I’m asking homeschoolers to tell me: What do you say when acquaintances ask “Why do you homeschool?”
It’s probably apparent from my satirical post that I get a little frustrated with questions about homeschooling. I don’t mind it from family and friends – actual friends that is, friends whom I would expect to care about me and my family, not just pleasant-enough acquaintances. And I don’t mind it from people who are curious about homeschooling as a possible option for their own families.
It’s just not that easy to talk about homeschooling, especially for a private person like me. I’ve never really thought about why that is so, but one day I was talking to my friend Nicki (who probably once considered me in the category of nosy onlooker into her homeschooling life!), griping about the questions from people I hardly know, and she made it clearer to me.
She said, “In order to tell you about our homeschooling, I’d have to tell you about my marriage, my own education, my husband’s education, my religion . . .” Well, right! I don’t want to get into all that, and the questioner probably doesn’t want me to either! (And I’m sure my husband doesn’t want me to go there . . . ) If we’re lucky someday Nicki will start blogging all her wisdom and I won’t have to try to paraphrase it.
As for the “Why Homeschool” question, it just seems that there’s no satisfactory answer. In the spirit of genuine helpfulness (I assume), most people meet our explanation of why we decided to homeschool with a suggestion for a school we could attend. (We live in a large metro area with many very good public, private, and parochial school choices – magnets, charters, schools for the gifted, classical academies, Montessori, Waldorf, immersion schools in French, German, Spanish, Chinese . . . you name it!)
While I know this is done in kindness and a desire to be sociable, it tends to up the ante. It’s not enough to say, “This is what we chose for us.” When we hear, “Have you considered . . .” “Why don’t you want to try . . .” we then are edged closer and closer to saying something more like, “This is why the thing you suggest is not for us,” which sounds too much like, “This is why what’s good enough for you is not good enough for me,” or “My child is so fabulously special that no school has ever seen her like.” (Which of course is true of all children, in one sense, but in this context it seems to mean “My child is more special than yours.”)
I need a pat answer. Not necessarily a complete or even accurate answer, just so long as it’s not a genuinely false answer. An introvert like me needs to come into these conversations prepared with statements that keep the chat friendly but also keeps it from going into uncomfortable territory or making me feel like a CIA agent protecting her secret identity.
I would love to get some suggestions!