When I was in elementary school, I took my list of spelling words and wrote stories around them. As a teenager, I wrote and mailed pages and pages of personal letters. As an adult, I’ve written three books and countless blog posts. As a homeschool mom—well, if anyone could instill in her children a love of writing, I would be that mom.

To paraphrase a popular saying: No homeschool plan survives contact with the student.

From the time our oldest, Bookgirl, was 7, writing assignments have been battles. She didn’t want to use her spelling words in sentences. She resisted being taught how to write a paragraph. Then came Gamerboy, who was even worse. His meltdowns over handwriting were of epic proportions, and it was a struggle to get him to express any thoughts in writing. Sparkler didn’t resist so much as panic—she immediately framed a writing assignment in the highest standards possible and concluded that she couldn’t accomplish it. As for Ranger, he was my slowest reader and least-intuitive speller, so composing any written work was a grind for him.

What came so easily to me was a struggle for my kids. Writing assignments were a mountain that we had to struggle over. And since homeschooling is so intensely personal . . . well, I took it personally. I felt like a failure. It took me a while to see the situation for what it was.

Bookgirl didn’t like “creative writing” assignments from me, but by 19 finished the first draft of a novel (I haven’t been granted reading privileges as of press time). Gamerboy enjoys math and coding—because he wants to get into game development and worldbuilding. Sparkler likes to draw and paint, and spends hours bringing her own characters into being. Ranger, who drips tears on the page when he has to compose a sentence, loves going off by himself to enact epic adventures in his head. He and Sparkler, in fact, have long conversations about characters and stories.

We don’t aim to shape our children into pre-formed expectations, but to help them become the people they are meant to be.

My “failure” wasn’t because my kids were sabotaging all of my hard work. It wasn’t their fault that reality didn’t match my expectations. The simple truth is that they’re different people from me, and they approach writing and storytelling from different directions.

This love of writing is, of course, very specific to our family. Your family might not care a thing about character motivations or elements of worldbuilding. Yet I’m willing to bet that most homeschooling parents have encountered this “failure of expectations” along the way.

As homeschooling parents, we pour a lot of ourselves into our children’s education; when our children take detours, it can be a surprisingly difficult adjustment for us. Yet homeschooling is for them, not us. We don’t aim to shape our children into pre-formed expectations, but to help them become the people they are meant to be.

Whew! It’s so good to have that figured out. Everything will go smoothly from now on, I expect.