Ironically enough, our biggest challenge to homeschooling can happen right at home – convincing the family members and friends we’re closest to.
If this is your situation, take heart! Many of us are facing the same challenge, especially if we come from teaching backgrounds where many of our relatives are members of (and big proponents for) the traditional classroom setting.
We asked our area community for their best suggestions on convincing family and relatives about the benefits of homeschooling. Here are the highlights:
Invite your family to “research” homeschooling with you.
Sometimes people just need more information before they understand homeschooling and its benefits.
Our homeschool conference is a great, safe venue for friends and family to come and get their questions answered (and meet our awesome homeschool community!). We always include attendees’ spouses in admission, with specific workshops tailored to both mothers and fathers.
Set your long-term educational goals, preferably in writing.
Often we lose perspective during a day (or week, month, or even year!) of bad experiences. Many homeschool families credit a list of written goals or reasons for homeschooling as essential for getting them through the hard times.
Creating an educational philosophy can also help you focus on the things that really matter. It also gives you answers for the inevitable questions you’ll face.
The biggest challenges to homeschooling frequently revolve around missed expectations. Also, this happens all the more if expectations go unspoken because they’re assumed to be “obvious.”
When talking with our homeschool community, we found these expectations generally revolve around certain areas:
- Homeschooling with a public school mindset.
Do your reluctant relatives expect your kids to start classes at a certain time, and always at a desk? Are they leery of homeschool curriculum that doesn’t place an emphasis on the same subjects they learned at school? Do they recoil in horror if your kids happen to be (gasp!) wearing pajamas in the afternoon?
A lot of these concerns can be put to rest once your relatives understand that home education can (and probably should) look very different to public school.
Several homeschool parents in our community credit the writing of John Taylor Gatto as helpful in getting them past the schooling mentality. Try suggesting those to your relatives, or other resources you’ve found practical.
See other helpful tips for transitioning from public school to homeschool.
- Homeschooling with too great an expectation of household perfection.
Especially if you have young children, a spotless house as well as a quality home education can be too much of a burden!
“No one I know homeschools AND keeps a perfect house,” wrote one homeschooler. “We all struggle, especially when toddlers are involved.”
Give yourself grace, especially if you’re used to vacuuming your house once a day before you started homeschooling. As one of our veteran homeschool moms said, “My home is clean enough that we’re healthy, but dirty enough that we’re happy!”
You can also include cleaning as a home economics course and get your children invested in doing chores, too. As one mom writes, “I have several kids that are well trained, and all of my kids do chores every day. More kids is easier than fewer because many hands DO make light work.”
We also thought this mother had some great advice for the homeschool household:
“By putting such strict rules on the order of the home, it prevents [your kids] from the little opportunities you have to school. Right now you are setting a foundation. My 7 year old can prepare meals, clean, do laundry, change diapers, distinguish cries, etc. But, we are a little behind in school. In contrast, my 9 year old can do all of this and read at a junior high level plus cook meals.
It’s all going to level out. Don’t expect fluency in 3 languages, musical genius, art history, world history, chemistry major at 8. Lower your expectations and enjoy [your children]. Ask your [relatives] for grace. More subjects will happen [as your children grow and learn] more independence.
(See other time-tested ideas on managing the household as well as running a full-time homeschool.)
- Homeschooling with unrealistic expectations of the time involved.
The younger grades, such as preschool through grade 3, usually take much less time in homeschool than a classroom setting. On average, homeschooling usually takes anywhere from 1-3 hours.
This can be a welcome change for some … but for relatives used to an all-day school schedule, it can seem far too easy!
One homeschool mom who came out of a public school experience explained it this way:
“Our daughter wasn’t learning to read in traditional school, so when we pulled out, we didn’t want to recreate it at home. Also we subtracted all the time kids spend lining up, at the water fountain, in bathrooms, lunch, recess, PE & library. … Kids in school only spend about 3 hours at their desks anyway. Add to that the value of one-on-one tutoring over a teacher trying to keep the attention of 20+ kids and there’s an argument for 2 hours being significantly equivalent.”
Other suggestions on homeschool scheduling include block scheduling (assigning specific subjects to specific days) vs. loop scheduling (keeping a list, or loop, of tasks to accomplish without blocking out specific days for them). See which works best for your family.
You can also expect these times to change as grade levels increase. As one homeschooler writes, “My upper elementary kids probably spend 4.5 hours on actual school work, lower elementary probably start with 2 hrs in K and add about an hour or so each year. My middle schoolers [take] a good 6 hours.”
Additionally, don’t forget extra time for listening to audiobooks, watching quality videos, making crafts and doing other activities that can be fun and educational!
Meet other homeschool families.
Sometimes the best argument in favor of homeschooling can be homeschoolers themselves! Let your reluctant family members meet other families who are home educating their children. Let them talk with the children, watch them interact with their peers and siblings, and so forth.
Our conference youth volunteers consistently wow attendees with their courtesy, enthusiasm and willingness to help.
Attend a homeschool graduation ceremony.
Draw encouragement and support from people who have successfully homeschooled before you! Many people attend our annual homeschool graduations to celebrate a particular graduate, but come away refreshed and encouraged with a new understanding of homeschooling in general.
These ceremonies are special in that they show the whole family – parents, children graduating, and often children to graduate – sharing their educational achievements together.
Our “rose ceremony,” where graduates can present roses to mentors and others who have invested in their lives, regularly touch and inspire first-time homeschoolers with the knowledge that they can do this too!
Suggest some firsthand experience with homeschooling.
This can work wonders with reluctant relatives if they’re educational experts in a certain field, or just want to spend some time with your kids!
If your relative is a grandmother who can sew, knit or do some other household craft, invite them over for an hour or so to teach your children. We also know of some homeschool moms who have invited Dad to do a day of homeschooling on a Saturday.
These are usually very effective in changing perspectives and convincing other family members that your children are thriving!
It can be a hard road if you’re just starting to homeschool … and it may take a while convincing your relatives just to consider the idea, let alone embrace it.
Even if you’ve already started homeschooling, don’t despair! A huge community of homeschool parents is here to come alongside you, and we have the following suggestions:
- Reach out to one of our fantastic mentoring moms, a group of volunteers who have been homeschooling a long time and would love to support you in your journey.
- Take full advantage of the many support groups available to MPE members. We provide contact info and other details both in our newsletters and in the private members-only section of our website.
- Come to some of our regular events for networking and support. We’ve already mentioned our homeschool conference, but don’t forget our popular Women’s Encouragement Day (right in the middle of the school year!), our how-to-homeschool workshop every August, and our used curriculum sale every summer.