When you choose to homeschool, you will find many people who will have questions regarding your choices. We find that these people fall into four categories: the interested, the uninformed, the worried, and the hostile. Learning to recognize each category for what it is will help keep you from feeling attacked and will give you a way to address each person.
In all cases, we need to be polite, well informed, and confident. We can't counter attack or disparage other people’s choices—each parent has to make the decision for themselves, and we are more likely to drive people away than to win them over.
The Interested—These people really are just curious. They might be interested in homeschooling themselves, either for general knowledge or because they are considering it. They might be interested in your decision, how you came to it. They might ask probing, sometimes intrusive, questions, but are not argumentative per se (though do expect a lot of “What about…Ok, but what about…”. Those are fair questions!). Be careful not to misinterpret “questions” for “accusations”—they are looking for information for themselves or others who might homeschool, and your answers might be key to their decision.
The Uniformed—They might have NO idea what homeschooling is about, but they might have some vague idea that this is “wrong” or “illegal” or causes “lack of socialization”. Usually a simple review of the laws should be good, as well as a recitation of research into homeschooling (such as what colleges are actively seeking homeschoolers and why), as well as perhaps various successes in your personal homeschool.
The Worried—Generally well-meaning relatives or close friends. They are honestly worried about your child, your ability, etc. While their comments might be hardest to take because of feeling “attacked” by those closest to you, be careful to spend time answering their questions, being polite, and providing information that they need.
Remember, they aren't attacking you per se. In fact, it is sort of a compliment--they REALLY WANT your child to succeed, to be well educated. They're just unsure of how homeschooling fits that. Most of our parents were public schooled, and any homeschoolers they knew about back when they were schooling were outcast.
Spend extra time reassuring them. Provide information for their reading which shows the benefit of homeschooling. BE PATIENT as these doubters might become your biggest allies. When we started homeschooling, our parents were concerned about their grandchildren being able to go to college, whether I was able to become organized enough to actually homeschool (ahem, Bringer of Chaos), etc. However, after patience and discussion on both sides, my mother became the biggest homeschooling fan (my dad was still a little doubtful. He needed to see the results in my kids first :) ).
Dealing with “the worried” is best when done with confidence and research: “Yes, I have researched what needs to be learned in XYZ grade. I have this curriculum which covers the scope and sequence of this grade level as presented by the state. We work X hours a day (or do X lessons a day) to include these subjects. We are fully legal. Our children are learning A and B and C, and just yesterday Jr wrote a three-page paper on XYZ--would you like to read it?”.
The Hostile—These are difficult people to deal with but may be addressed very much the same as the worried. These might be neighbors, family members, or the local government officials. Sometimes they are peers of yours who are hostile because they feel guilty that they aren’t homeschooling and you are. In any case, continue to be FIRM and POLITE—emotions will probably be running high anyway. Take the high ground and keep notes of what you are doing in your school and why.
Honestly, it is helpful to learn some educational “jargon”—frankly, most people are impressed by “technical sounding” words. If you can say why you are doing something, how it is legal, how it is beneficial, and then be firm in “This is our decision and it is the right one for our family.”, with a polite “discussion closed” tone of voice, this will help you stave off the hostile.
However, if you show doubt, fear, uncertainty, the hostile will see that as a win for them and will continue to hound you until you live up to their expectations.
I cannot emphasize enough how helpful keeping good records can be (though, honestly, many of us do the “End-of-Year Mad Record Scramble”…hey, this is the honesty zone :D ). Take “attendance” (which seems somewhat silly since a child is generally home every day), keep track of what lessons were learned when. Have a portfolio of what they have learned (This is easy: snap a pic on your phone!). Learn the laws of your area.
Now, to be honest, you probably will not get a lot of negative feedback in preschool, or even kindergarten. Children are not required to attend preschool. This is good as it gives you a chance to get comfortable and settled in homeschooling before grade school. Practice your organization of the day (but not strict scheduling and classes as we discussed here!) , as well as keeping track of work done. When you start homeschooling grade school, you will be established, have a routine, and have your confidence that you can educate your children.
“Honestly, no one really gave me any trouble about homeschooling! We never had strangers pop-quiz our kids in the middle of the store or any of that. I was actually kind of disappointed because I was ready to right any wrong ideas others might have. But I think what happened is that the minute someone tried to talk about homeschooling, I got so EAGER to tell them ‘ALL THE THINGS about what we were doing, our philosophy, what GREAT thing my kids had done, how it was such a BLESSING to our FAMILY, and the BEST decision WE EVER MADE THANK THE LORD…and…and…!’ that they sort of backed down. It’s hard for someone to be domineering to the homeschool mom equivalent of a golden retriever puppy. Plus they had no chance to get a word in edgewise!”