It seems that homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers are having a hard time talking to each other these days. The simplest conversation can quickly go south.
Here’s what we think we’re saying–
Don’t you worry about the public school’s influence on your children?
Here’s what they hear—
Aren’t you terrified for your sweet innocent children when they rub shoulders with the spawn of Satan?
What is going on here? Why is there such a gulf between homeschoolers and those who choose other options? (Click to tweet!) Part of the answer may be found in this list of comments, developed from my conversations with a few X-homeschoolers. We’ll call this list. . .
Things You Shouldn’t Say to Ex-homeschoolers
- It’s such a shame you threw in the towel.
- You’ve put your needs above the kids.
- Homeschooling truly is a calling; you just must not have been called.
- Their SAT scores will surely suffer.
- With all your extra time, you can finally join a gym and lose those added pounds.
- Was God really a part of that decision?
- It’s a shame that the need for money won out over your child’s best interests.
- Did you just need more freedom for yourself?
- There’s spiritual trouble ahead now that you’ve moved away from God’s plan for your family.
- What about your younger kids? Are they going to be thrown under the bus like the older one?
- Didn’t your husband make enough for you to be able to homeschool?
- Well, at least you tried homeschooling for a little while. I guess that’s better than nothing.
- Aren’t you concerned that they’ll end up at a pagan college? (Just a side note—we should avoid using the word “pagan” with almost all folks. You may simply mean a purer form of the word—anything that isn’t part of Judeo-Christian monotheistic belief system. They hear the Hollywood version—wide-eyed chanting while wearing twenty-four ankle bracelets and swinging a dead chicken over your head.)
Truths Homeschoolers Should Consider
I’m convinced that these parents, just like us, truly care about the success of their kids. So what is it that so separates in having discussions on the matter? Part of what I’m hearing from them is that there are some truths we need to own.
We homeschoolers really are a little intense.
I’ll admit I probably do gush too enthusiastically about homeschooling. I’m rather in love with it. I like being more involved with my kids on a daily basis. I like knowing what they’re being taught. I like the way it has transformed our family life into a giant learning adventure. I can be so exuberant that I begin to resemble a reformed smoker—I’ve made this wonderful choice for me. You should make it for you too…now, in fact! Now’s good. How about now?
Lots of people don’t want to be trailblazers.
I know. I know. The public school model actually is the newcomer on the block, making it the trailblazer. And yes, homeschooling is a well-tested, proven method with a much longer history. But…for anyone born in the last hundred years, the public school model is all they’ve known. For them, it is the norm. So taking up homeschooling in this day and age, no matter how glorious its history, is still trailblazing. Lots of people are just uncomfortable putting themselves out there like that. And to be fair, in another set of circumstances, I’m slow to step out too. For example, I was not the first in line to embrace neti pots when they hit the scene.
Some people have good reasons not to homeschool.
They aren’t always going to tell us, but often, if we knew all there was to know, we’d completely understand why they chose to stop homeschooling. You never know what is going on in their homes. Sometimes there’s a profound mental illness in the family, and bringing everybody home and into one space would be not only difficult, but dangerous. Sometimes there’s a physical illness in the family, and it takes all the energy and reserves this family has to just deal with that. Sometimes there is a marriage in serious trouble, and it demands the full and undistracted attention of both spouses. In my own case, I once took a year off of homeschooling and plopped my kids into the nearest private school. Why? Because my mother was dying. She lived twelve hours away and needed help buying wigs, getting her cancer meds adjusted, and just talking about her life’s end. I had to make a tough decision about what was best for all parties during a particularly difficult time.
Some people purposefully choose not to homeschool.
This one’s harder for us to accept. While many people put their kids in public school almost by default, simply because “that’s what’s done,” there are some out there who’ve truly thought through the options, considered the individual needs of the child, and purposefully chosen to put their children in the local schools. They will explain that their kids should be the light of Christ to their community. They may feel strongly that teaching their kids to acquire a solid defense of their faith requires frequent challenges to it. They perhaps even believe that homeschooling would isolate them from the very people they want to connect with. Even if I disagree with their conclusions, I can’t just flippantly dismiss their goals and values.
In the end, I think it’s okay to question anyone’s decision, asking them how they came to that conclusion. But, only once. Otherwise we run the risk of going from advising to badgering. Here’s another truth—if my own decisions were constantly called into question by a friend every time I walked through their door, it wouldn’t be long before I stopped walking through their door.
So let’s make a pledge to start today, to build bridges, to connect with people, to listen, to allow margin for differences. These friends of yours have many wonderful layers to them. They are more than just their choice about schooling. Remember to interact with the whole person, while respecting their choice, as the leaders of their families, to make the best decision they can with their beliefs and convictions. Just like we want them to do with us.