by Karen D. Koch
Choosing to homeschool at times can feel as if we’ve placed a target on our forehead and asked people to take shots at us. But we don’t need to cower or always be in defense mode.
We chose homeschooling a long time ago for many reasons. My husband’s job at a golf course required work every Saturday and Sunday, so we figured he’d never see his children if they were in public school. My oldest was reading at age 4 and I couldn’t bear to put him in kindergarten to learn his ABCs every day. My second was really bright but I could tell we had major reading struggles ahead and I didn’t want him to drop through the cracks. I really just didn’t want other people raising my kids and being the primary influencers in their lives. I wanted to read the Bible to them every day, to follow their particular giftings and talents, not have them doing busy work all day in crowded classrooms, coming home too exhausted to be a part of the family. I wanted them to know each other. Our 12-year age spread would mean they’d usually be in different schools.
We thought about private school, but with two, then three, then four children, we realized I would have had to work full-time just to put them in private school AND still had to put my younger ones in daycare, which went against everything I wanted for my family in the first place. I didn’t want our family to be fragmented. It was the best choice for us, but after 15 years of homeschooling, I think I’ve heard most of the unhelpful comments people have to say.
My “Favorite” Unhelpful Homeschooling Questions
- What makes you think you’re qualified to do that? (this from an acquaintance when my oldest was FIVE and reading at a 3rd+ grade level)
- What about socialization? (just heard this at jury duty AGAIN three weeks ago when I told them I homeschooled)
- How will they ever get into college? (again I was asked this when my kids were in the lower grades; two have been accepted to college so far)
- That’s weird. (Well, sometimes it IS weird to the general public. Oh well.)
- Shouldn’t they go to “real” school? (What exactly does this mean?)
- What abut the prom? (really?)
- How will they ever learn how to stand in line? (Ummm let me see: post office, grocery store, everywhere else they go with me?)
- What were you thinking? (I also heard this from a complete stranger looking at my belly when I was 8 months pregnant and had my other three kids with me in Trader Joe’s)
- Or the one we homeschool parents tend to plague ourselves with in our own heads. “What if I’m a complete failure at this?” “What if I mess up the kids permanently?”
When I told one relative we were going to homeschool (oldest age 5 – he’s almost 20 now) said person replied, “Oh,” then after a few seconds of awkward listening to the crickets, changed the subject, and hasn’t really mentioned it since. Fortunately my parents, though unsure at first, have always been supportive, encouraging, and involved in what the kids were doing and learning. They even helped pay for curriculum every year! But I know not all homeschoolers are blessed that way, and I’ve dealt with my share of criticism and unwelcome comments.
When You Feel Criticized
What I have found is that we all need a homeschool mentor–homeschool moms who are just a bit farther down the path than we are. I have been blessed to have several of these, making up for the lack of support on other fronts. I had to finally realize that God had given me people who were supportive of my homeschooling and I needed to look to Him and them for strength and encouragement, not to the naysayers tearing me down or making my job harder.
Let down your defenses. I’ve heard enough negative comments about homeschooling over the years that I sometimes anticipate hostility where there is none. There are many people who are just curious, not necessarily attacking your choices, and even if they are, we don’t have to go into strategic defense mode. We can be peacemakers and be sure of our own decision.
Use the questions as opportunities to educate people (nicely). I’ve answered, “As for socialization, my kids are involved in church, sports, music lessons, 4-H, etc. etc. so I’m not worried about that.” Or better yet, answer them with a question they don’t think about much, “What about negative socialization? Have you ever thought about that? I don’t want my 7-year-old son knowing all the swear words and being bullied.”
Be patient and kind to people who don’t necessarily say helpful things. Sometimes people really don’t understand us. You may be the only homeschooler they’ve met. Teach the kids to be gracious, too. We want other people’s grace for our choices, so let’s give them some grace when they think we’re weird.
Realize that sometimes people are actually being defensive. Homeschooling is definitely not for everyone and every circumstance, but sometimes people may feel homeschooling is something they should do or feel pressured to do so and are in self-protection mode when talking to you. They may think you feel superior when you say you homeschool (which is another topic for another day). Most parents are genuinely concerned about their children’s education and are trying to do their best. Let us encourage them.
Jesus said that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9)
Let’s be more than defensive and self-protective. Let’s be the homeschool peacemakers.
Karen Koch is a long-term homeschool mom on the cusp of graduating one child from college and another from high school with two bringing up the rear in 7th and 2nd grades. Her homeschool has been a work in progress (and sometimes work in chaos as the family is currently in the process of another move) but she’s grateful this is the plan God had for her family. Blog image by Monte Koch.