We’ve all met a homeschool critic. From the well-meaning neighbor who retired from teaching in 1997 to the UPS guy who doesn’t have children but is sure your local public school is the best in the state, it’s annoying to have acquaintances or even total strangers question your family’s educational choices.
What’s worse, however, is when you have a dedicated critic like a friend or close family member you see often. This in-your-face critic feels compelled to spout a negative opinion or get in a dig at every gathering. Ouch.
Engaging With Grace
It’s tempting to snap back with a snarky retort, but Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that a gentle answer turns away wrath. A simple, “Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind,” is often all it takes to redirect someone whose intent is generally good.
But critics whose badgering is less benign rarely take a subtle hint, no matter how much grace is behind your response. If you’ve decided that it’s time to engage in conversation with your harshest of critics, here are some thought-provoking questions to start the dialogue. The hope is that they will set your critic on the path of understanding… or at least help him or her back off a tad.
1. Ask “Have you met a homeschooled adult?”
I like this one because it highlights the greatest concern most critics are hinting at: your children will be scarred or somehow made different (read weird, abnormal, or stunted) by skipping the traditional classroom experience. The answer to the question is usually no, which actually brings up a great point. More likely than not, they have met someone who was homeschooled… they just couldn’t tell.
2. Ask “Would you like to meet another homeschooling family?”
The unknown quantity is often much more likely to garner suspicion that the known. Offering to point out fellow homeschoolers at your son’s next birthday party might be enough to normalize the things that set you apart in your family or church circle. If nothing else, it provides solidarity!
3. Ask “Have you spent time in a classroom recently?”
It’s one thing to harken back to “the good old days” of first graders spending most of their time engaged in play and hands-on learning. It's quite another altogether to consider the consequences of the decades-long obsession with test scores and the ever-creeping skills race as its filtered down to early elementary. Critics who think that age-appropriate educating is happening in a modern classroom might be encouraged to look into what really goes on nowadays.
4. Ask “What do you think a homeschool day looks like?”
Your critic might envision your typical homeschool day as a day of basically lazing about and calling it school:
- You roll out of bed just before noon.
- You count time spent playing a video game as math.
- Your kids read serial novels all day in lieu of actual language arts instruction.
Giving your harshest critics the chance to voice their assumptions allows you to set the record straight.
Educating Your Critics
The purpose of asking engaging, open-ended questions is not to shut the naysayer down, but rather to bring them to a place where they can admit that their picture of homeschooling might be incomplete. Don’t expect them to stop asking questions, but encourage them to ask better questions.
Ultimately, you may open the door to the critic's admission—however reluctant— that homeschooling might not be as evil as they think it is.
Knowing When To Surrender
Of course, there’s no guarantee that this dream scenario will ever happen. If it doesn’t—even after you’ve invested time and time again in gracefully extending an olive branch—it might just be time to admit defeat. Some people will cling to their view that homeschooling is a poor choice no matter how gently you attempt to defuse their dislike. In that case, all you can do is find a way to smile, wave, and move on.
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