Homeschool Impostor Syndrome: Six Tips to Regain Your Confidence

a woman wearing a green v-neck shirt covers her head with a cardboard box on which is drawn a distressed face

During the school year, homeschoolers in public stick out like a sore thumb. We’re the only ones in the warehouse club, leading small, elementary-age armies through a minefield of produce. We’re the only ones in the cookie aisle, encouraging mussy-haired moppets to determine ratios of cost to value.We’re the only ones in the library fielding questions from second graders about the breeding habits of aquatic mammals.

It’s like wearing a target on your back:

“Homeschoolers, eh? And what are we learning about today, children?”

Abject fear, thank you.

  • What if she can’t remember the difference between meteors and comets?
  • What if he confuses the American Revolution with the Civil War?
  • What if they can’t tell him the answer to nine times five?
  • And, worst of all: What if I’m failing at homeschooling?

Here’s a better question, though: what if this fear isn’t you? What if you’ve got Impostor Syndrome?

In 1978, psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance coined the phrase Impostor Syndrome. According to Caltech University’s Student Counseling Center, Impostor Syndrome “can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.”

  • Have you ever felt like a failure as a homeschool mom even though your kids are thriving?
  • Have you questioned yourself on a nearly daily basis, asking "What in the world am I doing?!" even after homeschooling for years?
  • Do you live in fear that someone will pull back the curtain on your homeschool reputation and see your messy bookshelves, scattered science plans, and hit-or-miss art lessons?

Impostor Syndrome is not the same as low self esteem. It can strike even those with a strong sense of self-worth.

Homeschoolers who suffer from Impostor Syndrome are frequently driven and intelligent individuals who hold themselves to high standards. It is marked by a refusal to accept evidence of personal success, either downplaying its importance or attributing it to the result of a lucky break.

  • My kids learned to read despite me not because of me.
  • Yes, they can write in cursive, but it's still not pretty enough.
  • I have no idea how they memorized the times tables. I didn't do enough to teach them.
  • Yes, their timeline is beautiful, but the kitchen is a disaster and we haven't done science in three weeks. 
  • They performed well on the required standardized test this year. But next year is another story.

So what do you do when Impostor Syndrome rears its ugly head?  If you’re ready to stop feeling like a fraud and take ownership of your accomplishments, here are six tips for leaving Impostor Syndrome in the dust.

1. Return to your roots.

Go back to the beginning and remember why you started homeschooling in the first place. As a parent-educator, you offer your children something no one else can. Don’t let Impostor Syndrome tell you otherwise.

2. Take a good, hard look at your children.

Celebrate their gifts and talents and don’t be afraid to take credit. Yes, they are their own people. But you are the one raising them, guiding them, and teaching them. They need you. They love you. On occasion, they even listen to you. They are turning out beautifully, and you have a hand in that.

Homeschool Impostor Syndrome: Six Tips to Regain Your Confidence3. Stop caring about the Joneses.

Forget about keeping up with them, because there’s nothing that needs comparing. What you see at co-op gatherings, club meetings, and extracurricular activities is a highlight reel. Nobody gets all their schoolwork done every single day. Nobody has kids who never fuss or fight or complain. Everyone has dishes in the sink and clothes in the dryer. Once you stop comparing yourself to an unrealistic standard, you’ll be less likely to doubt your abilities.

4. Remember that homeschooling isn’t about you.

Shifting your attention away from yourself and toward others helps alleviate feelings of fraudulence. Instead of focusing on what people might think of you, try focusing on the service you’re providing to others. How can I help the people around me? What can I do to improve my children’s educational experience and the community in which we live? Impostor Syndrome thrives in self-pity. It won’t grow if you don’t feed it.

5. Find a solid and authentic support group.

When you’re in the grip of Impostor Syndrome, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one. But truthfully, feelings of fraudulence and inadequacy are more common than you’d suspect. Sharing these feelings with others can alleviate the crushing sense of isolation. Reach out to other homeschool moms, either in person or online. Once you open up about your own impostor struggles, you’ll find you’re not alone.

6. Stick to what you know; outsource what you don’t.

While each of us has areas of weakness in knowledge and comprehension, we also have a wide realm of subjects in which we excel. Focus your energy on what you know and enjoy. For the subjects you find intimidating, check out online classes, co-op offerings, or other local resources. Removing that element of pressure will alleviate Impostor Syndrome’s fear of failure.

Homeschoolers may be easy to identify, but we’re also easy to admire. We embrace a calling many find intimidating and provide authentic learning experiences for our children. Don’t let Impostor Syndrome keep you from being joyful in your homeschool journey. Life with our children in our homes is short. The benefits of a confident homeschool educator last a lifetime.

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