This situation, in one form or another, happens to all of us homeschoolers. We are out in public during the week at a time when other kids are in school. We are spotted by a stranger—a stranger who loves to ask questions. So, there we are, maybe in the frozen pizza aisle, when a complete stranger asks, “No school today?”
It has happened to you, right?
My seven year old gets a thrill out of telling people that we homeschool, so she shouts it out for all to hear. I am glad she is proud of the fact that we homeschool, but I brace myself for the inevitable responses that we get from these strangers. These are the top four rejoinders we hear when strangers find out we educate at home.
#1 How long will you homeschool?
Has anyone ever asked a public school kid how long they plan to stay in the system? I would love to ask that question and see the response. If the tables were turned, then the question would seem as odd as it is.
I can understand the question—sort of. I think what they really mean is, “You won’t be teaching them in high school, right?” I don’t feel the need to explain to strangers how long we plan to homeschool, so I typically answer by saying, “We take it year by year.”
While that is true, we also plan to continue until the Lord tells us to change what He called us to do back when we made this leap. This is our third year homeschooling, and we have been using Sonlight since the beginning. We love this curriculum so much that if we ever stopped homeschooling, I think I would still buy the books and read them to my children. The homeschool lifestyle has forever changed me for the better.
#2 Do you think they’re missing out?
This question is usually asked in ignorance because not everyone knows a homeschooler personally. These strangers honestly have no idea that the homeschooling world has activities galore:
- field trip meet-ups
- prom/dance celebrations
- spelling bees
- sports teams
Sure, homeschoolers can miss out on things if parents are not proactively looking for these things. But parents who care about their children are going to search high and low for the perfect fit for extracurriculars and socialization opportunities.
This tendency towards a full schedule is precisely why strangers see us out and about during the week! We tend to arrange our piano lessons, sports practices, swim meets, and co-ops during the times when everyone else is at work or in school. After all, those extra things are learning. Plus we like to keep the majority of our outside pursuits scheduled during the weekday to keep weekends free for family time when Daddy is home.
#3 Where do you get the patience?
This response is actually quite comical to most homeschool moms. We do not boast in having a special dose of patience. Sonlight doesn't ship out a mega pack of patience with the catalogs or each History / Bible / Literature program on Box Day. And God doesn't magically bestow it on the first day of homeschool lessons. On the contrary, patience is something we learn, frustrating moment by distraction-filled moment.
Homeschooling reveals a lot about us as parents. It shows us where we are lacking—whether that be in patience, homemaking skills, compassion, gentleness, or temperance (self-control).
All parents need to work on character issues. Homeschooling is just another vehicle by which our character flaws are made evident. Being home with your kids all day and serving as both teacher and mom has a way of squeezing sin from the inside to the outside where it is plainly on display. The upside is that we can mature into patience (and other virtues) if we are willing to look in the mirror of the word of God, see our flaws, repent, and commit to walking in grace.
#4 I could never do that!
I hear this claim from so many people, and I understand the sentiment! We homeschool moms sometimes do think we can't make it through another day. But be assured public school teachers feel this too! I know since my husband teaches 24 kindergarteners every day.
What most people mean when they say "I could never do that!" is that they can’t handle the thought of being with their kids all day, every day. I have those days too, but the benefits and joys we experience are so far beyond what any bad day can bring.
Some people reveal to me that their kids don’t listen well enough to be taught by their own parents. I think this is true in some cases; homeschooling isn’t for everyone. I do think this is sometimes a cop-out, though. We would like for someone else to discipline and correct our kids because we either do not know how or we lack the backbone to do it ourselves. My husband and I chose to homeschool, in large part, because we do want to be with our kids and we feel that it’s our responsibility to teach them—not someone else's.
These four responses will, no doubt, be asked of us for years to come, but for those who may be new to homeschooling, you have been warned! Prepare your patient smile and kind responses now so you can do your part to educate the world about this great journey of family life that we call homeschooling.