To the Friends and Family of Homeschoolers

To the Friends and Family of Homeschoolers

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while and feel like I can write from a bit of a removed stance as I have received nothing but support from our family and close friends. Even though our education path may have seemed unconventional to some or perhaps they had doubts, our circle chose to be supporters, cheerleaders and resources. For that I am so grateful.

Even relative strangers that I meet and get into conversation with will at times start to voice concerns about this homeschooling journey but usually quickly “back down” when they find out that I have a degree in education and spent my pre-children career teaching full time in the public system. I still substitute teach in the public system and I’m a huge fan of teachers. I support public school and see the wonderful things they do in educating our youth. And yet…

We chose to take a different path. I think it’s important to note that most that choose home education are not AGAINST public school (granted some are) but they are FOR homeschool.

Being a certified teacher does not better qualify me to be a home educator. Typically nobody is more invested in seeing their child succeed than a parent. No one knows their child better than a parent.

(* I say typically because obviously as a public school teacher I unfortunately have encountered family situations of students that are unhealthy and unsafe. For these children, school is safe place and a much needed institution in their life.)

Initially when I sat down to write this post my intent was to walk people through some of the most common objections and burning questions regarding homeschooling.

  • What about socialization? (Insert Inigo Montoya saying “That word… I do not think it means what you think it means…”)

  • But won’t they be missing out on things happening at school?

  • How do you know if they pass?

  • How do you know what to teach?

  • Does the school division check up on you?

  • You’re going to keep regular hours right? You can’t just play all day.

These questions are all ones that I’ve gotten and they’re not bad questions! (Some are thinly veiled as accusations but… I digress.) It’s so natural to be curious about how homeschooling works. I realized though that the questions people have are vast and diverse and instead of a blog post I’d have a whole book. Instead I’ve decided to come at it from an angle of how can we support and self educate.

Beginning your homeschool journey is quite a lot like giving birth and bringing a new baby home from the hospital. Here you are in one moment drastically altering the course of your life. The decision to home educate will touch every part of your life, it will affect every hour of your day, it will require a (usually steep) learning curve, lots of trial and error, and it will stretch you in ways you never imagined being stretched. Sounds like parenthood right? Now also similarly we greet this new adventure with excitement, anticipation and do everything we can to prep. We’ve got a space organized, shiny new school supplies, curriculum and resources all lined up (just like a nursery). Along with that, most feel a bit of trepidation. We’re human, we have insecurities, doubts and often obsess over details trying to make sure we’re doing “it all”. We’ve made this completely audacious choice to be solely responsible for our child’s education and we’ve CHOSEN to be up to the task. No one makes the choice to home educate lightly. It is a big decision. It requires sacrifice. It’s essentially a career move where you throw yourself into learning how to navigate this new responsibility and position.

So, here we have this new “baby” called home education and we somewhat expect (and at the very least hope) that our friends and family will surround us with support and encouragement just like they did when we brought these precious children home.

If you have a family member or friend who is starting this homeschool journey, can I encourage you to be a bright spot in their “home coming”? In case you’re at a loss, here are some ideas for how to come along side them.

  • React to the news with encouragement.

  • Ask them what they’re most excited about. Let them share what they’re nervous about.

  • Bring a meal during their first week or month. Trying to find a rhythm those first days and weeks (and months lol) can be exhausting. We should probably also do this for mom’s who head back to work after mat leave right?

  • Shoot a text saying “Happy First Day of Homeschool”

  • Drop off a new book or fun notebook (not a workbook ;) lol.)

  • Call to check in and see how they're doing.

  • Recognize that whatever “school hours” they set are work hours and treat them as such. You wouldn’t expect a classroom teacher to pick up the phone at 11 am and nor should you expect a homeschooler to.

I think we can all empathize that embarking on a new journey that makes you feel a full spectrum of feelings can be made a really trying time if met with opposition. Unfortunately, almost weekly I spend time talking and messaging with homeschoolers who are indeed facing vehement opposition to their choice to educate at home by the people closest to them. It is absolutely heart breaking to witness. I think most homeschoolers expect misunderstanding and uneducated opinions from strangers but it cuts deep when it comes from family and friends.

Let’s also not forget how the children feel in this. Such opposition is very divisive and negatively impacts kids. Anytime we have an unpleasant encounter we need to come home and process through it with kids. For instance, one time at the clinic the doctor learned we homeschool and started interrogating my children. I’m not exaggerating the “interrogating” and leading questions.

Are you sure you like homeschool?

Don’t you wish you could be with your friends all day?

How do you socialize?

Don’t you feel sad that you’re missing out on things?

How do you know if you’re passing your grade?

Is your mom a good teacher?

Isn’t it boring being at home all day?

Will your parents let you go to school some day? (Um... will other parents let their child be homeschooled if they asked? Valid question no?)