Nine Things Not to Ask a New Homeschooler

So, someone you know has just decided to homeschool. Naturally, you have questions. Questions are good, when asked the right way at the right time. But here are some questions NOT to ask that new homeschooler:nine things not to ask a new homeschooler

1. What about socialization?

If the new homeschooler has taken her kids out of public or private school, negative socialization might be one reason. Do you really want to hear someone’s bullying horror story?

And even if she didn’t remove her kids from public school for a negative reason, well, presumably you’re asking her this question while out in public. Which means her family DOES leave the house every few days or so. Siblings, neighbors, church, sports, co-ops and more have long since put this worry to rest. (And yet it is the question I still hear most often.)

2.What about prom?

If the new homeschooler only has elementary age kids, this is years away. Ask something more relevant like “what if your daughter gets chewing gum in her hair” because that is much more likely to be a problem right now. (P.S. This goes for college questions too. Homeschool graduates can go to college if they decide to do so.)

And while we’re at it, let’s throw in here another type of question that comes up for our kids: don’t quiz my four year old on all the 50 states or my first grader on the presidents. Don’t ask my eight grader a tricky algebra equation that you expect her to do in her head. Here’s a rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t ask a public school student to demonstrate their education, don’t ask a homeschool kid either. Our children might KNOW the answer but they may not. Or they may have decided to do that not answering thing where they stare into space and try to pretend you don’t exist. I’m sorry they’re doing that: I know it’s annoying. But anyway, please stop quizzing our kids like you’re the new Lord High Executioner. kthxbye

3. What do you know about Physics or Calculus?

Again, if the new homeschooler has young students, she doesn’t need to know about those subjects right now. Do you think a public school kindergarten teacher worries about Calculus? (I’m guessing no.)

In some subjects you only have to stay one step ahead of your kiddo. And in other subjects you can learn along with him / her / them. It’s OK, if you didn’t learn Latin as a child to learn it alongside your kids. I have and it’s been a joy.

4. Did you ever meet that one weird homeschool kid that had no social skills, couldn’t even read, and ended up living in his grandma’s basement?

I know. You have a horror story about someone who did homeschooling the wrong way and it turned out terribly.

I could tell you some tales about public schooled children that would raise your eyebrows right off your face. Let’s just accept that our cherry-picked stories might not be the only evidence for or against a method of education.

5. Is that legal?

In all 50 states of the U.S.A: yes.
Around the world: sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes maybe.

In the U.S. there are different laws and regulations. And yes, a homeschool parent needs to be aware of these. But it is legal and the homeschool parent is usually more informed about the law than other parents. (I say usually because there are exceptions.)

6. What about all the other children? If all good parents homeschool what will happen to the public school kids?

I hate to be rude here, *cough* but have you heard the saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”? I am accountable for my children. I will help other children as much as I can (whether that be in the neighborhood, at my church, as a tutor, with my taxes, supporting fundraisers – who wouldn’t want to buy a chocolate bar, right? – or whatever) but I will not sacrifice my children for the sake of what I see as a flawed system for my children’s education.

7. You must have more patience than I do.

OK, this is not a question. But I’m going to answer it anyway: no, I probably don’t have more patience than you do. I’m learning it. Homeschooling is one method God is using to sanctify me every day. A new homeschool mom is not necessarily more patient, more organized, or more anything else.

8. What position do you take on Mastery versus Spiral Math curriculum?

This one is for my fellow homeschool moms: do not overwhelm the new girl. She may know what you’re talking about and she may not. You might want to introduce her to everything you love about one method of homeschooling or why you prefer a certain style and that is fine, but slowly and gently is the name of the game. Do not bury someone in Homeschool Manuals lest she drown in theory and despair in practice. Do not be the homeschool mom Mean Girl equivilent who only hangs around with women who agree with her 100% on all aspects of homeschooling. (Yes, sadly, I have met these moms. Homeschoolers can have cliques too and they are every bit as stupid now as they were in Junior High.)

9. Are you going to homeschool next year?

You might think this is perfectly reasonable but for a new homeschool mom she’s figuring this out one day at a time. I’ll give you a hint: we “experienced” homeschool moms are still figuring this out one day at a time.

Plans change. Children have different needs. I’m dedicated to the concept of homeschooling all my children through high school but I’m also realistic. That may not happen, whether by my choice or not. And while I’ll grieve over that if I must, for this year, for this day, homeschooling is what we do.

So, there were nine things not to ask. Here’s one thing any homeschool mom, new or not, would love to hear:

10. How can I help?

If you can take the toddler for an hour or you can pick up something at the grocery or you can drive the oldest to play practice while we take the youngest to the doctor: you are a lovely, wonderful person and we will love you forever.

If we ask for math manipulatives or a special “out of our usual budget curriculum” for Christmas or birthdays, we really do want those things. If you know we are doing a unit on sea creatures and you bring our children a tube of plastic sea animals and a fact book, well, you are amazing and we love you. You’ve just won the Homeschool Mom Friend and Support Person of the Year Award.

OK, I admit: no such award exists. But it should.

You know what help I appreciate the most? Prayer. Being a homeschool mom is a privilege and a joy, but it’s also hard. We meet our own inadequacies every day. We question ourselves. We struggle with our tempers or our emotions or lack of sleep (or all of the above). We look around our houses and wonder if it will ever truly be tidy again. (I’m going to answer that right now: no. But it will be OK.)

When you tell us you’re praying for us? We appreciate it and we need it.

So, fellow homeschool moms – what would you add to a list of what NOT to say to a new homeschooler?

things not to say

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  1. How many amens can I give this? NOT ENOUGH! Loved how you worked not ‘my circus; not my monkeys’ into this. Made me laugh.

  2. Amen!
    Great list!
    Oh my! The math wars? Why is it always math?

    Also, people used to say to me, “your kids are go great! You should put them in school.”
    My favorite thing to say to a new homeschooler, “Yes, you are doing enough.”


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