How an unexpected homeschool fight can further your resolve

Red Boxing Gloves Hanging on Wall --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The following is a guest post by Heather Woodie of Blog She Wrote.

I was taken by surprise recently at a response to my declaration that we homeschool.

We were at a local qualifying meet for First Lego League and I was speaking to the coach of another team. We were there as a family to support my husband who is a coach and my tenth-grader who is a long time team member competing his last eligible year.

She approached us and engaged my daughter about team participation and was shocked to hear that she was not on a team. It’s not the first time well-meaning people have suggested my “creative to her core” girl should embrace math and engineering. To do anything less would be sacrificing potential.

So, I attempted to divert the conversation and we talked about schools. She is a teacher educator. We both taught middle school. We talked about differences in schools here (New York state) versus Maryland where I  taught.

Then I did it. I simply said, “… and so we homeschool.”

The conversation took a turn and honestly, I didn’t realize it was all negative until I was in it.

She was appalled that our two robotics teams were entirely made up of homeschooled students. She really took offense at the concept and wanted to know who keeps track of our education.

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By this time I could see I’d made a mess. However, I assured her that New York does a very good job of requiring records from its homeschoolers.

She kept repeating, “I am very pro public school.”

To which I responded, “Yes, I used to be too.” (with a sweet smile)

Thankfully, she was pulled away. I left and somehow we didn’t seek each other out again.

Why did I not see that coming?

I’ll tell you why. I rarely get anything but positive comments even if the person disagrees with the idea or states they could never do it. (Who hasn’t heard that one?).

As I collected myself after the interaction and reflected on her reaction to homeschooling, I furthered my resolve.

As an educator, there is always an internal struggle between being conventional and being out of the box when it comes to your homeschooling. Always.

When you realize your kids aren’t sitting at a desk and churning out paperwork or working in groups in very prescribed ways, you panic a little and think, “Oh no! My kids aren’t doing enough!” Or “They aren’t doing it the right way!”

Then I have instances like this flustering conversation and I remember what it’s all about.

Someone asked me recently about the goals I have for my kids.  My mind settled on these items very quickly in light of this conversation.

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What are my goals for my kids? I want them to be:

  • Independent thinkers who can solve problems.
  • Self Motivated – to reach their goals.
  • Able to use their gifts and skills in a niche they carve for themselves along the way — including the creative (non-hardcore science) pursuits my daughter claims as hers.
  • Able to take new things they learn and assimilate them into the myriad of things they know.
  • Given a task and be able to work on it by collaborating or researching independently to complete the task/make the product/carry off a presentation or all of it with excellence.
  • Starters and finishers.

I have no interest in them being able to follow just what everyone else does or to have to fall in line with minute expectations that are only relevant in a traditional educational setting.

Once you leave twelfth grade, the game changes. My kids need to be able to carry out a task whether they like it or not at some level. However, the environment in traditional education is so orchestrated.

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Interestingly, most educators don’t think this is the case. But, there is little choice there and little to encourage independent thinking and task completion in conventional education settings. There is barely a glimpse of true collaboration. It’s all prescribed with no room for authenticity. I know because I was there.

So, I’m thankful for the unsettling conversation that day. It was a reminder of the core of our homeschool mission. In the future I will take Kara’s advice and shut down the homeschool fight before it starts, but when it hits me before I know what’s happening I’ll smile and think about my resolve.

The only person that needs to be convinced (more like reminded) of why we homeschool is me.

How do negative comments from strangers or even family further your resolve to homeschool?

About Heather Woodie

Heather Woodie is a homeschooling mom to four sweet kids– one in high school, two in middle school, and one last elementary student. She is a former middle and high school biology teacher who has embraced the independent nature of homeschooling and mentors her children through authentic, student driven projects and learning adventures. You can read about their adventures at Blog She Wrote where she blogs about all things homeschooling.

Comments

  1. I have to say that I have been pretty blessed with support from those around me. I do tend to hear from everyone about “that homeschool family they knew” which annoys me. I tend to assume people are against me. I think because it happened so much while I was growing up. I was homeschooled and strangers would stop me and quiz me when they found out. That did not turn me off to the idea of homeschooling though and I am so glad that I get to teach my boys! It is amazing to get to build my men to be strong self educators everyday. Thanks for sharing.
    danielle’s latest post: Nature Journals

  2. Melinda says:

    I too began homeschooling when I moved from Arkansas three years ago to New York. I taught third grade in my little hometown at the public school I graduated from and absolutely loved it! However, I knew I’d never be able to thoroughly enjoy teaching at a public school here in NY so I decided to homeschool. I have a tremendous amount of support from a group of ladies at my church who homeschool. I can’t think of one thing negative anyone out in public has ever said. Someone questioned me one time about “socialization”. It was asked sincerely.

    And I totally understand about receiving the training for a “proper” education verses what goes on at home with schooling. My first year homeschooling was a disaster because I tried to treat it like my classroom from third grade. I finally figured out that wouldn’t work and have to “forget” my training as a teacher and remember that I’m a mom who teaches.

  3. So true Melinda! I’ve had to unlearn some things as a homeschooling mom who used to be a public school teacher. It’s amazing how unstructured our homeschool is compared to how much I used to control in my science classroom!
    Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

  4. I am also a teacher who had to unlearn the ways of the school to follow my child’s interests. I’ve learned that children have strengths and weaknesses, differences in learning styles, interests, etc. and it’s good to support where they are. It’s discouraging when people compare and compete and expect all kids to be at a certain level. There’s so much push for STEM these days that it’s tempting to push towards those careers. But homeschooling isn’t just about those limited areas. It’s about educating the whole child and supporting his or her interests. Kudos for being a strong supporter of your creative child! I have one too and she’s not into cookie-cutter education. She’s carving her own path in life.

    • Thanks Min! Yes, creative children are so much fun to parent. I’m amazed daily at her talents and creations. My husband is an engineer in administration at a local ivy university and he actually gets a lot more criticism for not pushing our daughter into STEM studies and activities. I have found that when we work to help our children capitalize on their interests and talents that the results are stunning- in every case. So worth out time and energy to help them to discover and develop their strengths!
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

  5. Great post (as usual!) Heather! I have experience as a parent with the product of public education and home education, and I have absolutely NO DOUBT which is better. :D

    • Thank you Sara! I bet that is one of the best ways to see the difference in schooling methods is as a parent- experiencing both. Our oldest was in public school for kindergarten and half of first grade. We brought him home precisely because our insatiably curious 5yo became jaded very quickly and learning adventures he always enjoyed became something to avoid at home. It was time to make a change and I think we’ve been adjusting ever since to the ways our children learn best and what sort of activities keep them on the leading edge of the learning curve.
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

  6. I had an interesting conversation over Easter with a public school teacher with who I am casual friends. She asked ( I do believe innocently) how “progress” is measured and if we were required to do EOG testing. I said we did and that it always confirmed what I already knew about my boys’ strengths and weaknesses, but that I was glad to have an objective assessment. She then railed against how she is hampered from teaching because of The Test.

    I just found the whole conversation interesting – bc I think it is so hard to get away from the idea that testing is The Way to measure learning. And yet, there is recognition that (perhaps, LOL here) public schools have gone a little too far in their emphasis on measurement and too little in regard to learning/creative teaching.
    Great post.
    sheila’s latest post: Habit: Reflective Friday

  7. Great post! Here’s a recent experience of unexpected support, rather than a fight, that strengthened my resolve. My husband is a business owner and affiliated with a large university and local politics so I must be the “corporate wife” (I’m so NOT!) and go to many events with him. Our son is often with us as well. The “Where does your son go to school?” always comes up. At a wedding recently (my hubby also officiates weddings for friends and this one had a lot of political heavy hitters in attendance) we were in the buffet line and the gentleman in front of us asked my son where he goes to school. My son proudly and clearly said, “I’m homeschooled.” (And my heart swelled) I didn’t know what to expect from this guy because I had overheard him earlier extolling the virtues of “BabyWise” to an expectant couple. Since I hate BabyWise, my first impression of this man was not a good one. Turns out, he’s a state senator and put a bill through the legislature to allow homeschool high school students to have tuition free access to our community college, just the same as public school students! I don’t know what my point is here, other than I guess I was expecting an opinionated rant about education that involved bashing homeschooling, since this man was obviously not afraid to express his opinions to strangers about other very personal topics. I was pleasantly surprised to not only get a pat on the back for being a homeschooling mom, but to hear that he has actually worked to make things better for homeschool families! I was surprised, impressed, and humbled that what I thought would be a battle ended up being an encouraging moment. (Though I still hate BabyWise and told the expecting Daddy to read up on it before he bought it!) :-)

    • Carol that is a great story! I would love to see more tangible support from lawmakers- what a great bill!
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

    • I find it incredibly odd that you would use a single book as a litmus test for a person’s entire belief system. We found a lot of value in Babywise (and other books) and are ardent supporters of homeschooling and a host of other topics on which I’m quite confident we would find common ground. I’m not a fan of attachment parenting but have many friends who are. It isn’t something I would use to ferret out who I would befriend or agree with.

  8. Once I was in a room full of Montessori teachers and when they found out that I was just an ordinary mom homeschooling my young son, they started grilling me. So I shared my story with them about my sweet, energetic, creative boy’s negative experience with public school from the get-go, how his natural love for learning was diminished greatly by the formal setting of school, and how he had become completely miserable. They wanted to know why I simply didn’t switch schools (why didn’t I think of enrolling him in a Montessori school?) or request a different teacher. I think I handled the whole conversation rather well considering I was outnumbered. Looking back, I think it’s funny how they were in such awe that I could take my child’s education into my own hands. After all, a parent is a child’s first teacher, and it’s not like we have to teach every subject ourselves, anyway, just because we homeschool. The point these teachers or advocates of public schools are missing is that the formal school setting does not have to be the only way to educate our children. It didn’t work for my son, and I’m glad because otherwise I would’ve missed out on the wonderful adventure of homeschooling him. I look at how far he’s come in 5 years and I know that would not have happened if I had left him in school.
    Camie’s latest post: Mini Weapons Collection

    • I agree Camie. Formal school is not the only way to school. That is probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned as a homeschooler. Another big idea I’ve seen is mothers, regardless of their training, using powerful methods to school their children. It’s been fun to watch how families manage their homeschools.
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

  9. I found that when people ask me about my educational choices for my children, I work on being respectful no matter what choice they have made.
    I often say “For my boys, homeschooling was the best option in order to give them the best education on our budget.”
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: The Pursuit of Tamsen LittleJohn by Lori Benton

  10. I would say that the majority of comments and conversations with strangers tend to be more on the positive side. Family and friends however are a different matter. My family members (grandparents in particular) are the ones that slip in a passive aggressive attack against homeschooling here and there. We’ve been doing it for only three years now, and I think it’s just going to take more time for them to truly see what a right path this is for us. It is harder, I think, to defend it when people you love are questioning it. But I guess in a sense, it drives me to just “prove them wrong. ” :) Occasionally, a friend will get offended at our choice to homeschool because it makes them feel that I am judging her own schooling choices for her children. This is always awkward as I have to find ways to assure them that I do not care what schooling choices they make while at the same time not backing down on our decision.
    What I have noticed the most is that people are afraid of the unknown. They don’t understand how a parent could possibly educate their children and do so just as well (well, better than!) as the school system. They don’t get the joy and peace that comes from seeing your children reach their full potential and cannot grasp the concept of leaving the nice safe bubble of normalcy for adventure in the realms outside the norm.
    Ultimately, I had to realize that it’s okay if no one “gets it.” It’s fine if no one ever truly understands the reasons and motivation behind our decision to homeschool. Their opinions don’t matter – but the well-being and success of my children does.
    Jeanette’s latest post: One Day in an Elevator

  11. Great post!

    A few days ago, I had a mom at the library ask me if I was a teacher when I mentioned that I homeschooled. After I said no, she had a slightly appalled look on her face, and I immediately cringed, readying myself to either turn around and run, or get really angry and defend myself.

    She then asked how do I homeschool if I’m not a teacher, and I calmly explained to her my teen daughter’s learning disability (dyslexia) and how the public schools hadn’t helped her, so I pulled her out to homeschool. I told her I know my child and teach her in a way that she understands best. The mom actually seemed sincerely interested, and in my mind, I sighed a huge sigh of relief. It didn’t turn into the explosive battle I had imagined.

    I am very passionate about homeschooling my kids, and am a still a little bitter toward the public school system and what they put my kids through. So I feel the heat rise in my face when approaches me with the attitude you described above. lol I tend to hold my tongue for the most part, though! I know that most of the time they are just misinformed or ignorant of what homeschooling is really about and the real benefits of it. :)
    MJ’s latest post: So You Want To Attract Some Ladybugs?

    • MJ, I imagine there are a lot of us who have had the experience of having sent our children to public school only to decide it was not the best environment for them. It does give us a different perspective. What I love is how homeschooling can really make the difference for some kids. It’s worth the initial risk of stepping outside convention!
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

  12. I loved this post. I don’t know if it’s because I live in Australia where people are a little less forthcoming with giving their direct opinion or because I’m new to homeschooling, but so far I haven’t had to deal with any direct aggressiveness regarding my decision to homeschool. It’s more a case of hearing about people gossiping behind your back about it or deafening silence when you say you homeschool. I think keeping in mind that you have nothing to prove to anyone is very helpful. I also feel being confident in your own mind about the many joys and benefits of homeschooling and not letting the negative comments and ignorance of some people erode that confidence is very important.

    • Well said Lynda! This conversation took a turn that I did not expect at all. Such obvious vehemence is not the norm around here. It’s quite the opposite. I love in a large homeschooling community filled with all kinds of homeschoolers. I did not see this coming! Feeling confident is so important and I find homeschoolers to be a generally insecure lot. I think it goes with engaging in what isn’t the popular or conventional thing. We are always measuring ourselves against the norm- even those of us who have been homeschooling a long time- whether it is on purpose or not. We’ve been homeschooling 10 years now and our homeschool has become quite relaxed- even still now and then I have a little moment of panic! Thankfully, it subsides and I can remind myself of all the great things we have going on. Good for you for being confident!
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

  13. The most aggression I’ve come across regarding homeschooling is when people are defending their own decision to enroll their kids in public school. I remember one conversation that was with my brother – he had found a great preschool for his son right around the same time we announced to the extended family our decision to homeschool. He got really defensive when I asked a benign (to me) question about how he had located the preschool, and I had to backtrack and tell him that I was just asking for information and to compare notes, not to start a debate about what method was better.

    Since then, my go-to response has been that it’s wonderful in this country that we have so many options for educating our children – public, all kinds of styles of private, or homeschooling. Homeschooling is what we’ve decided is best for our family, and we hope they are equally happy with the educational structure their children are in.
    treen’s latest post: our first 10 weeks

  14. Well, we have just finally let the world know that we are going to start homeschooling next year (Finally!). My son will be going into 5th grade. A lot of my feedback has been positive, but the negative has been horrible. My sister refuses to talk to me (she’s a 5th grade teacher in Queens), my father is not happy and some of my friends are all upset. But like you said, everytime I have one of “those” conversations, I know even more that what we are doing is right. Certainly not for them, but for my boy. And he’s all that matters to me.

  15. When we didn’t send our oldest two to kindergarten my sister in law said, “How are they gonna learn how to stand in line and sit still?” We don’t have lines at home and we sit still when we are doing quiet work and get up and move around when we want. Duh. And my sister said that maybe homeschooling would be okay it you did it right. She was also very concerned to what authority we were accountable to with our homeschooling our children. Easy answer- accountable to God. He expects ME and my hubby to raise or children and I don’t have any intention of giving one of the most important jobs as a parent, seeing to it that our children are educated, to a bunch of strangers. That doesn’t compute in my mind.
    April’s latest post: How to End Your Homeschool Year Like a Hippie

    • Those two items are a big concern for kindergarten teachers April! My husband and I teach homeschool co-op classes together and we always chuckle at those sorts of things we have to remind our students of. Sure, it’s good to know how to be still and stand in line and raise your hand on the occasions you need those skills, but it doesn’t take long to learn them on the fly! There will always be skeptics, but I venture to guess that if we did delegate some of their education to a conventional school, there would still be people in our lives who would question how our kids are doing.
      Heather Woodie’s latest post: Great Homeschool Convention- California

    • My children learned to stand in line at Disney World. HA!
      treen’s latest post: our first 10 weeks

  16. I recently had a phone conversation with a woman I have never met. She was contacting me with some questions about starting a Girl Scout troop with girls at my daughter’s school. When she asked, I confirmed that I am currently at that school, but that we will be homeschooling next year. Her response was “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s too bad.” I was completely at a loss for what to say. Such an odd thing to say to a stranger about a choice I had made for my family. I couldn’t wait for the phone call to be over.

  17. .

  18. Sheela says:

    I’ve only been homeschooling since September, but I’ve noticed that, apart from family members, the only negative reactions I’ve received about it are from people whose family members work in the public school system. NOT public school teachers, administrators, or guidance counselors themselves (Retired teachers are also pretty touchy, though, come to think of it.) The people in the system today get it, I find. It’s the moms, grand moms, aunts, uncles, of public school employees who are threatened, who even look horrified and ask, “Why would you do THAT?” I assume that it’s a deep down fear that their loved ones livelihood’s is at risk by armies of homeschoolers.

  19. heather says:

    Thanks for this article! It was just what I needed. I have been homeschooling for 2 years, and just recently got into a similar conversation for the first time. It really bothered me, but I am a person who goes to great lengths to avoid conflict, by nature. Like you, I eventually landed back at my core values/reasons for homeschooling by focusing on gratitude for all the positive growth I have seen in our kids and family as a whole.

  20. As a Homeschooler of the 80’s and 90’s, I grew up with the myths and trying to fight them. I think that it was even harder to deal with the fact that 30 years after my mom started to homeschool us, the myths where still alive and well, despite the fact that there are at least 2 million homeschooled students in the USA today, compared to well less than 100,000 30 years ago, and homeschooling continues to be on the rise in popularity and proof that homeschooled children do very well in the real world as adults. Unfortunately for other people, because homeschooling has always been my lifestyle and is an ingrained part of who I am, they end up hearing quite at ear full of information on how homeschooling works very well, regardless of if they wanted it or not.

  21. Great post! I am so glad you have those goals for your child and know for a fact they wouldn’t be met at a public school. My cousin’s little boy (5 years old) has been labeled “lazy” because he didn’t learn to read this year in Kindergarten. Now he has to go to summer school, because he is “lazy”. 5 years is still a baby to me in so many ways. It’s not fair to keep pushing so many things on kids younger and younger.

  22. Heather — I love your heart. :-) We share so much in common:

    “As an educator, there is always an internal struggle between being conventional and being out of the box when it comes to your homeschooling. Always. ”

    I can really sympathize and AGREE with everything you said here. Great post.

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