Home Education Magazine
March-April 1998 - Articles
Dropping the Bombshell
In-laws. Those of us who homeschool are the experts in in-law relationships, right? We simply get on the phone and say something like,"Hi Mom! I just wanted to let you know that we are going to homeschool all of the kids next year. Have a great day!" The relationship just continues as smoothly as it always did, right?
Wrong! "Dropping the bomb," as I have come to call it, usually isn't accomplished all that easily. In fact, telling your parents that you are going to homeschool their grandchildren can be the biggest hurdle that many families face on their homeschooling paths.
Yet, taking that step is important. Families that try to homeschool incognito run into problems:
"Hey, Freddy, how was school today?"
"Ummm, fine grandma," he answers, glancing nervously at mom.
"Did you walk with your friends, or did Mom drive you?"
"Well, I . . . . ."
"I took him. In fact, I take him everywhere now. Right Freddy? Hey, mom, come in and see the wallpaper I hung yesterday while the kids did their, er, homework!?"
Most families just can't pretend their kids are in school very long. Furthermore, it makes the parents feel like fugitives when they begin sneaking around their own parents. We were supposed to have given up that type of behavior many years ago.
So how do you tell them? How can you"drop the bombshell" without exploding the family?
Here are some tips about how to interact with your extended family about homeschooling.
Be confident, not defensive. When you announced to your family that were getting married, did you tremble or jump with joy? How about when you told them you were pregnant with their first grandchild? There is no need to come into the discussion expecting a fight.
Take it slowly. Most grandparents don't want to know how your first grader is going to get into college if he is homeschooled, at least not yet. Take your explanations one at a time. We are going to homeschool him this year. Don't try to recite every homeschool theory from kindergarten to college to someone who is new to the concept; take it in small steps.
Be knowledgeable, but not the expert. You should have a good idea of your state's requirements, your curriculum, the statistics on how homeschooled children do on standardized tests, etc. But if you come across as the expert who knows everything, you will irk relatives into hunting for problems with your theories and throwing them back into your face.
Don't tell them how awful public school was for you, even if it was. Parents really have a hard time with this one. For some reason, they think that you are blaming them for putting you there in the first place. If you had a bad public school experience it will strengthen your own reasons for homeschooling, but it probably won't help your case with relatives.
Don't imply that all good parents will homeschool their children. Many sisters and brothers-in-law already have a more than healthy competition between their children. Not only can this be damaging to the kids, but you will not be able to develop a good relationship with other families in your clan if they feel threatened by your decision. Make it clear that you don't think you are wonderful for this choice; just emphasize that this is what you really want to do.
Don't ignore the areas your children are behind in. In my research, I have met several families that are concerned about homeschooled kids in their families. They believe that the children are not performing well, and are truly concerned about their futures. Because many homeschool moms believe they have to defend their choice, they are unwilling to admit that not everything is perfect. If your child were in a public school, you probably wouldn't hesitate to say something like "Jessica is really working hard at bringing up her science grade this year." So why not be honest in homeschooling as well? "Jessica is working hard in math this year." After testing my children this year, I had two of them come up fairly low in Capitalization. This is a bit embarrassing, not only because I homeschool but because I am a writer. I had to turn away from the temptation to gloss over it and not mention to my mother that this was low. Very few children are strong in all subjects; don't presume that yours are any different.
Continue the relationship. No matter what your parent's reactions to homeschooling, it doesn't have to get in the way of the grandparent relationship, though it often does. Don't change your actions as a result. If you always had Sunday dinner at Moms, don't quit now. If your Mom takes the kids to the park every week, keep it up. The last thing you want to do is further alienate your parents and give them cause to blame the homeschooling. If you keep loving them and modeling a good family life, they will much more positive about your choice.
Give them time. Most people are skeptical of the homeschooling choice, at first. But after a few years they can usually see the results. My mother frequently comments on how pleasant my children are to be around, and how nice their disposition is. Intellectually, she probably has disagreements with my approach. But she just can't argue with the results.
Homeschooling really doesn't have to come in between the children and the grandparents. In the long run, it can enhance the relationship because there is so much room in the homeschooling experience for grandparent involvement. Be patient and diligent in your homeschooling efforts, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how many people are soon on your side.
© Laurajean Downs
Laurajean Downs in a homeschooling mom and freelance writer living in Grand Junction, Colorado. Her book "You Are Going To Do What?" - Helping You Understand the Homeschool Decision is written to the grandparents to explain the homeschooling choice.
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