4 Tips for Talking to Relatives About Homeschooling This Holiday Season

The following is a guest post written by Hillary of Infinitely Learning.

We know it’s well worth taking the time to prepare a holiday budget and plan seasonal activities ahead of time, but have you ever prepared yourself to talk about homeschooling over the holidays?

Chances are you will be visiting family and friends and attending holiday parties, and while you may have loved ones who support your choice to homeschool you might also run into those who have questions or who do not understand your homeschooling lifestyle.

You can help create smoother interactions with friends, family and even strangers by taking a little bit of time to plan ahead. Here’s how.

1. Be prepared.

“Hi, my name is Hillary and we homeschool because we value organic learning, flexibility and we like spending time together as a family.”

Why do you homeschool? It may seem obvious to you, but it’s probably wrapped up in the many layers of your personal belief system, experience, and philosophy.

Can you break it down into three key reasons?

Chances are one of those reasons will answer any question you are asked. Give it a try.

2. Listen with an open heart.

“Thanks Mom, I appreciate your concern and am doing my best to make great decisions for my family.”

Sometimes it feels like we hear the same questions and comments over and over again. “What about socialization?” and “How will they learn to read?” are common questions. It might feel like they are doubting your ability to homeschool, your child’s innate ability to learn and insulting your ability to make good choices, but this is usually not the case.

Some people don’t understand the how and the why and are genuinely concerned about your family simply because they love you. Others feel uncomfortable when something is outside their usual comfort zone. Try to really hear what they are saying and respond appropriately.

3. Be confident.

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.” ~ Mark Twain

Confidence makes a difference. Be sure of yourself with a steady dose of humility. You are a great parent and are making the best decisions you know how to make in the present moment; speak from that place.

Hesitancy may invite criticism or unwanted advice. Expressing yourself with confidence makes it easier for people to respect your choices even if they happen to disagree with them.

4. Opt out of drama.

“Let’s agree to disagree.”

Holidays can stir up the drama in all of us. A little too much eggnog, way too much sugar and lots of little ones scrambling underfoot can lead to misunderstandings and heightened emotions.

You don’t choose your family and there may be relatives with strong opinions that don’t mesh with yours. If you sense a conversation is heading towards drama you can make a choice to keep the peace.

It’s better to be remembered for your pumpkin pie than your loud debate over educational philosophies.

What are your three key reasons for homeschooling? The toughest question you’ve ever been asked? Your best answers?

About Hillary

Hillary feels lucky to be able to work full-time from home and shares the homeschooling responsibilities with her partner. Together, with a little creativity, a full schedule and a lot of love, they facilitate the education of their three adorable, and sometimes very loud, children.

Comments

  1. Cari says:

    I LOVE this post. I’ve been creating a similar one in my mind and you beat me to it, so thank you. It seems to me that we as homeschooling parents need to have the 5 second response, the five minute response and longer conversation talking points. Discerning which one we whip out when is essential. I loved your point about confidence and I’d add to that grace. Instead of the internal eye-roll at the frequently expressed concerns I’m trying to welcome these questions – understanding that I have an opportunity to open others up to one beautiful option of how to teach our children. Again, thank you for your wisdom and your words.
    Cari’s latest post: Authors

  2. Jane says:

    I love this post. My children are still young, four and two, but I am already leaning in the direction of not enrolling my children in public school, and have already had many conversations with family members who ask questions about socialization and reading. I love your thoughts about really thinking about and respecting peoples questions, and also having confidence in the decisions you’ve made for your family. Great post, thank you!
    Jane’s latest post: Drawing on Mirrors

  3. Eighteen years ago, I was concerned about this discussion. When we started homeschooling, people had no idea it was even legal!! I remember the look on the faces of my in-laws. They were surprised/alarmed/curious but courteous. Now, of course, they don’t even ask. And we are still at it! Our youngest is 10.

    I think you make a very good point for new homeschoolers to think through their response to the inevitable questions about motive and method. When you can explain what you believe, you truly have mastery of principles. Many haven’t really answered the question: What is true education? If you haven’t answered that question in your mind, then it really is worth wrestling with it. Because the answer will provide the framework for all the homeschooling decisions you make.

    A good place to start is by reading Dorothy Sayer’s essay: (http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html)
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: 600 Miles and a Longhorn

  4. Great advice,especially the point about being prepared. This is my first year of home school, so I am confident there will be questions. This spring I raised a few eyebrows in the family and beyond when I resigned from a lucrative job, took my oldest off of a prestigious pre-k program, and started to home school.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: WW- Mommy- I Got A Great Idea!

  5. Emmalina says:

    I have not as yet come up against any serious criticism but our family are overseas and those we talk to are very supportive. Something I now say to friends who are not homeschooling is that being a parent is hard no matter what you do. I think most people know that the one to one attention and dedicated support a homeschooler gets is tough to beat, then they are defensive about why this didn’t or don’t feel able to deliver that to their kids.

    I often say the teaching bit isn’t hard, it’s being a mum that is hard. This often diffuses defensiveness and lets people know I am not criticising their choice just making a different one : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: The breath in and the breath out

  6. just remember to focus on the positive- and don’t even mention public school- homeschooling is RIGHT for MY family because ____, ____ and ______
    priest’s wife’s latest post: This Life is NOT a Dress Rehearsal

  7. Kara says:

    Only one time have I gotten myself into the situation of feeling that I had to “defend” homeschooling (to someone who was almost a stranger!)

    I decided after that that I will not ever scramble to defend homeschooling again other than to say, “Homeschooling works very well for our family.”

    My children never need to hear me say negative things about our local school district, and they do not need to feel weird because someone is arguing with Mommy about our life choices.

    So I just smile politely now and say, “Homeschooling works very well for our family … please pass the broccoli.”

  8. AprilS says:

    Love this! How many parents worry about dealing with this discussion every time the family gets together? No need to start any battles, just use your suggestions and have a simple conversation. There’s already enough stress from dealing with the holidays, we don’t need to let family add to it by letting their judgments get to us. Just relax and remember you are the parent and it’s your decision. Explain your reasons and if it isn’t enough, tell them to leave it alone.

    Thanks for sharing this because I think this is useful anytime you are talking to folks about why you homeschool.
    AprilS’s latest post: Chemistry in Action – Magnesium and Dry Ice

  9. Deon says:

    I never really prepare for these situations. This year I can plan ahead and not be caught stumbling on my explanation! I love the idea of saying “…I appreciate your concern and am doing my best to make great decisions for my family” with a smile on my face. So much better than letting things get negative.

    When we articulate the exciting things we are about in our lives I think it sets a great example for our children. Being confident and positive about our own mission or the impact we are trying to make in our communities will teach them how to stand for something confidently and positively…even when there’s a little heat.

    Thanks for the great post.
    Deon’s latest post: Math for Young Scholars

  10. Catherine says:

    Thank you for the great tips in this post! Off to make my list of 3 reasons… :)
    Catherine’s latest post: Living with One Foot Raised

  11. This are very good advices, thank you.

    My 3 key reasons:
    Time: be able to follow our needs.
    Bound: the possibility to connect and reconnect.
    Treasure: to not to miss my kid’s wonderful process.
    (and a 4th)
    Expand: to be able to support particular interest when they arrive, such as playing a musical instrument, without having to wait years for proper instruction.
    Nahuatl Vargas’s latest post: About kids sleeping hours- schooling and unschooling

  12. FANTASTIC post hillary.

    we are not homeschoolers (i like to call us waldorf-inspired unschoolers who supplement with public school ;-) but we have faced a lot of these types of questions / concerns about our parenting choices.

    i really like the idea of mentally preparing and getting centered around one’s decisions before heading into the holidays.

    ~erin

    • Pamela says:

      Erin,

      I really like your comment about supplementing with public schooling. We don’t homeschool either, but we do a lot of home education. We also make lots of parenting choices that seem to lead to “discussions”. It’s kind of comical, but now that our kids are in public school, the extended family thinks we are more “normal” and has laid off of the criticism. I think they took a collective sigh of relief!

      -Pamela

  13. Debbie says:

    Wonderful advice! Being prepared for homeschooling questions is a must.
    I remember being asked if homeschooling was legal by an acquaintance when we first started out ten years ago… Her question ( and tone ) caught me so off guard and I took it personally even though I felt confident about our decision. I was a new homeschooling mom and felt vulnerable and I wasn’t prepared… It taught me this lesson early on… I have my 3 responses ready most of the time now! I’ve got the short, medium and the more lengthy version for those who want to know more! With one in high school and one in middle school, now we are getting the all too popular questions, ” Will you home school through the high school years” ? What about college? How will you handle the more complex subjects? My responses have been re-vamped to handle these questions now.
    Great timing for this post!
    Deb

    Thank you ! This reminder to be prepared is greatly appreciated.
    Debbie’s latest post: This Moment A Friday Ritual

  14. amber says:

    I have had my share of this type of conversation, but luckily for me, my family members have been either supportive or non-confrontational about my educational choices. My daughter has turned out to be a pleasant companion, so nobody has any criticism about homeschooling at this point.
    I have found the best tactic to deal with these conversations to be to briefly say that it works well for us and we love it, and then to ask a question. Most people love to talk about their own opinions so much.

    “What do you think is an ideal education?”
    “What was school like for you?”
    “Did you ever have a really great teacher?”

    Etc.
    I also try tolisten to the responses. Maybe I can learn something. I already know my own opinion:)

  15. This was really good hillary. I haven’t had to defend our homeschooling position for many years. As the children grow the proof is in the pudding but it’s always good to clarify why we do what we do, if even in our own minds.

  16. Jessica says:

    Why hasn’t it occurred to me before now to prepare for this?!
    Jessica’s latest post: Letter Writing in the Spirit

  17. Jessica says:

    Woops, that sent before I meant it to.

    Just wanted to say, I like points 1 and 3 best. Know how to explain why you home (or un)school in one simple sentence. And be confident! So often I am not confident if someone asks me questions about homeschooling.

    Thanks for the tips.

  18. annie says:

    Great post! I’ll be referring to this post in the coming years as we navigate homeschooling vs. public schooling. I’m getting criticism and questions and we haven’t even had kids yet (we’re planning to have our first this coming year). Just the fact that I would even consider homeschooling makes at least half the family decide on the spot that we’re hippie idiots :-)

  19. Anne says:

    I agree with Kara – I cringe every time I am at a party with my friend who homeschools and someone asks about her choice. It always starts that she had an “issue” with the public school that her son attended for Kindergarten, and she goes into a long public school- bashing diatribe. Her children are usually nearby taking it all in. I slowly and quietly slip away from any conversation she starts regarding homeschooling. She feels the need to put public school in a negative light rather than just say that homeschooling is a good fit for herself and her children. Why bring up the negative? EVERY time? No need to feel defensive. Believe in your personal choice and do everyone a favor and keep it short. ;) People are interested, but probably not THAT interested. :)

  20. Kerry says:

    We say that we chose to take a “non-traditional” approach to education/schooling with our kids and I explain that means (for us) they are in classes, sports, activities, etc with other kids and we also do some things on our own. If I’m feeling chatty I explain that it’s personalized, they move at their own pace, have plenty of time to explore their own interests, volunteer, etc. By the end of the chat I think people “get” that we homeschool but I think they have more of an open mind than if I just bust out “we homeschool!”

  21. Addie says:

    I know this post is aged a bit, but I have a question. We homeschool our children, and my in-laws children are in public school. We live about an hour away and in general live our lives differently than my husband’s siblings and parents. Recently a sister-in-law posted a “funny” picture mocking homeschoolers. The graphic originated from a homeschooling blog, and I would have found it funny if I posted it. But having it applying to me from someone who does not share in our journey of homeschooling leaves an ugly sting. I feel publicly made-fun-of for our choice to homeschool, which was something we have considered and prayed about yearly. How should I respond to the situation.

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