"They came over again last night," she lamented, yanking a piece of thread from the hem of her skirt.
"Who?" I asked.
"My in-laws and it was awful."
I turned a little more toward my friend and sunk lower into the couch cushions so she'd know I was in for the listening long-haul. "Oh, no," I sympathized, "They're still verbalizing their disagreement of you homeschooling?"
"Yep, and this time they asked if they could take a look at test scores for all three kids! I'm starting to feel like I'm in this alone. My husband won't stand up to his parents and I'm afraid I'm going to buckle under all the pressure. They live way too close for us to escape it." She ran her fingers through her long blond hair and blew out a big sigh.
This scenario is all too familiar. I've heard many women attribute one of their biggest stresses to the judgment of others concerning their homeschooling. Family and friends, who are likely truly concerned for the welfare of the children, feel it's necessary to voice their opinions. Sometimes they're unsure of the ability of the parent to educate the children, or they are worried about socialization, or they're afraid the children may never get back to school (after this little experiment). Since I have homeschooling sisters, my husband's support, fabulous in-laws who've never meddled in my kids' education, and I taught in elementary schools, I do not personally receive a lot of criticism. However, I take every opportunity to lift up my fellow homeschoolers by educating people on the fact that the moms I know who are not officially trained, are amazing teachers for their children.
So, what's a mom to do when she's questioned about her educational choice? First of all, I believe it's essential that she pray for strength. This is the only thing that will get her through and give her just the right words to speak when faced with criticism. God will not only soften hearts over time but He'll give her innovative ideas and answers to discussions that arise about her schooling. Second, it's important for her to be confident in knowing that no one on this earth is more equipped to look after her children's learning than she is. Is every mother called exactly in this way? Not necessarily. But the mom who loves her children, desires to help them succeed in their learning, researches how best to educate them, and is willing to sacrifice what it takes to homeschool, certainly is! Will these reasons always cause her to perform well? Again, not necessarily. But, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, God's wisdom and her yielded heart will make all the difference. Third, her preparedness will demonstrate serious effort against wishy-washy schooling. Remember "Anita Shoiya"? She was armed and ready with potential field trips, groups for the kids to be involved in, curriculum options, where she might outsource subjects that aren't her expertise, and a possible schedule. Annie (a.k.a. Anita), has proven to be an effective homeschooler despite her husband's initial concerns. Now he brags about her :) Having said that, I don't believe it's always necessary to have to prove oneself. If God has given her the desire, ability and opportunity to homeschool, then she need not substantiate all she does to every interrogator. If her husband is on board, she's already ahead of the game (If he's not allowing her to even consider homeschooling, I wrote about it here).
Unfortunately, sometimes the questions are incessant from family members and if her husband is not advocating for her, a great response is to invite the "concerned parties" to come to a Grandparents' Day or Open House she and the children have prepared. If she senses that this is a direction to take, she may want to make it big and invite supportive friends who understand her choice and can mix in with the family, sharing their pleasure over the children's projects and artwork (or whatever she displays for all to enjoy). An evening gathering like this may be just the thing to put their fears to rest. It's here, they'll begin to understand why she has chosen not to administer tests for her kids, for example, as they can clearly see their level of workmanship. If the nay-sayers live far away and are still managing to control or disrespect from a distance, she may want to consider emailing photos periodically or starting a blog like this one to keep the family updated on what the children are working on. It only takes a few photos of their activities, field trips, friends and a few lines explaining what's going on for some of the questions to dissipate. Again, this is only if the Lord prompts her, otherwise, she's merely justifying herself and it may not be fruitful.
Fortunately, if God has placed her in this position for such a time as this, He'll do the work of bringing peace in the situation through prayer and His timing. Her diligence and the children's excitement over what they're learning, should allow for more meaningful discussions that don't end in conflict but curiosity... and eventually agreement. She should never forget that ultimately, the decision to homeschool is all about the lives of her little people and that she needs only to please her Creator.