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.
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 Handbook – The Public School Parents’ Guide to Homeschooling Parents.
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.