We’ve all, as homeschooling parents, faced at least one person who was critical of our decision. They all have different reasons for being critical, but in the end, these people feel no shame or guilt over telling us how wrong we are and the harm we’re doing to our children.
When we’re faced with these people, we often struggle with how to deal with it. Should we explain our choices, give them the reasoning behind our decision, show them the statistics and try to persuade them? Or should we just ignore them and let them keep their opinions, or maybe just smile and nod?
In some cases, we have no choice. If your ex takes you to court, for example, to ask the judge to order that you stop homeschooling and put the kids in school, you have to explain yourself to the judge – you can’t just ignore the judge’s questions.
But there are plenty of other times when people question or criticize us, and we feel like we have no choice, but we do. Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, bosses and landlords, even cashiers at the store, all do it, and while they might make you feel like you have to answer, remember that you don’t.
Don’t let family ties, or the bonds of friendship, restrict you and make you feel obligated to explain yourself. Whether it’s your mother, your brother, or your great-great-great uncle who’s only your relative because he married an aunt who’s only an aunt because her father married into your family and brought her with him, you have no obligation to explain anything to them. Yes, it may make things a bit awkward at the next family reunion or Thanksgiving or Christmas, but is it going to be any less awkward if you’re feeling badgered every time you get together?
Coworkers and bosses, as well as landlords, can make you feel especially uncomfortable. You can’t get away from them, and in the cases of coworkers and bosses, you have to see them every day, all day. Add to that the feeling that they actually have some control over your life (knowing you can be fired or evicted, and even if it’s not legal, it’s still something you’d have to fight and maybe you can’t afford that), and it’s possible that you feel even more pressured to answer to these people than you do to family. But you can still say it’s not their business – politely, of course. Alternatively, if you’re just starting to homeschool (or have just started a new job, or just moved into a new place), consider not even mentioning that you homeschool and save yourself the hassle entirely. If they never know you do it, they can’t question you about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you hide what you do – homeschooling is legal, not wrong, and growing every year. What I am advocating, however, is deciding what will make your life easier – and if it’s easier to simply keep it to yourself that you homeschool, why not do it? Your life is difficult enough, no need to add additional, unnecessary complications.
So how do you decide when you should explain yourself and when you shouldn’t? Is it just based on who’s asking, or is there some secret formula?
There’s no secret formula, I’ll tell you that right now. The best way to determine who to answer and who to ignore is to look at the individual that’s asking. Gauge why they’re asking. Is it honest curiosity? Is it an interest in homeschooling – whether just general interest or interest because they might want to do it for their own children? Or is it that they think it’s wrong and they want you to justify it so they can try to tear you down for it?
In addition to gauging why they’re asking, also gauge how likely you think it is that they will be open-minded enough to admit they were wrong, if you do manage to convince them. Some people will be glad to admit that they had some misconceptions and you’ve cleared them up, while others are going to cling to those misconceptions forever, no matter how much hard evidence is beaten over their heads.
Another thing to consider: will they let it go? When it’s a person you can see doesn’t agree with you and likely won’t change their mind, will they let it drop after this conversation, or are they going to bring it up constantly now that the door has been opened? If they’re not going to let it go, then it really is best that you not open that door to begin with.
But what do you say when you’ve decided not to explain yourself to someone? Obviously, you don’t want to scream, “Go away, you jerk! I’m not telling you anything!” You need to find something polite that will get your point across without giving them an excuse to continue badgering you (even though they might continue badgering you anyway). If you can’t think of something on your own, try one of these:
- “We’ve decided what’s best for our family, and we’d prefer to keep the details private.”
- “I appreciate your concerns, but this isn’t the time or place for a discussion of that depth.”
- “I’m intrigued by your interest. May I ask why you’re asking?” (Forcing them into a position where they’d have to admit they’re just looking to tear you down can make them back off.)
Of course, you could also go with a cheeky response, like, “I’d love to tell you why I homeschool. Why don’t we grab lunch or dinner, and after I explain, you can then explain why you don’t homeschool?” But that could backfire on you, so I’d use caution if you want to go with something like that.
Maybe just as important as figuring out what to say if you don’t want to explain yourself at all, is figuring out how to put a stop to the incessant questioning once you’ve explained yourself and they won’t let it go.
Just like refusing to explain yourself in the first place, there is no one right way to put a stop to the continued interrogation. The best thing to do here is to find something and stick to it. For example, say, “I’ve already answered your questions, and I’m not going to explain myself any further.” Then, just repeat that every single time they bring it up. It’ll be repetitive, and annoying, but if you give in even once, they’ll keep trying. Say the same thing over and over, and refuse to give in, and eventually they’ll stop. Not as quickly as you probably want, but in time, it will happen.
One last thing to keep in mind: sometimes we’ve dealt with so many critics that we allow ourselves to think that anyone who asks about homeschooling is looking to bash it or us. Be careful not to let that happen to you. Look at each individual asking and try to figure out their motives. Keep in mind that they might be sincerely curious, or they might even want to homeschool but aren’t sure and they want to hear from someone who’s already doing it. If you refuse to answer, you just might push them away from homeschooling, or convince them that any bad things they’ve heard must be true. That’s definitely not something any of us want.
What do you think? Do you think that we should explain our choices to anyone who asks, or do you think it’s better to ignore the ones that are just looking to bash homeschooling?