Confidence is freedom from doubt;

belief in yourself and your abilities.
It is being certain that your chosen
course of action is the best or most
effective given the circumstances.

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In the Enthusiasm article, we discussed Enthusiasm versus Confidence, and encouraged a focus on the former rather than the latter in your home education practices. It is human nature, however, to want to be confident as we home educate our children.


In fact, it’s highly desirable that we do feel genuinely confident in what we’re doing. In many ways, I suspect that Enthusiasm and Confidence spur each other along throughout the entire home education journey. As we focus on making learning delightful for our children, our enthusiasm does builds our confidence. Then, as our confidence grows, we’re released into greater freedom and thus enthusiasm to share with our children.

Tell Me About Confidence?

As I began thinking about writing this article, our family was out for a warming hot chocolate on a chilly winter’s afternoon, and I asked the question, “What is confidence?” The responses to my question were insightful and diverse, although far from exhaustive – I’ll share them with you here.

Confidence & competence don’t necessarily go hand in hand

We’ve probably all heard or seen someone, cocky with assumed knowledge, who falls in a heap when they need to apply what they know practically.

Speaking personally, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read about a principle in home education, researched it thoroughly, and enthusiastically presented the idea to my child, only to have her blink at me in disbelief and refuse to traverse that particular path. I fell in a heap, big time. And I’ve done it many times.

In my own instances, my lack of competence was because the confidence wasn’t my own – I’d assumed it from somebody else. I learned, with time, that competence came when I slowed down, talked with my daughter more, and provided resources for where she was at and how she learned. Not surprisingly, she has never been one to just climb into a box for my convenience.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned in this area was that I didn’t need to have everything down completely pat before I could impart anything effectively. Often the most effective learning ensued when we pursued answers together, and I didn’t assume that I had to always be superior in some way.

If your are patient with yourself and your
child, your competence will develop,
and your confidence will be real.

Can ignorance masquerade as confidence?

Yes, I believe it can.

“There are none so blind as those who will not see,” Englishman John Heywood is quoted as saying back in 1546.

Many people speak about home education with great authority, even though they know absolutely nothing (or at least very little) about it. Similarly, many home educators speak very adamantly against approaches and philosophies other than their own choice, even though they have never really explored any style other than their own.

In both cases, the individuals are able to see beyond their own views if they choose to, but they will not do so. It’s usually a case of, “I am only comfortable with what I know, so I will not entertain anything other than my own view.” I know this because I’ve been guilty of it many times myself.

Conversely, it is entirely possible to be very confident in yourself about what you are doing, and yet not be highly skilled at articulating it to others, which may cause us to seem igorant to those we’re trying to communicate with. We must remember that all of this home education journey is a process. We face an issue, think it through, develop a solution, put it to the test, adapt it, and implement it in a finally functional form – but we rarely acknowledge that each step of that process is as valid as another. I believe it is useful, to ourselves, to the officials we deal with, as well as those who enquire of us with interest, if we can train ourselves to articulate our processes.

One man who has a mind and knows it,
can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t.
~ George Bernard Shaw

How do you know when your own confidence is genuine?

The short answer to that is that when you’re faced with opposition and your inner peace isn’t disturbed, you can be pretty certain that your confidence is the real deal. It often takes quite a few tests of that inner peace before we realise just how unshakeable we are, however.

It’s important to recognise that our confidence in our ability to home educate can be shaken and even wounded, by ourselves as well as by others. The worst times for me were always when I thought I’d found a key that would help us soar, but instead the whole thing fell to the ground with a dull and lifeless thud. Those were the times I was most likely to castigate myself, and I can be much harder on myself than anyone else.

The point when I began to recognise the budding of true confidence in myself as a home educator was when something thudded dully to the floor and I wasn’t gutted. I could look at whatever it was, accept its lifelessness and still know that Life, as a whole and in our home education, went on regardless. Failsafe Maths (no such program exists, to my knowledge) might have failed to inspire my child, but I was not an abject failure just becuase I’d offered it. Something else would inspire, and it was my job to find it.

I am not afraid of storms,
for I am learning how to sail my ship.
~ Louisa May Alcott

What does Confidence look like?

Real confidence in home education:

  • is when you can do what you’re doing, in the way you’re doing it, regardless of what anybody else is doing
  • means you can allow someone else to do things in a completely different way to your own without having to correct either of you
  • can take on board criticism, assess it calmly and then use it or discard it reasonably

Confidence in home education is an inner state,
reflected in outward actions.

~ Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
but make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
and yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream, and not make dreams your master;
if you can think, and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken
and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
and never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
to serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
if all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!