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How to Answer Annoying Homeschool Questions
If you’re a homeschool mom, you have probably been involved an awkward conversation with a friend, family member or stranger who has tons of questions about how and why you homeschool. Many of us get the same standard questions over and over again – even from folks who have asked them before, but have not been satisfied by our answers.
I know it can be annoying and cause us to get defensive when we are peppered with questions that we might deem to be nosy or ridiculous. However, there is a way to deal with those questions without becoming defensive or being rude.
Remember That We are the Face of Homeschooling
Yes, it’s tiresome to answer the same questions over and over, but keep in mind that homeschoolers are not the majority of families. We are doing something that is considered outside of the box and unconventional. People are going to have questions about it.
You don’t want to be that homeschool mom who paints homeschool moms in a bad light by being dismissive or reluctant to answer questions. It makes you look like you’re rude or hiding something.
It’s better to have a standard, polite, informative answer at the ready that shows you’re open and satisfies the curiosity of the asker.
Assign Positive Intent When People Ask Questions About Homeschooling
Sometimes I think homeschoolers get defensive because we assume that people are judging us for our choices. If you’ve read my blog for a while, though, you know I’m all about the practice of assigning positive intent as much as we, as fallible humans, can.
When friends or family ask us questions, it can feel like they are trying to catch us unable to explain why we do what we do instead of simply being curious about homeschooling in general, but most people are simply interested in how homeschooling works. It’s not the usual way of doing things and they want to understand it.
For those folks who truly are looking for a way to judge homeschooling negatively (usually family or close friends, it seems) you have to keep in mind that they care about you and your child. They don’t understand how homeschooling is beneficial and may be worried for you or your children.
I dealt with this from my own mother who was a private school teacher and then a public school librarian and who rarely had anything good to say about the school system. But, when it came to her grandchildren, she was concerned that homeschooling might leave them missing out on certain things that come from a public school education.
Be Aware of the Paradigm Shift that Homeschooling Requires
Unless you were homeschooled successfully as a child, you probably had a lot of questions before you decided to choose homeschooling. It likely required you to change your thinking in certain ways because you were moving into uncharted territory.
Once you researched and became open-minded, you shifted your way of thinking about how and where education fits into your family life. Be gracious to those who have had no reason change their thinking on the subject of childhood education or to those who have just begun to change their thinking.
It’s not necessary to change anyone’s beliefs or ideals with the answers to your questions, however. So, don’t get caught up in trying to be convincing in your answers. Homeschooling is not for everyone and if homeschooling is for them, they will change their own minds in the right time.
Brief, Friendly Answers to Commonly Asked Homeschool Questions
Here is how I answer these frequently ask homeschooling questions when they come up. I live in a state with very little oversight and few requirements, so my answers may differ from yours. If you live in a state where there is a lot of oversight for homeschooling, you may have lengthier answers or some of the questions might not come up at all.
- Question: “How do you do it?” This question is often preceded or followed up with, “You are supermom. I could never homeschool!”
Answer: “We’ve created a routine that works for us. You should search You Tube for homeschooling vlogs. There are several homeschool moms who talk about how they make it work for their family. They are really interested to watch.”
- Question: “What grades are your children in?”
Answer: You have a few options here. If your way of homeschooling keeps your children consistently at grade level, simply answer the question. If you don’t focus on grade level tell them that your method of instruction doesn’t go by grades, but instead by concepts mastered. You don’t owe an explanation past that, but you could talk about what concepts and skills your children are currently working on if you feel comfortable with the person who is asking.
- Question: “What about socialization?” This question comes in many forms, but at the heart of it, people want to know how homeschooled children will learn to function in a world with other people if they are at home all day.
Answer: “We are involved in sports, church, homeschool groups and other activities where the children spend time with both other adults and children their own age.”
Or – and this is the only question where I feel snark is sometimes appropriate – try these answers: “When I was in school we were told that we were not there to socialize!” “My children are being well-socialized by spending time with a variety of people of a variety of ages instead of the same 30 people, who are all the same age, for 9 months of every year.”
- Question: “How do you give them grades?”
Answer: If you grade your children’s work, then tell them the criteria you use. If you don’t use grades tell them, “The method of instruction we use requires that my children master a concept or skill before we move on to the next concept or skills. There is no place for grades in our mastery-based curriculum.”
- Question: “What about college?” Usually the asker wants to know how a child can get into college without grades from high school.
Answer: “I will create a transcript for my child and they will take the same college entrance exams/ACT/SAT as every other college applicant is required to take.”
- Question: “How do you spend that much time with your kids? You must be a really patient person.”
Answer: “It’s not easy everyday, but I love watching my children learn and learning alongside them.” (Now, don’t go judging their relationship with their children because they asked this question.)
- Question: Is homeschooling legal?
Answer: Yes. In all 50 states, although each state has its own requirements for homeschoolers.”
- Question: “Do you have a college degree in education?”
Answer: If you do have a degree in education say yes. If you don’t, don’t get offended. Resist the urge to ask them if they do. Don’t explain how it’s not necessary. You’ll look defensive. Simply say no or tell them what you do have a degree in, if you do. I know this is one of the most offensive questions to be asked, but remember, they are simply curious about how homeschooling works.
- Question: “How do you get them to their work?”
Answer: “We have a routine that keeps us on task and we make learning fun.”
- Question: “What about high school?”
Answer: “We use/we will use _____ curriculum for high school.” You and I both know this is a loaded question. Keep it simple and make them ask what they really want to know, which is likely answered by the socialization or college education questions above.”
- Question: “What if they want to go to school?”
Answer: Depending on your parenting philosophy, you may answer this in different ways. If you’re like my husband and me, you let your children decide each year whether they will homeschool or attend school away from home. Our children have always chosen to homeschool, which is not surprising to us. So, we tell people that they are free to go to public school anytime they want, but they have always chosen to homeschool.If you make the decision for your children you can answer that as the parent you chose each year to do what is best for your individual children and your family as a whole.
- Question: “What do they do all day after they finish their work?” Sometimes it’s hard for people to imagine children with free time. Common thought is that children with free time get in trouble. That’s usually not the case for homeschoolers and having free time to imagine, create, relax and practice introspection is one of the biggest perks of homeschooling for my children.
Answer: There is no one-size-fits-all answer for this. Tell them what your children do. They enjoy the freedom lifestyle. They think and create. They read and have screen time. They play sports and pursue independent academic interests. The list is endless!
- Question: “Do you homeschool for religious reasons?”
Answer: If you do homeschool for religious reasons say, “Yes, our spirituality is part of every decision we make.” If you don’t homeschool for religious reasons, simply say no. I know that many secular homeschoolers don’t want to be lumped in with religious homeschoolers, but it is not necessary to overreact to this question.
Resources for Unschooling and Relaxed Homeschooling
If you’re an unschooler or a relaxed homeschooler, you may find these questions to be more frustrating than someone who is doing structured school at home instead of less structured learning at home. You’ll find plenty of support for more relaxed homeschooling in the following resources. You’ll be better prepared to answer those pesky questions, too.
Now that you’re armed with the polite way to answer annoying homeschool questions, if you’re interested in snarking it up with other homeschool moms who are just as tired of hearing these questions, check out the Homeschool Snark Shark Facebook and Tumbler pages for some laughs and commiseration.