By Guest Author Thara Reinitz
When you tell people you homeschool, their reactions usually fall into three categories. One is camaraderie. Maybe because they homeschool too, are a homeschool grad, or a homeschool grandparent. This is a great situation because it means you probably just made a friend, even if it is just for a short chat at whatever event you met. The second reaction is impolite. It comes in many forms: nosiness, a negative story about someone they know or heard about, chastening, passive aggressiveness. Whatever form the impoliteness takes, it is uncomfortable but hopefully short lived. The third reaction is, for me, the most difficult; I call it “the wall.”
This “wall” sounds something like this, “Oh, I could never do that!” or perhaps, “I don’t know how you do it; my kids and I would never survive!” I am sure these kinds of comments are genuine — the person really thinks they couldn’t do it. Unfortunately, they make me feel isolated. It assumes something about me, perhaps that I have a special power they don’t have. Ultimately, it feels like they are comparing the two of us and finding that we probably can’t be friends. Taken a few steps further, it isn’t just, “We can’t be friends,” it’s, “You are judging me.”
I have tried so many responses to this “wall” — encouragement, “No, you could do it too,” humility — “I promise I am no different than you, we all have hard days,” and even just silence, because I really didn’t know what to say. I am 100% sure that the other mom is having some of the same feelings I am having — we both feel unsure of how to connect, we both have insecurities, we both want to be understood. What do we do?
I decided to ask some friends about “the wall.” They had the same dilemma. For some it was even harder because they were new to homeschooling and got this response from close friends. As we talked, we came to two conclusions:
- This is a form of mom judging/comparison that women experience in many areas of their lives. Ultimately, we have more in common than different — we love our kids and are trying to do what is best for them. We may have made different educational decisions but that doesn’t mean either of us is superior. Instead of walking in confidence where the Lord has led us, we stop, compare, and usually find ourselves wanting.
- Some of this is just a part of going against the grain. As mainstream as homeschooling has become, we are still in the minority and are in essence marching to a different beat. Embracing this idea is one of the practical ways we can start taking down the wall, at least in our own hearts. God has a unique journey for you and your family. This means there aren’t cookie cutter homeschool families either (so stop comparing there as well). It isn’t always easy, but what He has for you, is for you. Instead of fighting it, look for ways to be thankful.
Another helpful step may be to open up the conversation. In my opinion — at least at a general level — women talking about how we can stop playing the comparison game is vital. Before talking to friends or family members about this issue, I encourage you to examine your own heart. Are there hurts you need to deal with that others have caused through attitudes or unkind comments? Even if you never specifically address the hurt with them, bring it to the Lord, there you will find forgiveness you didn’t think you had.
“Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” – Corrie Ten Boom1
Once you have examined your own heart, you can humbly address any “walls” you feel have been created. I recommend doing this on a relationship-by-relationship basis. You won’t be able to convince every person that your educational decision is not a judgment on theirs, but you can reassure friends, especially if it is affecting your relationship. Some of these friendships will be better for the conversation; unfortunately, others may never be exactly the same. You may need to gather a new, like-minded community around you, even as you seek to repair old friendships. Having a group of friends who can encourage you — and that you can be honest about your homeschool struggles with — is invaluable. Invite other homeschool moms for a playdate or to join a co-op; what starts as a simple invitation may grow into a beautiful community.
Finally, pray that the Lord will show you ways you can encourage and provide information about homeschooling to others as they have genuine interest. Perhaps share a podcast, blog post, or book. It may be accomplished best through sharing your family’s story. There are lots of helpful resources on the CHEC website. You never know how the Lord may use you in someone’s life to turn their reaction of, “I could never homeschool!” into, “I can do this!”
1Ten Boom, Corrie. Clippings from My Notebook.