Tis the Season for Suspicion
Ah, the holidays! As a homeschooling parent, I have mixed feelings about holiday get togethers. It is nice to see the relatives, but it is a mixed bag. Since my sister is a public-school teacher, I have not been able to speak freely about my life with my children for years. One year, right after Christmas, she learned that my oldest son struggles with dyslexia, and she told me I should put him in school so that he could get services. I refused. Since then, she hasn’t spoken to him, attended any of his birthdays, or attended his grade school graduation.
At a birthday party a few years ago, her brother-in-law discovered that my children are homeschooled. He relayed that he works with a young man who was taught at home and is now socially awkward at work. He then tried to tell me about how to make sure my children are “socialized.” I said to him, “I have been doing this for nearly fifteen years. I think I know how to homeschool.” At every gathering, he consistently asks my oldest son questions that no teenager, homeschooled or not, would know.
It seems that homeschoolers everywhere face persecution, and the holidays can be the most stressful of all. What can we do to alleviate the stress for ourselves and our children while still honoring God? Here are some ideas:
1. Prepare. If you know that relatives are hostile to homeschooling, prepare your heart and your children’s hearts. Know in advance how you will respond when someone quizzes your kids or offers critical comments. It is very tempting to use the situation to educate family members and dispel myths, but whenever I have tried that approach, it backfires. The best tactic for me is to refuse to engage. Except for the brother-in-law incident above, I choose to say as little as possible whenever relatives ask about the kids’ education. If cousins try to quiz my kids, I have instructed them to respond with “I’m not playing that game” and walk away.
2. Pray. Your relatives and friends often mean well. It is not your fault that they take personal offense at your choice or that they are ignorant about the benefits of homeschooling. Pray that God would open their minds and hearts to be more receptive to your choice. Homeschooling, even though more than two million children participate, is still foreign to many people. They do not understand that it is dramatically different from public school. People are usually afraid of what they don’t understand. Some folks even feel threatened by it.
3. Ponder. It is important to revisit why you chose to homeschool in the first place. Think about all the positives that you enjoy. Think about the positives of the season and how your living testimony can encourage others and change hearts. How can you demonstrate your love for these dear people even though they may judge and ostracize you?
This season is about humility and unconditional love. How can we extend these gifts of Jesus to others in the face of family persecution? If our own families do not reflect the true meaning of Christmas, how can we cultivate it in our own hearts? Visit this page for ten ways you can do just that.
Julie Polanco is the homeschooling mother of four children, the oldest having graduated in 2016. She is frequent contributor to Old Schoolhouse Magazine and is the high school botany instructor for www.schoolhouseteachers.com. Her book, God Schooling: What the Bible and 25 Experts Say About How Children Learn Best will be released in summer 2018. Keep up with her at her website, www.juliepolancobooks.com where she regularly posts about the writing life, homeschooling, Christian living, and her book projects.