I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram #homeschool #homeschoolencouragement #homeschoolbravely

Written by Jessica.

In September, at the start of a new school year, everything feels optimistic and promising. The school supplies are still shiny and new. All the curricula that were carefully chosen still feel like good picks. The school area and the house are picked up and organized.

I’ve been homeschooling long enough now to know, however, that there are going to be bumps, distractions, failures, mishaps, mistakes, and tough days ahead. It won’t feel like September all year long! And it’s during these more turbulent times that homeschoolers can fall prey to comparison.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Comparison is a particularly clever and nasty opponent because it doesn’t play fair: it goes straight for the jugular. The areas that we inwardly feel “less than” about (organization, behaviors or academic success of our kids, teaching ability, finances, marriage, home, relationships, self-image), are the very areas that seem easy to compare. Online is where we normally feel the pressure most. Here are some thoughts on how to combat those nasty feelings of "not good enough":

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram #homeschool #homeschoolencouragement #homeschoolbravely

Online Comparison

Whether it’s shopping, newsgathering, “socializing,” sharing/connecting with family and friends, researching, working, learning, or just mindlessly clicking, for better or for worse we live in an online world now. It’s almost unavoidable to be online for at least some portion of each day (and it’s likely that we’d be shocked if we tallied how much time we actually spend doing so).

Because of this, it’s next to impossible not to do some comparison online – and at times we may not even be conscious that we are. The trouble is that anything we view or read there is not presented in the full context of real life.

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram #homeschool #homeschoolencouragement #homeschoolbravely

Crafted Images

Over the summer I was looking at real estate online and clicked on an especially beautiful house. The interior was so lovely: the wall colors, furniture, accent pieces, everything. I noticed right away that the current owners were a homeschooling family when I saw a “school room” complete with farmhouse-style bookshelves, a chalkboard, table and chairs, and the final giveaway: All About Reading/Spelling tiles on a whiteboard. Having homeschooled in our dining room for years, I swooned over that room and went back to look at it many times.

It was on one of those clicks that I noticed something: there was no evidence of REAL life anywhere in the photos. The kitchen and bathroom countertops were bare save for fresh flowers and neatly folded hand towels. There was not even a coffee-maker, toaster, or soap dispenser in sight. The children’s bedrooms were bare other than the furniture. There were no toys, stuffed animals, or artwork taped to the walls.

I then realized this was true for almost every other room in the house. I was looking at staged images. All of the real-life messes and necessary day-to-day items had been gathered up or edited out of the photos. Those pictures were ideal for selling a house, but would look very different if taken after someone moved in.

It’s easy to see an image online, compare what we see there to our own “real,” and feel less than.

Look at how happy and engaged her kids look doing their schoolwork. Why can’t I get mine to stay at the table for fifteen minutes without fidgeting and whining?

She looks so pulled together and professional reading to her kids on the couch. Why am I always in my sweatpants with no make-up on?

Her school area looks so inviting. Why am I so hopelessly disorganized and undisciplined about maintaining our school things? 

It’s important to remember that photos posted online do not show life in its full context. They do not show what happened before or after the photos were taken. They don’t tell what efforts went into arranging and taking the photos. Even when someone posts that they’re being “real,” generally speaking, their online photos don’t show the ugly, messy, work-in-progress, behind-the-scenes, imperfect stuff of their real life.

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram #homeschool #homeschoolencouragement #homeschoolbravely

Words Can Mean Different Things

Like images, words online give us only a partial glimpse into someone’s life. Years ago when I had only just started homeschooling, there was a homeschooler’s blog that I used to read for inspiration. I remember reading a post about how she structured their family’s week in such a way that all schoolwork was finished by Thursdays, and then they’d spend Friday mornings cleaning the house and the afternoons doing something fun like watching a movie. She described the work they’d do on Friday mornings as a whole-house deep clean and said that it took them only about two hours to complete because they worked so well together.

In those days I had three children under the age of four, and I was both awed and baffled by her post. I was most struck by the fact that her house was getting a deep clean every week – in two hours no less! I remember briefly feeling badly about my housekeeping and organizational skills until that phrase “deep clean” gave me pause. To me, a deep clean goes above and beyond any weekly dusting or vacuuming or bathroom scrubbing and involves the stuff that you do just a few times a year. Our house is very small by American standards, and yet there’s no way I could deep clean it in two hours (with or without the help of others) – nor would it need to be!

What was lacking in the post was, of course, context. She and I obviously had different meanings for that particular phrase, but there were many other things about a homeschool week structured the way hers was that were not explained or fleshed out. The post raised more questions for me than it answered.

It’s easy to read someone’s words online, compare what they have described with our own “real,” and feel less than.

That curriculum sounds so amazing. If only I could afford to invest in that, my kids would be learning more and doing better.

She sounds so upbeat and energetic about homeschooling! I always feel so frazzled and tired; there must be something wrong with me!

The projects/crafts/trips/units/extra activities that she does with her kids sound like so much fun. I find it hard to get through the basics with my kids, let alone do stuff like that. 

As with photos, it’s important to remember that the homeschool posts we read online are also not reflective of anyone’s life in its full context. Online words are very much like online photos: a narrow and carefully crafted glimpse into someone’s life, but definitely not a window into their whole life. What we read is what the writer chooses to tell, and nothing more.

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram #homeschool #homeschoolencouragement #homeschoolbravely

A Rosy Picture

Photos and words online can be misleading, because they tend to paint a rosy picture. This is why it’s really important to remember why people post the photos and words online that they do.

Like a journal, a scrapbook, or a photo album, many people use their blogs or social media accounts as places to store special family memories.

Like a long phone call of yesteryear, today many use their posts as a way to stay connected to family and friends.

Bloggers who run either a personal blog or a monetized/home business site, typically do so from a place of service: to connect with, encourage, inspire, and share knowledge with fellow homeschoolers.

And, while social mores have changed somewhat in this area, most people still tend to respect the privacy, feelings, and heart-spaces of their children, their spouses, and themselves enough not to share online things that are really too personal, embarrassing, or sensitive.

When hard, sad, or bad times are shared online, it’s usually with some distance from the actual issue, often presented from the perspective of, “We went through ___ and this is what we learned…” so that the lessons learned can benefit someone else. But the actual tears, angry words, heartbreak, or messy, ugly struggles are still kept offline.

For all of these reasons, when we look at the whys, it’s easy to understand why much of what we see and read online is rosy. It’s meant to be.

When Your Homeschool Looks Nothing Like the One on Instagram #homeschool #homeschoolencouragement #homeschoolbravely

The Thief of Joy

Former President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Indeed it is, and comparison can quickly lead to envy, discontent, and ingratitude. It can easily cause us to be unkind or impatient with ourselves, our children, our spouses, and even God if we feel unhappy with our circumstances compared to what we perceive someone else has.

The online world is in so many ways a positive addition to our real lives. As a homeschooler, I truly cannot imagine homeschooling without it! As we head into a new school year, I will spend countless hours online researching, learning, shopping, and seeking inspiration and ideas, and I’m sure you will too.

Let’s be sure to remember that the images and words that we come across online are just a small glimpse into someone’s life, not their whole life. Let’s step back and remember why those images and words are probably being shared in the first place. Let’s be motivated, challenged, and inspired by what we see and read online, rather than discouraged by it. And most of all, let’s remember that the best life is the real life we are living with all the real people, real challenges, and real blessings right within it.


  1. Another very thoughtful post! Love the TR quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy.” Thanks for the reminder of keeping it real.