Today I want to talk a little bit about the stress of critical family/friends coming over for the holidays and some strategies to deal with that.
We all have met the skeptical people who can not imagine homeschooling and all that comes with it. We meet them every day, but it’s a little more difficult to deal with if they are family or friends coming over for the holidays, and while you’re cooking their turkey, they’re grilling you on why you would do your children such an injustice as to homeschool them. Worse still is when they start grilling your children on some random facts.
People scrutinize homeschoolers and have questions about it for various reasons. Sometimes it is just genuine interest and sometimes that is coupled with concern, because of the stereotypes that people have formed over the years about homeschoolers, but sometimes I find that people are only asking to get the opportunity to convince us of their opinion.
Below follows some strategies to cope with it all.
- You: Your critical family or friends might target you to attack or they might resort to sarcastic, underhanded comments. The power for you lies in knowing that most of the time those who are insecure in their own beliefs are the ones who are trying the hardest to convince others to believe the same as they do, so they would feel more as if they have it all together.
I have found in all my years of homeschooling that there are mainly 2 different kinds of people who ask questions about homeschooling, namely those who are genuinely interested and those who really don’t want to hear, who just are asking to get the opportunity to convince us how wrong it all really is. With the last group you really are just wasting your time to try to explain or defend homeschooling, because they really want to hear quite the opposite and for those I have just resorted to saying that it is the best for our family at the moment and not suggest that I believe it is the best for all families at all times. Of course it’s a pleasure to talk to the first group who really do want to know about how homeschooling works and might have legitimate questions. For those you can always give some links to articles of homeschoolers like myself and others that explain homeschooling and give some helpful beginning tips. If someone asks me, I always initially assume they are the ones who really would like to know and I start explaining and sometimes my confidence and passion for it makes them just decide to back off if they weren’t really interested.
- Not on a crusade: I think it is also important to realize on this point that we are not on some crusade to convert everyone to homeschooling. In certain cases, it might really not be the best for a child to be homeschooled or for a particular parent to homeschool. It has a lot to do with people’s worldviews and to change that in an afternoon over turkey and pumpkin pie, is just not going to happen, so I believe that actions speak louder than words, so rather make sure that your children are polite and friendly than trying to convince some family member that they really should be homeschooling.
- Your kids: I went to a homeschool conference at the beginning of my homeschool years and someone mentioned something that stuck with me to this day. They said, “Do you know everything about everything?” Obviously the answer is no. What do you do when you don’t know the answer to something? You usually will tell the person that you would get back to them or you will just go and research it. It is no different for our children and they shouldn’t have to feel uneducated for not knowing some random facts that some adult somewhere decided they should know. So this person suggested to teach your children to respond and say something to the effect of, “I’ve never had the need to study/research that, but I can get back to you on the topic once I go and research it a bit.” I thought that was a great idea to empower them to feel in control of these “grilling sessions” that some adults can put kids through without any knowledge or interest in child development.
- Displays: If your child did anything big or anything that would make a good display e.g. a piece of art or if they participated in a dance recital or anything of the sort, you could have that displayed in the house in some way, for example framing your child’s artwork or even just having something on the fridge. If they did a recital or something that is on DVD, you could have it playing in the background, if it is appropriate for the setting. If they are really good at playing an instrument, you might consider recording a song or two and having that playing in the background and so skeptical families can realize that there is more to life than knowing some random scientific fact. If you feel it would be good, you could let performing kids have a little show for the family. It could become an annual tradition for young and old alike.
- Gifts: You could also consider letting your children make homemade gifts for family around the holidays that display their strengths. Family usually love getting gifts like that even more than some expensive gift from a store and it will again show e.g. their penmanship or if your child came up with a really creative story, you could type it up, let them illustrate it and print it as a book to give as a gift at a website like tikatok.com
- Last but not least: Just like with the cleaning the house article, remember your goal. The goal is to have quality family time together and you can at least do your best at attempting to attain that goal, even if the other members of the gathering might not be focused on that. Rather ask about their lives and show a genuine interest in what they’re doing than trying to show off how wonderful homeschooling really is or feeling defensive about it. If you go into the holidays with that in mind, trying to give them the benefit of the doubt and not assuming the worst, I think so many gatherings will be so much more pleasant and enjoyable for everyone involved.