I homeschool so they can fail

Yes, I want my children to be able to fail.


If you’ve ever watched gymnasts train, especially young gymnasts, you might have noticed the foam pit at the end of a long track. This pit is not just for safety. Sure, it ensures a soft landing so that no matter how the gymnast crashes to the ground, she is unlikely to be hurt. But it is there for another purpose as well. When they are starting out, young gymnasts will practice falling backward into the pit. It’s like a trust fall, but with no one to catch you. Because you have to lose your fear of falling backward before you can leap, twisting and turning, into the air.

I think life is the same way. To be successful, you have to be willing to fail. You have to trust that you can hop back up, dust yourself off and get back on the mat.

Embracing failure isn’t just about perserverance and pushing through the let-downs.

It isn’t just about the lessons learned through failure, which often are more valuable long term than our successes.

It is about losing the fear of failing so that we go out and try something new. Something outside our comfort zones. Something with risk attached.

The fear of failure is probably the strongest force holding people back from their potential. It’s not talent, or ambition, or ideas that stops budding entrepreneurs. It’s fear that can stop people dead in their tracks. And it’s stopped countless great businesses before they even begin. ~Business Insider

So when my children come up with crazy ideas, I try not to give them too much of my seasoned advice (even if it obviously isn’t going to work). When they fail, I tell them stories about my failures.

Like when I froze in the final round of a national speech competition and couldn’t think of one thing to say on the topic. I stood there silently for three whole minutes. And I didn’t derive any great lessons out of that. In fact, it made it impossible for me to compete in impromptu speaking the following season because I was so afraid of repeating that performance that I froze Every. Single. Time.

But you know what? My life didn’t end. Now it is just a funny story. And if you think about it, all the best stories involve our failures. When people share their failures, it makes us laugh and share our own stories. We admire success, but we connect with failure. Partly, I think, because we are afraid of it.

And I don’t want my children to be afraid of it. At least not so much that they never risk anything for their passions. I want them to step outside themselves and know that all those failures represent dreams they reached for.

So I try to create an environment like that foam pit above, where they learn to let go of some of that fear of failure so they can begin to learn to soar.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

(Image used via creative commons license. Original may be found here.)

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30 thoughts on “I homeschool so they can fail

  1. I took gymnastic lessons when I was a kid and I never thought that was what that pit was for. How interesting! And how true. You wouldn’t know what success is if you don’t know failure.

    1. My daughter is so obsessed with gymnatics right now she tells me the stuff she is reading all day long! I’m just going to trust her gymnastics OCD. πŸ™‚

  2. I’m strongly considering homeschooling my twins for several reasons. I’m not sure they will get accepted into preschool in the fall, because it is needs based, so I may begin something at home for next year. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Welcome to this crazy life if you decide to jump in! Preschool and kindergarten are so nice — well, they were the second time around. The first time around, I was too convinced I was ruining her for life every time she didn’t understand something! But when done right, they are both really about finding ways to play with your child in a way that advances their skills and knowledge!

  3. Very interesting perspective. I have a lot of friends who do homeschooling and while it isn’t for me I love the ideas behind it.

    1. It’s getting more prevalent. Almost everyone knows a homeschooler these days. Maybe people will stop looking at us as so weird when they know more than one or two!

  4. You cannot succeed unless you are willing to fail. Failure isn’t the end unless you stop. It just gets you closer to where you want to be. And homeschooling is a safe environment to do that.

    1. Yes! Harder for me is just letting them fail rather than telling them how to do what they are doing. Because mom really does want to cushion the world and make everything they do a success! It takes discipline to step back!

  5. This is so true. Success is sweeter if we have achieved it through hardship and failure. Reading through this post made me think of that song by Diane Reeves – Better Days. The particular part of the song goes, “You won’t get to know better days unless you make it through the night..”

    1. Yes. I think some of the problems young people seem to be having entering college is that they’ve never been allowed to fail. Their parents have been there giving them support to the point that they don’t have experience with failure.

  6. Excellent post! If we don’t fail, then it means we’re not trying. I love your example of the speech competition, though I know it wasn’t fun when it was happening!

  7. What a great point of view. And gymnastics is so much fun!! I did it for 15 1/2 years, myself a lot of that time being competitive in gymnastics meets. I met so many friends.

    1. My daughter so wants to be in it competitively. Right now, she is just in a tumbling class at co-op. It’s just such a long drive into town for anything!

    1. It can be really hard. I have a son with a low tolerance for failure as well which is why I think about it more. I want him to not be so fearful of it!

    1. I just want to go jump in one. I’ve seen them at indoor parks and they look fun! I’d probably get stuck and everyone in the place would have to help drag me out, though. πŸ™‚

  8. Whenever things go wrong around here, I think of how it will sound around Thanksgiving dinner ten or twenty years from now. Those make all the best stories. πŸ™‚

  9. As the kids get older, I am giving them more room to explore without my input. My five year old accidentally broke a remote control vehicle and happily took it all apart. He couldn’t get it back together, but I let him try because it was a learning experience. Failing has a lot of value in it.

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