The disapproving glances. The unsolicited advice. The warning by unhappy family members and friends that you're going to ruin your child if you try to teach them yourself.
This is the bane of existence of homeschooling parents unless their lucky enough to be surrounded by savvier people; savvy where children’s education is concerned anyhow.
But too many aren't.
Homeschooling parents sometimes have to contend with family, friends, and sometimes even neighbors who feel justified in expressing their disapproval. “Everyone puts their children into public school!” they proclaim.
I had a neighbor like this. He thought my children should go to public school, so they could learn to behave like everyone else, meaning himself. The irony is that he would easily win the “most-awful -neighbor-on-the-block” award if we had one.
He was precisely the kind of person I did not want my children to become.
The good news is, however, that other people’s disapproval of your educational choice is not your problem; it’s theirs.
And here's four strategies you can use to keep the naysayers where they belong:
1) Ignore them
Easier said than done, I know, but you have to. People who openly disrespect your choices even after you’ve set boundaries with them are not supportive people. If they're family, it's not as easy, but regardless, you should limit your time with these people.
They will make you tense, angry, and defensive. They'll also undermine your confidence in your ability to teach your own. You cannot afford this if you are homeschooling.
You also don't want your children to overhear such conversations either. It will confuse them. As long as you and your spouse agree on homeschooling, and you don't have disapproving in-laws living with you, you should try not to worry about the naysayers.
2) Educate the less savvy
Find articles online about the value and benefits of homeschooling and share these with the naysayers. Most people don’t want to invest a lot of time and energy into being proven wrong, so make sure the articles are short, well-written, and easy-to-read.
Make it easy for them.
You can start with one by yours truly entitled: Why Homeschooling Is Your Best Option Today. You can also download my Ten Facts About Homeschooled Students That Will Silence Any Naysayer.
If they're more curious than negative and open to learning more, offer them a book like John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down. Maybe there was a book that first sparked your interest and convinced you about the benefits of homeschooling; give them a copy of that book.
Be prepared to discuss the book and make sure you can intelligently counter any objections they might have. You’re on a mission to convince them that homeschooling is a wise choice, so you need to prepare yourself.
You never know, they could decide to homeschool too! You could be saving another child from a terribly flawed system of education.
3) Find like-minded homeschoolers to spend time with every week
This will counter any negativity from grandparents or aunts and uncles, and it will also give you support with your homeschooling. We all need support.
Find families that you resonate with and share values with and make a point to see them at least once a week if not more. They'll help keep your spirits up and remind you of why you’re homeschooling. The naysayers will feel much less threatening when you have a handful of die-hard homeschooling friends by your side.
4) Be patient
When your children are young is when the naysayers howl the most. Once your children are older, they’ll let up.
Why? Because it's around age nine, give or take some, when the negative effects of public school begin to surface in ways that can no longer be ignored such as rudeness, disinterest in learning, and allegiance to one’s peers; and when the benefits of homeschooling such as a love of learning, good manners, and family loyalty are more apparent.
People will begin to comment on how your children seem “different” but it’s a good sort of different they notice. The kind of “different” that you want to see in your children.
So be patient. If your naysayers have an ounce of humility, at some point they'll apologize and acknowledge the wise decision you made. If not, who cares.
You're not homeschooling to please them, but to give your children the best education you can.
There you have it!
Stay strong. Stay committed. Stay standing.
Elizabeth Y. Hanson teaches parents how to give their children a private-school education at home.