I recently received a comment from one of my enrolled Oak Meadow home teachers. She wrote: My husband and I have continued to receive judgment from family and even a couple of neighbors in regards to homeschooling. It is exhausting to feel we need to defend our decision…
I want to encourage all home teachers who have experienced a similar scenario to not feel “beaten down” by people who question homeschooling in a judgmental manner. Instead, ask yourself, “What is the best way to respond to these queries?” I collaborated with other Oak Meadow staff members and teachers regarding this topic, and their offerings are invaluable. I hope these tips will help if/when you are confronted and questioned in the future…
One thing I always try to say to non-homeschoolers is that I am not anti-school but that there are so many wonderful options in today’s modern world that education can be more personally tailored to the individual’s and family’s needs. I think many people react strongly because schooling in the traditional manner is so ingrained in our culture that anyone who does differently is seen as a threat to the system or as implying a criticism of those who stay in it. No one needs to justify their decision to anyone else unless they want to, but if they want to, it can help to really acknowledge up front the validity of the mainstream choice to help put the “listener” or “challenger” at ease.
I really like Michelle’s suggestion to validate the choice of the other party to have their child educated in a brick and mortar; this would most certainly help to create a non-confrontational atmosphere.
When I have been involved in situations similar to these, I have been known to step away from the conversation or change the subject as I read that audience as not being receptive to a conversation. However, if the company does seem open to a calm conversation and sharing of thoughts I think I would open with asking them why they chose to send their child to a brick and mortar. I would be engaged and ask questions to learn more about where they are coming from. When they complete their thoughts, I would share the reason(s) why I would choose home schooling; I also often acknowledge that homeschooling is not for every child.
In a way, I think it is a sort of fear of the unknown and unfamiliar. After all, many of my families have expressed nervousness and fear when they began their homeschooling journeys. Often, they are afraid because they declare that they are not a teacher and they don’t want to mess up. My response is that we are all teachers; parents and other adults teach children everyday; this is just a little more ‘formal’, with a curriculum. It could be that those judgmental parties are uncomfortable and perhaps afraid. I look at this opportunity as a mind-opening and open-ended conversation.
Personally, I think simple responses are best since you usually can’t change minds by arguing and you don’t want to debate your choices every time your neighbor waves hello. Here are some simple responses that might help:
- There are lots of different ways to learn.
- Homeschooling is our best educational option right now.
- Aren’t we lucky to live in a time when there are so many educational options so each child can learn in the way that works best!
- I appreciate your interest in my children’s education. I’d be happy to sit down with you and show you this great curriculum we are using if you want to learn more.
When this type of “questioning” would occur during the seventeen years I spent homeschooling my own children, I quickly learned to acknowledge the inquiring party by nodding my head politely and thanking them for their concern. I found that verbally defending myself and explaining my choice in homeschooling was usually not productive, for it would oftentimes only cause more conflict and questions. What helped me the most was going deep inside myself and acknowledging the fact that I (and their father) knew my children much better than anyone else. I knew they were content and happy being home schooled. I knew they were learning and growing in a productive manner. I knew they were experiencing life to the fullest and maintaining a healthy balance of head, hands, and heart. I knew they were being enriched with the extracurricular activities offered to them. I knew they were well socialized and well behaved. I could go on and on with my observations. However, because I personally noted and affirmed all these important qualities and factors in my children, I felt even more convinced about my decision to homeschool and much less inclined to defend myself regarding the educational choice I was providing for my children. It didn’t matter as much how other people felt about my decision to homeschool, because all I had to do was look at my children and easily witness the joy of learning that was being experienced. It was that simple.