What do you do with family skeptics?

You’ll know who this lady is if you’ve read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

One form the achives of our most cherished supporter

One from the archives of our most cherished supporter

She featured large in the story and the children’s lives. And accompanied us on our educational rambles and expeditions; the regular purveyor of hot chocolate and biscuits as I recount in our story, teamed with twinkle and mischief!

She was the girl’s only grandparent, my mum, and our most ardent supporter, inspiration and comfort. What love and support she brought to our home school days. We were truly blessed.

I’m very aware though, especially as I get asked about the issue, that not everyone gets this support from family when they decide to home educate. And that must be the hardest thing ever.

We did experience skepticism from some family members but it was muted with their respect for us (okay – they thought we were weird and risking it, but they kept those opinions mostly to themselves). But it was nothing to the hostility some families experience and it’s difficult to know how to deal with it. You have to be strong to ride it out.

This is where the home education community, both physical and online, are a lifeline. For basically you’ll need them to be your ‘family’ for the time being. We can’t choose the relatives, but we can choose to create another kind of ‘family’ support and my experience of most other home educating families was that they’d be happy to offer that.

Some other things you can do to keep strong are:

  • Keep your priorities and principles based firmly in what YOU think is best for your family and don’t be persuaded by the scaremongering of others
  • Consequently, do what you do for your child’s sake and not to please others
  • Do some research and arm yourself with informative arguments. If it doesn’t work, ask people to reserve judgement – as you don’t judge them for their life choices
  • However, you don’t have to defend, explain or justify your choices. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing and smile knowingly!
  • There’s no right or wrong way (not counting abuse here) to parent or to educate. Everyone is different and responds differently so you can only do what you feel is right for your circumstances. There are lots of individuals in schools who silently suffer their circumstances
  • Family members may want you to stay with mainstream simply because they are ignorant or afraid of other approaches. That’s not a good enough reason to stay with a system that’s failing your child. Don’t let them push their fears onto you
  • Establish a good group of firm supporters you can turn to when you need it
  • Don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re up against with family and how much you welcome their support
  • Witnessing you standing up for what you believe is right is a great example for your child. It will help them stand up to unsupportive family members in their future, if they ever have the unfortunate need to
  • Home education WORKS. There is much proof of that now. Doubters really have no argument!

My mum was surprised-cum-shocked when we told her what we were doing. But she could see the possibilities, could see the kids so unhappy in school, and was willing to wait for the proof. We were the first in our family to do such a radical thing and clearly some didn’t approve at the outset. But as the children flourished their doubts turned to admiration – the wait paid off.

If you’re experiencing family opposition, hang in there, stay strong and here’s wishing you’ll experience admiration eventually. But also remember that some will never give their approval – but that’s their problem, don’t make it yours!

And if you have a way of dealing with family doubters do leave your experiences in a comment here so we can help each other.

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8 thoughts on “What do you do with family skeptics?

  1. Hi Ross, I can definately relate to this. I took my son out of school in December 2015 and received a number of surprised and negative comments from close family. While they have provided practical support: babysitting etc, that’s all. However, my son began to thrive quite quickly out of school and my mum, at least, is now less critical.

  2. Great tips! It is especially important to do your research and come armed with informed arguments. And your advice is right on with doing what you believe to be best for your own family. If you are a parent, you are the best expert on your own children. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

  3. All my immediate family were incredibly supportive of me, that is my Dad and my sister. Both are traditional people who you could have expected to raise eyebrows and drawbridges at the prospect of a family member home educating. My Dad was 94 when I started and went to boarding school and sent his three children there, but he never for a minute questioned my decision as he knew that what I was doing what I felt to be right for Ben. My sister is a trained teacher, initially at nursery and then at infants/junior level. She again did not question and when I joined her for last Xmas meal she gave the most wonderful toast to me and Ben (not present!) to say what a great job that both of us had done and that was really moving and making me well now thinking about it! The problems arose with Ben’s mum and although she now realises how ell Ben has done, in the early days she was all for LA monitoring (no, she did not understand the system at all) and getting SS in to check Ben being depressed and overweight, but I have fended her off yet kept her informed by sending her weekly digests and that seems to have paid off. I had one very good female friend whom I lost touch with for four years as she really questioned what I was doing and I was not prepared to get into an argument. We are meeting again now and we do have a rather large elephant in our rooms but you cannot destroy many years of friendship so I am glad we see each other again. ps Ross – with all my ramblings perhaps I should start a blog or even write down my thoughts/experiences and make a pamphlet/booklet?

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