Inside: How to deal with unsupportive family and friends when you’re homeschooling
I recently had a reader write to me with a struggle that’s common to many of us: how do I handle (and even educate) family members who are unsupportive of homeschooling? What do I say when they raise concerns about our choice?
It’s something that nearly every homeschooling family has dealt with in one way or another. It’s tough enough when criticism comes from the watching world, but what about when it comes from those closest to you who normally function as your support system?
Hopefully the words I share here will help you through and even give you a few tools in your belt.
How to Deal with Unsupportive Family and Friends
Here are 7 of my best tips to remember when facing the naysayers.
1. Have a Long-Game Mentality
We can put a lot of pressure on each conversation when we feel like we have to “convert” someone to our side as quickly as possible. As difficult as it is, we have to realize that getting our loved ones to see the educational light may take some time. If we always have this reality at the forefront of our minds, we’re more likely to keep conversation casual, put less stress on the relationship, and maintain our own peace of mind.
When the homeschooling debate creeps into the conversation, think of it as a chance to plant even just one seed.
Explain your stance on just one issue.
Delve into just one reason why you chose to homeschool.
Dispel just one misconception.
If the opportunity arises for the conversation to go further, that’s fine. But if your focus is “just one,” it makes it much easier to eat the proverbial elephant.
2. Remain Calm but Firm in the Moment
In the heat of the moment, when we’re put on the defensive it can be difficult to remain level-headed. There are several conversations that I wish I could press rewind on–times when I either became visibly upset or just froze altogether and didn’t explain my position well.
As hard as it is, we have to try to not take things personally and keep our eye on that long game that we talked about before. These are our loved ones, and we want to try to avoid bridge burning if at all possible. Avoid picking up offense. Instead, try to see where they’re coming from and meet them where they are.
When we start our response with something like, “I understand your concern on that issue. However…” it’s more likely that they’ll feel heard, which keeps the conversation from escalating. It also shows that you’re willing to acknowledge the challenges but that you also have done your research and are confident in your position.
3. Take Away the Mystery
A lot of people don’t know what homeschooling is like, so there’s mystery and fear concerning the outcomes for homeschooled children. They’ve heard the horror stories of teens who can’t read or are so socially awkward they can never function properly in society. If these are people you love, it’s likely that they’re concerned for your children.
Now, I know that’s a quick way to put a momma in the defensive, i.e. “Don’t you think I’m doing what I see as being the best for my children?! Don’t you think I love my own children more than you do???” Avoid that route.
Instead, be prepared to dispel the misconceptions where you can in conversation. (More on how to be prepared in the next point!)
If you feel comfortable enough to do so, I highly recommend that you post on social media or share your homeschool in some other way with family and friends (monthly email newsletter with pictures?). This helps them take a peek behind the curtain and see how your homeschool functions. Family members who were previously unsupportive of our choice now comment under our posts to say they wish they were a part of our homeschool!
4. Know the Facts
Part of being able to educate others well is to know the facts. Read books on homeschooling, pay attention to research studies done surrounding the homeschooling community, join homeschooling communities, talk to second generation homeschoolers (adults who were homeschooled themselves), and read articles from sites like HSLDA.
When those stereotypes or misconceptions pop up, you’ll be more equipped to handle them.
5. Let the Fruit be Your Proof
Ultimately, this is the biggest tip I have for you. Your homeschool will speak for itself over time. People will see that your children are learning and getting a vibrant education. They’ll notice how much different it is from the public school system. But you have to give it time.
This has definitely been our experience. My mother, who is a retired public school teacher, wasn’t on board when we first announced that we would be homeschooling. She lost sleep worrying about what would happen with our children’s education. Now our kids are “ahead” in every subject and thriving in ways that wouldn’t be possible in public school, and my mom is thankful that we chose to homeschool.
6. Be Prepared to Let Things Slide
Of course, seeing the fruit of your homeschool won’t always be enough. Knowing all the facts and confronting misconceptions won’t always be enough.
In some families, no matter how great your children are doing, someone will still dislike homeschooling for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s nostalgia from their school days and their desire for your children to have the same experience. Sometimes it’s the socialization aspect. Of course, it could be something completely different.
Or maybe your child has a condition that makes learning harder, and there may not be a noticeably huge difference in their academic achievement, but they’re happier at home with you. This is a beautiful reason to homeschool. Yet, there will always be those people who just don’t get it.
Love them anyway, and steer the conversation away from your education choices. In these cases, we have to learn to let things slide, smile and change the subject.
What if they’re quizzing my children?
I mention this issue specifically because it’s one that I see brought up a lot in homeschooling groups. What if your relative is taking their concern too far and bypassing you to go directly to the kids, incessantly quizzing them?
What’s the Intent?
First, assess the intent behind the quizzing. Sometimes family members like to see what the kids are learning, and it’s harmless. But if they’re trying to see if they can trip your child up and prove that you’re failing, see the next paragraph.
What Can I do for My Child?
Unfortunately, there will be those who may quiz your children so they can turn to you and say, “I told you so.” If that’s the case, it’s your first priority to protect your child. They may begin to feel frustrated or hurt that this family member seemingly wants to see them fail. In the moment, separate them from the situation if at all possible.
What Boundaries Need to be Established?
Then address the adult doing the questioning. In this case, a frank (but not unkind) conversation is likely needed, and boundaries will need to be established. Be honest about the way they may be making your child feel. Make it clear that your decision is firm, and they will not sway you. Ease their fears if you feel that their behavior is stemming from them not understanding homeschooling.
If you feel it’s necessary, you may also need to establish a consequence for further questioning. “I’m sorry, but if you continue to make x feel uncomfortable by quizzing her, you’ll no longer be able to be alone with her. We love you, but this isn’t healthy for her and will damage your relationship in the long run.”
Are you dealing with unsupportive family and friends because of your decision to homeschool? Know that you’re not alone! And feel free to reach out any time through my email. I’d be happy to be a listening (reading) ear (eye?) and pray for you during this season.
Seasoned homeschool moms: what wisdom do you have for families currently facing similar situations? Drop a comment below!
Until next time,
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