Encouragement for When You are Surrounded by Homeschooling Naysayers

If you are anything like me you’ve encountered all the comments out there about homeschooling. Some of them are understandable; others are just plain dumb. Some come from a place of true concern; others from a place of ignorance. When people hear that you are homeschoolers you encounter advice from people from every walk of life.

I remember one of the first comments I ever got when I was a newish homeschooler in the fall of 2000. I had actually been homeschooling for a year and a half, but I still felt pretty timid about telling people we were homeschoolers. A man, a stranger, came up to me as I was getting my kids McDonald’s at lunch time after a doctor’s appointment and questioned me why my kids weren’t in school. I shyly told him that we were homeschoolers and that they didn’t go to school. He rebuked me telling me I was wrong to do this to my children… that I needed school to socialize them and that I was not qualified to teach my children. I felt angry and upset. I calmly told him that I didn’t need his permission, that I was more than qualified to teach my children, and that if the world today was an indication of school “socialization” then I was more than happy for my kids to miss out on that. He left but his condemnation stayed with me.

Throughout the years we have faced similar situations over and over again. It’s irritating when it is strangers who say these things to you, especially when they don’t even know your background, your reasons for homeschooling, or anything else about the situation. It is even worse when such ridiculousness comes from people who do know you and have knowledge of your situation.

A few years ago a couple well-meaning friends took me aside and proceeded to tell me how I was ruining my children’s lives by homeschooling (yes, they actually said ruining their lives). I was failing them they said. They could look at my children’s progress {one child who was 9 was not reading at “grade level” and one child who was 6 was not reading yet and I’m sure they had other worries that they didn’t bring up to me} and could see how some were behind and lacking. I was told that these vital years of formation were being wasted and that I should consider putting them in school as soon as possible. Never mind all the ways my children were succeeding; all that mattered was they were behind in some areas. It felt like a slap to the face. How could they look at my amazing kids and only see where they may be “behind”?

As a teacher {I AM a teacher}, who yes, went to college to learn to be a teacher, I am very aware of the different needs- educational, emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental- that my children each have. As a mother I am even more in tune to those needs. Because I am with my children 24/7 in both capacities, I am even more aware of where they succeed and where they lag. While some are ahead in certain areas, others are behind in those same areas. Likewise, those who are behind in some ways are further ahead in others. Unless you are with my children and teach my children and KNOW my children intimately, you will not know where they truly fall in any one area let alone all of them.

Being the mother of children who also have special educational needs (we have several who suffer from dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning problems) I am hyper-vigilant of trying to help my children succeed. Unfortunately most people don’t give homeschoolers the same benefit of the doubt that they give teachers in the school systems… if a homeschooled child isn’t at level it’s because the parents aren’t doing their job; never mind any learning problem the child may have. It doesn’t matter what kind of help you are getting your child, what kind of program you are using, or how much you teach, if your child is not at “level” then you are the WORST PARENT EVER AND SHOULD PUT YOUR CHILD IN SCHOOL NOW SO YOU DON’T RUIN HIS LIFE.

Ok, so maybe not really; maybe I’m being dramatic, but it sure seems that way when people begin judging you without knowing all the details. Instead of offering support they offer judgment and condemnation.

Real life experiences at Cave Springs, GA

I am a firm believer that children develop at different rates and what is right for one child may not be right for another. I have seen this in my own home. I have children who have begun reading at 3 and 4 years old and others who absolutely could not grasp reading until about 10 years old. One of my children, so severely dyslexic, didn’t get it to click until he was a teen! Because kids develop differently and because we struggle with learning disabilities, we use a variety of curricula and techniques to help our children learn. There is not a single child in my family of 11 children who has followed the exact same educational path. Thankfully with homeschooling we don’t have to force our kids into a learning style that doesn’t work for them. And guess what? They eventually all pick up what they need! By providing a variety of ways to learn, some conventional and others non-conventional, our children end up with a well-rounded education.

Maybe you aren’t a homeschooler and you are reading this and think that I sound pretty angry. You would be right. Everywhere my kids go they are quizzed about what they know and what they don’t know by people who want to make sure that we are “homeschooling enough” or “homeschooling right”. I never see people quizzing kids who are taught within the school system. You might hear someone question a child who is in the school system, “Oh, what classes are you taking?” or “What’s your favorite class at school?” But you will never hear them ask, “Well, tell me, what is 5X5?”, “How many continents are there?”, “How do you spell dinosaur?”, “Why don’t you read this to me, I want to see how well you read.”, “How much school did you do today?” But you will see and hear people do this to homeschool kids all the time. It’s maddening!

Learning about lung capacity

Do I think there are people out there who shouldn’t homeschool their kids? Absolutely! I am not a proponent that all parents or all kids will do well with homeschooling. For some it would be a travesty to try to school their children in this manner. Their children would not do well being at home with mom or dad as their teacher. For some families public school is a Godsend! For others private school works better. But for many families, including mine, homeschooling does works and it works well. It might not look exactly like the school system and our kids might not learn on the same schedule that other kids are taught within the school system, but our kids are learning. They are flourishing in their own ways and on their own time schedule.

Homeschooling your child is a very personal decision. If you have chosen to homeschool and you are receiving negative remarks or perhaps even digs at you or your decision, know that this isn’t about anyone else. Maybe those people simply don’t understand the benefits that can come from homeschooling; maybe they just don’t like people stepping outside the box; maybe they don’t understand the desire to teach. It doesn’t matter what they think… this is simply about your family and what you have deemed to be best. Don’t worry about the naysayers or the forced timelines that they may feel is best when it comes to learning. Take your days one day at a time, teach your children according to their abilities and interests, and know that you can do this!

At the Tennessee Aquarium learning about marine life



3 Replies to “Encouragement for When You are Surrounded by Homeschooling Naysayers”

  1. Thank you. I needed to read this today. Yesterday we were at church for a children’s sacramental retreat and I saw how “behind” my boy is in writing and I began to worry. How silly of me to fall for it. Of course he’s going to be different as his education looks different. Again, thank you!

  2. My 6th child turned 5 just after the school cut off for kindergarten and , having just given birth to twins, I jumped at the chance to give her another year before starting school. My sister in law has a son who is two days younger than my daughter and she jumped at the chance to press the school system to let him in kindergarten early. She can’t help but constantly telling me how well he reads, putting me on the spot to see how my daughter is doing. Well, one year later he cries every day about how much he hates school and she now bribes him with screen time during the week. Meanwhile my daughter has been happy to be read to by her older siblings and is now “finally” reading on her own. She pushes me to teach her more and gets upset when I get sidetracked for a day from giving her formal lessons. I long stopped caring about how quick ones learns and now focus on the love of learning for a life time.
    The schools systems love of force feeding at young ages turned me off of higher education…I hope not to have to same mistakes with my kids!!

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