is where you want it to be.

You want to focus on improvement and effort and with that eventually your children will get to where they’re going.

There’s no race to the top. There’s only hard work, focus, and diligence.

As long as you have a sound homeschooling plan, and you’re having a plan is vital to your children being well-educated, then you want to focus on instilling good learning habits in your children, and their good habits will become their success.

Don’t worry about what their public schooled peers are doing because there’s nothing to worry about!

And pat yourself on the back because you’re doing it. You’re a homeschooling mom (or dad), and that’s huge.

I admire you because I know what it takes and what it takes, you’ve got.


☛ Don’t forget to leave a comment below and let me know what resonates with you!

If you liked this, you might enjoy my free download 7 Steps to Raising Children Who Love to Read.

Elizabeth Y. Hanson is a veteran homeschooling consultant and certified parenting coach.