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Scrolling through Instagram sometimes we come across the “Pinterest Perfect Homeschool”. You know the one I am talking about. The one that you feel a little pang in your heart, a little wishful thought that you might like to be a child there. They always have gleaming kitchen counters with colorful banners of children’s art in the background. Baked goods cooling on the counter, while all the little ones (more than you have) have surrounded another amazing project.The children are always so happy, and well life just seems, you know, perfect.
It’s because of the inundation of the “Pinterest Perfect Homeschool” in our social media feeds that I think that maybe homeschooling would have been a lot better before the invention of the internet. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that the internet has made resource finding for homeschool so much easier. There is literally a world full of information right at your fingertips. We now have so many different ways of connecting with other homeschoolers. It’s really an invaluable tool for the daily life of a homeschooling parent. Plus, there is a homeschooling blog on just about every topic that you could think of. They are so full of ideas, resources and inspiration. However they have a hidden feature: the homeschool that is depicted online are also full of expectations.
The expectations that since children on this feed are doing this amazing thing, that maybe your child should be doing it also. The expectations that if this mom can blog and also make printables in her spare time, that you must be doing something wrong. The expectations that these two moms made e-courses and are teaching higher level math, means that you are just not cut out for homeschooling. The expectation that all of these neurotypical children are doing x,y, and z, means that your child with special needs is missing out. These are not the messages that the people posting these images are trying to say. However, it is these expectations that we subconsciously put on ourselves.
But our expectations are off. We all know that social media is just a snapshot in the story of a life, in that particular moment, at that particular time. And most of the time it’s staged. However it’s hard not to get drawn in when you see these amazing homeschools and feel like maybe your homeschool should be a little bit more magical, a little more clean, have a little more harmony. For the families of children with special needs, the impact of seeing the “Pinterest Perfect Homeschool” over and over can be incredibly disheartening. What’s worse, is that maybe for a moment you think that if you just did this, or that, that maybe, just maybe you could have a perfect homeschool like that too.
But, we can’t. We have to remember that the “Pinterest Perfect Homeschool” is not real. These are moments in time, with perfect lighting, multiple photo takes, where kids are in the best mood of the day. Plus, for the most part they are neurotypical kids. There are not a lot of homeschoolers out there who homeschool special needs kids. It doesn’t mean that they are not out there, just harder to find. We also are acutely aware that no two special needs kids are alike, so if we can’t compare them to other special needs kids, why compare them to those who are not.
In the end we have to remember that the most important thing in our homeschool is the relationship between the parents and the children that they are homeschooling. The second most important things is the relationship between the child and their siblings. Academics, well they come in third or maybe even lower down the list in your particular family. If relationships are what we are focusing on, we have to remember that every relationship is unique. Every challenge is unique. Every homeschool is unique.
Once you remind yourself that comparison to an ideal is always a bad idea, you will see the beauty in your own homeschool. You will embrace that homeschooling children with special needs might not mean that the kitchen is clean, or that they are reading at a higher level, or that they spent a whole month on an intricate social project. However, it could mean that they were able to finally sound out the word b-e-l-l after years of trying, that they kept their hands to themselves all morning long, or that they gave your heart a moment of tranquility and love when you looked at your child learning in their own way, and you were so proud. No matter how big, or how little that milestone was.