by Susan Pineda
I remember feeling paralyzed, then angry. In the middle of a large family gathering, Grandpa just tossed it out there like a grenade, “Susan homeschools the kids,” and sat back with arms folded to watch. What started out as a relaxing afternoon of visiting, quickly morphed into an interrogation. “Why would you do that to your kids?” “Are the schools that bad where you live?” “Do your kids have any friends?” “How can you teach everything they need to know?” “How do you know they are learning?” “Don’t you want them to have normal school experiences?” “Don’t you want them to be normal?” “What do you do all day?” My personal favorite – “What about the prom?!” (Our kids were six and two at the time.)
My initial reaction was to feel angry at Dad for putting us on the spot. Fortunately, I managed to choke out some decent answers. Somehow the kids passed the impromptu pop-quizzes. I’ll elaborate more on that later. In the moment, it was embarrassing. In the aftermath, I confess, it bred insecurity. In the long run, though, it grew all of us in ways I did not expect.
Fast forward … We stuck with it! We homeschooled through high school. Our kids are adults now, living productive adult lives. We encountered many more such “grenades” along the way, but at some point, I stopped being paralyzed by challenges from the naysayers in my life. In fact, I learned to love them.
With more and more families joining the homeschool ranks these last few years, and as we approach the holidays, this has been on my mind. This may be your first set of holidays since you started homeschooling. Expect questions to come up. There may be curious, even hostile, relatives and friends visiting.
Here are some practical tips to help you through the holidays and other similar situations.
- Remember back to when you didn’t know anything about homeschooling. I suppose a confession is in order. I never intended to homeschool. At one time I believed as the naysayers do. I wasn’t always gracious when I held my former uninformed opinion. It was the patience and kindness of seasoned homeschool moms that won me over. If someone can be won over, it is likely going to take patience and kindness over time.
- Remember many of the naysayers in your life may actually have honorable motives. Sure there may be some who will remain sour about it. We will get to that later. However, it may actually be that they are truly concerned. Perhaps you have parents who are genuinely rattled by how differently you are parenting and educating your children, whom they love dearly. Again, patience and kindness over time can go a long way.
- There is nothing wrong with preparing ahead. Coach yourself and your kids ahead of time to respond to a variety of situations. For instance, if you think Uncle Jerry might quiz your little boy on multiplication, and your son isn’t ready, have him equipped with a cheerful but firm answer, and arm him with an amazing fact about something else he is excited about, like science! If you think Grandma will ask your daughter if she has any friends, have her prepared to give a sweet, encouraging answer.
- Remember it is not your job to convince everyone that home education is wonderful. It is okay that not everyone will support you. As painful as it can be, not everyone will come around through patience and kindness. You may have to let it go. Prepare your heart to accept that … then continue to be patient and kind! This is a valuable life lesson for your kiddos.
- Pray. Pray for the naysayers in your life. Pray God will help you love them as He does. Pray that God will bring them around in His way and His time. Pray God will show you healthy boundaries.
- Rest. Rest in the knowledge you made the decision to homeschool based on what you believe is best for your family, and stick with it! What can you do to help you stick with it? Next point …
- Surround yourself with YAYsayers! If you are not already in a support group, make finding one a priority. The CHEA Support Network Directory is a great place to start. Build relationships with fellow homeschool friends who will love you, support you, and truly understand what you are doing. These are the people who can help you stay the course should the naysayers begin to erode your resolve.
There will be trials and triumphs. I haven’t always responded perfectly, but isn’t that how we all learn? I won’t bore you with all the tales, though there are many! There were some interactions that went well, and some that, um, could have gone better, but we all learned along the way to be more loving and kind, regardless.
I will conclude with one tale. A few years deep into our homeschool season, our kids had the honor of playing a saxophone/clarinet duet together to honor their grandparents at their 50th wedding anniversary party. They also danced the night away with each other and guests of all ages because they also loved ballroom and swing dance. That same grandfather who had grilled our son when he was small, proudly said, “They’re homeschooled!” What a turn-around. I cannot promise you will have results like this with everyone, and that is not the point. You do what God has called you to do. Do it with love, gentleness, and understanding. If your naysayers come around, or even become YAYsayers, that is the cherry on top!
Susan and her husband, Greg began homeschooling their two children in September 1999, the month they moved to Ventura and joined the Association of Christian Home Educators of Ventura County (ACHEV). Greg and Susan have been leading ACHEV since 2016, honored to invest back into the group that faithfully nurtured them through their home education years.