|Copyright 2005 Julie Shepherd Knapp
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
When your parents don’t support your decision to home educate
By Misti Anslin Delaney with Rodney Bell Smith
owner of the Life at Chez Smiffy blog
We'd all love our parents to support our choices (parenting choices, especially) whole-heartedly.
When we make the decision to home school, we would love for our parents to see that we are doing the
very best thing for our kids and share our enthusiasm.
As both grandparents of two and parents to a four year old, our experience suggests that blanket
support of that kind is pretty rare. Conflict with our parents over parenting decisions is something many
-- maybe most -- people face. Sometimes our disagreements are about school decisions, sometimes
about discipline, sometimes about nutrition, or television or ...well, you name it. If it’s a decision we
have made, our parents can find something wrong with it.
Some of our parents’ reaction may be based in insecurity. They may feel that we are judging the way
we were raised when we make different choices than they did, especially if they had some reservations
themselves, but never had a better answer available to them. Sometimes their reactions may be the
result of having done a great deal of research themselves, but not having kept up with what's
happened in the world since, so that they don’t realize that the "best available choices" when they were
making their choices are no longer best.
There is also the matter of habits. If you think about how often you instinctively care for your children
and how often their new independence startles you, you may come to understand how your parents
can know full well that at 35, you are an adult and completely capable to making these decisions for
your family, but may still have trouble internalizing it. It’s true. No matter how old we get, we are still, to
some degree, small children in the minds of our parents. Some parents handle the emotional
dissonance more gracefully than others, and all of us handle it better at some times than at others, but
the dissonance continues to be there for most of our children's lives.
Parents are, after all, humans first. We are insecure about some things and judgmental sometimes,
occasionally we are passionately misinformed, and heavily invested in some things that just really don't
So, how do we help our parents to deal with their concerns about our decision to home school?
My two big suggestions are:
1. Don't get terribly invested in convincing them.
You are the parent and in the end, it is your decision how your children will be educated. If you're too
invested in your parents or in-laws opinions, you risk getting defensive if they are slow to accept your
decision and that won't help anyone.
2. Don't take your campaign too fast.
A slow steady drumbeat of information, each building on the last, will give a much better impression of
With a sudden flood of information, you risk overwhelming them and denying them a chance to absorb
the information, so each new onslaught seems more radical than the last. For example, however sold
you might be on John Holt’s ideas, sharing his books with concerned grandparents may not be best
place to start. First the books are not written in an approachable manner that’s easily accessible to
those who aren’t particularly interested in being sold on the idea. Second, regardless of the method
you eventually choose, most wary grandparents will find Mr. Holt's ideas pretty radical.
Once they think you may be on to something and are interested in learning more, you can share your
detailed information with them, but it’s best to start out with something more general and less
To some degree, the rest of what you do depends on your situation and your parents'
If you're just getting started:
If you’re just starting to home school and your parents don’t yet know, but you suspect that they will
object, you are, in some ways, in the best situation. You can lay the groundwork carefully and increase
the odds that they will eventually come around to see that homeschooling is the best answer for your
Share media reports about the troubles in the schools, especially your own local government schools.
If your own children are already in a school system, share your own frustrations or concerns with your
own family's experience.
Share research that shows how well most home-schooled kids do, as compared with their government
schooled counterparts. Share the documented advataged homeschool has for families and for
children. Introduce the idea gradually by recreating your own thought processes for them in simplified
It might help to get a copy of The Core Knowledge Curriculum for your child’s level ("What Your .....
Grader Needs to Know") and have it conspicuously around the house. Never mind that it may have
nothing to do with what you have in mind for your home education plan, it will reassure your parents
that you are paying attention to what the children would have learned in school, so you won’t leave out
anything critical. If they’re open to it, it might also help to share with them a copy of a book written
specifically to reassure the extended family and friends of a home schooling family to share with them.
(Deborah Markus' book, Don't Worry, is a very good one.)
If your parents are extremely resistant:
When your parents concerns make them anxious, it can make them difficult to be around. Their
approach could be anything from the mild "Are you sure you've really considered all sides of this?" to
sharp disagreement and constant nagging. Whatever their style, your parents likely know how to get
under your skin when they disagree with your decisions or question your motives or your wisdom. If
you've been homeschooling, and your parents have been objecting, for a while, you may be feeling
pretty exasperated, especially if they've resisted actually learning anything about homeschooling and
simply fall back on their assumptions and their prejudices.
Unless there is some really pressing reason that you need your parents buy-in (like you're living in their
home), it would probably be best to have information available to share with them should they voice an
interest, but don't open the subject, and try instead to find things on which you can agree. Other than
offering them information to read, it's best to drop the subject yourself. Refuse to be drawn into the
same old arguments again and again. The arguments have never gotten through before, so it is better
to agree to disagree.
"Mom, I know how you feel, and you know what I think, so maybe it's best if we just agree to disagree on
this one. Let's drop the subject. I don't want us to end up dreading our time together"
"Dad, as much as I love you and respect your opinion, it's clear that we just aren't going to agree on
this one, so my children's education is no longer open to discussion."
In the end, all you can do is to do your very best for your children (which is why we homeschool) and
leave it to your parents to find out for themselves that you're doing a wonderful job. If you give them
room not to have to defend their opinions and the choices they made, they might be able to react
(eventually) to what they see rather than to what they think is happening. If not, well, at least your life
will be more peaceful.
It might reassure your family if you can let them know about all the wonderful experiences your children
are having -- maybe even experiences that they couldn't have had if they were at school all day five
days a week! Shared with the attitude of "we had so much fun today" rather than defensively, these
educational adventures are legitimate topics of conversation. You might share your these adventures
face to face, or in telephone conversation -- or perhaps a family blog that you can make available to all
the relatives. The blog has the advantage that it eliminates the need to respond that is inherent in
conversation and so can help reduce the conflict. Maybe over time the rest of the family can help
reassure your parents about the job you're doing, even if they don't keep up with your news
If your sharing starts the cycle again, simply thank them again for their deep concern for the children
you both love and remind them that this is a subject best dropped in the interest of family harmony.
Then drop it.
Oh, and when they point out how beautifully someone else's children are doing in school? School really
is the best choice for a few children. That's neither here nor there; your children are *your* children.
They are not their cousins or their neighbors and they can't be expected to thrive in exactly the same
circumstances as those children do, anymore than they can be expected to have exactly the same
tastes in food or books or be exactly the same size. But your parents don't need to be convinced of
that -- they had their chance and they raised their kids as they saw fit. Now it's your turn and your
responsibility to do the same.
I hope that helps ... as grandparents ourselves, we have a certain amount of sympathy for both sides
in this one. There are choices our older kids make for their kids that make us cringe. And, as the
parents of a four year old, we still manage to raise our own mothers' eyebrows from time to time with
our own decisions. And so life goes on.
Rod and Misti Smith (2008)
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the encouragement of differences.
Civilization thus becomes
a synonym of democracy.
Force, violence, pressure, or
compulsion with a view to conformity,
is both uncivilized and undemocratic.
-- Mahatma Gandhi
Keep away from people who
try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great
make you feel that you, too,
can become great.
-- Mark Twain