Some days, I don’t want to leave my house. Leaving the house with a school aged child not in traditional school during the hours between 8 and 3 open up a lot of questions. I mean, you can wear pajamas to Walmart, let your toddler drink Mountain Dew from a baby’s bottle and ditch your cart wherever the hell you please in the parking lot without so much as a second glance but if I have a school aged child out and about during typical school hours, you practically sprint through the store and climb over 3 check out lanes just to stand behind me to question me about it. And I get it. It’s different. And when things are different, people want to know about it. What I used to not understand, back when I was a newbie homeschooler, was why all of the personal questions. I don’t ask you about your children, finances and home life but you feel the need to ask me. It always put me on the defensive, like I had something to prove to you. I used to cringe when I saw you crawling over the 99 cent chips and candy bars to get to me with your thoughts. I’d spend that long moment wondering how I could avoid eye contact with you for the next 7 minutes while I waited to pay for my items and think about how I’ll distract my daughter from the inevitable rude questions that would probably come out of your mouth. Then it all changed.
About 6 months after I first started homeschooling, we were out for dinner one night. The wait time was long and I happened to be chit chatting with the couple beside us. I typically don’t bring up education, and not because I’m not proud to be a homeschool family but because it can be a touchy subject, but it got brought up and the questions started rolling in. Why we homeschool, how it works, the benefits, the downfalls – all of the typicals. After I was done explaining myself and our decision she looked at me so puzzled and said, “But she still goes to a public school right? You still actually take her to a real school?” I sat there for a minute with my pager beeping in my hand. How could she not understand the concept of homeschooling? Was I not being clear enough in my explanation? Was I the first homeschooling family she’d ever met? All I could think about during dinner and the next few days was my conversation with her and that’s when things started to change for me. I truly feel that there are people who don’t know how big the homeschooling movement is becoming. There are over 800 homeschooling families in my county and I am pretty sure I am the only one that lady had ever met.
My heart softened after that day. I think there are a lot of people who have never given homeschooling a second thought so when they meet me, they don’t know what to expect. I’ve noticed more and more after I answer there is a pause, almost as if they are applying it to their life in their mind. It’s hard to imagine doing anything different than the social norm of public school. Asking questions to a complete stranger might be the only way they know how to get answers. I’m certainly not perfect, but I am no longer on the defensive side when answering questions. I want to be a good representation for the homeschooling community. I’d never want to deter a family from considering homeschooling by my bad attitude. I want you to know that if you have a question about homeschooling, you can ask me. I will answer as honestly as I know how and if I don’t know the answer we can figure it out together.
Here is how I answer some of the most common questions or comments:
- Why isn’t she in school today? We homeschool and while it might not look like we are in school, I try to make everything we do a learning experience. If I am short on time and want to end the conversation, this is where I add that I’ve heard that her teacher is a real meanie and shoot them a wink or a smile while I load my groceries.
- What about socialization? This is when it’s great to know some statistics. I typically say that there are over 800 homeschooling families in our county alone. That’s a really big community of people to pull from if we are looking for some socialization. This normally stops people in their tracks. 800 families in my small community is a lot! I think this opens people up to how big the homeschooling community really is. Plus I name a few things my daughter does during the “after school” hours. Again, I have nothing to prove to anybody by listing our activities and I wont ask you about yours but I am trying to show you that there are homeschooling families that blend in all around you, you might just not notice it.
- How long do you plan on doing it for? We really love homeschooling and feel so blessed to be able to have the opportunity to do it. We will be homeschooling until it just doesn’t work out for our family anymore . Probably like your child will be in his or her school until it isn’t working out for your family anymore. It’s really hard to predict the future but it isn’t a short term, random decision for our family.
- When you say you’d never have the patience for it. This always makes me uncomfortable especially when you say it around your child. It puts me on a pedestal like I am a saint for dealing with my kid all day. I actually like being with my daughter all of the time. I may be her homeschool instructor but she is teaching me so much about life too. I really think given the opportunity, most parents really would enjoy all of the one on one time. But, I’m no saint. I lose my patience more than I care to admit sometimes. I’m a parent, not a teacher. I make the same mistakes as anybody. I normally just respond that I think you’d surprise yourself if you ever give it a chance. *Side note if you are the asker* When you say this in front of your child and/or mine, it implies that you wouldn’t enjoy spending all day every day with them which can be really hurtful – even if it isn’t meant that way. It also puts it in my child’s mind that I might not actually enjoy it either, which is so far from the truth.
One thing I don’t do is put another school down, especially in my area. Whether it be a private school or public school, I really feel that we are all trying to do what is best for our children – and that is not just a line I’m feeding you. I am doing what is best for us and I have no doubt you are doing or trying to do what is best for you and your family. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad for sending their child to a traditional school. Everyone is different, what you and I value in a school setting may be completely opposite. Homeschooling might be a luxury some people just can’t swing or you could think I am just plain crazy for not trusting the public school system. Whatever the case may be, it’s your call not mine. So you wont ever hear me putting a different option down.
If you homeschool, I hope this shares some insight on how to handle to questions that will inevitably roll in. If you are new to homeschooling or are considering it, please feel free to reach out. I promise it is not a bother.