SummaryTired of being put to the test by family and friends? Amanda Evinger, homeschooling mother of three, gives great advice on how to respond to scrutinizers.
It’s a pleasant fall day at the start of the school year, but somehow, you and your kids just can’t seem to buckle down and get school done.
It’s just “one of those days.”
The newborn baby (who is usually the cutest thing in the Western Hemisphere) is having an ugly colicky episode.
Junior’s math book somehow got dunked in maple syrup (which you didn’t even realize you still had around the house…which also makes you suspicious).
Your mother-in-law, who is frantically worried about you homeschooling again this year (she’s been praying night and day you’d change your mind) is leaving a message on the phone to “check up” on you.
And the brand new laundry machine is making one eerie noise after another…
Desperate for some peace, you send the toddler to the potty and the older five kids out to practice “living history” by playing “Cowboys and Indians,” that is, putting on cowboy hats and feathers and painting their faces with washable marker.
An Unexpected Visit
Just as you get out your rosary to pray a decade, hoping to settle down the newborn, your neighbor Patsy, who just happens to be on the local public school board, pops in for a visit. After a stiff greeting, she rolls around to what she really came over for—scrutinizing you and your choice to homeschool.
“Well, I guess I won’t bother asking why your kids aren’t actually in school right now,” she says.
“I do find it interesting that most of your kids are climbing trees, dressed like Cowboys and Indians, while your baby is screaming and your toddler is stranded in the bathroom. I can only imagine how much work my grandkids are getting done in their well-ordered classrooms. They just love their teachers this year.”
A deafening, painful silence.
You just don’t know what to say.
“And to top it off, you are acting rather dreamy, praying the rosary. You know, I do care. I’m your friend and I want to see your kids turn out. Obviously, they may not be getting what they really need education-wise, don’t you think? I mean, our local public schools are some of the best in the state…” She continues on, but somehow, miraculously, you manage to block her out and think up a nifty action plan.
You Have Three Options
You decide you have three options: one, you can just change the subject, which will only leave the gate open for another assault next month; two, you can grab a pocket thesaurus, run to the bathroom and look up three highly intelligent words you are sure Patsy doesn’t know, and then come back and use them on her as you explain in an ultra-confident way why you are homeschooling; or three, you can just ‘be yourself.’
The Holy Spirit nudges you to choose option number three, so you do. Miraculously, you find the right words to say, and speak from your heart.
“Well, Patsy, I do appreciate your concern, and your friendship. However, I simply don’t agree with you. At this moment, it may look like not much schoolwork is getting done, but that isn’t normally the case. Mind you, even the best private schools do have recess!
“But the fact is, my kids are learning an amazing amount, and according to how well they know their faith and how well they’ve been doing on their tests, they seem to be getting a better education than the average public school child. We are very proud of our children. God has led us to homeschool, and it is one of the most profound blessings in our life.
“At this point, we can’t imagine changing our minds.”
Your confidence above all things intimidates Patsy, and she excuses herself, gives you a hug, and ducks out the door. Congrats, Mom! You won!
Tips to Use when Cornered
Beyond this, just how does the average, vulnerable parent respond to scrutinizers, especially when “Relentless” is their middle name? Here are a few tips on what to say when cornered about your decision to homeschool:
- Before responding, try to say a little prayer to the Holy Spirit, even if you only have a moment to do so. God is the one who got you into this whole thing, and He’s the one who will see you through. As the Scriptures say in Psalm 91, “You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.’ He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague. He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield.”
- Realize that many (not all) of those scrutinizing you about homeschooling are doing it because they do care about your children, and they simply don’t understand. Always try to keep respect for them at the forefront—that in itself may win them over.
- Speak from your heart. You know exactly why your family has chosen to home school, and what inspirations from God you received to do so. Don’t be afraid to share your deepest feelings about it—you may even convince another family to homeschool as well!
- Consider writing out the reasons you feel led to homeschooling, and include any Scripture verses, saint quotes, or other pieces of information that helped your family decide to go for it. From time to time, read over your reasons, and consider even memorizing some of what you wrote down. This way, you will be armed and ready when accused, and you will also keep your spirits up on challenging days.
- Make sure you are well-versed on local schooling laws so you know how to respond when accused of doing something illegal.
Don’t feel silly doing practice-runs with your spouse on what you are both going to say when approached negatively about homeschooling your children. It will be loads of fun, and pay off in the end!
- Become a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association and take advantage of their services.
- Ask a Seton counselor for advice when the scrutinizing gets overwhelming—that’s what they are there for! With Seton’s support at your side, you are never alone in your choice to homeschool.
- Become familiar with the names of successful homeschooled people, such as Thomas Edison and the Colfax family, who had several adopted children who went to Harvard (written about in Homeschooling for Excellence). That way, you can remind others that “so-and-so” was homeschooled, and look how fabulously educated they turned out!
In all things, remember that when homeschooling, you may be persecuted for following Christ, textbooks and all, but all shall be well.
Thankfully, our family has been blessed to have fellow family members who either homeschooled once, homeschool now, or plan to in the future. However, we still have our struggles. Many people in our local community don’t understand what we “do all day,” and perhaps take offense that we don’t entrust our children to the local schools.
I have found that it helps to be fully confident when I talk about it with people, and make sure I have a smile on my face. Joy is an infallible sign of the presence of God, and if I have God’s joy in my heart when I share about our homeschooling journey with others, it all goes over much better.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace and Cause of Our Joy, ora pro nobis!
If you enjoyed this article, check out what Mary Ellen Barrett has to say on the same topic!