By Angel Naivalu
If you want to ruffle feathers, just mention that you “homeschool!”
Anyone who has considered homeschooling out loud, or gotten started, or even those who have been doing it for years, are most certainly acquainted with the oppositional reactions, comments and questions coming from non-homeschoolers. “But, what about socialization? I mean, how will your kids learn to interact with other people?” For some, strange reason, this is often one of the main concerns raised by others. I believe it comes from the collective unconscious. People say it, because they’ve heard it said, not because they’ve thought it through. So, what do you do? How do you respond?
Here are some clever responses I’ve heard from other homeschooling moms when it comes to socialization:
“We’re not concerned with that because we’re not socialists!”
“We want our children to be ‘civilized,’ not ‘socialized.’”
“Every human interaction is socialization, from the time a baby is conceived, it begins to learn to relate to other humans through constant, daily interactions. So, unless we lock our children in separate rooms, in the basement, there’s no way to avoid ‘socialization.’”
There’s also the turn around – instead of responding to the question, just ask this question,
“Socialization? In your mind, how and where does ‘socialization,’ happen?” After you let them explain themselves, then continue with the next question, “So tell me, from your elementary, middle school, or high school experiences, how did they shape (impact) or influence your identity, your worth, your talents, abilities, potential, intelligence, creativity?” Just pick one or two, although you could go on and on.
I once turned the question around on a male cousin of mine, who was in the military, and was visiting us in Hawaii just months after I had declared that we would homeschool. He began explaining how important it was for kids to experience all of the different social interactions that occur in public schools. Then, when I ask him to tell me about how the socialization in public school had impacted his self-esteem, his eyes dropped. He said, “Well, I felt like I had to play football in high school to fit in, but I didn’t really like football. I never quite felt like I was good enough…..Everything was so competitive. I couldn’t just BE who I wanted to be.”
I literally looked him in the eye and said, “So, back to your point about socialization…..???” “I get it.” He said. “I just never realized it before.”
I believe that there are times to just dodge the bullet when it comes to ignorant comments and negative reactions to homeschooling. When you know that you’re up against an argumentative person, there’s no need to engage. One good, “close the door on that subject,” response to someone’s opposition to homeschooling is to say, “That’s a good opinion.” And then you change the subject. There’s no need to defend yourself.
Some of my not-so-favorite encounters are with people who work in the public school system. Their comments can be so laughable, I find myself thinking, “And you have a degree in education!?!” I’ve had things said to me from public school teachers, such as:
“Do you have a teaching degree?”
“What qualifies you to teach your kids?”
“I don’t know how you teach your own kids, I couldn’t do that.”
“How do you teach them ALL the subjects?”
“Aren’t there major deficits with homeschooling?”
“How will they get into college?”
“I’ve known some homeschooled kids, and, well, they didn’t really fit in with other kids.”
In the beginning, some of these types of questions made me feel paralyzed with fear. It was hard to stand up for myself, and my convictions, in the face of close family and friends, let alone intrusive strangers! (I once had a life guard at a city pool approach me as I was getting out of the pool, ask if I homeschooled, and then bombard me with reasons why I shouldn’t!?!) What helped me be prepared for such interactions and feel at peace with choices was interacting with a large homeschool network. Knowing many families who homeschooled, from various walks of life and utilizing the continuum of approaches, I gained confidence in how homeschooling would “turn out” for us. I felt that, of all the people I knew, I’d rather be around my homeschooling friends and their kids because they were the kinds of people I wanted to be like and I wanted my kids to be like – and I was the only LDS homeschooler in the group!
My best advice for facing opposition, is to take time to think through and ponder the questions you get, when you’re by yourself. Come up with short, clear answers to these questions, and answers that represents your heart. They may be funny, somewhat sarcastic – yet thought provoking – pointing out the potential ignorance in their thinking, or researched based, spiritually derived, or other, but being prepared will not only provide you with peace and confidence, it will also educate others. You may be surprised to discover who really listens to you and, believe it or not, starts homeschooling! (It’s happened to me, more than once!)
Some of my responses to the above statements from public school teachers are:
“I have several degrees in different areas, and I know how to learn. That’s all I hope to pass on to my kids – a love of learning.”
“God qualified me to teach my kids when he sent them to me.”
“Well, I’m pretty good at teaching my (5) kids, I don’t know how YOU teach a class of 19!”
“I teach them how to read – and how to learn – and BOOKS teach them ALL the subjects, just like in school.”
“Every person has ‘major deficits’ in their education. Just think about it. What are your gaps? I’m much less concerned with their ‘deficits,’ than I am with cultivating their obvious gifts. I believe it’s the use of their gifts that will change the world.”
“They’ll get into college the same way everyone does. Take an entrance exam, pay the tuition.”
“I don’t want my kids to ‘fit in’ with average kids. I believe in my kids’ potential. I hope that they’ll fit in – and congregate towards - other exceptional kids.”
It’s been 10 years now that I’ve been on this homeschooling journey and I actually WELCOME the questions that I used to dread. I’ve learned valuable lessons in confidence from the examples of so many others “seasoned” homeschooling moms. I believe, “There’s strength in numbers,” and belonging to a homeschool group is the best support to reassure you – you’re on the right track!
Angel Naivalu, MSW, is a native of St. George, Utah. She served a mission in Malaga, Spain. She met her husband, Sai Naivalu (who is from Fiji) while attending BYU-Hawaii. She has lived in Hawaii and Colorado during her married years and just returned to southern Utah in the past year. She is the birth mother of 5 sons between the ages of 2-11, as well as one additional “bonus boy” who has joined the family temporarily. Angel became a homeschooling advocate in 2005 after reading, “A Thomas Jefferson Education,” by Oliver DeMille. It was an instantaneous conversion.