I know it’s tough to do something outside the norm. I know it’s weird to have people question your life choices or make snarky comments. It’s frustrating when strangers feel compelled to offer their opinion on a decision that feels very personal. I know it’s tough because I’ve been there. I’ve been there as a woman who homeschooled (as part of our group home work) and as a woman who has an unusual family (multiracial formed through adoption) that often gets our share of stares and comments.
I know it’s difficult when you just want to run through the grocery store for a few things, but instead have to answer a bunch of questions about why your kids aren’t in school. It’s frustrating when you’re together with other moms and you feel awkwardly left out of their conversations about the irritations of lunch packing and remembering what day your child needs to return that school library book. It’s hard to feel like you can’t get together with other moms because you don’t have that free time during the day they do while their kids are at school. You wonder if you’re being left on the outside.
So I get that you may feel a little preprogrammed to be defensive. I’ve been there myself. I’ve heard women who have families like mine say they have responses ready to go to shut down whatever rude person dares to ask a question about their family. Women have a sense of pride when they shamed somebody over asking them a question about why they chose to have a large family or adopt across racial lines. From some of the information and responses I see about homeschooling these days, I’m starting to think homeschooling families probably have developed a similar repertoire of phrases and responses to prevent people from asking those questions again.
I want you to reconsider this tactic.
This is the same advice I give friends of mine who are frustrated when strangers make rude comments about their family size. Is it okay for people to say, “You’ve sure got your hands full” when they see you with your kids? Maybe not. But if what I want is for people to know how thankful I am for my kids and that I intentionally wanted a family this size, I’m not helping my reputation by responding in a snide or snarky way. I want the old ladies at the grocery store to see that while I do have my hands full, I’m loving it even when it’s hard. Homeschool Moms, I want you to have the same freedom.
If somebody says something dumb to you about how your kids aren’t going to be well socialized, you don’t have to respond to them with how “the school system was really just created to babysit children so parents could take back the job market and now it only functions to turn children into government drones, so it’s better to have less socialized kids than be raising baby communists, thank you very much.” Even if you really believe all those things, all you’ve done now is cement in their minds that homeschooling moms are slightly paranoid and crazy- two elements of the negative homeschool reputation I know people are wanting to purge.
If somebody says something dumb, you can choose to be pleasant. You can say, “It works for us” and let it go. You don’t have to defend your philosophy to every inquisitive stranger that wanders into your path. If you have a happy heart then people aren’t going to question the wisdom of your kids being home with you all day quite so much. I know not every moment can be Sunshine Happy Time, but just be aware that if you’re wanting to influence the way people picture homeschooling, you have the opportunity to do that.
Do you want more families like yours to choose homeschooling? Then be approachable. Be real with the struggles. Be understanding if people are reticent. If people are asking you questions about homeschooling, try to phrase your responses to emphasize the positives of homeschooling rather than just the negatives of public schools. Don’t feel like you need to be defensive. Assume that people support your decision unless they are specifically telling you something different.
I’m with you, Sisters. I know it’s hard to respond in gentleness when you feel like the world is against you. In fact, you may be irritated right now since a woman who isn’t currently homeschooling is trying to speak about your dilemma. I promise you this is coming from a place of love. I know it could be next year or the year after that I am once again scheduling field trips and buying curriculum, so in some ways this is a letter to my future self. And that may be good for you to remember, too—some day God may call you to enroll your child in your neighborhood school and it’s awfully hard to eat negative words you spoke about people who make those choices.
So let’s remember while this decision may mean we do different kinds of activities between the hours of 8 and 2, it doesn’t mean we are different kinds of families, different kinds of moms, or different kinds of Christians. We need to be supporting each other in the spheres of influence we have each been called to. And that’s kind of hard to do when you’re thinking up your next snappy response.