There were lots of questions asked and comments made when it was time to enroll our son for kindergarten in our local elementary school. We had always been clear about our intent to homeschool, but it was as if no one actually believed us until we didn’t show up to enroll him. Maybe they thought we’d never go through with it.
Six years later, I still get the same questions and comments from time to time, but I’m more prepared with my answers. You see, most of our family, friends, and acquaintances weren’t that supportive of our choice. In time they’ve come to accept it, but it’s left me with a list of things not to say to a new homeschooler.
What a new homeschooler
doesn’t need to hear from you
You can always put them (back)
“in school” if you change your mind.
You’re crazy for doing this. You’re going to hate it. It’s going to be too hard. You don’t know what you’re doing. You can’t do this. Those are all messages you send when you tell a new homeschooler than they can always send them (back) to school if this homeschooling thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s a lot of negativity to cast in one statement!
Is it the easiest choice? Definitely not. There are lots of times when it’s difficult, but we work through it like anything else in life!
Do we always know what we’re doing? Of course we don’t always know what we’re doing, but it’s okay! Homeschooling always has a learning curve because there is always change.
Curriculum changes happen, teaching methods change, environments change, and we as parents and our kids constantly grow and change. Homeschooling will look different throughout the stages and seasons and there’s nothing wrong with that. The scenery changes a lot along the way, but it’s all part of the journey.
I understand. Schools are so __________
(violent, agenda-filled, fill in the blank.)
While your new homeschooler is thankful that you “understand,” being supportive only because of the negatives connected to the educational system indicates that you don’t necessarily understand.
Some choose to homeschool for the sake of homeschool and not as a reaction to public schools or things going on in the world around us. That makes it sound as if homeschool is only an option because of your fill in the blank hot topic. That’s not what a new homeschooler needs to hear from you.
It’s true that some families choose homeschooling as an alternative because something about public or private schools wasn’t a good match for them or their kids, but families have countless reasons for choosing to homeschool.
There are lots of perks to this lifestyle: you can customize your schedule and your child’s educational experience, you get to actually do life with your family, you get to be your child’s primary influence, and so much more.
Unless you closely know the situation, don’t assume that the decision to homeschool is a reaction to a bad public or private school experience. It’s often not the case.
My second cousin’s neighbors were homeschooled and actually turned out okay.
Sometimes the “I used to know some homeschoolers” comments aren’t as reassuring as you may intend for them to sound. Instead, those remarks come with an air of surprise. I mean, we don’t want new homeschoolers to feel like it’s unusual for homeschool kids to turn out okay, right?
Also keep in mind that homeschooling isn’t a rare thing these days! In my state there are more children enrolled in homeschools than private schools.
On the same note, it wouldn’t cross your mind to say, “I used to know some kids who attended private school and…,” to a parent who recently enrolled their kids in private school, would it? Nope, those conversations don’t happen. Why should you interact with a new homeschool parent any differently?
What about socialization?
This is an especially bad thing to ask because there’s no way to answer it without sounding snarky. With that said, I’m still surprised that the tired socialization conversation continues to happen when families begin homeschooling.
Most homeschoolers — rookies, veterans, and everyone in between — are over talking about it. But, if you must know, homeschoolers have greater opportunities for true socialization than kids in public or private schools. Don’t agree with me? Think about it, unless you’re referring to a homeschooling family with quintuplets, homeschoolers are generally more comfortable being around a variety of people.
Being in a classroom and spending time with fifteen to thirty children of one age all day isn’t necessarily a good thing. If nothing else, when these kids are outside of their classrooms, their form of socialization often causes them to keep to their cliques and doesn’t help them interact with people of different ages or walks of life. I’ve seen it time and time again!
On the other hand, homeschool groups and co-ops tend to give participants more chances to work with kids of all ages. They learn early-on how to help with younger children and include them in what they’re doing all while they’re given chances to learn from older kids. These are wonderful relationships and life skills they’d miss out on if they were only around one age most of the time.
Outside of the classroom, running errands with mom or dad is socialization at it’s finest. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but they’re seeing firsthand how to interact with people of every age and background.
Homeschoolers also have the same opportunities to participate in community sports, civic groups, church activities, and interest-led opportunities that other kids do. You name it, we can do it; when we do it, we’re out there in our communities interacting with all sorts of people.
And, for the sake of keeping it real, as an introvert, there are times when I wish we weren’t so socialized. All of this interacting takes a lot out of me!
Are you even qualified to teach your kids?
Everything about that question is insulting and it stirs a sense of insecurity. Given the teacher credentialing process for those in public or private schools, I can, however, understand why this question arises.
Hear me out, though. This is a question to keep to yourself because there’s a big difference in being qualified in regards to the system and being capable of teaching. To think that a parent is only capable of teaching if they’ve had the same training as a paid teacher is off-base. I may not be qualified, but I’m absolutely capable.
I certainly don’t have a degree in education and don’t excel in every academic area, but that doesn’t mean I can’t teach my child. If nothing else, that drives me even more. My own experience — or lack thereof — is actually is actually a blessing in many respects.
One thing I love about homeschooling on a personal level is that I have the opportunity to learn things that weren’t covered in my schooling, things I didn’t even know I missed. I even have the opportunity to relearn things that were glossed over or memorized for testing purposes. I get the blessing of learning alongside my kids!
One of my favorite Bible teachers recently spoke about letting go of the pressures of doing everything on your own, saying goodbye to the “from scratch” mentality. Her words of advice are solid gold: you don’t have to make it, just make it happen. That applies to homeschooling, too.
I’m not a trigonometry expert and I wasn’t a chemistry major. How on earth will my kids learn these things? You better believe that I’ll connect them with the right resources for those things when the time comes. Even if I don’t “teach” everything, I can easily equip them with the tools they need for a solid education.
What a new homeschooler needs from you
How can I help? I’d love to hear about what you’re planning or doing. Do you need anything? I think that’s great; I’m praying for you and your family. Those are the things that homeschoolers of any tenure need to hear from you.
We love when you ask about what we’re doing because you’re genuinely interested (and not because you want to quiz our kids). We love to know that there’s someone out there willing to help us with something from time to time.
We draw so much encouragement from kind words and sincere prayers. We crave those things as much as any other teacher and our kids appreciate the interest in their school experience, too.
For the love, don’t ignore us! I can’t tell you how many times my kids are skipped when adults are asking all of the kids around them what they’re doing in school. Granted, you’ll open the conversational floodgates if you ask my kids about homeschooling, but it’s hurtful to ignore them because they’re homeschooled. Don’t do that to the (new) homeschoolers you know. Instead, include and encourage them like you do everyone else. It goes a long way!
There’s more of this conversation happening over at iHomeschool Network’s Things Not to Say Linkup. Stop by and read all of the things not to say to a new homeschooler.