Telling Other People You Are Homeschooling
© Beverley Paine
The following question recently came up on the Homeschool Australia FAQ group.
How have people found reactions to the decision to hs from friends who already have their kids in school or plan to send them?
We all feel the need to enthuse about our new passion in life. I remember my best friend waxing lyrical about the joys of single parenting after a not-so amicable split from her ex, especially when she fell in love with a tall, handsome fella... Robin and I found it all too much and began avoiding her company. We'd only been married four or five years and were very much in love. I used to ear-bash my friends about anti-nuclear stuff when a member for People for Peace, tried to convince everyone to become Trees For Life members, wouldn't eat anything unless it was organic and dairy free (I was a real pain to cater for at dinner parties!).
Homeschooling, however, was something I didn't tell many people about. It was too 'out there'. Most people assumed we were feral hippies when they found out, or totally ignored the fact and kept asking the kids about school... I think some of them thought that we were doing school at home, as in correspondence lessons. In a small country town dependent on student enrollments for school staff positions you don't talk about homeschooling - it's considered anti-community.
It wasn't uncommon for people to feel that my lifestyle was a criticism of their's. These meant a defensive reaction whereas they may have been open to the idea. I learned to preface conversations about homeschooling with "in my experience only weird parents homeschool - we're a bunch of overprotective paranoid parents who are totally besotted with their kids and love spending every minute of every day with them". That convinced them we were weird, not normal and pretty well summed up the whole homeschooling thing at the same time. They were mostly relieved that they didn't have to homeschool to prove that they were adequate parents. Another line I used to give was "I went to school and I'm okay, I just want to try something different with my kids. If it doesn't work out they'll go to school." That always seemed to reassure and shut up the more antagonist, argumentative friends, family and strangers.
If someone asks me "why?" and I tell them I don't agree with school, forced learning etc... aren't I indirectly critizing them?
We generally don't talk politics or football with people: homeschooling is another one of those topics. People can get fired about education, especially those that lean to the left and believe fervently in the role of public education as a socialising mechanism in society. I wouldn't debate the finer points of rugby union in an AFL dominated room!
Besides, you're not directly criticising them - they are taking what you say as criticism. There's a difference. But if you go on and on, then you'll be seen to pushing your point too far, and that begins to look like you disapprove of their choices. It's not about approving or disapproving; it's about validating that everyone has the responsibility to work out what's best for them and their family situation.
On one hand I want to tell everyone I'm going to homeschool, so I dont' have to listen to all the agonizing conversations about preparations for school, but am also a bit wary of offending people somehow?
Join in the conversations. Chat about YOUR preparations for homeschool. Talk about the excursions and camps you're planning on going on, the projects you'll be helping your kids with, how you're organising their portfolios, music and karate lessons and so on. You won't be hanging out at the canteen but you're talking to your children about them helping out with you when you volunteer as a Meals on Wheels driver... Talk about shopping for text books, stationery, telescopes... Ace 'em!
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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