The following is a post by contributing writer Michelle of Lagniappe Learning.
When we first started homeschooling, I didn’t enjoy telling people about our choice, because I feared their questions. Luckily, I have only had positive experiences with questions, and most of the questions have come from people who are truly curious and want to know more about what we do, and they never seemed to come tied to any judgement or negativity. Either that or they hid their feeling well and kept their questions polite.
Now, two years later, I’m used to the questions and usually have an answer prepared for them. I’ve also learned what people really mean when they ask certain things.
1. Does someone tell you what to teach? For some reason, everyone wants to know who’s in charge and whether or not I report to someone at the state or national level. The short answer for me is, “No.” The longer answer is that guidelines vary by state.
2. How do you know what to teach? I usually tell people that there are web sites and books that can give you a general idea of what kids should know at each grade level. If I know someone really well, I might confess that we wing it sometimes and switch gears a lot.
3. What curriculum do you use? This one usually comes from classroom teachers or other homeschoolers. Neither of which seem happy with my answer, which is, “None.” Sometimes, just to avoid the blank stares, I will tell people, “We pull from a lot of sources.”
4. Do you take standardized tests? I tie this one in with the “Who’s in charge?” questions. Me. I’m in charge. The answer to this particular question, however, is that some families choose to take them, but we do not.
5. Do you meet with a group? Ah . . . the polite way to ask the socialization question we all know and love. We do, and most homeschoolers find plenty of ways to interact with other kids, utilizing park days, classes for homeschoolers, co-ops, and other group types.
6. Is it easier because you were a classroom teacher? This one usually comes from parents who doubt their own ability to homeschool and think I have some kind of magical credentials. No, it isn’t easier. In fact, sometimes I think it’s harder because they’re my kids, and because it’s more informal.
7. When do you get a break? If I can joke with the person, I answer, “Never,” with a smile. Otherwise, the honest answer is that I have to be good to myself and recharge my batteries just like any other parent. The only difference is that I have to be more creative about carving out time for myself.
8. What made you decide to homeschool? There are so many answers to this one, and I still stumble when I answer it. Really, there were a lot of factors, and the answer is different for every homeschooler I know. Sometimes I give the short, “academic reasons,” answer. Other times, I give the whole emotional explanation, if for no other reason than to remind myself why we do what we do.
9. Do you like it? More than anything. That’s my gut answer, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy every day or every aspect of it. It’s tough. But so was fighting over homework and dealing with a tired, stressed out, cranky kid every afternoon. I get more fun times with my kids and I get to see them enjoy learning, so yes, I absolutely love homeschooling.
10. How’s it going? This question comes from friends and family members who already know we’ve been doing this for a while, and the question usually comes with a raised eyebrow. You know, the look that says, “Come on, be honest, you aren’t going to do this forever, are you?” I usually just smile and tell them that things are going great. If they press the issue and want to know how long we plan to continue, I tell them we take it day by day and year by year, as long as it’s working for all of us. And so far, it’s working out quite well.
Michelle is a wife, mother, writer, and Cajun who prefers everything extra spicy. She writes about their homeschooling adventures at Lagniappe Learning, and she has recently carved out a little space of her own at Chamomile Punk.