How to Homeschool: Homeschool and Public School Parents Are not Mortal Enemies

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There is a tendency, in society at large, to perceive one person’s choices as a commentary about our own. Don’t believe me? Do you breastfeed? Discuss that with a mom who has chosen to bottle-feed.

Are you a stay-at-home mom? Discuss your role with a working-outside-the-home mom. Have you chosen to circumcise your sons? Discuss that with someone who has chosen not to.


See, all of these choices are intensely personal ones. None of them are right-and-wrong. None of them are life-and-death. Yet, we, as a society, tend to feel threatened when someone makes different choices than we do.

I still remember when we decided to pull Brianna out of public school at the end of first grade. I was on a very friendly basis with her classroom teacher – not so much with her reading teacher. I talked to her classroom teacher over the phone and discussed my concerns and our decision to homeschool for at least one year. She seemed very supportive.

Then, I went to the school for a meeting.

She had obviously already spoken to the reading teacher, with whom I had not discussed my decision, because they were ready with an arsenal of reasons why this was a terrible decision both of them, including the classroom teacher who had initially seemed very supportive. 

Day 16 - P365

They both took our decision very personally, even though it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my daughter’s learning needs.

I noticed this shift with other parents, too. I’d mention that we were going to homeschool the following year and I would see their faces close as they said, “Oh,” followed by an awkward silence.

Then, there was Josh’s speech therapist. He had speech therapy through the public school system when he was 4. The first therapist was very homeschool-friendly and everything was great. The therapist who replaced her when she quit was very standoffish – until the day we wound up having a discussion about why my family had chosen to homeschool.

When she found out that I was not anti-public school – or, at least, not anti-public school teachers – her entire demeanor changed. She even confessed that she had thought about homeschooling her own daughter at one point.

I think it’s important to realize – and to convey to your public school parent friends – that we aren’t enemies. There is much we can learn from one another. Some of my best hands-on ideas came from public school friends. I found out recently that a 5th grade public school teacher has linked to my salt dough map post on the website that her student’s parents can access for homework help.

I can’t tell you how many pleasant conversations I’ve had with public school teachers about education when I treated our discussion as one between colleagues. I think that I got the sense across that I wasn’t in competition with them – that I wasn’t looking down on them or their professions, nor was I feeling inferior in my position as my children’s teacher. 

Now, I will say, there are some rather militant homeschooling parents out there – people who think that if you’re a Christian, you should homeschool your kids. They can get very belligerent about the whole thing. I’m not one of those folks. I see the reasoning behind their argument, but it’s not my job to be anybody’s Holy Spirit. That’s a conversation between you and God.

On the whole, though, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling parents and their attitudes toward public school parents. That’s why I wrote the post that has come to be my most popular ever – and has even been printed in The Homeschool HandbookThe Public School Parents’ Guide to Homeschooling Parents.

After October 2011

That post has nearly 200 comments and you know what? Not one of them is negative. I think that’s because it’s a post that takes an honest look at the common misconceptions and shows public school parents that we’re not that different than them; we just chose a different path.

We’re not condemning parents who send their kids to public or private school because that’s their choice. Homeschooling is just our choice. One is not a commentary on the other. Both are just choices.

So, as you begin homeschooling, realize that your educational choice for your children isn’t a commentary on someone else’s choice for their children – and make sure that your public school parent friends realize this.

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  1. Again, fantastic! Since we live in suburbia, the majority of the families in our neighborhood attend the ps. But we also live in an area where there are LOTS of homeschoolers. So no one freaked out about our choice, although I did get lots of questions. And Miss Priss's first grade teacher seemed supportive as well. Or at least she didn't try to dissuade me at the end of Miss Priss's first-grade year. However, I've received, letr's call it "negative energy" from a couple of people, one of whom seriously considered hs'ing her kids a few years ago and decided not to. My guess is that her negativity comes from her own feelings and has little to do with our choice to hs.
    My favorite part: "it’s not my job to be anybody’s Holy Spirit."

  2. thanks Kris for saying it out loud! when we pulled our kids out of public school we got a lot of weird looks… and when i mentioned to our old principal that i was thinking of sending our littlest one back to school, he reminded me that they have remedial summer school if she needed to catch up. i was horrified, he assumed because she was at home and not in his school that i obviously couldn't have possibly done a passable job for 6 months. until i let him know that she was finishing up the first grade math book at the end of kindergarten. No remediation needed thank you…. When I think about our choice, and spend time with our very diverse homeschool community I remember the quote from Jackson Browne– " People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road does not mean they have gotten lost" 

  3. Nicely said Kris. While my kids have always homeschooled, I also want to the best for the kids who are in schools.  Some people seem to take others choices personally, and feel that if you are doing something different, it's somehow a reflection of them. In reality, most of us are doing what we think is best for our families, and could benefit from each  others support. 
    All kids deserve to have safe environments and engaging options for learning- wherever that may be. 

  4. Thank you for this post. We're about to start homeschooling in the fall. This will come on the heels of some other major changes and I know most people will not understand. We actually love our school district but feel like this is what's best for our family right now.

  5. So true!  I try to always preface my discussions with teachers by telling them that I don't think teachers are the problem in public education – I blame most of the issues of modern education on administrators!  

  6. I agree. I think the vast majority of teachers are doing the best they can with what they've got and that they truly care about their students and want the best for them.

  7. I haven't been commenting on every post, but I'm enjoying your series. Great job, and I especially love this one. 

  8. This is wonderful! I so agree with you. I go out of my way to try and understand and relate to friends that have children in or work in public schools. After all…I was one of them and made my choices for reasons that were right for me at the time.

    I appreciate your including this topic in your series!

  9. The only problem we had with pulling our son out of p.s. was that we did it 6 weeks into the school year.  No doubt it was a slap on the face to the teacher.  It was not intended to be that way, but I had to do what was best for my son.  His teacher did truly seem to care and want to help him.  We had several parent teacher conferences, daily emails, and even phone calls.  It came down to an over crowded class, in an over crowded school.  She was simply unable to give him the time and attention she needed.  Perhaps I could have tried more of the schools options (going through a staff review), but I could see how stressed he was, how unhappy he was, and how he was starting to hate school.  I had to do the right thing for him.  I couldn't see putting him through a full year of misery.  Even now when  he doesn't want to do school he tells me that he would rather be homeschooled than go back to his old school.  I know I made the right decision.

  10. I can really empathise with the feeling of being looked at weirdly for our family's choices. My siblings and I went to private school, and I do think that some people at public school (we call it state school here) can feel "but what's *wrong* with what I'm doing?". 

    Every option has its benefits, and indeed its drawbacks – not everyone has the money for private school or the early-age exam aptitude to obtain scholarships; not every family can take the time to homeschool because both parents may work or have other outside-the-home commitments; not every child flourishes in the same learning situation. So many reasons why what works for one family – or even child – may not work for all.

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