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Things You Shouldn’t Say to Ex-Homeschool Friends

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.

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About Carol Barnier

Carol Barnier is a homeschooler of 17 years, author of four books, mother to three children, and wife to one husband. She’s been on numerous radio and TV programs, and is a regular commentary provider on Focus on the Family’s Weekend Magazine radio program. Her objective is to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that on most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. In 2004, she started www.SizzleBop.com. At Sizzle Bop, Carol Barnier and the thousands of members have dedicated themselves to finding those different ways of learning that work for distractible kids. If you want to find a bazillion ways to do this, see the many ideas on our SizzleBop Blog. This is a place where that distractible mind (the child’s and the sometimes the mom’s) has community. Whether speaking about her first born son’s 13 surgeries, her homeschooling challenges, her family’s many ADHD challenges, or her own walk from being a God-denying atheist to the most grateful recipient of God’s amazing grace, this woman speaks from the heart. She knows why she knows what she knows. To learn more, visit www.CarolBarnier.com and find out why her business cards read: Delightful Speaker, Entertaining Author, Adequate Wife, Pitiful Housekeeper.
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  1. As a seven year homeschooling veteran, I appreciate this article. We had always intended to homeschool all the way through, but our circumstances have changed. We now have plans to visit a local private school and see what we think. We have told very few people, largely out of a desire jot to deal with their reactions. It is funny how I have turned everywhere except my “support” group for support as we consider this!

    • Dana–The problem may be that they don’t know HOW to support you in concrete ways. Hsers have a very unique support system that is based on a particular lifestyle decision. Imagine expecting a football coach to give advice to a dancer in a ballet troupe. It’s not that either’s lifestyle decision is wrong, but very different. Yes, some do think hs is superior, just like non-hsers think their decision is superior. (However, then you have the former-hsers who communicate in such a way as to say “I wish we didn’t have to do this, but . . . ” If you made a good decision for your family, stand behind it!)

      I’ll have to say, though, that since I have made the realization that I have to CHOOSE to be offended by people, I have been much more difficult to offend.

      • Val–I think you have a lot of good stuff in this response. People sometimes don’t know how to support a decision outside their arena of experience. And what’s more, sometimes they really are criticizing YOUR decision as much as they are defending their own. But I especially loved your last line. There is a choice involved. I have always been really hard to offend, because I will automatically assume there must be something else intended. And even if I AM offended, I assume there must be something awful going on in their lives making them extra cranky, and I choose to give grace. Thanks for sharing!

      • Oops. Read that, “. . .sometimes they really *aren’t* criticizing your decision. . .”
        My fingers aren’t keeping up with my brain yet. Still need that second cup of coffee.

  2. While I appreciate your passion for building bridges instead of driving wedges, I also think the level of your friendship with another person has 95% effect on what you would say to an ‘ex-homeschooler’. I have given all my dearest friends absolute permission to say anything and do anything to intervene if they see me at the end of my rope with homeschooling, in WHATEVER circumstance. I put this to the acid test once–I discussed putting one of my daughters into kindergarten and only the most committed of my friends said the hard things to talk me out of it. Bless her and shame on the ones who would have stood by and let me make the gravest of mistakes out of fear of offending me.

    • I find that a very twisted way of viewing friendship. When I need advice from my friends, I ASK them for their opinion and hope they would do the same with me, not make me feel guilty for not talking them out of something that is THEIR choice and responsibility.

    • Bonnie–I too, have given some friends permission to practically grab me by the hair to stop me from doing some things. And I so appreciate the friends who help me to do what I know in my heart to be the right thing for me and my family. But the key words are “given permission.” It only makes sense for someone to do this if they’ve been asked to by the person themselves. Otherwise, if I haven’t asked for this help, I’d really rather not be grabbed by the hair. :-)

  3. Thanks for posting this. I had to give up homeschooling after my husband left my three kids and me. I will probably never completely get over the fact that I’ve been forced to put my children in public school. It certainly is not the education I wanted for them. Some homeschooling families do seem to have shunned us because we are both divorced and in public school. At the same time, we have seen some very nice things at school. Some of the teachers and parents are extraordinarily dedicated to the kids; some are not. The schools offer more structure than I ever could, and one of my children has simply blossomed by joining the football team (something completely foreign to me). And though I know that many children fall through the cracks in school, I happen to know several homeschoolers in the same boat. Ultimately, I think there are many roads to success, and the final outcome depends on the quality of the whole experience more than on whether one homeschools or not.

    • Completely agree! Well said. I think that everyone needs to realize that we all must do what works best for our own family whether it is HS, public or private!

    • Titika–you’ll get no judgment from me. But what you will get is compassion. I’ve had far too many of my friends find themselves left and divorced, through no desire of their own. You are walking a very difficult journey. And no matter WHO shuns you, (husband, homeschoolers or some folks in the schools) you and your children are still precious to Him. It’s not like God says, “Oh dear, they’ve pulled their kids out of homeschooling. Well, I don’t have a plan for THAT. They’re on their own.” My favorite thing about God is that not matter what our journey, He always has a plan for our own good. Many heaps of blessings!

  4. We purposely decided to send our oldest to Christian school this year while continuing to homeschool the younger ones. I’m happy to say I haven’t heard too many things on this list. (I think because it’s a Christian and not a public school.) However it is hard to have to explain why all the time, because it isn’t a simple answer, and it revolves around what I think needs to be developed in my child’s character that was hard to do at home. I love homeschooling my kids and have already felt a lot of fear about the change, but this first week God has given me a lot of encouragement that sometimes you need to bring in help–it doesn’t mean “failure” to seek help–hopefully it means a humble heart. I don’t know what next year will bring, but I know this was a great choice for our family this year. And what I didn’t anticipate was a deepening of my relationship with this child this week as I get up and have undivided attention to get her ready for school while the others sleep. She even learned to cook eggs the last two mornings! I really am thankful for the foundation we set with homeschooling, which is why we are definitely still pressing on with the littles, but I am still the same mom I was last year!

  5. Some hs’ers seem to think putting your kid in public school is the end of the world. I felt that way- until I realized my Aspie son needed the structure and services public school could provide. Yes, it was difficult to admit that I wouldn’t be able to meet his needs by myself, that I needed help. But I also realize that I am still responsible for his education and I still take that responsibility very seriously. My mindset is that the public schools are assisting me in educating him and I communicate that. I hope that every parent, homeschooler or not, is able and willing to become deeply involved in their child’s schooling, know what they are being taught, volunteer in their classroom, counter any ‘indoctrination’ with conversations and your own example. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

  6. I have always believed that the main difference between Homeschool, Public School, and Private School, has everything to do with the parents. Those that have Homeschooled, and for what ever reasons have chosen to put their kids in Public or Private schools, are not just going to throw up their hands and say that their kids’ education is now the complete responsibility of the school. They are going to be the parents that volunteer and show up to PTA meetings and parent/teacher conferences. They are also going to ensure that the child finishes his homework and understands it. They are not using the school as a babysitting service. They are going to be enthusiastic and active participants in their child’s education. They will not be mere spectators.

    • Liz–there’s actually research that supports this. In the end, the success of a child in school can be tied pretty directly to how invested the mother is in education. Homeschooling moms are obviously invested. But so are many public school moms. True, there are some who–as you say–use it as a babysitting service. But those who remain invested in the success of their child typically see. . .well, success! I would argue that an investment in issues of faith probably have the same correlation. I don’t have studies for that one, but I suspect it follows a similar path.

  7. I have approached this choice every year by taking it to God for each child. I’ve had all my children in a private Christian school, some of them in the school and homeschooled, and currently I have them all at home. While my intentions are to keep them home til graduation, I am thankful to my God who is able to be glorified in many kinds of situations. Because of the brick and mortar experience, my kids are glad to be homeschooled! We, as homeschoolers, must be vigilant to guard against EVERY form of pride. If we boast, let it be in the death of our Savior. How much better to be known for that!

  8. Carol, there is so much goodness in this post! I have a lot of thoughts about “homeschool bullies” — and yes, we homeschooler can be quite intense sometimes.

    Thanks for a good chuckle, but also a necessary reminder, too!

  9. Thanks for this post! I am a big proponent of homeschooling, and was totally planning to do it when my kids started school (which is this coming school year). I already had my curriculum and everything. However, our youngest several medical issues and requires constant attention, so after MY doctor suggested we consider school b/c of the stress and anxiety that was overwhelming me already, my husband and I prayed and talked at length before registering our 2 oldest in a small private school. As you said, “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.” Just making the decision to enroll them took such a huge weight off of me. I still hope to homeschool in the future, but I’ve learned not to make definite plans too far into the future.

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