All · Encouragement

How to Handle Difficult Relatives Who Question Homeschooling

So your relatives are coming to visit. 

You’re excited for the holidays, but slightly less excited for your judgy family members to put your homeschool on trial…again. You never know how to handle it because you don’t want to come across as defensive…or as a doormat. 

Up front, I have a very supportive family who is over the top encouraging about homeschooling, but I have friends who have shared some gnarly stories that have literally made me gasp. 

I mean, they’re worried about *our* social issues while they’re walking around asking these shocking questions???

I have listed the most common comments and questions that homeschoolers tend to get and a response that will help you quickly diffuse the situation and preserve the relationship with the relative who is tempting you into losing your holiday cheer.

The family is coming to visit and you know they are going to start asking rude, uncomfortable questions about your homeschool. Here are some quick responses to the most common rude questions that will help you come out on top, maintain relationships, and your religion!

1. The Well Intentioned Quizzer

If you haven’t had a friend, relative, neighbor, or stranger try to quiz your kid about something random, you may not even really be a homeschooler yet.

This has happened to me many times and is almost always because the person wants to share some piece of information that they deem important. They want to “help” with teaching, usually without any idea what is grade or developmentally appropriate.

Of course there is always the less well-intentioned person who is trying to measure your homeschool by seeing if your kid knows all the presidents or multiplication facts. 

Regardless of intention, this questioning can make your kids feel uncomfortable and erode confidence in your homeschool and you as the teacher. But luckily, there is a very easy way to gain control of this situation.

How to Handle this Difficult Person with Grace:

“This is so fun! What a good idea! Kids, [relative’s name] wants to know what we’ve been doing in school. Why don’t I grab one of our books and see if *they* can answer questions about what you’ve been learning!”

Grab a book or worksheet of your kids’ favorite subject – history, science, language arts, literature, or whatever. And then start asking questions from the curriculum – giving the relative and the kids equal chance to respond. You could even make a it a little competition for fun!

This allows you to show off what your kids have been learning, put the quizzer in their place (as they likely will struggle through the questions), and let the kids shine as they outsmart the adult relative. 

Who doesn’t love a game of “Are You Smarter than a Homeschooler?”

You have set a clear boundary around your homeschool that the quizzer will likely not attempt to breach again.

2. “How Do You Handle Being With Your Kids All Day Long?”

Overwhelmed mom with kids all day long

This is the most common thing I personally hear from people, and is always well intentioned. But it gets tiring to answer over and over again.

I mean, you don’t see me asking, “How do you manage to wake your kids up early EVERY morning and send them to be with adults you don’t know very well ALL DAY LONG. I just couldn’t do that.

How to Handle This Difficult Person With Grace:

“I get to see my kids at their best every day, so I enjoy being with them. Most traditional school kids are tired when they leave for school and tired when they come home with a backpack full of homework. Their teachers and friends get to see their best moments, and the parents get what’s left over at the end of the day. I am blessed enough to sit, learn, play, and be with my kid when they are rested, fed, and happy. We are so lucky.”

3. “Oh, That’s Probably Because They’re Homeschooled”

probably because they're homeschooled man

This is just a thoughtless comment that many people say. They have assumptions about homeschoolers and will find any reason to blame their personality, differences, or mismatched socks on how they are being educated. 

It was hard for me to come up with a concise response for this that is not snarky, like, “So your rude, insensitive comments are a result of public schooling? Interesting.”

That would *not* be a graceful comment to make while passing the casserole dish, but fear not, I’ve got something for you, Homeschool Mama!

How to Handle This Difficult Person with Grace:

Said in a nonchalant manner: “Could be. And maybe not. You know, I’ve really struggled to explain kids these days. I mean, my neighbor’s kid has a lot of emotional problems, but I decided it wasn’t fair to blame that on the influence of the public school she goes to. It could really be anything. Oh, and my best friend’s kid is so shy and really struggling to make friends. It’s been hard on her. Do you think that’s because she goes to a private school?”

This is a perfect response IF you can keep your voice in a calm, matter of fact tone. Turn the question back on your relative and get them to admit that whatever random thing is going on, it is likely not related to how the kid is learning reading and math. 

Kids are all unique, developing at different rates, and being shaped by many different influences. How they are taught is just one of many of those factors.

4. “What If They Turn Out Weird?”

weird homeschooler

I love this question, but sadly, nobody has ever asked me!

I am told that there are people roaming the earth asking this though, so maybe you will be lucky enough this holiday season to encounter a relative who is concerned about your child’s weirdness.

Enjoy, Homeschool Mama!

How to Handle this Difficult Person with Grace:

“You know, we were very concerned about that. So my husband and I took turns asking those crazy people you see in Walmart where they went to school. Turns out the public school system is producing all of them! Who would have thought! It really solidified our decision to homeschool. Wait a minute, where did you go to school again?”

Hopefully, some laughing and backslapping ensues and you go back to dishing out pie. Boundary set, relationship intact, and you’re moving on. 

And if you don’t think you can deliver that line with a straight face, you could also mention that when you discovered Whoopi Goldberg, Taylor Swift, Winston Churchill, and Condoleezza Rice (or really anyone from this list) were homeschooled, you knew your kid would turn out just fine. This will begin a conversation of famous homeschooled people that might educate and enlighten your visiting family members. 

5. “I Really Think You Need to Put them Back in School”

difficult relative pointing finger at homeschooler

So this relative, is not skirting the issue – they are going for the throat. 

They want to tell you how to live your life and raise your kids. Not because they’re a jerk. It’s because they’re “concerned.”

This is a tricky tight rope to maneuver, but this ought to knock them back on their heels…in a loving way.

How to Handle this Difficult Person With Grace:

“I just want to say thank you for having the courage to say that. And I really appreciate you showing such interest in our kids. It means a lot to us to have engaged family members. Truly. And even though we obviously disagree about homeschooling, I want to thank you for starting a more personal conversation. All the small talk, surface discussions are exhausting after awhile, you know?”

Let your relative bask in your praise and kind words as they agree that small talk gets old (and you completely step around a debate over whether your kid should be homeschooled).

Then say, “You know to keep the deeper conversation going, I actually had a question I wanted to ask you but I was a little nervous to ask. Is it okay to ask you now?

Now you are flipping the script on them.

You already know who this person is going to be, so have a question prepared for them. Not a rude one, but a personal question they may not have expected in polite conversation. Such as…

Do you have a will? They are so important and you can never be too careful.

Have you started going back to church since COVID? Spiritual support is so important these days.

Are you exercising regularly? I am concerned about your health – especially these days.

Are you worried about your retirement years financially? That can be a heavy burden.

Your family member may balk at your manners, and you can always apologize profusely and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I just thought since you felt comfortable enough to ask me about raising my kids, we were close enough to have that conversation.”

Your family member will likely realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. They want to enter into your personal life and boundaries, but they may not be willing to endure the same treatment. 

This person definitely needs a firm boundary set and hopefully thanking them for their courage will keep the relationship as intact as possible.

6. “But What About the Social Issues?”

relative worried about social issues with homeschooling

Heavenly Sunshine. 

I would need an hour to explain to a non-homeschooler why social issues are rarely a problem for homeschoolers. I am not even going to get into it here, but you can read my thoughts on the topic here though if you must know. 

Okay, so there is a way to deal quickly and concisely with a family member asking this while you’re walking though the buffet line. 

How to Handle this Difficult Person with Grace:

“Oh. I’m kinda surprised to hear you ask that. I mean haven’t you been reading about the rampant social issues in our schools these days? I was actually going to ask you the same thing about your kid’s school…”

When the relative looks at you quizzically with their hand frozen on the serving spoon, you can then bring up all the issues of mask wearing, social distancing, minimal recess (social time), rampant bullying, curriculum controversy, teacher misconduct, virtual school mishaps, and then add a dollop of failing test grades and lowered scholastic standards. 

Definitely say it with a concerned face and mention all your close public school friends. It’s a difficult time for them and you’re praying for their kids. You on the other hand are just thankful for the close knit homeschool community you enjoy and educational freedom your kids have every day. 

Relative knocked back on their heels, boundary set, relationship in tact, pass the casserole, please. 

7. “But what about sports?”

sports balls

OMG, Homeschool Mama. 

This is another one that takes me forever in a day to explain, and can be asked by everybody from the cashier, to the mailman, to your parents. 

Depending on the age, athletic ability, interests of your child, and the state you live in there are a few different responses you could choose.

How to Handle this Difficult Person with Grace:

“Did you know that [fill in the blank state] actually allows homeschoolers to participate in high school sports?”

“Did you know that colleges are much more heavily recruiting from travel teams now instead of high schools? If our kid really takes off with [sport], homeschooling will actually help them to keep up with the travel sport lifestyle. We’re really kinda excited about it!”

“Sports are important, but we don’t think it outweighs the other benefits of homeschooling. In fact, we’re hoping to use homeschooling to show our kid how to fit regular exercise into their life – apart from sports. So many kids leave sports and gain weight because they never learned how to be active without it. We’re really excited about trying something different with our kids.”

Every response is quick, provides new information for the relative to mull over, and sets a boundary. 

You’ve got this, Homeschool Mama!

8. “You know I think everything you’re doing is great with homeschooling…but what are you going to do about high school?”

graduation cap

If I had to guess, this will be the most commonly asked question you will hear. 

And I don’t fault the person who is asking. They genuinely don’t know anything about homeschooling. They understand that you can teach a kid to read, write, and do basic elementary level math…but what about Chemistry, Pre-Calc, British Literature, and essay writing?

I mean, are you really going to buy a bunsen burner for your homeschool? Surely the wheels are going to come off when your kid hits 8th or 9th grade, right?

How to Handle this Difficult Person with Grace:

“I completely understand your concern. But we are genuinely concerned about high schools these days. Have you seen the stats that just came out?”

Your wide eyed relative will shake their head no.

“Colleges are reporting that as many as 60% of students are not ready for college level academics. Even if they scored well in high school. The schools are just not preparing them. [Maybe print this article and have it handy to show them] In fact, colleges are actively recruiting homeschooled kids! Because they know they are often more advanced than their peers.”

****True story: My niece is taking a required subject her freshman year of college called “academic success” or something. She said it is meant to make sure she is ready for college level academics. Definitely was not offered or needed when I was in college.

Top off the conversation by saying that you are actively researching the changes that will come with homeschooling high school (this is a fantastic book to calm your nerves and get you ready!) and you’re excited to give your kid the best opportunity possible. 

9. The Comparison Parents

parents comparing homeschool kids vs. public school kids

Oh, the subtle pain of dealing with these people. 

They parade their kids in front of your kids and drop comments about their reading level, writing accomplishments, and honor roll list. 

The relative is bragging and clearly baiting you into a contest over who is doing better as a parent. 

Do not take the bait, Homeschool Mama!

How to Handle These Difficult People with Grace:

Please know that deep down these moms are feeling truly insecure in front of you, the homeschooler.

You are doing something radically different and they feel compared to YOU. They want everyone to know that their kids are doing just fine – better than fine actually. 

My advice is to choke down the desire to hold up your kid’s math worksheet or journal entries. That is a path that only leads to pain. 

Instead, engage the kids. Ask them about their teachers, their favorite subjects, and their friends. Delight in their stories and make them the center of the conversation. Show your relative that you are not intimidated, not comparing, and not afraid to praise her kids. 

Maybe she’ll learn a lesson.

Recap How to Handle Difficult Relatives and Friends

You are going to do just fine, Homeschool Mama!

Hold your head up high, maybe have some articles and stats printed off and ready in a folder, and get ready to enjoy the holidays with your family. 

They may not agree with your decisions now, and that is okay. As they years pass and they see the fruit of your labor, minds will change.

Do your best to smile, gently defend your life choices, and keep a family fight from breaking out.

Has your family made a comment or question that I missed? PLEASE drop it in the comments for homeschool moms everywhere to enjoy!

Do you have your own snappy one liners? I am going to need to see those in the comments too! 

Read Next:

Homeschool moms these days come from all different backgrounds, but there are certain things that unite us! Enjoy the homeschool mom humor and get a good laugh as you see if this post describes your homeschool mom life!

2 Comments

  1. Kelli Morey says:

    How funny, I related to several of these!! It’s so great to read your blogs!! We still use outschool to this day because of you!! Love all the laughs and encouragement!!

  2. What a great article. Your responses were so well thought out and meant to encourage discussion. This is my first year homeschooling and I started with a 7th grader and a 10th grader. I also have an older son who graduated from public school. Thankfully my family is very supportive of our choice but I’m tucking this away for the comments we might get out and about during “school” hours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *