Dealing with homeschool criticism can be brutal. Let’s face it - anything you do in life that goes against traditional wisdom or the mainstream will inevitably be met with criticism and skepticism. People like things to fit neatly in categories they recognize, and educating children is no different. In particular, if you were raised in a Traditional education setting, your friends and family might criticize your choice to homeschool.
For most, the criticism is in good faith and comes from a place of concern. Many people simply think that homeschooling cannot possibly provide an education that gives the necessary tools for a growing child. Others might think you’ll be overwhelmed with homeschooling, and they’re concerned for your mental well-being. Finally, there are those who will criticize simply to be nosy and rude, though those are likely to be outliers.
As the homeschooling parent, you will not only be faced with the feelings that arise when your choice is questioned, but you may internalize their critique as well. You might find, when faced with these questions, that you start to worry if you made the right choice. Dealing with criticism is certainly an acquired talent but fortunately, with a little preparation, you can politely and calmly inform even the harshest critic.
Preparing yourself for homeschooling criticism
The first thing to understand is that criticisms of your choice to homeschool will almost always come in two varieties - well-meaning friends and family, and people who simply want to argue. You can, of course, ignore both types of questions, but we are assuming you would like to have civil discussions - at least with your family. It is simply easier to ignore bad-faith criticisms or questions, and that might simply be best.
You’ll find that the more you engage with criticism, the easier it will be to respond to it. Here are some preparations that can help.
Understand your “why”
Having a solid understanding of why you’re homeschooling is good for you and your critics. When you whole-heartedly believe in something you are pursuing you’re going to be more passionate about it, and this will make it easier to explain. A critic might have doubts, but being able to demonstrate that you’re fully committed to the benefits homeschooling provides will often dispel their concerns.
Understanding your “why” is good for you, too, because criticism can often make us second-guess ourselves. If you’ve had doubts about homeschooling and someone questions it, you might internalize that critique and question your choices. Be confident in your decision and you will find it’s easier to talk with friends and family who have questions or concerns.
Talk to your kids
You might find that your children encounter critics before you do. Someone might ask what grade they’re in, and if you’re homeschooling, they might not understand what that means. It might be easiest to help your child understand the corresponding grades for their age, in case this situation comes up.
Speaking with them might also help if someone asks what they’re studying, particularly if the person asks if they’re studying something specific to a Traditional grade level. Not knowing about whatever the person is asking can make them feel self-conscious. Instead, teach them to enthusiastically explain what they are learning, which helps build confidence.
It can be difficult to avoid getting defensive when someone criticizes your choices, especially when it’s something as personal as how you’re raising your children. Understand that most people will have concerns and are well-meaning, and so take their questions gracefully. Confidence and surety in your choice will go a long way to helping you navigate these conversations.
You will be able to tell if someone’s criticisms are in bad faith, and they don’t really need your mental energy. Knowing when to argue or defend yourself, and when to just say “it’s our choice and I am confident in it” will save you a lot of time and stress.
Especially when you first start homeschooling, it can seem very defensive to ask your detractors to justify their education choices, but it’s a valid defense. When someone questions your decision, they’re automatically coming from a place where they believe theirs is the superior choice. This isn’t always the case, of course, so you can put it back on them to explain why their schooling should be the “default”.
Again, you don’t necessarily want to get combative, but it isn’t fair that you should be scrutinized just because your choice goes against the grain.
Don’t take offense
You’ll have to get used to people questioning you - it’s a part of homeschooling. If you take it personally every time, you’re going to feel on the defensive or that people are attacking you constantly. Instead, develop a strong sense of self and purpose. Don’t take offense to their questions - they really probably do mean well.
You will get lots of questions from people who want to learn about homeschooling and from people who think you’ve made a concerning choice. Observe their questions, answer them confidently, and don’t take them as attacks.
Common homeschooling questions and criticisms
As for common questions your friends and family might have - especially if they were brought up in the Traditional education system, there are some very common ones that will pop up routinely. While this list isn’t exhaustive, you can bet you’ll be asked all of them at one point or another in your first year of homeschooling.
How will your child be socialized?
As a result of standardized education, we see socialization and other “norms” through the Traditional education lens. Kids are expected to learn about certain topics in certain grades, and it’s assumed they need to be in same-age groups to learn proper socialization. The fact is that this simply isn’t true - children can learn the important parts of socialization like manners and patience just fine from their parents and family.
How to respond
Naturally, you can explain that younger children should focus more on becoming independent explorers of their world and that they’ll learn socialization from your family. Since you’re homeschooling, it’s likely conventional expectations of the path of a child’s development are less important to you and you can lean into that. Stress that you want your children to be free-thinkers, which is one of the biggest benefits of Montessori education.
Are you able/qualified to teach your kids?
This one will probably be one of the first questions you’ll be asked, and it’s a reasonable question. Many people who aren’t actively homeschooling have no exposure to it, and therefore the idea of “credentials” you might need can seem daunting or confusing.
How to respond
You can respond with what you learned while researching homeschooling - state and local laws, requirements, and so forth. You can touch on the educational goals that your local government requires your children to meet, or you can talk about the curriculum you’re following. This is a good time to offer up the Montessori ideal of child-directed learning and what that means.
Are you worried they’ll fall behind?
In the majority of families, homeschooled children do better than their public school peers across all subjects. Children who are educated in a homeschool environment tend to learn to love education, especially when it’s self-directed as in Montessori classrooms. A child who genuinely loves to learn will simply embrace education.
How to respond
First, you can explain that you are homeschooling because you care so deeply about your children’s education. Let the person know that you’re investing your own time to ensure your child has the best opportunities to help them grow into wonderful, responsible adults.
Montessori is particularly tuned into the fact that all children learn differently. Some will excel at multiple subjects from an early age, while others will bloom later and may require more specific attention. Homeschooling allows you to give that attention, something they might not have gotten in Traditional public schools.
What will you use to teach them?
Much like the previous question, the very fact that you’re dedicating so much time and energy to homeschooling your children should indicate that you’ve done your homework, so to speak. A complete curriculum will give you all the guidance you need to tailor your student’s learning to their abilities. There are worlds of resources out there for homeschooling families!
How to respond
Without being overly snarky, you can ask what their children are currently studying. The fact is that most parents are not super involved in their children’s curriculum in public school. They trust that the teachers have lesson plans that are based on some age-appropriate concept. You can explain that homeschool resources are similar, and that there are a wide variety available.
Take this as an opportunity to tell them about the subjects your children are interested in and what they’re currently studying. You might be surprised at how interested someone will become when you tell them your children are learning about insects on nature walks, and ancient Rome in the classroom.
Criticism will come, but it doesn’t have to be difficult
People will question your choice, there’s no doubt about it. Unless you grew up in a homeschooling family and are surrounded by like-minded friends, homeschooling is a departure from the “norm”. You should expect a lot of questions, criticisms, and concerns.
By preparing yourself and your children, you can answer anyone who confronts you about homeschooling. Familiarize yourself with the most common questions that homeschool families are asked. Understand why you’re choosing this for your family, and feel confident in your decision.
For many people, you might be the only family they know who homeschools. You can be an ambassador for Montessori homeschooling and show off the benefits and wonder of this method of teaching. You might even help someone make that leap for themselves!
And of course be sure to join us in Montessori Inspired Homeschooling to find the support and like-minded friends who will gladly share in your journey.