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“They Did What?” Avoiding the Homeschool Comparison Trap: An Interview with Neysa Brandon

July 24–28, 2017   |   Vol. 131, Week 8

Every homeschooling parent knows that constantly comparing your family with others can lead to a lot of disappointment and frustration. How can you avoid this joy-stealing comparison trap? Our guest Neysa Brandon has the answer on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat.

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • How to define (and how NOT to define) success in your homeschool
  • The quickest way to suck the joy out of homeschooling
  • How comparison hurts your children
  • Why it’s okay to trust your parenting instincts
  • Why taking a break does NOT mean you’re failing your family

“When you start to measure your [successes] and your children’s successes by the standards of others, you’re really setting yourself up for a disaster.” — Neysa Brandon

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Every homeschooling parent knows that constantly comparing your family with others can lead to a lot of disappointment and frustration. How can you avoid this joy-stealing comparison trap? Our guest Neysa Brandon has the answer on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat.

Diane Kummer: I’m joined today by Neysa Brandon. Neysa is a homeschooling mom of six and runs a YouTube channel called “Epik Brandon Family,” where she posts videos about her crazy family life and their homeschool adventure. Neysa, welcome to the program!

Neysa Brandon: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here today.

What is true success? [0:36]

Diane: Neysa, in your videos, you talk a lot about the dangers of comparing your homeschool to someone else’s. Can you share some personal examples of how that comparison mindset has hurt your family?

Neysa: Yeah. You know, so when I first started homeschooling, I really started to look at other homeschool families that I personally decided were successful. And I started to compare myself to them. This led into me really questioning myself, like “Am I doing this right? Am I doing a good enough job?” and telling myself things like, “Look that that mom! She’s so organized. Her kids are so smart, they’re so amazing, they’re so well-behaved.” You know, once I started doing that, I was constantly just letting myself down. And it was just a really unhealthy place to be.

Diane: Neysa, we’ve all been there. What are a few practical ways that homeschooling parents can keep themselves from falling into the comparison trap?

Neysa: Okay, so every homeschool family is going to have a different standard. So sometimes you’re going to be below some of their standards, sometimes you’re going to be above their standards. But what you really need to do is just throw those standards straight out the window, because God has uniquely designed our families with gifts and abilities, and our success in homeschooling is not dictated by what other families are doing. God only expects you to seek His guidance and obey Him. And when you can shift your mind to doing what He asks us to do, you will ultimately be able to start serving others instead of comparing ourselves to what others are doing.

Setting yourself up for disaster [2:03]

Diane: Neysa, one way that it’s really easy to fall into the comparison trap is to measure your own success (and your kids’ success) by the standards of others. Why is that problematic?

Neysa: So when you start to measure yours and your children’s successes by the standards of others, you’re really setting yourself up for a disaster. You know, not only does this affect the way that you school and you parent your children, but it’s going to affect your confidence as a mom and as a teacher. It really takes all the joy out of homeschooling, you know, because we can never actually get to this perfect standard that sometimes we just assume other people are at. So for me, I might do something wrong and I would automatically just tell myself I am failing, you know, I am doing something wrong. So it’s just not a happy place to be.

Diane: So what encouragement would you give parents who are struggling with this?

Neysa: So if you can take your perfect standard and place it at this achievable level, you’re going to surpass that, and when you do you’re going to be so proud of yourself. You know, what you really need is you need balance. You need a lot of grace, realizing that we’re all humans and that God gave us this beautiful gift of teaching our children. And when we can really start to understand that homeschool[ing] is actually a gift, it really does change your perspective. You know, we’re giving our children this selfless sacrifice. So if we can really put our eyes on what God is calling us to do instead of what we’re seeing others doing, we’re really going to be setting a great example for our children, and in the process we’ll be glorifying God.

Ditching “the perfect schedule” [3:32]

Diane: Neysa, you mentioned in one of your videos that being too focused on the progress of your friend’s kids or your neighbor’s kids has caused you to push your own children too hard. Can you talk about that?

Neysa: You know, I did. I would see these extremely smart and talented children, like even these 4-year-olds who were reading, and I’d automatically think to myself, “Okay, what am I doing wrong? These kids seem so smart, and they’re so focused, and yet here my kid is, playing Ninja Boy and just completely uninterested in school whatsoever.”

So I’d get really discouraged, and I started to really push my kids. You know, I would push my 5-year-old to start reading faster, and my 10-year-old to write these essays. I would spend hours every day just pushing them into this direction that I truly thought was the right way.

And after a really long struggle, I really came to realize that by constantly pushing my kids to succeed with school, I was actually just pushing them farther away from my relationship with them and our relationship with God. So that really hit me hard, and so at that point, I kind of ditched what this “perfect schedule” was and I really started to focus on what God was trying to build in our family. I started to focus on their individual needs. And now I really try to focus on encouragement and character, which in my opinion is so much more important to the development of our children.

Follow your instincts [4:45]

Diane: Neysa, you’ve said that when it comes to homeschooling, parents shouldn’t be afraid to trust their own instincts. Why is that?

Neysa: Well, I think a lot of homeschool parents have a hard time trusting their instincts. I know that I had a really hard time trusting my instincts when it came to homeschooling my children. I felt terrified that I was going to make a mistake or that I would somehow fail my kids. I really got caught up in what I was “supposed” to be doing and what other homeschool moms were telling me that you should be doing, what you see on social media.

You know, you simply forget to trust your own instincts when you have all these opinions flying around you. And I made this mistake more than once. And I would have an instinct about something that I felt I should be doing with my kids and something that would make so much more sense for our family, but I would get off track. I’d do something else because, you know, it’s supposed to be “the best.”

And so I’d really encourage parents that if you’re not following your instincts with homeschool[ing], you should definitely stop where you are. You know, start following your instincts, because you’re not only your child’s teacher, but you’re their parent, and ultimately you’re the one who knows what’s best for them and what’s best for your family. 

Don’t push yourself [5:49]

Diane: Neysa, many homeschooling parents—especially new ones—push themselves too hard and refuse to take a break, for fear that they somehow are failing their kids if they do.

How would you encourage parents who are thinking this way?

Neysa: So I always try to remind myself that character is so much more valuable than a textbook. You know, when my 3-year-old son was born, I had been homeschooling for about a year. And I was completely obsessed that year with making sure that all my kids got all their work done and all their books done, and that nothing was left unturned. Well, when he was born, you know, I was postpartum and I really should have been taking a break. I should not have been worrying about all the books and making everything perfect. I pushed myself, I pushed my kids way too hard, and it really wasn’t the right thing to do.

You know, kids really learn from their environment, and so I would encourage families to take a break, to really let the season of life they’re in really form and shape the homeschool adventure that you’re having. Don’t push yourself, and really don’t push your kids. Give yourself a lot of grace.

And whatever season you’re in, just let yourself know that you can give your children this gift, that you are giving your children this invaluable gift, and taking a break does not mean that you’ve somehow just failed them. Actually knowing when it’s time to take a break is a strong indicator of a really successful homeschool parent. So just love them and be joyful, and the rest will ultimately just fall into place.

Diane: Neysa, thank you so much for sharing with us in such a real way. It’s been a pleasure having you on the show this week. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your homeschool and sharing your insight and encouragement with us. And listeners, thanks for tuning in. I’m Diane Kummer, and I’m cheering you on.

Neysa BrandonPhoto of Neysa Brandon

As a homeschooling mom who travels all over the U.S. with her husband and 6 children, Neysa has seen firsthand the struggles and successes that come with homeschooling. Her joy is to try to be an encouragement, build community, and serve Christ.

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