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How to Avoid the Big Pit of Comparison

Mom and son standing next to big pit

I’m worried my child isn’t making enough progress.

Most homeschool parents feel this way at one time or another. We regularly hear from parents who express concern about the progress their child has made—or not made—in reading and spelling.

When we question the parent further, we often discover that the child has in fact made excellent progress, yet the parent doesn’t recognize that progress.

In these situations, however, the problem is actually much more likely to be related to the parent’s expectations for the child’s progress, rather than to the child’s actual progress. It is very easy to become too focused on “the ideal.”

What Is Your “Ideal?”

Your ideal may be different than someone else’s. Maybe your ideal is to have your child complete All About Reading Level 4 by a certain age or to have him spell as well as the child next door. Maybe your ideal has been influenced by what your child’s grandparents think about his progress. Or maybe it’s even thinking ahead to your child’s future college career with worried thoughts like, “How will he get into college if he can’t even spell proficiently?”

In all the cases above, focusing on the ideal can create frustration because, until your child actually reaches your ideal, you will always be focused on how far he still has to go until he reaches “it” … whatever “it” may be.

Boy looking unhappy

To varying degrees, envisoning your child’s future can serve you well because it helps you gauge what you need to do. After all, if you’re completely happy with the status quo, there would be no reason to teach your children every day.

But while focusing on ideals can help us set goals, it’s not a great way to measure progress in a motivating way. In fact, always comparing your child to the ideal can lead to disappointment … and the Big Pit of Comparison.

Stay Out of the Big Pit of Comparison

What is the Big Pit, you ask? This is the huge chasm between where your child’s abilities are now and where you want him to be.

The Big Pit is a bad thing. It’s bad for you and for your motivation. And it’s bad for your child, his sense of self-worth, his enthusiasm for learning, and his future progress.

Boy looking defeated next to big pit

So instead of this self-defeating way of looking at your child’s progress, let’s take a step back … no, let’s take a step up.

A Fresh Perspective

To better understand where your child is really at and to stay out of the Big Pit, it helps to get a bird’s-eye view of your child’s situation.

Eagle flying

Look at the big picture from a vantage point where you can see the whole continuum, beginning with where your child started and ending with your ideal.

With this bird’s-eye view, you can see the ideal off in the distance, but you can also see how far your child has come.

Happy boy looking back at starting point

From this vantage point there is a LOT to celebrate.

What I would encourage you to do is frequently look backward instead of always looking forward. Instead of comparing your child to where you want him to be, think about where he started out. Then you can see how much progress has been made.

When you give yourself a bird’s-eye view, you can look back and see the ten-year-old who was struggling to read a year or two ago, but is now reading fluently. You can picture the boy who spent two or three days on each spelling lesson but can now complete a lesson in a day. You realize that the child who cried through every single fluency practice sheet is now smiling through them.

This new vantage point provides an inspiring perspective that will help you and your child stay motivated … and encouraged. It changes everything, doesn’t it? Can you see the difference?

Do you ever fall into the Big Pit of Comparison? What successes has your child had so far?

Avoiding the big pit of comparison pinterest graphic
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Renee Brown

says:

THis is a fantastic post!! I am always concerned about my daughter’s progress. I am proud to say that AAR has helped her begin to read. She just finished reading her first little book to me and her dad! Very exciting!! All thanks to AAR!!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Renee,
Thanks for sharing this great news with us! Congratulations!

Laura

says:

Thank you. This was needed

Tammy

says:

I am super glad you gave us this post on “the big pit”. I have continually wondered about every concern you listed. I get anxious and I know it shows in my emotions especially when my child often needs rule reminders. However, looking at what he has learned is far more important than worrying about an ideal! You always know how to keep encouraging us! God Bless You! AAS changed are life in a great way!]

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Oh, Tammy, I am so pleased to read this morning. It’s wonderful to be part of a team that has made such a difference in your family! Thank you!

Kerri

says:

It is hard to not fall into the pit when you have to repeat a lesson. Keeping in mind the end goal seems to help keep me out of the pit.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kerri,
Great point. I find myself often asking one of my children, “What is the goal of doing this book? Finishing it quickly, or actually mastering what is in it?” Focusing on doing what it takes to deeply learn the material is much better than focusing on getting through a book as quickly as possible.

Teresa

says:

So guilty! But I think AAR makes progress much easier to see.

Lida

says:

I love seeing progress, even little steps!

Laurie Chevallier

says:

Thank you for the encouraging article! Just one question… What does a fluency practice sheet consist of? Fluency is a key area we are working on and I’m always looking for ways to gone in on that area.

Thank you!
Laurie Chevallier

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Laurie,
Fluency practice sheets are a key component of our All About Reading program. You can see one on pages 13 and 14 of our All About Reading 2 Activity Book sample (it’s a double sided sheet).

Anna Tibbitts

says:

Such a timely article. At the half way point in the school year I’m trying to get out of the pit. I had hoped my son would be farther along in reading at this point but as you point out a birds eye view is more accurate and encouraging.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anna,
The half-way point of the school year can be such a time of trial for many of us. Changing your perspective is a great way to help get through the mid-year doldrums.

Dori Largent

says:

I use AAS for 3 years now and have seen great progress with my daughter. She has dyslexia and it is very difficult for her to spell correctly and retain the information. I love the way the program works, the only thing I have issues with is that she doesn’t seem to show a lot of progress in one school year. This article was a great encouragement to me and helped me to remember to stop and appreciate the progress she makes. Thanks for developing the AAS program.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Dori,
Thank you for taking the time to share your daughter’s progress in spelling with us. With dyslexic students, progress can be slow and sometimes hard to see, but looking back shows how very far they have come. Keep up the great work!

I’ve found that just when I don’t think my little guy is making any progress, if I will just slow down for a few days, I’ll see him FLY very soon. We’ve been sort of a stuck for a couple of weeks, doing more review than new teaching because he just didn’t seem to “get it.” Then this morning, he brings a stack of books to my bed and says, “Mom, I want to read these books to you!” Ahhh! Progress! Being patient can be so hard, but it’s worth it to not push. This post was a great reminder and encouragement.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing this, Leigh Ann. Being patient IS hard, but the results are so worth it!

Laura

says:

What an encouragement! Just what I needed.

Dara

says:

This is exactly what I wanted to avoid but sadly I fell into the pit! So worried that it wasn’t enough but this is such a good perspective, so validating of their achievements. I might pull out some work from the past with them and take a look at their accomplishments and how much they have grown since then. Thank you so much!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Dara,
Pulling out past work is a great idea. Thanks!

B C

says:

This article was a great encouragement to me. Thanks so much!

Tracy

says:

Thanks for the encouraging post! I have been guilty of comparing my children’s progress… With siblings, friends’ kids, where I was at their age. When I look instead at what they have accomplished it always hearings a smile.

Elizabeth

says:

What a helpful word of encouragement!

Michelle Lee

says:

I need this so badly

Jen S.

says:

This is a great article. My daughter has dyslexia so I pretty much constantly worry about if she is progressing enough. This is a good reminder that as long as she is making progress it’s not as important if she’s at the same level as other first graders.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jen,
When my kid start feeling this way, I like to pull out one of the stories she read a few months back and have her reread it. Since we are continuously moving forward, the difficulty stays at a pretty consistent level and it is easy for my child to get the idea that she isn’t getting better. Rereading a story from a few months ago shows her just how easy that story is for her now, so she can better understand how far she has come. It’s very encouraging.

Sarah

says:

I definitely struggle with this at times…even within our own family. My oldest was an early reader (2nd gr level by her her 4th birthday) that I worry I’m not ‘doing enough’ with number 2 and 3. They are actually both doing well for their age and level, plus are very different from Big Sis. All kids should be improving according to where they are, not where someone else is/was. I used AAR Level 1 with my second child and am now using it with number 3. We love it!

Evelyn Barge

says:

I am sooo guilty of looking at the “now” instead of looking at the future or from where we started. It is so much more fun to do the best you can and enjoy the ride! Other people are struggling too. :)

P

says:

This would be a great prize to win, very useful.

Sheri Miller

says:

All About Reading worked wonderfully for my learning disabled daughter! She loved the format and the reading books!

Casey S.

says:

Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

Destiny McCabe

says:

With a dyslexic son, this is a trap I fall into often. I’m so thankful for your supportive staff to keep me on track! My 3rd grader is in Level 2 of reading and spelling, and is making wonderful progress with your programs.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Destiny,
My 3rd grader is in AAR 2 and AAS 2 as well; I completely understand. However, it is the right place for her to be, and any time I feel the pressure to start picking up the pace things get frustrating for her.

I remind myself to think so what if it takes her until 5th or even 6th grade to complete AAR 4. At the end of Level 4 students have the phonics and word attack skills necessary to sound out high school level words! She’ll be okay, and won’t learn to hate reading along the way.

I’m very glad that we can be supportive to you. Keep up the slow and steady wonderful work!

Heather Culp

says:

At times, I’ve compared my son, who has struggled with reading, to my other children who caught on to reading very quickly. I have found that I do this less using All About Reading since it’s not a textbook aimed at a specific grade. I am thrilled to see him progressing through the levels of reading at a pace that is right for him.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Heather,
Great point. Our levels are not grade levels; in fact, at the end of Level 4 students have the phonics and word attack skills necessary to sound out high school level words (though they may not know the meaning of all higher level words yet). There is time to get through AAR without rushing.

I think I get worried my 8 yr old should be in level 3 of reading AAR but I’ve learned he dosent need as much support as his siblings in learning to read so I had to start letting go of trying to do every activity suggested for every lesson.

Pam

says:

great reminders

Heather

says:

Great advice! I really needed to be reminded of this. It’s so easy to compare our kids to others and fall into the Big Pit. I need to remember to look at how far they have come. Thank you!

Lisette Dionisio

says:

Yes! I have no regrets in stepping back and letting my child enjoy learning. Worrying just makes me gain another wrinkle. haha :) My child is a level 3 reader at the age of 6.

Lee

says:

Celebrating the small steps!

Stephanie

says:

Yes! This happens to me. But sometimes it really helps to look back just a month or two and remember how difficult things were and how much has changed.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Stephanie,
Yes. I find that when I or my student are falling into the “Big Pit”, going back and asking them to read a story or write some dictation from the previous level shows us both just how easily she can do work that not so long ago was challenging.

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