The "Oh, you homeschool" Look
Max is only six and already it's happened to me more times than I can count. We're walking through a store and an unsuspecting stranger asks, "Isn't there school today?" or "What school do you go to?" To which Max replies, "Homeschool."
The response, "Homeschool?!" is usually accompanied by the "Oh, you homeschool" look which can be described as some combination of shock and awe, morphing into incredulousness by way of utter confusion.
If you're a homeschooling parent, you've received the look. If you're not a homeschooling parent, you've probably given it. Totally understandable. I gave a friend quite the side eye when she told me she was considering it a few years back. Max was like six months at the time, so you know, I knew it all. In my defense, she has four kids. We are DEFINITELY reevaluating this puppy if by some chance we end up with four kids. Here, reevaluating can be defined as "homeschool is closed."
Anyway, here are my suggestions for ways you can mitigate the post "Oh, you homeschool" look (hereinafter referred to simply as "the look") awkwardness:
- First off, SAY SOMETHING!
Don't make things worse by standing there in complete silence. Ask a question. If you are on the receiving end of the look, ask this incredulous stranger if he or she has kids of their own. What school do they attend? What are they reading about in history class? What sports do they play? If you gave the look, ask how long the family has been on their homeschooling journey. I never met a homeschooling parent that wasn't 100% willing to share a story or two about how they got where they are.
- Don't get defensive.
What works in one household may not work in another. Trying to explain why your choice regarding the education of your child is superior by belittling another option isn't productive. Instead of focusing on why the opposite choice is "bad" (aren't you worried your kids will be weird, standardized testing is the devil, your kids won't have access to the latest technology/resources, why would you leave your kids with a stranger all day), focus on the reasons your decision has been a good one. Tell the story of your kid's science fair project or music concert. Homeschooling parents, describe how relaxed your mornings can be without the pressure of a schedule.
- Be polite.
I once overheard a mom ranting about how intense school had become even in early elementary. And when I say ranting, I mean ranting. She was angry and adamant that her son, who looked to be no older than three or four, not be subjected to the demands of the "system." Incorrectly making the assumption that she must be seeking alternatives to the public school system I asked, "Are you considering homeschooling?" Now, maybe she was angry that I was listening to her conversation (It wasn't hard. We were in the library. She was sitting three feet away from me and not making any attempt to keep her voice down.) or maybe she already had her eye on a really awesome private school, but when she looked at me with all the disgust in the world and said, "Oh, God no," and turned away without giving me a chance to respond, I felt pretty small. Don't be like this mom. Whether your "Oh, God no" is in response to homeschooling, public school or sending your kids to the moon, don't be like this mom. If you're going to make your position known, give others a chance to explain theirs. (Also, don't be like me and interrupt other people's conversations.)
- Remember the big picture.
Discussing the choices you've made for your children can be a very sensitive topic. Public school, private school, homeschool, unschooled. You have to do what is right for your family and the sooner people realize this, the easier it will be to engage in conversations about big picture issues like arming all children, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status (did I leave anything out?) with the tools needed to inspire curiosity and creativity and encouraging them to become life-long knowledge-seekers with a desire to change the world.