One question that I get a lot is: Can you homeschool when your ex (the other parent of your children) is against it?
There are two disclaimers I must make before I delve into this topic:
1. My ex is not in the picture, by his own choice. As a result, I do not know what his thoughts on homeschooling are, nor do I know if he has any issues with us homeschooling – or if he even knows that we homeschool.
2. I am not a lawyer. Therefore, nothing I say here should be taken as legal advice. If you have issues with your ex, whether about homeschooling or something else, you should check your state’s laws and/or consult with your lawyer.
Now, with that said, let’s talk about homeschooling when your ex is against it.
When it comes to the legalities, it really depends on a lot of factors. A few of the factors to consider are:
- Your custody order. There’s a few kinds of custody, and the kind that you have will dictate what you can and cannot do without your ex’s input and/or approval. For example, if you have full legal custody, in most cases this means that you can make decisions without the ex’s input or approval. That means that, hypothetically, you would be able to decide to homeschool and your ex can’t really do anything about it. But if you have joint legal custody, then that means that your ex has as much say as you do, so you can’t make the decision and just move forward with it.
- Your judge. If you and your ex are unable to agree, it’s likely to lead to a court date. When it’s up to a judge, you really have to hope that you have a homeschooling-friendly one.
- State laws. You’ll need to see if your state has any laws that indicate one way or the other what you can/cannot do when the ex is against it. As far as I know, none do, but I am not familiar with the laws in every state.
So, what can you do when you want to homeschool and your ex is against it? There’s a lot you can do. Start with these steps:
- Find out what his/her objections are. If you pay attention, a lot of people’s objections to homeschooling are based on myths that they’ve come to believe, misconceptions they’ve gotten or conclusions they’ve come to that aren’t based on the reality of homeschooling. Find out what it is, exactly, that your ex is concerned about. Maybe he’s afraid that your child will not have any friends. Maybe she’s afraid you’ve suddenly developed some new religious convictions and you want to homeschool to be able to teach these new convictions to your child. Without knowing what they object to, you can’t persuade them.
- Disprove their arguments. Find proof that their objections are unfounded (or, at least, that you can do things to make them less of a concern), and show it to them. If his concern is that your child won’t have friends, find a list of homeschooling groups and co-ops in your area that you could join, as well as a list of their activities to show him that your child would have ample opportunities to get together with friends and do activities with other children. If the concern is that you’re wanting to homeschool to teach your child some new religious thoughts or something similar, gather a list of what you would want to teach your child (either a list of subjects with a sub-list of topics within each subject, or a list of the curricula you would buy with website links and details about each one) and show that you wouldn’t be teaching your child anything out of the ordinary. If you would be (if, for example, teaching religious beliefs is one reason you want to homeschool), this is a chance to show the ex what beliefs you want to teach and explain why.
- Explain in detail why you want to homeschool. You might even consider taking the time to write this all down, so you don’t forget anything. Get into explicit detail about why you want to homeschool. Explain every last reason you can think of, right down to the fact that the school’s Friday pizza is shaped like a rectangle and tastes like cardboard covered in ketchup and plastic. No matter how silly or minor the reason, cover them all. This will show that you’ve put a lot of thought into it, and hopefully, gets your ex to be a little more willing to consider it.
- Gather more evidence. Get together the comparisons of how homeschoolers compare to public school kids, the studies and charts that show they often perform far better. Also gather information about your child’s public school and how poorly it performs, if that’s one of your reasons for wanting to homeschool. Make a list that details how you can provide a better education.
- Make it personal. For me, the fact that my children have ADHD was one of the big factors in my decision to homeschool. They had to take medication in order to attend public school, and that didn’t sit well with me. Their poor grades because they couldn’t concentrate and didn’t learn the way public schools teach was another factor. By homeschooling, I can teach my children the way they learn best, and we’ve been able to successfully take them off medication. After you’ve gone through the facts, the evidence, and shot down the concerns your ex has, make it personal and talk specifically about your child(ren). Explain the things about your child specifically that make homeschooling the best option, such as learning disabilities or medical conditions. Explain why homeschooling is the best option, such as that you can work at your child’s pace or it could lead to your child being taken off medication.
What if your ex won’t even talk to you about it? You should still do steps three through five, and try to do steps one and two. But instead of doing it to have a discussion with your ex, you’ll be doing it to prepare for going in front of the judge and persuade the judge to allow you to homeschool.
It’s important to keep a few other things in mind, as well.
If you convince a judge to allow you to homeschool, remember that that isn’t going to make your ex immediately get on board with the idea. He’s likely to continue to think it’s a bad idea – and that means he probably won’t do anything to help you homeschool, unless the judge put it in the order that he has to. Which means that you’ll be doing it all on your own, with whatever support your find through your own family and friends, homeschooling groups and co-ops, etc.
You’ll also want to remember that going to court over this issue isn’t going to endear you to your ex. It’s going to create more tension and more friction and more hurt/angry feelings between you. This means that you’re likely to find that your ex is going to start digging in his/her heels a whole lot more on all other issues, as well. I’m not saying this to talk you out of fighting to homeschool, but to make sure you realize that if you choose to fight this battle, you’re going into it with the full understanding that you are opening yourself up to any and all other battles that your ex is likely to want to fight now.
Homeschooling, for many of us, is something we feel incredibly strongly about. We do it because we honestly believe that it’s what’s best for our children. If you feel this way, too, then you absolutely should fight to do it. But it’s important to go in with eyes wide open and completely understanding what you’re getting into by doing it.
And again, as I said at the beginning of this, I am not a lawyer. You need to consult with a lawyer, check your custody paperwork and/or check your state laws to ensure that handle everything properly.
Do you have any suggestions for a single parent who wants to homeschool but their ex is against it? Share them in the comments!