Pass the Bean Dip

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I need to start by saying that the idea that I am about to share is not my own, original idea. It is one that was shared on the iVillage homeschool message board where I was a community leader years ago. I wish I knew to whom to give credit.

{Edited to add: After many years of searching, credit appears to be due Joanne Ketch. Thanks to those who commented and pointed me in the right direction. I really like the last paragraph of Joanne’s article. You should go read it.}

I believe that it had been previously shared on another board, but it quickly became something of a rallying cry for homeschoolers beleaguered by unsupportive friends and family. To this day, most of the people on the message board would know what you were talking about if you told them they should “pass the bean dip.”

When your decision to homeschool is not up for debate, just pass the bean credit keith mcduffy on flickr

It is not uncommon for homeschooling parents to find themselves in the position of being questioned about their schooling choices…or for any parents to find themselves being questioned about their parenting choices, for that matter. The problem of unsupportive family and friends is not unique to homeschooling parents.

The problem isn’t really the unsupportive family and friends, however. The point where the problem really starts tends to be the point where we, as parents, begin defending our choices and trying to convince the other party that our choices are right – when we try to make them agree with us. This sends the signal that the choice in question is open to debate. If the choice is open for debate, then, feel free to go ahead and have the conversation with the opposing party.

However, if the choice is not open for debate, it’s time to pass the bean dip.

Why are you all homeschooling little Suzie? What about socialization?

Suzie has many friends of all ages. Could you pass the bean dip?

What if you don’t teach little Johnny everything he needs to know? How is he ever going to get into college?

You’d be surprised at how many options Johnny has for college. Could you pass the bean dip?

What about all the things that Mary is going to miss out on by not being in school?

Mary is enjoying a very well-rounded childhood. Could you pass the bean dip?

Of course, if the questions are being asked by well-meaning loved ones who really do have your children’s best interest at heart, there’s nothing wrong with explaining your choices. Often, I’ve found that the support comes a couple of years into homeschooling when the grandparents begin to see that you really can teach your child at home and he really does have friends. When the support doesn’t come, though, or the discussion becomes a debate, it’s okay to pass the bean dip with even the grandparents.

It’s okay to say, “We love you and we know that you love little Suzie, however, we are her parents. This is not a decision that we have made lightly and we feel that it is the right choice for our family. We would love your support, but our decision is not open for discussion or debate.”

Somehow, though, it’s a lot more fun to say, “Could you pass the bean dip, please?”

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I loved this post. This is our first year homeschooling and to say that my family was not “fully on board” would be an understatement. It’s good to know I’m not the only one that gets those doubtful statements and questions as if I’ll change my entire course of action based on whether or not my child will attend a PROM or HOMECOMING!

  2. I know this post is old – but just had to share that I use this strategy in more that just our homeschooling choices! When someone wants to make negative comments about how our marriage is not going to work, or how I discipline (or don’t discipline) my kids – I just change the subject and pass the bean dip!

  3. I believe that Joanne, The Happy Homeschooler, is the originator of this phrase. She wrote quite a bit on her blog about how to set boundaries. I believe that I read her blog was compromised and is off the internets for now. Word is she plans to put it back up when she has the time to fix things.

    1. Yeah, I have no idea who originally coined the phrase. I first heard it on a message board about a decade ago way back before most of us (including me) even knew what a blog was. Wherever it came from, it makes sound, practical advice for dealing with nay-sayers.

      1. Yes, it is Joanne, also of GOYB Parenting, which also appears to be offline right now. :-/ She originally came up with the bean dip idea in relation to attachment parenting, and then applied the concept to homeschooling. I have used the proverbial ‘bean dip’ for years, and has spared a lot of stress. 🙂

  4. Forgive me for sounding like a total ignoramus, but I need things a little more spelled out. Do you literally say “Pass the bean dip” no matter the context and ride on the laughs? Or are you just advising that you change the subject quickly?

  5. Thank you so much for this, we live just outside of Detroit, MI in a nice suburb and Michigan is a right to home school state. Sadly, a few months ago there was a women from the city who had killed 2 of her children and put them in a freezer for at least 2 years. It was even more horrific then it sounds when you realize she also had 2 other children living in the home (all with different fathers none of who cared), and nobody noticed till she was evicted.
    However while its a terrible crime, were we live people have completely taken the situation the wrong way, rather then simply saying well she was a very sick lady and the fathers horrible fathers they are trying to point the finger at the fact the lady claimed to be homeschooling her children and thus in their opinions (including the media) not protected like it they were required to be in a class room or have a member of family services come to visit home school families.
    While I have always faced questions, I have been able to use logic and am happy to take my younger kids to school for things like speech, this has became a major thing with people locally. “Well if we didn’t allow home schooling this wouldn’t of happened like this” said a local politician, another stated “We need to require families who refuse to send their children to our schools to undergo psychological testing and DHS visits” this ignores the fact that the neighbors didn’t think of the fact they never saw the kids. Homeschooling was simply thrown in a dark corner and attacked. I point out my kids who are Home Schooled are very social, we go to all kinds of local events at zoos (Toledo has an amazing program) and museums designed for families like ours.
    I think I will just have to start saying to pass the bean dip from now on, which is what I try to do. Knowing this is a good and acceptable way to handle the situation makes me feel more confident especially when speaking to neighbors and family.

    1. I really, really hate those type of arguments/comments when things happen to kids who are homeschooled (or, in this case, supposedly homeschooled). People completely ignore the fact that horrible things happen to kids who are in traditional school settings all the time. We recently had a case where a child was abused and subsequently killed by his parents. The abuse had been reported numerous times by the teachers and nothing was done about it. Just as often, the abuse goes unnoticed or unreported by teachers. It is unspeakably horrible when things like that happen to kids, but they aren’t prevented by having kids in public school.

      1. We have a situation where a major children’s charity is using half a dozen “serious case studies” where the children were officially homeschooled, to argue that homeschooling renders the children isolated and invisible to authorities, and therefore homeschoolers all need closer monitoring and regular child-welfare visits. This is in spite of the fact that in every single one of those case studies, the families were already known to the relevant authorities – social services, the educational authorities – and “serious” things STILL happened to the children. Those children were not isolated or invisible at all, but they were failed by the system which was supposed to protect them. But blaming homeschooling is easier than admitting and fixing faults in the system, of course.

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