Reader Questions: The “Why Do You Homeschool” Debate

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It’s time for another installment of reader questions  This week, Julie asks, “How you handle it when people ask you why you homeschool? I am getting this question a lot right now and I am finding that the people who ask this usually do not agree with homeschooling. Any thoughts?

I think there are two types of “why do you homeschool” questions.  The first is a genuinely curious question that seeks to find out what particular set of circumstances led your family to the decision to homeschool and how that decision has affected your life.  The second is a question that seeks to find out what in the ever-loving name of all that is sane made you flip out and decide to do something that is so obviously wrong and why in the world can’t you see that you’re ruining your kids’ lives.

For the first question, I politely answer in a similar, though usually condensed version of the way I answered Gabi’s question about why we homeschool not too long ago.  Thankfully, I haven’t run across the second type of why we homeschool question too often.  We live in a very homeschool-friendly area and I’ve never really caught too much flack about homeschooling, though I have run into my share of inane comments, but that’s a whole ‘nother post topic.

However, when I do come across that “are you crazy” brand of why do you homeschool, I try to remain calm and answer as succinctly as possible:

The schools were not meeting our children’s educational needs.

We felt this was the best educational choice for our children.

Homeschooling is what we feel is right for our family.

I’ve got a few reasons for keeping it short and sweet.  One, I don’t really enjoy confrontation in the first place.  Two, even if I did enjoy confrontation, I’m probably not going to change a negative view of homeschooling by going on the defensive.  And, three — and maybe most importantly — the educational choices that my husband and I have made for our family are not up for debate.  The choice we have made for educating our children is between me and my husband and God, not the cashier at the supermarket, the relative that I see at Thanksgiving and Christmas, or the neighbor who doesn’t particularly like me in the first place.

Yes, sometimes it’s fun to have those snappy comeback in mind, but I don’t think the delivery would come off right for me.  I’d probably just sound hateful and that doesn’t help the case for homeschooling or my Christian witness.  If brevity doesn’t work, I break out the old bean dip.

How do you field the homeschool questions of the “are you insane?” variety?

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  1. What I always really want to answer is, "Why do you NOT homeschool?" but I agree with your 3 statements–and each of them is true for most people and enough of an answer. Well said.

  2. I actually like to keep it simple most of the time too.

    BUT. If pressed, if a 'its whats best for our family' doesn't suffice … well, I'm occasionally an adjunct professor and I KNOW how to lecture.

    I don't do it in a mean fashion, but I DO give them a full and lengthy explanation of the path that led me to homeschooling.

  3. Oh, thank you for your comment about the snappy comeback. My heart just sinks when homeschoolers engage in snark when responding to homeschooling critics.

    I handle those questions the way you do; succinctly, honestly, and politely. If someone wants to engage in an argument (rare occurrence) I don't engage. I do try to end the conversation with "aren't we blessed to live in a country where we can make our own educational choices?" There is not much people can say to argue with that.

    But most people are just curious and even though the questions can be tiresome, it's important to be pleasant and kind in response. After all, that person doesn't know I've answered the socialization question a billion times; it's likely the first time she's asked it!

  4. I just wrote a long answer to that question on my blog the other week. It had actually been a while since I'd had any 'confrontation' … until just a few days ago.
    "Oh no, not again!" I heard myself saying. I think I was most annoyed because I wasn't actually being asked about 'why', but being TOLD 'Oh, but you will be seeking tutors in high school, won't you?'
    I was doubly annoyed because this person has known us for almost 20yrs and still doesn't believe I know what I'm doing with my children. SIGH!!!
    My point … sometimes you just can't have the conversation and need to smile, answer briefly and then walk away.

  5. Well said. I like your answers. Growing up in Texas, we were asked the question of why we were home schooling all the time. Then again, it was the 80's and early 90's and people generally weren't familiar with or enthusiastic about the idea. We were breaking people in to the idea.

    Now, in Oregon, it seems much more common place and people generally are friendly about it which puts me at ease as we prepare to homeschool our own kids. I'm not sure what it's like in Texas anymore – but I'm glad to live where I do.

    And it seems like, esp. in today's society, saying, "This is right for me." ought to silence the person asking the question. For we are all doing what is right in our own eyes and that's the best thing, correct? 😉

  6. It's not such a hard question for me to answer because I don't FEEL defensive. Secretly, in my deep little heart, although I'd never say it to them, I think people who don't homeschool perhaps ought to feel a little defensive about THAT, and perhaps that's why they're kicking up a stink. So I don't find that it matters what my answer is–speaking with joy and enthusiasm as I answer seems to be the key.

  7. You know, I have to agree with you…most of the comments we get these days are so positive. Some people will ask and then comment that they could never do it and don't see how I do. In my case, the only negativity I deal with is usually from family members who don't agree with our choice. Even those are getting fewer. With the schools having so many problems with bullying, funding, etc., its really making homeschooling more of a viable choice for families.


  8. We don't need to be sorry. We don't need to be defensive. We don't need to be witty. But we DO need to be clear in our minds WHY we homeschool. That's all that matters.

    I guess I don't get why so many moms are so worried about that question. If you have made the best decision for your kids, be confident in that decision. It will speak volumes and, if you are doing a good job, the proof will be in the fruit.

  9. The short answer I usually give is along the lines of, "It works well for us. Besides, I'm doing the local teachers a big favor, believe me!" with a wink and a smile. The socialization questions are always easy for me to deal with from strangers because if I'm talking with them at all, it's because my outgoing son has initiated a conversation and pulled me in.

    I do enjoy the occasional person who really wants to know, because I truly enjoy discussing one of the most important and enjoyable things I do

  10. The answer I would like to give is that I am selfish- I want my kids with me and not off at school plus mulitple activities every single day. Mostly, I just smile and say that it works for our family. 🙂 I agree about the snappy comebacks, but it sure would be fun someday…

  11. Before I started homeschooling I did a TON of research. So I am usually loaded and ready with a response. Usually its my family or so called "friends" who ask that question. Strangers are usually not that BOLD I guess I do not have that come and ask me a question look about me. :/ Who ever it is if my answer is not enough I just kindly ask them…Am I offending YOU by homeschooling? and that shuts them up. 🙂

  12. I recently found a funny little post called "The Bitter Home-Schoolers Wish List" relating to the subject found here in your post! I shared a copy on my blog and stated at the end of the post that I would never actually say any of these things when asked about why we chose to home educate… But they are entertaining to read none the less!

    I always try to live by the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.
    It's best to keep your answer short and sweet. Then if the person persists who knows where your conversation may lead… Educate them on the beauty of it and all the positives… Leave the negatives out and leave them with the idea that it's a super duper way to live life. It's all about changing lives in the first place!

  13. When we first get asked this question by a new person, we lead with a basic testimony approach of telling them how well it is working for our kids and give a few examples. Telling your story of getting into homeschooling and how it is working for you is very compelling and can't really be refuted.

    If they are argumentative then I just say something like it is great that we live in a country where there are many different people with many different options and the freedom to decide.

    If they are interested in more information I usually offer to buy them lunch sometime and get into the topic in more depth.

  14. I heard a while back (about a different topic) that the best way to answer their question (why do you home school?) is with another question (why do you ask?) This will separate those who are curious/ interested/ looking for advice from those who want to argue.

    One of the hard things is that people sometimes expect home schooled kids to be perfect in behavior and knowledge and skills. . . they are not and can't be!! Yes, across the board, home schooled kids do better than those in other school settings. But on an individual basis?? Not always.

    (A friend's children regularly get "quizzes" on obscure points–that likely the quizzer's own children could not answer!)

    A child who is delayed in his/her learning may very well be behind the non-home schooled child. But wait a few years. . . likely the home schooled child will have caught up and surpassed the other one, who no longer has the joy of learning. BUT, someone who is antagonistic towards home schooling may not wait around a few years to see the outcome of this before passing judgment.

    And a child with learning differences may NEVER be as proficient at the standard reading writing and arithmetic as a child without, no matter where that child is schooled.

  15. Great post. I completely agree, there is no need to go into a big diatribe with somebody who is just asking to be nasty. Short and sweet is perfect.

    As you mentioned, though, many people do ask because they are genuinely curious and not judgmental or they are seeking more information for themselves. In those cases, I think it is appopriate to give more information.


  16. Most of the reactions I get are positive. However, the one or two times someone's looked at me like I have a screw loose, I have to admit I said something like, "I'm a masochist."

    Oh, and, "I'm a rebel and don't like to be a slave to someone else's schedule."

    Those have worked for me in a pinch. I don't like confrontation, either.

  17. I preempt that question with my own:

    "Why would YOU send your children to off to be raised and educated by agents of the government????"

    Actually, I don't get asked much. I believe that's because most of my peers are younger – parents of kids age 7 and down.

    In my experience it's the people who are older, with kids 10 years+ into the system, that are more judgmental of homeschoolers.

    I firmly believe that homeschooling, because it's so contrary to what everyone else does, that it is inherently offensive to them.

    Of course….that's their problem, not mine.

    And I still maintain that homeschoolers, as a group, are way too defensive about what they do.

    Parents who send their kids to a provably broken, corrupt, and inhumane system are the ones who ought to have their excuses handy!

  18. I get this a lot in the form of, "Well I can understand why YOU, a former teacher, would be able to homeschool successfully, but NO ONE should homeschool if they have never been trained to teach." It makes me insides crawl. Some of the most successful homeschoolers I know have a high school diploma. Period. I tell them that.

    Depending on who is asking the basic, "why" question, I have different answers. If it's a teacher(I know a lot of teachers), I tell them that I've been in a classroom. I know that this is better for them academically. Sometimes, I answer and tell the person that God called us to it and we didn't know why at first. Now, we see the blessings he has brought to our family through homeschooling because of our obedience when we didn't understand the "why" and then I share some of those blessings. Who can argue with God's blessings and being obedient?

    Bottom line…It isn't debatable. This is what God called us to. Period. That's why we do it. Everything else, better academics, more family time, simpler lifestyle, stronger faith, etc…is just fluff compared to being faithful and obedient to God's calling.

  19. I have a really hard time with this one! I wish I could just be honest and tell them, "because the bible says to homeschool, why don't you obey God and homeschool also?" But ouch that would hurt- and the bible does says to preach love and kindness. So, I stick to saying…"It's my passion, I love being called mom and teacher".

  20. I very rarely get the, 'Why do you homeschool/you're nuts' variety question. When I do, my standard reply is that I enjoy my children and I want to have the best part of the day with them and not the dregs.

    More often, I get the, 'I don't know how you do it/you must be a saint' comment. While it doesn't always work to assure them that I'm not, I do mention that I think homeschooling is often the easier path. I don't have to get many children out the door to school, complete with lunches, school papers, money, permission slips, etc. I also don't have to contend with homework for those same many children, nor do I have to spend the hours between 3 and 6 trying to squeeze in all the enrichment activities that school leaves so little time for. I have the easy life!

  21. Most often people ask why the kids are not in school, and all of them will answer that they are home schooled. Recently, more and more people have answered something like this: oh, that is great, but I don't think I could home school. I thought about that for quite a while and now I respond: I don't know how I could send my kids to school. Mostly though, my chatty kids will start talking about what they have just learned, or made and I don't need a response 😉

  22. I don't get a lot of questions anymore. A few people "asked" about socialization and I responded with, "You'd think so, but really …" – just correcting wrong thinking, but nicely!

    I've heard that we should leave teaching to the professionals, and my response typically stays along the lines of, I'm teaching the love of learning and if I ever can't handle a subject with the excellent curriculum I purchase (usually better suited to my kids than what they'd get at school) I'll be thrilled to hire a tutor. I also bring up the subjects my kids are learning that they either wouldn't learn or wouldn't learn as deeply at school. Most concern has been the misconception that only teachers have access to curriculum. 

    If someone ever told me I'm crazy … I'd probably just laugh and agree! Yeah, a little bit!

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