Judge Not, Less…

 

“So, where do your children go to school?”

If you’ve homeschooled a minute, you’re well aware of the whirlwind of emotions that swirl within you when you respond, “We homeschool.”     The moment in time almost freezes while you wait for that follow-up question, comment, or unsolicited advice.   I read an interesting article not too long ago about the responses of others when you make a decision to homeschool.     Though I like to think that I am past caring what others think–at least in that area, I can remember the days when approval mattered as much as any other homeschooling-related decision we made.   Coming from families of public school educators on both sides, our choice to educate our children at home was not taken lightly–by anyone.

I have often stated that one of the nuances about choosing to homeschool is that you must speak from a place of confidence long before you have it.   Moreover, once you do become confident, or have even feigned confidence long enough, it’s not a far jump to arrogance and/or judgment of others because they don’t homeschool.    I can remember that phase of my own homeschooling journey when I thought people who chose not to homeschool were just missing out.   I became particularly condescending when other parents would state very plainly that they lived in the la-te-da school district, and so they had no reason to homeschool.   Of course, my response was often prompted by a comment like, “Well, if I lived in your district I’d homeschool, too.”    This was the one time that I defended our local public school and its Texas-exemplary status.

To be sure, homeschooling is not for everyone, and we shouldn’t be too upset with those who will say, “Ooo, child, I just don’t have the patience for that,” or something similar.   Our decision to homeschool, for whatever reason, is our decision; it works for our household and family structure.   Returning rudeness with rudeness does not allow us to minister grace.   How do we steer clear of judgment?   How do we acknowledge our choice without belittling someone else’s?

1. Understand our own emotions.    We need to dig into that whirlwind and understand what those emotions are and why they are there.   Years ago, I heard a pastor make a statement that was very powerful for me at a time in my life when I was truly struggling with feeling cast out and rejected.   His comment was that people don’t actually hurt your feelings; they just brush against sensitive areas that you’ve not surrendered to Christ yet.   Wow.   I’d never thought about it that way!   Could it be that the hurt I was feeling was because another person stated aloud some subconscious pain I’d been dealing with all along?   Could it be that someone else’s comment of “How are you going to homeschool your children?” really stings because it’s occurred to you that you might not be able to homeschool?  Acknowledge their concern, regardless of how obnoxious it may be, with something like, “Yeah, that has occurred to me, but…” and then begin to minister in wisdom.

2. Learn the facts.   For you to minister in wisdom, you must grow in wisdom.   There are an overwhelming number of articles that point to the tangible and intangible facts about homeschooled children.   Reading some of this information not only helps you with the sister(s) or MIL who is put out that you think you can do what they were formally educated to do (that’d be me and my house), but knowing some facts will also give you the encouragement you need, especially in those days when the fruits of homeschooling are still germinating.

3. Understand the nature of people.    As sad as it is to say, human nature is to respond negatively to things with which we are unfamiliar.  Every now and then, you might receive genuine curiosity about homeschooling.   Caught on the wrong day, this can be aggravating for me because I don’t always feel like answering the typical questions about reporting, socialization, testing, etc.   But then again, when I’m aware of my own emotions, I recognize my mental fatigue and fight through it–you never know when you might be an angel unaware to another homeschooler-to-be!   Yet, I’m convinced that people sometimes respond negatively because they have little or no experience with homeschooling, and because it is not the status quo–always a source of mild anxiety for some.   When I consequently hear about their friend/ relative/ someone they knew who had a horror story of a homeschool journey, my simple response is, “Oh, well, that’s not been our experience.”

Also realize that we all want the best for our children; some of us just form different opinions about how to get there.   The parents that move to a certain area in order to place their child in a certain public school are doing this for the same reason that you have taken your child out of the public school system altogether.   Allow them the same freedom of choice that you would want for yourself.   

4. Give others–and yourself–time.    You will not slay every dragon that comes in the form of an unsolicited, unwelcomed response all at once.    If we are honest, some of the concerns might be legitimate, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to think about the question and do the homework required to be sure there is not a budding issue.   As a personal example, several years ago, one of my sisters, an English teacher by formal training, questioned our choices for literature, especially poetry.   As one whose love for poetry is still germinating (lol), I could have responded defensively.   But she was right; regardless of my own personal feelings, I owed it to the children to at least expose them to rhythm and rhyme and rhyme scheme and…ugh.     Just last week I was telling her and another sister that our oldest was accepted into the Honors program at our local community college.   And though I’ve homeschooled long enough now until the children’s development is pat on the back enough for me, it felt good to hear the two of them say, “You are doing a great job.”   People may question your methods all day long; what they cannot knock is your fruit.

How do you respond to people’s comments after saying “We’ homeschool”?    Hopefully with all the knowledge that you can muster in the moment, all the wisdom of someone who is ever hoping to improve, and all the grace and mercy of a child of God.   Blessings, dear friends.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19 NJKV)

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10 comments on “Judge Not, Less…

  1. Ty Thomas says:

    Very timely…and needed. Despite our “successes” with homeschooling, I still get questioned, emailed and called out of “concern” for the childrens’ future. And there in the invariable question of “what if they want to play sports?” Really? I should send my children into a system that my husband and I feel is not going to given them the complete/total educational foundation we believe the Lord expects them the have simply so that they can play sports? Uh, ok…I’ll get back to you on that one! LOL! Nevertheless, there is always the instance when we are met with those who are just truly inquiring because they just don’t know. And if I don’t watch my temperment with the purposeful nay-sayers…I may accidentally fire off and offend someone who is simply seeking knowledge, enlightenment and information. It is a struggle…but it has gotten easier to tell the difference betweent the two…THANKFULLY! Keep on blogging my sister! Love it!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Ty! Most frustrating to me is that those who most often look at me crazily when I say that we homeschool are those whose children are…well, you know. I get that all too much at church. What I really want to say is, “Okay, if you’re carrying the banner for public schools, where’s YOUR fruit?” But, that wouldn’t be Christ-like or in any way encouraging. Trust me, this post is birthed of YEARS of letting the Lord speak to me on this issue–it hasn’t been too long since I would be in neck-rolling, finger-pointing, and sucking of teeth mode, and feel quite justified in doing so!! LOL!!

  2. Patricia says:

    Mrs. Bullard and Ty, I thank God for the two of you! Well, for me, it’s those folks closest to me (my mother to name one) who I have difficulties with (I guess cause I’m a single mother, but what does that have to do with it). Everyone else encourages me to keep on homeschooling because they SEE the FRUIT of it. As far as family goes, I just smile and keep it moving. Oh my favorite question, “Don’t you need to be “qualified” to do that?”. And my response, “Yes, God has given me all the qualifications.” LOL. I love it!

    • Patricia, I’m thankful for you, too! I would get that same question, again from my MIL and two of my sisters, who are all school teachers. It’s been amazing to watch their perspectives change as the fruit becomes full bloom. You’ll see it, too, more and more as you little girl grows. Stay the course–you won’t regret it!

  3. Tracy says:

    You have written another fabulous article here, Belinda! You have completely nailed it.
    In the past month I have had several young moms ask me about homeschooling while I was out with the children running errands and such. They were sincerely curious and it was nice to be able to encourage them. I feel like your words here are going to be such a huge encouragement to so many.

    What really stuck out at me the most was this, “His comment was that people don’t actually hurt your feelings; they just brush against sensitive areas that you’ve not surrendered to Christ yet.”
    Blew me away!
    I’m going to write that down in my day book and ponder it over for a long time to come. I have a hunch it is something my children will be hearing now and again in the future, too 🙂 I think I myself might have some things to take to the cross after reading that.

    • Thanks, Tracy! That comment about sensitive areas not surrendered to Christ was really life-changing for me. Whenever people say things that I find hurtful, inevitably, if I’m willing to go “there,” the truth is that they said something that triggered an issue I was already having, and their comment heightened my fears/ anxieties/ concerns. The first time I heard this was before one of our family reunions, where someone was bound to make a crack about my weight. Because I didn’t want to be judged as being sensitive by people who only see me once every two years, I’d laugh along with the jokester, but it hurt. As the Lord gave me peace and wisdom in that area, I can now laugh in earnest and not be phased by those comments, and I’ve learned something–when you aren’t as offended by those comments, they aren’t a big deal for others, either, and in fact, they don’t even come up as much! I praise God for that Ramah word, and it has kept me in many a place where I might have lost it!

      Blessings to you!

  4. Dawn says:

    Another wonderful post! I think having confidence that I am doing the right thing is easier for me because my oldest started out in public school. However, sometimes the questions still hurt. A SIL asked us a few years ago how we could consider homeschooling our “normal” child. It was one thing to homeschool the special needs kids (they were already lost), but the normal one should have a “real” education.That conversation left me speechless. My husband had plenty to say about it. We are not close to my husband’s family and since our special needs fruit, that has graduated, isn’t going off to Harvard….there is no proof that we are doing the right thing (in their eyes). However, we get so much praise from doctors, therapists, friends and others who know our kids that it makes up for the hurtful comments. I just conducted my yearly interview with the kids. My fruit are thriving! We are so blessed. I always enjoy your posts.
    Blessings, Dawn

    • Wow. My mouth dropped when I read this one. All anyone would have to do is look at your blog and your creativity, and they’d ask how much you charge. I know I’ve thought about it!

  5. Thank you! I often spout to others that we are put on this earth to encourage and lift each other up and sometimes it just brings tears to my eyes when an issues that I am deeply dealing with smacks me right in the face at exactly the right moment. I all too often have a sharp tongue and even though I have learned to sometimes keep my mouth closed, the thoughts and intentions are still there. As a new homeschooler of young children, learning from experienced families is gold in my safety deposit box! I am so glad I decided to browse through some blogs today and look forward to reading some more. Press on mama, for you are an encouragement and inspiration to others!
    Sara

    • Thank you, thank you, Sara! And you’re right–we must keep one another encouraged. If there is any question or bit of inspiration you find here, I am the one whose been blessed. Onward, Christian soldier!

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