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How to respond when people don't support your decision to homeschool

Strategies for Stressful Situations

When People Resist Your Decision to Homeschool, Make ‘em Laugh

If you’ve made the decision to homeschool your children, more than likely, you’ve met resistance from almost everyone who knows and loves you and your children. I realized early on that the best way to address everyone’s discomfort with homeschooling was to make jokes about it, most of which addressed common stereotypes.

If you’re not quick-witted or wouldn’t know what to say, I’ll give you a few examples of things I’ve said to lighten the mood and mitigate some of the awkwardness at the beginning.

I’m not suggesting that you perform a stand-up routine or that you ever make fun of your children or family-unless it’s hilarious. Just kidding. Somehow, though, acknowledging the issues that people worry about most somehow alleviates their  fears and allows them to relax about it a little. At least temporarily….usually.

Most people worry about “socialization”. As homeschoolers, we quickly learn that this is really a non-issue but it’s difficult to reassure others that your kids aren’t isolated and actually have friends. When you acknowledge that you’ve considered this issue as well as the others that tend to worry people, they have no reason to bomb you with stats or articles to convince you that your making a horrible mistake.

I have to admit, before I really researched homeschooling as an option for our family and before I took it seriously, I was among the 99% of people that considered it weird.

Although homeschooling is becoming more common and conventional schools are becoming increasingly unsatisfactory for many different reasons, most people continue to hold misconceptions about it.

I can think of all of the individual conversations I had with nearly everyone in my life when I broke the news to them and tried to explain why I made the decision. Generally, my family and friends know me to be competent, thoughtful (in terms of thinking things through), pretty conventional and an engaged and loving mother. Because of that, my family and best friends accepted my choice but I think all of them were secretly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Once I made the choice, I rarely was on the receiving end of blatant contempt or resistance for my decision. Rather, the protests tended to be more subtle.

One relative would quiz my children incessantly almost everytime he came in contact with them. Another would constantly ask my mother about how my children would adjust to the “real world”. (I should mention here that my mom was fiercely supportive of my choice-more because she believes in people making choices for themselves. I’m still not sure she was convinced in the beginning that homeschooling was cool. Now, though, she sees how beneficial it’s been overall). Still other family and friends repeatedly made jokes to my children about whether they liked their teacher, which was cute the first dozen or so times. It got a little tired after the first year or two, though. At first, the kids would chuckle and say “I like her-ha-ha,” being sure not to hurt my feelings. Somehow they were innately aware that they were defending me. As they got older, though, they’d say “She’s the worst!” or “She doesn’t know anything!” or “She’s mean!”

I truly understand that all of these relatives were just concerned. They didn’t understand homeschooling and were fearful that my children would be deprived somehow…socially, emotionally, academically or athletically. I also knew that no matter what I told them, their fears wouldn’t be mitigated by firing statistics at them or unloading all of my research and lecturing or debating them about the benefits of homeschooling.

In the early years, I’d think to myself that “the proof would be in the pudding.” But really, I had no idea how long that pudding would take to set-up and in the end, this common catch-phrase doesn’t hold up. Not that homeschooled children don’t turn out to be great, just that when they do, skeptical or resistant friends and relatives won’t likely attribute it to homeschooling.

So here are a few things I’ve said or done to make people more accepting of our decision. Anytime someone quizzes the kids or takes them to do something fun, I take an imaginary mini notepad from my pocket and pretend to scribble something while I say “Phys ed, CHECK!” Or if they’re firing history questions at one of the kids, I’ll take that “notepad” out and say something like “Gather round everyone, Uncle So and So is substituting for history today!” Then I’ll “check” it off my “list”.

My mini imaginary notepad is ALWAYS with me. You’d be surprised after 10+ years how often I still have to pretend to pull it out of my pocket. Incidentally, this is the same notebook where I keep my list of reasons NOT to have a dog. When someone tells me how their dog ate a frog and threw it up….WHOLE…on the carpet, this gets duly noted in the mini notepad. (Let’s not start a puppy debate, here. I like animals, I just know I’d rather not take care of one-cause we all know where that responsibility falls!)

Just recently, my youngest was on a scavenger hunt at a baseball picnic with his teammates, all of whom go to the public school. He came toward the group of moms carrying a giant weed and was claiming that it was onion grass or something that it clearly wasn’t. I just shook my thumb toward him and said, “the homeschooled kid.”

I promise you, he was not embarrassed. I would never have made a wisecrack like that if I thought it would embarrass him. He’s never been that serious about classifying any plant. He loves nature but has no interest in grass or weeds. I don’t encourage you to make others feel comfortable at the expense of your children. You have to judge every situation as well as the people your with.

When the inevitable “prom” question has come up, I say something like, “Yeah, because that wasn’t awkward and over-priced.” My prom experience was one of the worst memories of high school. I agreed to go with a boy AFTER I broke up with him. One of the reasons I broke up with him was that I didn’t want to go to the prom with him. He still liked me. It was painful-ugh. The best was when one relative, who spent most of his high school career smoking in the bathroom and dodging the truant officer, asked about the prom. I just looked at him and seriously didn’t know what to say except, “What are you talking about? You didn’t go to one dance in high school!”

My point is not to take yourself too seriously. Homeschooling still isn’t mainstream and people aren’t sure what to do with it. I don’t suggest using this approach if you have a friend or family member who goes out of their way to attack your choice or constantly challenges you every time they get a chance. I’d just avoid this brand of hater and never, ever let them make your children feel badly. Most people aren’t this person and have good intentions.

As my children get older, people close to us have come to accept our decision and enjoy being with the kids. They celebrate their accomplishments and support their endeavors. They tend to be less worried about how they’ll turn out and some even acknowledge that homeschooling hasn’t been terrible for them. Maybe that pudding is beginning to set-up.

written by BethPhillips