How to Homeschool: Be Prepared for the NaySayers


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If you’ve told anyone that you’re planning to homeschool, you’ve probably already met the naysayers, those folks who want to tell you what a horrible decision you’re making and how you’re going to ruin your kids.

10-days-april-kris

Now, I will say, if the people who are voicing their concerns are people you love and care about, who love and care about your kids – your parents, your siblings, or even your spouse (because the two of you definitely need to be on the same page) – listen, honestly and with an open mind, to what they are saying and be willing to consider any valid concerns.

However, if those concerns are from random friends and acquaintances who are basing their arguments on their “friend who had a neighbor who homeschooled” or the cousin of their sister-in-law’s sister who homeschooled, be prepared to respond with firmness and grace.

I do think that, most times, that grace part is pretty important. As homeschooling parents who hear those questions, concerns, and arguments quite frequently, it can be easy to get defensive. However, I think most people aren’t trying to be difficult or argumentative. They’re just reacting to a concept that is completely foreign to them.

Let’s face it. The majority of us went to public school. It’s what we know. It’s just what people do. It’s normal to ask questions about a lifestyle that is completely out of your realm of experience.

Maybe some of us have imagined homeschooling since before our kids were born, but for others, homeschooling seemed weird to us, too, until we started considering it for our own children.

If you’re the only homeschooling family someone has ever known, you are the voice for all homeschoolers. Don’t be a defensive, angry voice. You could be talking to the person whom you’ll be mentoring in a year or so.

When I announced that we were going to start homeschooling Brianna, my sister laughed out loud. Really. A few years later, her daughter joined our homeschool for her preschool year. My family completely changed my sister’s opinion of homeschooling – an opinion that was based on one homeschooled kid that she worked with once.

If you have decided to homeschool, plan for the naysayers because they will find you.

Don’t debate. It’s okay to answer the honest questions, but don’t ever let your educational choices be open for debate. Assuming that you did not, in fact, wake up one day and decide to homeschool, but, instead, made this decision after much thought, prayer, research, and discussion with your spouse, your decision is not up for public debate. Even with your mother. Or your mother-in-law.

An answer for someone you love and care about can be as simple as, “I appreciate your love and concern for us, but we’ve made this decision after careful consideration and planning and with much prayer.”

An answer for a casual acquaintance or the lady behind you in line at the supermarket can be, “Thank you for your concern. That is something we’ve considered. So, what do you think about the weather we’ve been having?”

It’s not your job to make others agree with your parenting choices. Know when to pass the bean dip.

Be gracious. If people are asking legitimate questions and you have the time, answer them. Maybe they’re not questioning your decision; maybe they’re just curious. Weren’t you before you chose this lifestyle?

Give some consideration to how you’re going to answer the questions so that you’re not caught unprepared.

The most important thing to remember is that while those snappy little comebacks may sound fun, they can come off sounding snarky and that doesn’t speak well for homeschoolers as a whole and can negatively impact your Christian witness.

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14 Comments

  1. I've been blessed with a pretty open-minded family and community. Nay-sayers are pretty much only on the internet for me, except for my brother-in-law, whose opinion is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. There was a time when my dad expressed misgivings about it, very gently, but he's a true convert to homeschooling now, and our biggest cheerleader. My in-laws…well, my MIL tends to be the tight-lipped kind and won't even bring up contentious subjects, so I'll probably never know for sure. She approves of a lot of things in our lives, and says so, but we don't hear much about school from her. I've found that if I react defensively, people go on the offensive. If I react positively to questions, they're equally positive. So much of it is in how you present yourself–not your curriculum, or reasons, which nobody really even cares about–but yourself.

  2. Great post, Kris. My parents were nay-sayers upn hearing the news, but my mother (a lifelong ps teacher) soon agreed with me about my ps concerns. My dad was just concerned for me, about the fact that hs'ing is a full-time job and a HUGE responsibility. Now they are believers! No one else gave me any grief. 🙂

    Regarding the public: I've learned to discern who's really interested and who's just asking with more skepticism than interest, and I tailor my response accordingly.

  3. This is such good advice. We've been lucky — most of the people who we've talked to about homeschooling (including my inlaws and even my oldest daughter's Kindergarten teacher) have been supportive and very nice. There is one family member (one of my daughter's Godparents) who is a public school teacher and made a crack about our how our kids are getting a great preparation for truck-driving school (in other words, forget college.) That hurt, but I chose to ignore it. I believe in what we're doing, and I can see the positive effect homeschooling has had on our kids. I

  4. Excellent point, Cindy! My mom was skeptical at first, but she is very supportive now. My dad is always my biggest cheerleader, not matter what. My in-laws were very opposed at first, but came around within the first couple of years. Most people who are really around homeschoolers — hanging out with them, spending time with them, not just observing them from across the street — come to realize that homeschooling is nothing like they imagined it to be and that it's not so bad after all.

  5. Nice from the one relative. Some people truly don't undestand how homeschooled kids can get into college and have no idea how homeschool-friendly so many colleges have become.

  6. Thank you for this! I'm so interested about learning more about how homeschooling, particularly as it is so rare here in the UK, but I have come across a lot of obstacles. If I ask questions, I seem to encounter extremely short, somewhat dismissive answers. 

    I therefore beg of homeschoolers – please talk to those of us who are learning as if you are talking to a friend. We are interested, and even those of us who are undecided would love to hear about how well it works for you! It may not be my ultimate choice – the lack of co-ops and a homeschool community here is tricky – but we all do better and *are* better for learning about how other people live.

  7. It's nice to hear from someone who is undecided about homeschooling, Becca, and get your insight. I hope you can get some answers from those who have experience homeschooling in the UK.

  8. We are planning to homeschool our son who is currently 16 months old. We started talking about the possibility before I was even pregnant, and everyone around us was strongly against it. 

    Since people can see that we have put a lot of thought into this decision, and we've explained our reasoning for it, there has been more support. My grandmother, who I am very close to, was a reading recovery teacher for the public school and has become more supportive, knowing that many children in public school struggle and get little to no help. My mother is a child development teacher and she worries, but knows that we will make a decision based on what our child needs. My in-laws have dropped the subject completely, which is okay because they still believe I shouldn't stay at home with him period. They assume if I get an paying job, then there won't be any talk of homeschooling. They tried talking us into moving in with them so that I could work while my mother-in-law babysits! (We politely declined. She then quit her job to guilt us into it. It didn't work.)

    The most support I have had, surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), is from my old teachers- private elementary, public high school, and university. Every teacher I have spoken to has encouraged us to homeschool. They cite illness, lack of individual attention, and failing systems for reasons not to send my child to public school. They are all extremely homeschooling friendly, and have even gotten me in touch with homeschooling groups and co-ops. My high school teachers have said that homeschoolers were always at the top of any class they taught, and my college professors said that the drop out rate for homeschoolers in college is minuscule compared to public school. In my university, homeschoolers are more likely to graduate on time, have better GPAs, and go on to have better paying careers.

  9. Hi Beca,
     I'm in the UK too. Home ed is much rarer here but there are a surprising number of us around. Home service is a Christian group for home educators. There is also an active Yahoo group of UK Christian home educators. Education Otherwise is a secular group but has legal info. I'm sure that you should be able to find some home educators around. We don't have the large US co-ops or mega conferences but you are likely to be able to find a local group-we go to two! I've written a bit about our experience of home educating here on my blog-do feel free to ask questions.

  10. The only naysayers I encounter much these days are strangers or acquaintances.  If I remember, I try to kill them with kindness, but sometimes their questions or statements stun me!  My family was skeptical in the beginning, but the proof is in the pudding as they say, and they have been won over.  Great post!

  11. Hi Becca,

    I'm in the UK and homeschooling my 7- and 5-year-olds. I have never sent them to school, and I planned to homeschool from probably when my eldest was about 2 or 3. At the time I knew NOBODY who homeschooled, but now I know of a few families, and I am in contact with a few more online (in the UK). Most of my contacts and moral support are in the US. I do hear a lot of astonishment when I say that we're homeschooling (from strangers, friends, some family members at first, etc) but more because it's just never something they'd considered coming across, I think! I try to talk cheerfully and answer questions, and it is getting easier now as I am finding my feet and my confidence in teaching my children at home. In the early days it was easy to question myself negatively and I had a lot of self-doubt which was made worse by even well-meaning questions.

    Now I am way more confident that we're doing the right thing for us as a family, and it's so much easier to answer questions without feeling foolish for not knowing the answers! 😉 I have a pre-schooler, two toddlers and a baby on the way, so homeschooling will keep me busy for many years to come, and I hope that numbers will grow in the UK (they are already) and we'll have more opportunity to form support groups and co-ops and such. That would be great!! 🙂

  12. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I found this post super helpful!  My son is almost three and I plan on homeschooling.  I have already had conversations with family, friends, and others.  Thankfully, I have even convinced them that homeschooling is a great option!  But I know it won't go that smoothly in every conversation.  Your tips were great.  Thanks for sharing with us!

  13. I'm new on here but the worst experience that I had with nay-sayers and homeschooling came at a birthday party (before I even began homeschooling) where my sister introduced me to another homeschooling mom. This chick proceeded to tell of the worldly influences on her daughter in a private school and then asked me about my kids.

    Here's the kicker – When she found out that I was only going to homeschool one of my kids "gasp* I got a well-rehearsed and very righteous scolding about how I was letting my other children be led down the paths of unrighteousness, that my superintendent was a homosexual, that my public-schooled children were being taught evolution, secular humanism, and sex ed on a daily (ok, I'm exaggerating but that's what it felt like) basis, and that basically I didn't care about their eternal destination.

    I was floored (and mad at my sister for introducing us!). Fortunately, I settled into a Monday School group and made it my mission to bridge the communication gap between families who only homeschooled and families that did both. Gradually, the deer-in-the-headlights looks I would get after explaining that my daughter was not an only child and that her siblings were in *gasp* public schools started to fade. We prayed for each other and I realized that having kids in both schooling settings was a point of shame for many families and that mom's didn't want to talk about it. For us, it was a choice. For them, it was a point of failure or that the child wasn't passing the necessary tests. We moms take that stuff very personally.

    There were teachers who were homeschooling in that Monday School group whose husbands or wives were currently teaching in public schools and had been commissioned by their pastors as missionaries in their schools. I helped the families realize that scorning public schools so openly is a big mistake where the church in involved.

    So, as for homeschooling nay-sayers: watch out for the other side. Yes, the homeschooling side. I learned that the good FAR outweighed the not-so-good and that 99% were encouraging and understanding.

    As for the birthday party? I set the chick straight about our public school's curriculum, teachers, principal, AND superintendent –  who was just hired that month. We left my daughter there, the hubby and I went home and  he put on a nice beer t-shirt (he only has one and it's very tame) and we returned to visit with other nice families at the party.

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