Family Acceptance

Question:

I’ve been homeschooling my children, now four of them, for 10 years, yet I still struggle with the non-acceptance of my family who are very involved with the public school system. We never seem to see eye to eye on many issues, even though my sisters and I are all Christians. We don’t even speak of it any more, yet homeschooling is such a defining part of our lives. I’m not sure how to describe the frustration and sometimes downright depression that inevitably follows any family gathering. Is there any encouragement you can give or suggestions you could share with me or others that struggle with these issues?

Answer:

Friends: is this a familiar story? Can anyone relate?

All homeschoolers who have lived with this stand up and say “YES!”. Did you hear that, Libby? I think it was a loud wave that passed through the nation!

Why the non-acceptance? I have often pondered that and I live with it myself. There are some homeschool moms who seem to be warmly accepted by their family, neighbors and church congregations–but often, this is not the case. I think homeschooling must seem to people like a threat to God, family, country and all other sacred institutions. I know I have had comments made to me by well meaning neighbors and acquaintances that by homeschooling, I am somehow undermining the public school system (and hence the foundations of American way of life and the Constitution, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, it appears!). Isn’t it amazing, though, that homeschooled children tend to be the most patriotic, conservative and law abiding young adults?

I think a couple of factors are operating here. One is the feeling that all people must do the same thing to be accepted. If everyone wears jeans and you wear a skirt, there is going to be backlash. If everyone eats Snickers and you choose an apple, it is going to cause comment. I think the non-acceptance others express is a mixture of guilt, self-incrimination, fear that perhaps one might have to consider it for their own children and frustration that you won’t fit into the mold that their mind has settled on as “acceptable” behavior. I do think that well-meaning persons worry that by doing something different, you may be doing something wrong and they don’t want you to be unhappy. Traditions incorporate ancestral wisdom, and going against tradition, even if it is a change for the better, comes with the fear that wisdom may be neglected and the consequences will follow. I do think some homeschoolers invite persecution by isolating themselves from others socially, or putting on airs that they are better than others. I don’t think this is the case for most homeschoolers though. I think the problem lies with the attitude of our culture towards homeschooling. I see Christians getting the same kind of persecution in Hollywood movies. So please know that you are not alone.

A few experiences that have happened to me illustrated that misunderstanding is great indeed! *my neighbor expressed worry that my son would be able to survive when leaving home at age 19, fearing that I had held him “so close that he won’t be able to function without you”. The truth is that my son waved goodbye and went off on his grand adventure smiling from ear to ear (even if my heartstrings were pulling miserably!). *an acquaintance introduced me to her mother as “one of the few homeschoolers who really DO homeschooling!”. (ouch!) *conversations are friendly at church until I slip and mention the unpardonable word “homeschooling” or any indication of it, such as: “my kids and I went yesterday morning and hiked in the autumn leaves”. Then suddenly it becomes quiet and strained. I sometimes think they would feel more comfortable if I had said, “I went out yesterday morning and shoplifted at Walmart”! I know most homeschoolers could add their own stories of feeling so very misunderstood!

My advice? Be YOU. You choose to homeschool. Having your children at home and learning with you is part of your happy, chosen lifestyle. Speak of it, and if others are not comfortable, so be it. I am not advocating being preachy or making those who choose differently feel chastised, but I am talking about being open and honest. It is more true to yourself and the cause of homeschooling to be up front and not try to secret it away. Time will change acceptance. Homeschooling is a rapidly growing movement and in time, it will be viewed more acceptably.

Being Christians should be a unifying factor, but I know from my own experience that divisions in media standards, for example, is enough to make a Christian feel more comfortable with unbelievers (that don’t know any better) than with her sisters in Christ. I believe that the depression that follows family gatherings comes because our spirit yearns for love and unity. Somehow we refuse to accept the idea that it won’t be present in a family gathering. Family means loving acceptance, and when it is not there, it hurts doubly so.

If it is any consolation to you, “the proof is in the pudding”. Meaning, that time will prove to your relatives that your children benefitted from homeschooling. I was highly criticized by friends and family about 20 years ago for choosing to homeschool. It was so painful! And I felt depressed about it at times. But as the years have flown by and my children have grown up into remarkable people with college degrees, those who were my critics have quieted down considerably. Some have even come asking advice on how I was able to keep such a close knit family, how I was able to keep my teens on the straight path in such turbulent times, or how I can find such satisfaction in motherhood. All I can really say is, “homeschooling has been a blessing to our family”.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33)

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