Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Comparison and Judgment

I received a request on my Facebook page to address a specific question here on my blog. I've known the lady who asked the question for many years, so I felt comfortable with telling her that I would try my best, but that she had hit on quite a "hot button" topic for me personally. ;) Here is the question:

How you have managed to deal with comparison and judgment. Comparison between siblings, between your children and other homeschooled children, between you and other homeschool moms and between curriculum and methods of education. And how judgment plays a role in all this. Judging others, misjudging others, misjudging our own children at times. Not wanting to be judged or misjudged b/c of x, y and z. How you overcome that and break free to do what is best for your family, each of your unique children and not be ashamed of what you're doing b/c it's not the most popular thing to do. Doing what God leads you to do and RESTING in that decision...RESTING in His faithfulness and TRUSTING in His promises and finding JOY in the journey!

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, I think you already know that I struggle with comparison. This year - this specific time of year - has been harder than most. Austin is turning 18 in just a couple of weeks, and I have kept up with his original playgroup friends via Facebook. We all met through MOMS Club when the kids were 18 months old and we stayed together through Kindergarten when the younger siblings would play together while the big kids were at school. Then life got busy and some of the folks moved away. Through the magic of Facebook, I've been able to see them grow up in the last few years, and it's been so wonderful! But this spring as the kids all turn 18 and most of them are graduating from high school (remember we held Austin back, so he has one more year of high school), there are post of prom pictures and college visits and acceptances. And while I am truly, honestly, very happy for all of them, it is breaking my heart. I want all of this for Austin. All I want is the "normal". Is that too much to ask?

I do also compare my kids to one another. I'm usually hardest on Riley because she doesn't have "anything going on" and yet I have the most trouble with her trying to get her work done. It's not fair that I have higher expectations for her, especially since my expectations are rooted in my own desire to feel good about myself (But more on THAT sort of comparison later). One level of comparison that has been beneficial is comparing Reece's academic performance to Austin's. I always thought his academic struggle were due to autism... and then Reece started to excel academically in ways he never did, and I realized there had to be something else going on. That realization helped me to get the additional testing that revealed his struggles to be related to his seizures. Unfortunately, there was no easy "fix" for the problem. But it did take a lot of the pressure off for him.

The comparison between me and other homeschool moms. Ahh, the poison. There is a popular statement that "Homeschooled Kids do better on standardized tests than Public Schooled Kids." Well, one of mine doesn't. Yes, he has learning disabilities, but that doesn't help. It makes me feel like a failure. That's when I put all that pressure on Riley - get good grades and test scores and make me look good. Ouch. That is not her job. And my worth is not tied to my children's grades and/or test scores anyway! But comparison leads down that road. The thief of joy, truly.

I don't really compare among curricula or methods. Everyone has to do their research and follow the path and plan that works for their family, their children, and the way that God leads them.

Judgment plays into all of this, of course. I think, as a whole, our society has become MORE judgmental in the last 10-20 years, despite our proclamations that we are a more tolerant society. We are only tolerant of ONE WAY - smart, beautiful, athletic children who get into a major University and attend right after high school (or after a gap year of travel and/or volunteerism). Try telling folks that your kid isn't going to college.

What is the answer? How do we get out of this cycle of judgment and/or comparison? That's simple, of course! We focus on God's plan for our lives, and for each of our children's lives. And we trust that He will lead us in the right path if we seek His will. But we have to turn away from what society says we need to do. You would think as homeschoolers this would be easy?! We are already bucking the societal norms. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Sometimes I am VERY good at it. But most of the time I am a freaked out, blubbering mess - certain that I've ruined my children's futures. That's not a comparison or judgment problem. It's a TRUST thing.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV probably since it was one of the first verses I memorized when I became a Christian LOL)
Comparison and Judgment are nothing new. If you read the Bible, you see it everywhere in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's reassuring to know that we're not experiencing anything new here in the 21st century. ;)

Finally, the last part of the question... about finding Joy in the Journey. Don't fall victim to the poisonous type of comparison. Don't let fear motivate your decision-making process. I implore you. I made those mistakes, and year by year, the Joy has been sucked out of our homeschool as a result. And I can assure you that it's not so easy to get it back. (That does have me wondering how it is possible to have Joy in homeschooling in the upper grades when your children are not academically inclined - how much Joy can one have with Algebra and Biology? LOL)

I hope that answered the questions. If not, please let me know and I'll try again! ;)

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