How can I convince the critics?

Samantha asks the following question:

Hi. My husband and I have decided to homeschool our children, but it seems like we have the whole world against us on it. Everyone; our neighbors, my step son's biological mom, and even a couple people at our church thinks it is not right that I homeschool our children. I do not know anyone that homeschools their kids. How do I explain to everyone that this is the right thing to do?

Hello Samantha,

Thank you for your email, and congratulations on your decision to homeschool your children!  The following reply is a long one, but you asked a big question with a big answer! smile

Unfortunately, the situation you describe is still all too common, even as homeschooling continues to grow in popularity and success.  Opposition can be difficult to handle, but as a parent of homeschool graduates myself, I am confident that the end results will be worth whatever struggles you may encounter along the way!

Regarding your specific situation, I'd like to start with a few points that don't directly address your question, but are still important.

To begin with, the first thing I recommend you to do is join a program that provides legal assistance to homeschoolers in case of trouble from the authorities.  The opposition by your neighbors and your stepson’s biological mother are concerning, as those are two sources that are more likely to “report” homeschoolers for various (and often bogus) reasons.  Joining a legal protection program will give you not only legal representation if you need it, but also great peace of mind and confidence as you homeschool.  The Home School Legal Defense Association and the Center for Homeschool Liberty are two such organizations, and I suggest you join one of them as soon as possible.

The second thing you need to do is find some homeschooling friends.  There are homeschool support groups across the country to help new homeschoolers get started, to provide group activities for your children, and provide friendship and support to you as a homeschool parent.  You may also want to find a more homeschool-friendly church (although check to make sure you agree with their doctrine first).  You can succeed in homeschooling as an island if you really have to, but it’s much easier (not to mention more pleasant) if you have good homeschooling friends who can provide the support and encouragement you need.

Third, I know this may sound like a promotional plug, but getting a good homeschooling magazine really can be a valuable help to keeping your homeschool vision strong.  Getting a regular, reliable inflow of practical and inspiring homeschool information is an important factor to success, which is why we started HSE Magazine to begin with.

All of the above is relevant to your situation, but doesn’t exactly address your specific question, does it? <grin>  So let’s get to that now:

You asked how you can explain to everyone that homeschooling is the right thing to do.  This is a big question, so please allow me to share some thoughts you may find useful.

Most importantly, please realize that most opposition to homeschooling is NOT rooted in facts, but in feelings.  It’s an unfamiliar concept to most people, and tends to bring up their defenses.  Your critics who are parents, especially parents at your church, probably feel condemned or guilty within themselves by your actions (please read “Lessons from Noah” to find out why).    Others may feel as though you think you’re better than them, or as if your children are more important than theirs, which they may find insulting.  Still others are probably motivated out of actual concern for your children.

Ultimately, the truth is that while most critics can list a few specific reasons they oppose homeschooling, answering their objections rarely overcomes their opposition.  They will still be opposed simply because, at an emotional level, the idea of homeschooling makes them feel uncomfortable, guilty, etc.  It is not unusual to answer all of a critic’s objections to the point that they literally have no reasons left, only to hear them say, “Well, I still just don’t think it’s a good idea.”  This is because their objections are actually rooted in their hearts, not their minds.

Because of this, in my opinion, the most effective way to “convince” people that you’re doing the right thing is not to engage in debate with them, but to simply say you’ve done your research, you’ve prayed about it, and that you’ve made your decision.  (Don’t be afraid to tell people that you’ve made your choice and that the matter isn’t up for discussion; people tend to respect conviction even if they disagree.)  After which, you just go about your business of homeschooling.  Over time, the results of homeschooling tend to speak for themselves, and the more open-minded of your critics will see your success and be convinced by that.

On the other hand, there are others who will see even your success as further reason to attack you.  As just one example, our family was once threatened with abuse charges (which thankfully did not materialize) because someone at church thought our children were “too well-behaved – they must be getting abused at home.”  This was most definitely not true, and just goes to show that some people will be so emotionally opposed to homeschooling that they will literally make up reasons to continue to oppose it.  There is really very little you can do for these people other than to pray that God would change their hearts.

Thankfully, as I said a moment ago, the results of homeschooling tend to speak for themselves.  Homeschooled children tend to be the smartest and most polite kids in their churches and neighborhoods.  While this annoys many critics, the facts are undeniable, and opposition to your homeschooling will probably diminish as people see that you have no intention of quitting, and that you are getting good results.

I suggest you and your husband work diligently to get and keep your children’s hearts, to raise them to respect God, other authorities, and other people, and in general to be neat, clean, responsible, and polite.  A chipper “Good morning!” from a neatly-dressed child with a clean face and well-combed hair makes a powerful first impression!  Remember that you are not only witnesses for Christ to your neighbors and unbelieving friends, but that you also are witnesses to your Christian friends of following God’s will for your life, even if it’s difficult and unpopular.  Depending on the ages of your children, you can (and should) even enlist them in this goal.

Since you are dealing with such widespread opposition, it will be vital for you, as parents, to have your reasons for homeschooling clearly defined in your own mind.  I suggest you write them out and review them at least a couple of times per week until they are such a part of your thinking that you can’t imagine giving them up.  Remember that we persist in the things we truly believe in, so if God is leading you to homeschool, make sure you really, deeply believe it, that you know why, and that you are committed to finishing what you start.

Because of the opposition you face in the neighborhood and at church, it is likely that your children will be on the receiving end of some opposition from their friends and peers.  So, I also strongly suggest you explain your reasons for homeschooling to your children.  Help them to truly believe in homeschooling for themselves, otherwise they will also become dissatisfied and critical as their friends regale them with how “wonderful” school is.  It will be much better if your children believe in your homeschool lifestyle themselves, and if you teach them to be confident enough in that lifestyle to not mind if others think they’re weird because of it.

Remember that greatness is built through opposition.  It’s not pleasant to struggle through the criticisms of your friends and family, but remember that the deeper the struggle, the greater the rewards will be if you persevere in what you know to be right! 

Finally, even though most people may not be convinced by your answers to their objections, there is still value in having answers ready.  A quick Internet search for “Answering objections to homeschooling” yields many good results.  Here is one page I strongly recommend: http://fac.hsu.edu/worth/articles.html

In closing, I realize this is a lengthy letter, so just to recap, here are the main takeaways I’d recommend for you: 

  • Join an organization that provides needed legal assistance to homeschoolers
  • Find and join a homeschool support group
  • Prayerfully consider finding a church that is more homeschool friendly (but make sure you’re in agreement with their doctrine).  Local homeschoolers may be able to help you here.
  • Understand that criticism of homeschooling is usually an emotional response that often can’t be overcome with logic or even facts.
  • Resolve to make your family not only representatives of Christ, but also of following Him in homeschooling.
  • Clearly define and internalize your reasons for homeschooling, and teach them to your children.
  • Have answers ready for your critics, but be prepared for them to still remain critical.
  • Most importantly, persevere – the results ARE worth it!

I hope this is helpful to you.  Please feel free to reply if you would like to discuss anything in further detail!