Did you recently meet a homeschooler for the first time? Did a friend or family member just shock you by announcing they will be homeschooling their children? Are you concerned but don’t know just what to say?
Look, I get it. When we decided to homeschool I knew exactly one homeschool family. It’s different. It’s weird. You don’t quite understand it. I mean, why would anyone want to do this? It seems so… hard.
But what do you say?
If you’re like the majority of non-homeschoolers you will stick your foot directly into your mouth. You don’t mean to sound critical. It just… comes out that way.
I’ve taken some of the most popular responses and spun them into tactful, gracious replies. So whether you’ve just met your first group of weirdo homeschoolers at the park or a friend announced their decision on Facebook, you’re covered.
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Aren’t you worried about socialization?
Number one most common response. This question springs from the misconception that we are all going it alone – that our children will spend their days isolated in the house with only their textbooks for company.
We do a little bit of that, but rest-assured, our children do see other humans. Between co-ops, classes, field trips, park days, and generally being out and about in the world, our kids have a good deal of experience meeting a variety of people.
Have you met any other homeschool families in the area?
We don’t expect you to be well-versed on the ins-and-outs of homeschool socialization. In fact, it’s one of the first questions we ask ourselves. Homeschoolers search out or create their own communities all across the country. We even take classes and play sports with public school kids from time to time. Gasp!
If you’re concerned about socialization, spin it in a positive way by asking about homeschool friends. Have you met any other homeschoolers around the same age? Have you found any groups for homeschoolers around here?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Yes, we plan on interacting with people on the regular – just not in the same way. Our children may not sit in the same assigned seat next to the same two children everyday, but we will see other kids and form relationships. Show that you care by being interested in how we plan on meeting people – not worrying if we ever will.
I didn’t know people still did that.
Yep. You’re meeting homeschoolers for the first time. Kind of like seeing Big Foot, isn’t it? You’ve heard of homeschool. You know people who know other people who claim to have seen a homeschooler. You once saw something strange about it on TV. Meeting one in real life? Mind blowing.
I think you’re the first homeschoolers I’ve met. I’d love to hear more about it.
If you’re not familiar with the community, it might be rare to come across a homeschool family. We are a small percentage of the population. Show us that you’re interested in learning more about it, learning more about us. How interesting! You are the first homeschool family I’ve met. How do you spend your days?
THE BOTTOM LINE
We know we’re an oddity. No need to point it out.
What makes you qualified to teach?
This one particularly stings because it implies that you think we are not. My fall back is: “Actually, I was a teacher before I came home with my kids,” but the majority of homeschoolers have never taught before.
Teaching is tough. It’s hard to take a small person who can’t identify a letter and teach them how to read a novel – or write one! We have help: curricula, guides, co-ops, other parents, classes, advice online… What doesn’t help is people poking holes in our confidence.
I’m impressed! That’s a huge responsibility you’re taking on.
Homeschooling your child isn’t about teaching them every subject from kindergarten through 12th grade. Being a homeschool parent is about taking responsibility for your child’s education. That might mean figuring out the best way to teach, learning something new, or finding a way to outsource. Instead of criticizing, praise us! Wow, I’m so impressed with all that you are doing for your kids. That’s a huge responsibility. I know you will be up for the task!
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is not a matter of dropping a teacher into a class of 30 strangers and expecting her to meet all of their needs – you need serious credentials for that. Homeschool is meeting the needs of a child you already know and love, helping them grow, and finding a way for them to learn. We do whatever it takes to meet our kids’ needs. We taught them how to walk and talk, say please, thank you, and excuse me. We have been teaching them since they were born, and we will continue.
How do you stand being around your kids all the time?
The humorous approach. Often said with a smile and a wink. Yes, kids are awful; what ever will I do without my ME time? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I won’t pretend to be offended by this. We all love our kids – whether we are with them 24 hours a day or 12. The difference is in how we live our day-to-day lives.
Homeschooling is like the middle of summer vacation. The sweet spot when everyone is used to being around each other and you’ve fallen into a natural rhythm and routine. How and when we learn is not the same. We aren’t waking kids up before dawn to rush them off to school. We don’t spend our evenings struggling through homework drills. We have our challenges. They are just different.
Your kids are lucky to have a teacher who loves them so much.
You understand that homeschooling is a sacrifice. Recognize that by acknowledging Mom is assuming a huge role regularly taken on by someone else. Wow, you do so much for your family. Your kids are so lucky to have you. You are a wonderful mom; I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful teacher, too. Be kind.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Some days we do wish a bus would come take our kids away, but there are reasons we didn’t go that route. It can be hard but not as hard as you imagine.
Are you planning on doing this forever?
When you phrase it this way, you’ll get a vague response such as, “We will decide year to year,” or “We’ll keep going as long as it’s working.” This is homeschool code for “None of your business.”
I wish you the greatest success!
Unless you’re a close family member or lifelong BFF, we won’t be motivated to divulge our future hopes and dreams. Just wish us luck. We need it! We are going against the grain in a sometimes harsh society where strangers openly question our children’s intelligence and our life choices. A little friendly encouragement goes a long way. Wow, how great for you guys. I hope it works out well!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Would you ask a public-schooled third-grader what high school they’ll be attending? Would you ask a kindergartner how they’re planning to get accepted to college? No. That’s silly. Don’t be that guy. Be awesome.
There are as many reasons to homeschool as there are homeschool families. You may never know why the people in your life chose this road. That’s okay. and it’s okay to be curious. We understand that all of this is new to you. It may be unfamiliar to us, too.
When in doubt, tread lightly. Be supportive and kind. The words you say matter.
And if you have uttered any of these line, just apologize. Hey, I’m sorry. You caught me off guard. I want to be supportive and never meant to sound judgmental. Also, I’d love to babysit sometime. Let me know when you need a day off.