Keeping Up With The Joneses — Struggling With Comparing Our Homeschool to Others

I'm sure you never compare your homeschool with other homeschools.You are always satisfied with what you are doing and accomplishing. But….

You know the Joneses.

They're the perfect homeschooling family that lives down the street from you. Ten kids, all well-dressed and perfectly well-behaved.

The mom wakes at dawn every morning, bright-eyed and cheery, to fix a nutritionally-balanced hot breakfast for her family. When she teaches her children, they listen attentively and she never has to raise her voice to get their attention.

The father teaches the children woodworking, auto mechanics, and spelunking on the weekends.

The oldest child earned a perfect score on the SAT and took first place in both the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the National Geographic Bee last year.

The whole family converses solely in Latin on Mondays, Greek on Tuesdays, French on Wednesdays, with Old and Middle English rounding out the school week.

Oh, and their youngest child taught himself to read with Shakespeare at the age of two and became an award winning artist at the age of five.

Sound like a family you know?

Okay, maybe not. But we've all imagined the Joneses. And consciously or unconsciously, we often aspire to mold our families into that perfect homeschooling family.

We try to keep up with the Joneses. But as Martha might say, "That's not a good thing."

I know I've struggled with this before, and I still do at times. In fact, keeping up with the Joneses has been the cause of much anxiety over the last few years.

It's entirely possible that you might be struggling with this as well and not even realize it. So here's a quick symptom check to see if you're subconsciously trying to keep up with the Joneses too.

The Symptoms

  1. When talking to other homeschool moms, do you only share details about the good homeschool experiences you've had and gloss over those more challenging episodes?
  2. Do you purchase curriculum because it comes highly recommended by other families, but keep using it and refuse to switch even though it's not working for your family?
  3. Do you sometimes rush through curriculum, requiring your children to complete each and every page, to ensure you finish it completely by the last day of the school year?
  4. Do you require your children to take music lessons even if they have zero interest in it?
  5. Do you constantly check your scope and sequence to make sure your children have been taught what they're supposed to be taught by their grade level?

The Diagnosis

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be trying to keep up with the Joneses. If you're up to it, consider the remedy below.

The Remedy

You need to stop trying to squeeze your family into the perfect homeschool family mold, because you can't do it. No one can. And no one should try.

All homeschool families are different. Children have different needs and different learning styles, and parents do too. Stop measuring your homeschool against the myth that is the Joneses.

  1. If you're struggling with certain aspects of homeschooling, be assured other homeschooling moms struggle with that too. Reach out to someone and find some help, whether it be in person or online.
  2. If you're using curriculum because it's touted as the best, but it's not working for you, switch! Even the highest-quality curriculum may not fit with your teaching style or your children's learning style.
  3. It's more important for your child to understand a subject than to finish a curriculum just so you can say you finished it on time. Make your goal to help your child learn and worry less about how quickly they finish their curriculum.
  4. As a former piano teacher, I'm a strong proponent of music education. However, not all children need to take formal music lessons. Consider your motivations for having your children take lessons, and make sure it's more than just keeping up with the Joneses.
  5. Keep the big picture in mind when you're teaching your children. The Joneses don't have to determine when and what you teach your children.

Give up the struggle and stop comparing your homeschool with others. Relax and enjoy your own personal experience with your own precious children.

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  1. Tara says

    AAAAAAaaaahhhhhh…thank you for this…we have had many days of frustration this year…not so much trying to "keep up with the Joneses" but feeling completely inadequate in that our homeschool experience just doesn't at all match my "image" of the Joneses. I really want to be a relaxed homeschooler and enjoy, or LOVE homeschooling my children, but do feel pressured to "finish" our curriculum and at very least meet our very loose state standards of teaching the same core subjects. There is also this part of me that feels like if we can't achieve some kind of order, discipline or routine I am failing to teach my children "order, discipline and routine". I do NOT want to recreate public school in my home, but on the same token there seems to be some need for each child to learn to sit quietly in a desk for at least the few minutes it takes to work a workbook.
    I went to a meeting of a Homeschool support group looking to enroll my children in a 6 week, one day per week homeschool coop. I was very honest and told the moms I was desperate and the kids were driving me crazy. That caused quite a knowing, understanding and surprised guffaw from most of the moms. It seemed like they all had similar sentiments, but I was the first to blatantly announce it! What a relief for all of us! And me especially. Thanks for writing this. It definitely hit home for me…esp. after a rough day this week when I in total frustration e-mailed one of those "Joneses" families (or so they appear to me) asking for prayer. LOLOL


  2. says

    Great Post and one I needed to read. It always seems to me whenever I speak to homeschooling families their kids are further along, loving learning more than mine. I question myself constantly and often feel like a complete and utter failure as a home schooler. But I plug along knowing I am doing the best for my children even if they aren't the next Einstein:)


  3. says

    Joy, thank you so much for this post. I am a first year homeschooling mom and I follow your blog and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. When I see what wonderful things your kids are doing and learning, I admit feeling like a failure sometimes!

    I saw your comments about your daughter doing so well in math … my 7th grader would sooner chew her arm off than do math every day. It does wear me down and leave me feeling deflated some days.

    Thank you for the reminder that I am so blessed to be able to stay home and homeschool this year. I need to stop comparing myself and my girls to other homeschooling families and enjoy my children's own strengths.


    Joy Reply:

    @Heather Berrien, Heather, there have been a number of times that I've wanted to write more specifically about our struggles, specifically with my oldest lately (and yes, it's with math and about refusing to do it!).

    Unfortunately I've had to hold back on including too many details about some of the challenges (could be read as hours-long lectures with raised voices and tears) lately out of respect to my children. I know they don't want me telling the world about their school problems (such as the fact that we're considering NOT advancing our son to the 9th grade next year because of issues we've had this year.)

    That's one drawback for sure with homeschooling blogs like mine. We try to offer help and be real as much as possible, but sometimes we have to leave out some aspects of those challenging times because it wouldn't be fair to our children to air their 'dirty laundry' in public where people they know can read it. I do share it with my closer friends, but I don't always feel comfortable sharing a lot of the details with the world at large because my kids would not like that at all. In the past I've shared things in more detail ( but now that my kids are older and actually pay attention to what I write, I've felt the need to hold back more in public. That's one reason why I've moved to posting more about resources or generic homeschool 'advice' rather than sharing specifics about our school days.

    But you've reminded me that I need to make sure that by telling parts of our story — like how well my 3rd grader is doing in math right now (FYI last year on her standardized test she scored below average in math. That's why we've been working so hard on it this year.) — that I'm not giving the impression that that's the whole story. Because it most definitely is not. I can't tell you how many times in the last few weeks that thought of "Why don't I just send child-x to public school!" has crossed my mind when we're having a battle of wills about work ethic, motivation, or the lack thereof.


    Heather Berrien Reply:

    @Joy, Joy, thank you for answering. It's nice to know that I'm not alone and that other homeschooling moms feel the same frustration, happiness, struggles and rewards that I do.

    I just need to focus on our good days and not let the bad days drag me down. And, I need to learn to brush off the comments from family re: the dreaded "lack of socialization"!



    Pam in Colorado Reply:

    @Heather Berrien,
    Save your daughter's arm and give her permission to skip math for a day/week/month/whole year. She will regain her love of learning if she is able to make choices of what, how, when, if ever… she learns something. I guarantee that she will learn, every day. If/when she needs certain information, it would not take her long to "catch up" to the level of information she needs. So, if she waits to do any more math (or any particular subject area) until her senior year, and wants to get into college or get a particular job that requires certain math skills… she will learn it, and much more quickly than if she "has to do math" and hates the process over the next few years. She might even surprise you and choose to "do math" on a regular basis. Then again, she might not. Either way, she will learn what she needs along the way. :)


  4. says

    Great post. I agree. It is so difficult sometimes not to compare ourselves to others and feel that we lack. The funny thing is, a lot of the time, they are comparing themselves to us and feeling that they lack!


  5. Rae says

    Not being able to keep up with the Joneses is one reason that I pulled out of a homeschool co-op that I was involved in. My oldest child we struggling with "keeping up", and I was seriously stressing out over it. This year has been so much more relaxed for our family. Since there isn't anyone else to compare ourselves to we can just "enjoy the ride" and focus on what our strengths are (not that we don't work on improving on our weaknesses too).

    Thanks for the very nicely written post. What an encouragement to know that we are not alone.


  6. says

    LOVED this, Joy (and oh, how the video sent me into stitches! Ha!)

    I do worry about what others think, namely because we don't have a lot of family support for homeschooling. We are also judged quite harshly by some family members, and my oldest is compared to her cousin of the same age in what she "is or isn't doing correctly," according to them.

    And then I read something like this and remember that homeschooling isn't about everyone else. It's about our family and how we do it. Period. Its about what works for us, not for what makes everyone else happy!



  7. says

    Well, I can honestly say I am NOT trying to 'keep up' at all. I'm willing to talk about our failures to anyone who'll listen. Although, I will admit that I sometimes long to see the 'perfect' family have a problem appear. But, that's my own fear of inadequacy
    when it comes to raising and educating my (heathen) boys.


  8. Giovanna says

    Joy, thank you so much for this post! It helped me so much and I didn't even start the actual process. I hope it will prevent some issues in our journey.


  9. says

    I love this post because you are so right. I'm sure all homeschoolers struggle with this at least once in their journey. Especially with all of the magazines with the "perfect" families on the cover. I struggle quite a bit, actually. But God reigns me in and reminds me of the Truth.

    I love your blog, so I am giving you an award. Check it out at my blog…



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