Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How do you handle unsupportive family/friends?

This was a topic recently on the Sonlight forum I visit. It struck a cord with me so I thought I'd copy what I had shared there, with a few changes and share it here on my blog as well. 
Bear in mind that this is just one humble homeschooling Mom's feelings. But taking into account that it's my blog, I feel I can be as honest as I wish. 

I have not had to deal much with this personally. But I do not consult anyone else outside of my home for their opinion/approval. My opinion on our choice to homeschool is much like my choice in toothpaste. When I buy toothpaste, I don't consult anyone outside my house on what flavor I buy. So I feel the same about how I educate my kids. The only ones who need to be involved in that are my husband, myself and our children. Anyone else who chimes in and says "no way" is not of consequence and has no business involved in that decision anyway. (That might sound harsh, but seriously how I feel). 

I do think that despite family members being well meaning. Ultimately no one has the right to involve themselves in what my husband and I decide for our children as far as education and the vast array of other parenting decisions we make. I wouldn't call anyone asking them what color socks I should put on my kids, ask them what to feed them for breakfast or what bedtime story I should read to them that evening. So why would I ask them about education?
If you are the type of person who truly needs mass approval from friends and family, needs them to encourage you and cheer you on, it is possible that homeschooling is not going to work for you. Of course it's lovely to have friends and family be supportive. It's so great to share the joy of teaching your kids with others. But you do need to feel secure in your choice and be able to put the needs and desires of your immediate family above anyone else. 

I do have a very close family and have been very open with our homeschooling but I have never once opened the door for them to give me their opinion on if they thought I should or should not do it. They know me well enough to know that I research everything. With my paralegal background that is part of my nature. They also know that my husband and I are loving parents who decide what is best for our children and put them first. 
On my side of the family I do have an Aunt that was a public school principal and an Uncle who was a public school teacher. If they have had a negative opinion on our homeschooling, I've never heard a word of it, but again I would not entertain it if I did. 
On my husband's side of the family he had one former public school teacher who had an unfavorable opinion of homeschooling. We simply agreed to disagree. 

If my family were not supportive then we would put rules in place and there would be things that were off limits for them to address with us. This is something very personal, private and important for my husband and I. If it came to it, I would excuse people from our lives who were openly nasty and critical to us for our choices. There is no excuse to be nasty because we opt to raise our kids differently. I would never dream to be vocal with someone about how I think their child's hair should look, and to me education falls into the same context. If you ask someone for their opinion on either of those, then be prepared to hear their thoughts on what they think is the good and the bad. But if you don't open that door for them to dialog about it. You have eliminated the problem.
For those who are already dealing with this or new to homeschooling and worry about it. Or if you have those in your life who steamroll over you regardless of if you ask their opinion or not.
I would suggest your setting up rules for your family/friends:
Such as:
-You will not quiz my children. (There are types that just converse with the kids in a way to find out what you are not teaching them so they can tease your children about it, yes I've heard of this happening too often).
-You will not compare them to other children in the family.
-You will not say negative things about homeschooling, to my children or to me, EVER! If that happens, you will be asked to leave.
-You and I can agree to disagree but you will not be permitted to down our choice.
-If you wish to be involved in our family, you will not cross boundaries and involve yourselves in our personal family decisions (like toothpaste purchase, hair cut, what cut of meat I cook for dinner, what story I read the kids before bed or how we educate our children.)
If it comes down to it, some family members might make you feel you either cave to them badgering you (which should never be tolerated about anything, homeschooling or not) or putting your children and your choice first. Don't let anyone take this from you. Do not ever let other foolish people rob you and your family of an amazing experience. We have never had our children anywhere but home. I feel so lucky to be able to do that for our kids. And I have given them so much by educating them at home and they have given me so much in return. Homeschooling is one of the most rewarding jobs I could have chosen to take part in. There is so much of their lives I would miss and so much time they would miss together as a family if homeschooling was not our choice.


redkitchen said...

Great post.

NCMom said...

Unfortunately, my husband's family is one of those that does NOT support our decision to homeschool. We no longer have a relationship and it is all on their part. It is sad for them because they miss out on my wonderful children.

I agree with what you've said. Keep up the good work with your little ones. =)

Melissa said...

Thanks Redkitchen : )

NCMom that is sad, sad for them that they would let their bias keep them from missing out on your kids. It is truly their loss.

Jen said...

That made my cry. Your kids are so lucky.

Melissa said...

Awe thank you Jen : )