10 things you should never say to parents who homeschool

Homeschooling can seem a little unusual at first, and it's OK to be curious about it. But before you barrage a homeschooling parent with questions or comments, read this first.

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I had a hard time in elementary school, mostly due to anxiety. It’s hard to learn when you’re afraid to ask questions. In high school, it was more of the same, and ultimately, I dropped out.  I knew even back then that when I had kids of my own, I wouldn’t risk them struggling like I did, so I began researching homeschooling before they even existed.

In all my research, the one thing I wasn’t expecting is quite how many people have an opinion on a parent’s choice to homeschool their kids. If you’re wondering how many, here’s a hint: It’s somewhere between how many people comment on a woman’s pregnancy and every person everywhere, which is a lot.

Here are some of the ignorant and often offensive questions and comments my fellow homeschoolers and I hear on a regular basis.

“Aren’t you worried they won’t have friends?”

Luckily, we don’t live in a vacuum. My kids socialize with neighbours and everyone in our community. Funnily enough, wherever we go, there always seem to be people there! From customers and cashiers when we go shopping to families at the park or walking trails near our house, and everywhere in between. We also plan meet-ups with other homeschoolers in our area through an online group. As a result, my kids are learning to talk to people of all ages, about a huge variety of topics. Everyone my kids talk to are their friends; my six-year-old’s current best friend is a sweet elderly man who lives next door.

“But you can’t possibly know everything they need to learn…”

I definitely don’t know everything they’ll need to learn—but I expect to give them the tools required to research on their own. It’s my job as a homeschooling mother to teach my children to find the answer they need, not to give it to them, just like teachers in traditional school settings do. Any teacher will teach what they know, or find others with the knowledge to teach what they don’t. One thing I really enjoy so far in our homeschooling journey is all of the learning that we do together as a family.

“I could never homeschool. I need the break while my kids are at school to get things done/run errands/have me time.”

child reading I just started home-schooling my kid and this is what I've learnedFunny thing: I can accomplish almost everything I need to on school days. In fact, as I write this, one of my sons is working on some math problems and the other is “reading” a book about dinosaurs (“reading” is in quotes because he’s only two-and-a-half—I’m not that good!).

What’s more, I’m teaching them to do all the mundane chores, which helps me out in the short term and benefits them in the long run. I’m trying to raise capable adults, you see.

“Aren’t you worried your kids will be weird?”

My kids are so weird! You know what? So is every kid I’ve ever met. Kids are weird, and that is okay. I want my children to be confident and have a strong sense of self, which comes with being allowed to be weird, in whatever ways they are weird. The most interesting adults I know? Also weird. I don’t know what normal is, but it doesn’t sound enjoyable.

“You’re homeschooling to stop your kid from being bullied? Bullying is a rite of passage.”

Wait. What? So kids should be forced to put up with behaviour that, in a group of adults, there are laws to protect them from? Have you read the news lately? Bullying isn’t what it used to be, and with the internet and smartphones, they can’t even escape it when they aren’t at school. With lifelong consequences, my kids can skip that one, thanks.

“So what do you do all day?” (Usually accompanied by a sneer.)

There are many different types of homeschooling. There is natural schooling/unschooling, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, eclectic/relaxed, Montessori—the list goes on. In my family, we take a natural schooling approach, with Waldorfian influences. We use a curriculum, but with lots of exploring and following our own interests. A typical day consists of exploring, researching and learning about a variety of topics that happen to interest us. Before I started homeschooling, I researched what I thought would work best for our family, and that is ever changing.

“I wish I could just stay home and do nothing all day too.”

I have two small children and run a home daycare. I literally don’t remember the last time I did nothing.

“They’re homeschooled? But they’re so good at talking to people.”

Right—that’s what happens when so much of their learning is about talking to all kinds of different people. Homeschooled kids aren’t typically raised in a vacuum. They talk to all different people, in all different settings, so they get a lot of practice.

“Is that even legal?”

Why yes, stranger in the checkout line, it is indeed!

Depending on where you live, the laws regarding learning at home can differ greatly so it is important to research what documentation (if any) needs to be in place to start, as well as what funding (if any) is available to you, and what reports or records are needed (if any) throughout each year. Homeschoolers tend to research the legalities thoroughly, and the information is freely available online.

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone—just like learning at a school isn’t for everyone. There are many factors that go into homeschooling, and many of them are deeply personal, much too personal to discuss over the clothing racks at Old Navy while I shop with my kids in the middle of a school day.

“What’s 7 times 6?”

If you meet a family whose kids are homeschooled, please don’t quiz the kids. Asking them random math questions or whether they know how to spell some obscure word to test whether or not they’re getting a good education is super annoying. It’s also unnecessary. If you’re that curious, just talk to them like you would talk to anyone else. Oh, and don’t act shocked when they are perfectly capable of responding intelligibly.

Read more:
Roadschooling: Why some families homeschool while travelling the world
I homeschool my five kids to prepare them for the real world

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