The Insanity of Cookie Cutter Homeschooling

Gingerbread Men

My best friend growing up was an orange tiger-striped tom cat named Kitty. (The name seemed marvelously fitting to my three-year-old mind.) Kitty was a lover and, bless his furry little heart, was mentally challenged as well. He had a curious habit that never failed to make me chuckle.

In his desire to find a warm lap to snuggle on, Kitty would leap up on the first available person. If rejected, he would try the next lap. Like a persistent door-to-door salesman, he would make his attempt on literally every lap in the room. When rejection met him at every turn, he would do a strange thing.

Our living room adjoined the kitchen on two ends creating a circular traffic pattern. Kitty would race through the kitchen and, coming out on the other end, begin once more to try to find a human willing to share his affections. Completely undeterred by the rejections only moments before, he would again make the rounds hoping against hope for a different result.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again

and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

I used to laugh at my insane feline friend. And the illustrious Mr. Einstein’s quote is an oft used one, making us smile at the truth of it. We shake our heads at the idiocy of the human race and smugly turn back to our studies and our eager little pupils, grateful that we won’t fall prey to such foolishness.

After all, we homeschool. That means that we can spend all day long cramming knowledge into our prodigy’s craniums until something finally sticks, yes? We can force them to stay in their seats until all of the worksheets are finished, and by golly, they will retain their lessons!


Perhaps we aren’t so removed from Einstein’s quote as it would seem.

I have known homeschoolers who, bless them, are beating their heads against the proverbial wall. Like my hairy childhood friend, they run in circles, vainly hoping that maybe this time their efforts will bear fruit. In desperation, they force long hours pouring over the same materials. If only we go over it enough, it will surely stick, they think.

I know because I have engaged in this foolishness myself.

In fact, I almost fell prey to this thinking with my youngest just a couple of weeks ago. I had chosen her curriculum, spent hard-earned money on it, and…it wasn’t working. This was evident by the perpetually dazed facial expressions and the copious amount of tears shed in the first two weeks of school. We tried to tweak it; we tried to tackle it from a different angle. By week four, I could see that we had two clear options. 1.) Keep going. She was pulling A’s and B’s with a lot of effort, tears, frustration and assistance. 2.) Put this curriculum away for next year and try something more appealing to this child in this season of her life.

I can almost see the pursed lips and hear the clucking of tongues at my leniency here. Aren’t we supposed to teach our kids to do things even when they are hard? To face difficult tasks whether they feel like it or not? Life is hard work, Rebeca. Surely you don’t advocate pandering to a child’s foolish whims?

Unbunch those panties, my ever-practical-church-lady friends, and let’s think this through. Do we really want to give our kids the impression that learning is a chore? Do we want them to approach new knowledge with a heavy sense of dread? Shall we push on and, in the doing, create within them a self-defeated, gotta-take-my-medicine attitude? Is it right and good to train them that the cycle of insanity is normal?


I want my kids to approach new subjects with their God-given curiosity in full gear. I must show them that learning is exciting and that they can do it successfully. I want my kids to be bold in trying new methods and ways of doing things. I want them to be creative thinkers; to find ways that are efficient for them. Then when they are older and the subject matter becomes more difficult, they will already be infused with an enthusiastic can-do mindset.

Yes, we need to train them to do difficult things, but I ask you: is school the best place to be teaching those lessons? That is what chores are for. Being a productive part of running a house or business will give them that hard-working character we desire. Wouldn’t it be better to make learning time fun so as to foster a life-long love for it?

Each of our children is uniquely created. They will all learn and grow in different ways. What motivates one child will fail with the next. In fact, you may even find that a curriculum that always worked well with a student, for some unknown reason, no longer does.

If we are not willing to be flexible in our teaching methods and materials, our homeschool will be an exercise in misery. We can crack the ‘ol whip and force the medicine down. We may even produce children who can accomplish unpleasant tasks, but is that really the main lesson we want them to take into adulthood?

I want them to have so much fun homeschooling that they wouldn’t dream of doing it any differently for their own kids. Even if it means bucking the scope and sequence worshiped by the ‘experts’. There is a place for the trusty scope and sequence. But I tend to view it like the fabled Pirate’s Code: more of a set of guidelines than actual rules.

Have you hit a wall in your schooling? The internet is full of creative ideas and I’ve never met a veteran homeschool mom unwilling to share ideas. Seriously, ask us. (Just make sure you have lots of time and a cup of coffee!)

The bottom line is this: there should be no such thing as cookie cutter homeschooling.

There is no successful one-size-fits-all educational system in existence.

So how about it Mama? Are you tired of trying the same things over and over? Stop the insanity! Step back and find a new path to try. Ask our loving Creator to give you His eyes for your children; for His wisdom on how and what to teach them. Who knows, you just might find yourself having a lot more fun while you’re at it!

4 thoughts on “The Insanity of Cookie Cutter Homeschooling

  1. I never did cookie cutter homeschooling. I wish I could say it was for the above excellent reasons. Actually I was probably too lazy, and too addicted to fun myself. But God is good and gracious and used my weakness to create boys who, now that they are all adults, still love to learn. So AMEN to what you said. All learning isn’t necessarily fun all the time but we can create an atmosphere of joy and exploration and excitement and wonder.


    • You are right that not all learning is fun, and you worded it better than I could. To create an atmosphere of joy and exploration and excitement and wonder…Lord, but that I would keep this forefront in my mind! And yes, God is so good to cover our mistakes and use even our weaknesses for His glory. What a beautiful journey! Thank you for your comments. It is so encouraging to hear from those on the other side. 😉 Blessings to you!


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