Monday, February 16, 2015

Please Don't Try to Talk Me Out of Homeschooling

This evening, I met a friend for coffee. I had my daughter with me, and she saw a little girl in the cafe and immediately declared her a friend. And of course, as parents of young children in my area do, the little girl's parents asked if my daughter went to preschool.


Do I have to start telling my daughter that she is "in preschool"? Do I need to come up with a name for my preschool, so that when people ask, she has a reply they can nod their heads at and say, "Oh that's nice," the way people do when discussing the weather.

When you have a small child on the Westside, your small talk with stranger-parents is not about what the adults do for a living, but where your children go to school. Where your children go to school reveals a lot about you.

These particular stranger-parents were very nice. And their daughter was very nice. But while my daughter wants to make friends, I only want to be friendly. I don't want to get into a philosophical conversation.

When the nice stranger-parents asked if she went to preschool, I guess I could have just said no. But I didn't. I never do. When will I learn? No, I said, "We're homeschooling."

"Oh," the nice stranger-mother said, "Is there a particular reason?"

Does there have to be a particular reason? Maybe I should practice this in front of a mirror. I'll pretend to be a stranger-parent and ask myself, "Why?" Then, Mariel-me will shrug her shoulders and reply, "No reason."

"I teach public school," I said. "So, it was - in part - in reaction to that."

This is not small talk. Stop talking, Mariel. Stop talking. Change the subject. Talk about weather.

I just want to have a conversation with my friend, drink my coffee, eat my brown butter fruit tart.

But no. My daughter and stranger-daughter play with some math manipulatives I've packed in my daughter's backpack. Stranger-daughter is three years older than my daughter, so when my daughter wants to play with the manipulatives in a specific way, and stranger-daughter wants to play with it in a different way, my daughter crosses her arms and pouts and I step in to mediate.

Why can't my child - just for this evening - be an introvert and play with her math manipulatives at our table by herself?

Stranger-mother tells me that this is one of the things her daughter learned by going to preschool. Mediating conflicts during play. I shouldn't be offended. Stranger-mother is well-intentioned. It's just small talk. Nice weather we're having.

My child is three. Pouting and crossing her arms isn't good behavior, but it's less negative than how she could be reacting. She's not lying on the ground, kicking and screaming. That's a plus, right?

The girls work through their differences. Great.

Stranger-mother says that they're happy with stranger-daughter's public school kindergarten. "It's just up the street," she says, as if her reassurance might make me reconsider my decision to homeschool.

I'm not homeschooling as a last resort. "We're not homeschooling just because of our experiences teaching," I say. I mention Charlotte Mason, whom she hasn't heard of, and explain, "I want to provide a broad curriculum."

I've read about parents who printed up official-looking t-shirts with their (home)school logo to shut down stranger-parent small talk.

Oh yes, she goes to preschool right up the street. Lovely place. Nice weather we're having today, isn't it?


  1. I can so relate. My own parents try to talk me out of homeschooling - less often now, but for a while there, it was quite tiresome. Most people around here are good with it as there are a lot of homeschoolers, and I'm thankful for that.

  2. Do you have a response you use when you don't want to get into details?

  3. Hey sweet girl! This might be one of those situations where you just have to picture
    at least half of your audience (outside of your blog readers of course !) wandering around in their Common Core issue underwear.

    So, for starters, let’s just set aside those who have little or no interest whatsoever, in searching out their child’s “bents”, much less in exerting the effort to bring them up accordingly. Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go (and in keeping with his individual gift or bent), and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

    And although a few of these may feel a genuine twinge of remorse, it will probably last only about as long as you are talking directly to them, about the joys and rewards of homeschooling.

    Next, let’s extend grace to those folks who, for a multitude of reasons, cannot have a parent stay at home, or just haven’t the slightest clue about where to begin, and are terrified ! And YET…their children speak, do they not?! Because, for better or worse, they HAVE been, and ARE being schooled at home!

    Then, there are the confrontational ones. “I pay my property taxes so the government can build schools and hire teachers! I went through 18 hours of labor to give birth to them, what more do you expect of me!” You, my dear, have not only the brains, and the will, but also the innate skill. And they are, quite simply…JEALOUS!

    Though perhaps most formidable will be the defensive ones; defensive because they do not possess the depth of desire to claw their way through the piles of POOP that profess to be all things educational, in order to take what is truly useful from each and meld it into a beneficial system for them and their child! Instead, they wish for “the silver bullet, one size fits all, guaranteed to raise your child’s IQ 20 points in the first week” method. BUT WAIT…order in the next 5 minutes, and we’ll double that to 40 points!!!

    But again I say, “And yet…their children speak!”