Homeschooling is a very natural, normal way of life for our family. The idea of entrusting my children’s education to the government (or other traditional school authority) is foreign to me. We’ve been on this homeschool road for so long; I can’t imagine educating my children any other way.
It makes sense. We know homeschooling WORKS.
This isn’t the case for everyone. How do you respond to homeschool criticism - especially when that criticism comes from family?
How do you react to a mother-in-law who is convinced her grandchildren aren’t learning as much as they should be? What about your sibling whose children always seem to be on the honor roll? Or maybe it is your own parent who just can’t figure out why you are homeschooling their grandchildren (public school was good enough for you, wasn’t it?).
In my 47 year old head it is easy to dismiss these criticisms because I know the bigger picture. I have amassed a support system. The skeptics have witnessed my children thrive.
I remember, however, being the young mom who was a bit flustered by the doubts and criticism.
How do we respond to these critics?
How do we defend our decision to homeschool?
There is no need for a defense. You did not solicit the opinion, criticism, or question. Therefore, there is no need for a response.
Take a deep breath and remember Paul’s words in his epistle to the Colossians:
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. ~ Colossians 3:12
People criticize what they do not know about or what scares them. Keep that in mind as you deal with the critics.
Be Prepared With Gracious Responses
Saying absolutely nothing when confronted with these questions or criticisms may not be realistic, so it’s helpful to be armed with a few gracious responses.
“My husband and I feel called to homeschool. I’m thankful to have this opportunity to spend so much time with my children.”
“I am excited to develop an individualized learning plan for each of my children!”
“We can’t wait to see the wonder and creativity that will develop when our kids are just allowed to be KIDS.”
After a while people would regret criticizing homeschooling when they were around me because I would talk their EAR off about why I loved homeschooling so much. Problem solved.
Additionally, many public school advocates (especially grandparents) are defensive about their careers and the way they schooled their own children. Public school was good enough for them - why not their grandchildren?
Again, be gracious and compassionate.
Season your speech with grace and gentleness. You may be thinking a lot of not so nice things in your head, but those shouldn’t come out of your mouth!
Don’t Criticize Other’s School Choices
Remember the Golden Rule.
Resist the temptation to criticize public and private schools. Everyone makes their own choices.
In fact, if you are supportive of other family member’s decisions, you will be setting a good example.
Never say never has been a great mantra for me during our homeschooling tenure. Maybe my child will go to traditional school one day. Maybe we will homeschool all the way through. Anything is possible because all children are different and circumstances are always changing.
Don’t put yourself in a position where you will need to eat your words a few years down the road.
You Cannot Homeschool to Please Others
Homeschooling will always have its critics. You are NOT homeschooling to receive a pat on the back or a word of affirmation from others.
And while we don’t homeschool to please others, it sure does feel good to have support and approval.
(This was SO very hard for me. I wanted my own parents to be pleased with our choice to homeschool and I wanted their support. In the beginning they were skeptics and I felt very alone.)
Pray for grace and patience, and the ability to shut out the criticisms the world has to offer. This can be especially hard when your family is the one doing the criticizing. Always show unwavering love for others and your children. Homeschool with excellence. It’s hard to argue with that.
Homeschooling is just one life choice you will make that is outside the box… once you homeschool you begin to see that living outside the box feels good. You will start making other decisions that are counter cultural. Get used to doing unpopular things.
Involve Your Extended Family in Homeschooling
Can you ask a grandparent to share a special skill with your children? (I remember asking my father-in-law to help us with a family tree project. He loved doing this and we have fond memories of that time with him.)
When we were using the Five in a Row curriculum we would have book dinners after we finished one of the selections. Not only had we studied the book all week, but we also planned out a dinner (where my kids did the cooking) and presented on the book during dinner.
I believe it is sometimes a matter of changing your family’s notions about homeschooling - and educating them about its benefits.
If involving your extended family causes too much stress and further criticism, draw a boundary and protect your heart.
Be Patient. Let Homeschooling Speak for Itself.
Over the years I’ve seen many homeschool critics soften to the idea of homeschooling.
It may take several years, but your family will come to see the benefits of homeschooling :
children who are personable and well-adjusted
children who speak well and have a variety of interests
children who can “socialize” with all ages and types of people
children who don’t rely on the artificial “rewards” the world has to offer, but rather enjoy learning for learning’s sake
children who have a strong bond with their parents and siblings because of so many rich shared experiences
And, if you haven’t won over your extended family to homeschooling, that’s ok, too. You have done what is best for your own family, and that is what matters. (Keep in mind the critics might never say they agree with homeschooling - sometimes it is hard to admit we were wrong.)
As I reflect on our homeschooling experience, I am so thankful I did my best to shut out the voices of the critics (even within my own family) so I could honor God’s call on our lives. We have beautiful memories of learning and living together - memories I am fairly certain could never have been created were it not for homeschool.
Nothing compares to sharing the tender moments when we read Charlotte’s Web or Robin Hood together. I remember mornings curled up on the couch reading through every Winnie the Pooh book. We took hikes and pretended to be Lewis & Clark and spent afternoons watching ducks preen themselves by the lake.
We picked apples and learned how to make apple pie. We took an obsession with LEGOS and turned it into YEARS of learning. We learned how to play the piano, guitar, ukulele and harmonica. We took up knitting and hand lettering.
We served at the soup kitchen and mobile food pantry.
Each time we visited the zoo we chose a favorite animal and researched it in depth. We got hermit crabs, Beta fish, butterflies, and ladybugs.
We struggled over Algebra and Latin, Chemistry and Shakespeare - sometimes getting frustrated, but many times sharing in the joy of learning a difficult concept.
If you have littles and are facing criticism about homeschooling, stay the course. Seek voices and community that lift you up and support your efforts. Surround yourself with like-minded families who understand the challenges you face each day.
The following books have been helpful to me:
Whatever you do there will always be critics.
Be strong, mama - it’s all worth it!