It’s that time of year again. In the last two months I have spoken with 12 mothers who wish to homeschool their children in the new school year. This is not uncommon especially with the boom in homeschooling families in the last decade. Homeschoolers went from the thousands to over a million in this country and have continued to defy the stereotypes. What was once a taboo is now becoming a more familiar way of life.
One thing that has softened, but not changed, are the assumptions that non-homeschoolers make against those who do homeschool. I have seen (and felt) the frustration that comes from:
- Do they have any friends?
- Do you have a degree in teaching?
- Hey, (kid who is in high school), do you know what a square root is? (I kid you not.)
- Are they vaccinated?
- Say what—you think you can homeschool a kid with special needs?
- Your kid is totally never going to be able to read.
Some of you are shaking your heads and some of you are rolling your eyes. I kind of travel between the two depending on the day. Although, every once in a while, I find myself letting out a small giggle with a, “did you mean to ask that out loud?”
Getting to the point.
Of those twelve women, many are buying into those myths above. Can they teach their child? Especially if there are special needs? Will they learn how to read?—or do Algebra? Will they be socialized?
That last one—socialization. Yes, as homeschooling families we can roll our eyes, become irritated, possibly angry, but hold up a second.. those new families who are looking to bring their child home have:
- People who are telling them they can’t accomplish the job
- Who are telling them they can’t do it without a degree
- Emphasizing that only a professional knows how to handle the big issues
- Repeatedly telling them that the only way they will have friends will be through the school system
I know, because we were one of those families. My older two went to public school and when my 3rd child was diagnosed at the age of three with Autism we knew right away that we did not want him in the system and we did not want him to be overwhelmed.. there were a lot of reasons. His developmental psychiatrist at the time was outraged when I told her we were going to homeschool him. Her response:
“You will NEVER be able to teach him to read!”
And I was scared. One year after the depressing prediction we brought our son for a re-evaluation and she sang praises for how well he was doing and stated, “That is the best decision you ever made.”
Here’s the deal. We’ve all started somewhere and all have had insecurities from time to time. It is a fact, not an opinion. When we answer these families with a “know-it-all” response or eye-rolling we become the people on the other side telling them they can’t do it. Seriously, it doesn’t help.
What you can do:
- Explain to them that they have the ability to teach their child because they are more invested in their education and future far more than any teacher or expert. Who’s the expert with my children? Their father and I are!
- Socialization? Invite their kids to play with yours and invite a few other homeschool moms. Actions speak far louder than words.
- When they ask about the tough subjects they feel they may not be able to tackle correctly.. make curriculum suggestions that might work for them.
- Show compassion when during that first year they feel as though they are going to break. The first year is always the hardest.
The main point is that in order to support these families we have an obligation to teach them that the stereotypes are just that—stereotypes. In order to build them up we need to encourage them when they are having a hard time because they’re buying the lies. It is one thing to say, “Yes, you can!”, but entirely different—and far more supportive, to, “and here is where you start, let me help you find out what works best for you.”
Are there people currently in your life looking for support? What has been the best way people have helped you? How have you helped others?
Angela is a married-to-the-military, mother of four chaotic kids. She is passionate about ministering to homeschooling families, disability rights, theology and coffee. Angela has a BAS in Christian Ministry and is currently working on her MA in Christian Education as well as an MA in Theological Studies. She and her husband of sixteen years, Jason, have been homeschooling their kids for six years. You can find Angela on her website, Joy Comes in the Morning