“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)