My father told me I was ruining my son's life by keeping him out of school. During a conversation with my mother I said I hoped Cassidy would grow up to be curious and confident. She said, “He's already much too confident." (He was three years old!) Fortunately, they didn't dwell on their disapproval, and we had happy times when we were together. Maybe it helped that they lived 3000 miles away. I'm sorry that my parents didn't live long enough to know the competent, responsible, self-assured young man Cassidy has become. I know they would approve of the full and varied life he's making for himself and of his dependability as a student, worker, friend and family member.
One of the questions we hear most frequently is what to do about family members who disapprove of homeschooling. Grandparents may have disapproved of the way their grandchildren were brought up even before humans developed language. I'll no doubt disagree with some of Cassidy's choices about living and parenting, but I hope I'll have the good sense not to let it spoil our relationship. Ideally, we respect the advice of our parents and other loved ones and try to include them in our decision-making, but the fact is, parents are the ones who are ultimately responsible to determine the best ways to raise their own children.
Try asking a disapproving relative what exactly they fear that your child will be missing. Maybe they can help provide that experience, whether it's riding on a school bus, finding more friends, or creating a graduation ceremony. Many people have been so well schooled they can't imagine a life that doesn't depend on that institution. You can help your family members start to think outside the school box and you might be surprised at the great ideas they come up with. As a bonus, you'll have extra help and your children will benefit from the wisdom and loving attention of their extended family.
Maybe your mom remembers you as a preschooler -- full of questions, an enthusiastic artist and fearless adventurer. Can she recall when and how you changed into a rebellious, bored, fearful or merely compliant student? Have a conversation about learning: How do people learn best? How can we create conditions that allow children to maintain their natural curiosity and love of learning?
Can your older sister (for example) tell you exactly what information or skills your children absolutely must learn in order to get along in the world? If she names something, ask her if schooling is the only way to learn it, or might there be some other way. Ask Uncle Bob if he remembers his first job. Did his boss tell him, as so many do, “Forget everything you learned in school….”?
What does your dad remember about school and how does he feel about it? I can't tell you how many times someone (call him Joe) has said to me, "Well, school was good enough for me, I had to go and I turned out ok, so my kid will have to go too." As the conversation continues, Joe tells a story about his schooling and says, "You know, come to think of it, I really didn't like school all that much." After another ten minutes of reminiscing, Joe pounds the table and says, "School is a terrible place for kids. Is homeschooling really legal?”
Show Cousin Jane one of the homeschooling magazines with pictures and stories of families learning together happily and successfully. She might even enjoy reading Learning All the Time by John Holt or The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson or The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. Choose carefully -- I know my mother would have been frightened by any mention of teenagers and liberation in the same sentence. There are so many good books and articles available now that you're sure to find just the right one.
Invite your brother (who's teaching seventh grade) to join you at a local support group meeting or better yet, a homeschool field trip, science fair or international night. Introduce him to the parents who are dedicated to their children's education and to the children themselves, who look him in the eye and speak with confidence about their projects, their lives and learning.
There will be some friends and relations who remain unconvinced in spite of all your best efforts. You may have to agree to disagree and remind them gently but firmly that parents are responsible for raising their children and that homeschooling is the choice you have made for your family.