Last month, I wrote about the challenge of setting boundaries with my children and how important that is to homeschooling effectively. Another area where it is helpful to learn and apply appropriate boundaries is with other adults in your life.
One of the ways that many homeschoolers face an invasion of boundaries is unsolicited opinions. It can be frustrating dealing with people who criticize your choice to homeschool, ask leading questions like “Don’t you need to be certified to homeschool?” or give your child pop quizzes to test how much they’ve learned. This can be particularly difficult if it comes from close family or friends.
Initially, I did not know how to handle these intrusions. Over time, I’ve discovered that the motivation can range from simple curiosity, to ignorance of something out of the norm that they have no experience with, to jealousy, and sometimes, the assumption that you must be judging them if you made a different educational choice for your children than they did. I’ve found that these conversations seem to go better if:
- I’m careful to show that I’m accepting of their parenting choices. Respect breeds respect.
- Rather than immediately getting defensive, I consider where their skepticism is coming from. I had a medical professional ask me, “Isn’t homeschooling lax?” only to discover later that one of her neighbors is a homeschooler that doesn’t do any formal lessons with her children at all. I responded by telling her, that “Homeschoolers are like anyone else. There are all kinds.”
- Answer questions based in curiosity matter-of-factly.
- Have a canned response for critics – one that puts a stop to the discussion without inviting argument.
- Stay focused on the fact that no matter what others think, the decision to homeschool belongs to you and your spouse, in conjunction with God. Whether others approve isn’t really relevant and you can choose not to let it affect you.
Another boundary that I’ve learned to set is with people who try to interrupt the flow of our school day. It could be a friend who wants to schedule a play date, someone who calls during the day expecting that you are able to chat, or the friend who always expects you to babysit her child when they have off from school because you are home during the day. Before you let others interfere with your schedule, consider:
- Whether it is important enough to make an exception or how disruptive it will be to your day.
- If it’s easier to call or text someone back when you finish your school day (or take a lunch break) or to get your children back on task once there’s been a disruption. This is the main reason that I still use an answering machine that I can screen calls on rather than voicemail.
- Could you be setting a precedent of being available when you don’t really want to be? It’s generally easier to set a boundary of “These are days/hours that I am available” than to make exceptions and give a friend or family member the impression that your schedule is more flexible than it really is. This sets up the potential for frustration in the future for you and hurt feelings for your friend. Avoid this situation from the start.
Keep in mind as you navigate these situations that, ultimately, your responsibility to your children is greater than your responsibility to your friends or extended family. God will lead you in handling these moments as you focus on that truth instead of allowing emotions to dominate your decisions.