After our state’s homeschooling fair, this was my favorite comment/feedback: “The homeschoolers looked so normal!” The father who said it has a preschool aged child and a toddler, and officially their family was “considering homeschooling”. (After the fair they changed to being a “homeschooling family”.) The father who said it was in my session about how to homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten, so I guess I passed the test also.
The other (typical) comment is: “the children were so well behaved”. Of course there were a couple of typical toddler tantrums, but this was not met with judgment by the rest of the attendees as we had all “been there, done that”.
I am not sure what non-homeschoolers think that homeschooling families look like, but they always seem surprised to learn that we homeschool. It seems they are thinking “you homeschool, you don’t look like you homeschool”. Another family who I’ve seen at Cub Scout pack meetings monthly for the last two years just found out last week, that we homeschool. We were having a conversation and the conversation turned, as it always seems to, to “who is your son’s teacher at (our town’s public school)?” When I said we homeschooled, her eyebrows shot up. She asked what grade my son was in, which was the same grade as her son, and they shot up further. When I said we homeschool, she turned toward the Scouts to scan the crowd. I knew she was trying to pick out which child was homeschooled. When she was unable to pick him out based on just his age and his schooling status, she then asked which one was my son, and I pointed him out. Believe me, he looks very normal. (And since he was representing homeschoolers everywhere at that moment I was grateful that he was behaving!)
I am well aware that people base opinions on even the tiniest bit of information. For example they may base their opinion of homeschoolers on what they know of just one child or just one family. If a homeschoolers they know seems too relaxed for their own comfort, they assume all homeschoolers are very relaxed or worse, that all homeschoolers are learning less than their public school counterparts (read: incompetent). I can’t control what others think about me and my family, but what I can control is my own interactions with people. When discussing homeschooling with strangers I don’t tell them their choice to use school is inferior. I don’t tell them that there are problems with institutional schooling. What I do is answer their questions, in one sentence answers. Although my ‘sound byte’ responses may seem ridiculously summarized or lacking in detail, it is what they usually want to hear. Once in a long while a person asks a lot of questions and it is clear they want detailed answers and a real discussion. At that point when I am sure that a person really wants to hear what I have to say, I give longer replies. The thing that I do most though, is listen to what they are saying and give responses that answer their questions. Although I may not like it I do realize that in many cases I am the only homeschooling parent they’ve ever spoken to, and therefore I represent all homeschoolers. I don’t want to represent everyone as we homeschoolers are so varied but I try to not bring other homeschoolers down with my words and actions. I try my best to keep the interaction positive and to not to degrade the other person (even if they are speaking negatively about homeschooling).