Questions Homeschoolers Get Asked

Helping Your Kids Navigate Hard Questions from Other Children
By , on October 24, 2017 - Homeschooling

Public school student asking a question to a homeschooler

As a former homeschooler, some of the most vivid memories from my childhood were the strange run-ins I had with other kids. For kids who had only ever known the public-school system, I was a bit of an anomaly; most of them had little to no context with which to understand my life.

They asked questions driven by both curiosity and naivety, and while both they and I were often too young to come up with questions that were more gracious, even as a kid the uncomfortable implications of their questions were understood.

“Research suggests that the use of positive social skills with peers early on can lead to the development of positive peer relationships, acceptance, and friendships,” says T. Bovey and P. Strain of the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning.

That’s no surprise; being able to navigate tricky social situations will provide experience and confidence that they will be able to draw upon over the course of their lives.

Why talk about it?

What I learned as I grew older was that these questions never really went away. Instead, even adults seemed too interested to pass up a chance to ask me about things like my social life, my daily schedule, and my educational accountability.

As a kid, sometimes I struggled to find the right balance between what homeschooling was like and what I thought the answer should sound like. What I’ve come to find is that the truth works pretty well.

As an adult I’m confident and secure in the education I received. I actually enjoy it when people ask questions, because I like that I get to grant some clarity. That connection can happen for kids too, though.

Working through why you homeschool, and explaining its lack of familiarity to others will grant kids the foundation necessary to recognize the value in what they have.

“By learning gratitude early (and seeing you express gratitude yourself), children become sensitive to the feelings of others and develop empathy. And empathy, of course, is core to building healthy relationships throughout their lives,” notes KinderCare Learning Center.

As homeschoolers, our kids will have the opportunity to spread understanding, and they’ll do a much better job of it if they have a little help thinking through the common, at times awkward lines of questioning they’ll inevitably face.

The spirit of these responses is meant to be adapted for each individual age group and child.

Why don’t you look homeschooled?

Those who don’t homeschool often have a very specific picture of what a homeschool family looks like. Boys have close-cropped hair and short-sleeved button downs tucked into their pants. Girls have waist-length hair and ankle-length jean skirts.

This is an example of what some might think is a "stereotypical" homeschool family with many childrenPhoto by ShelahD

And just as prevalent is the expectation that the way a homeschooled kid acts will tip off everyone around them that they’re not like other kids. This is an opportunity to talk to kids about their sense of personal self-awareness as well as that of others; for those who are first experiencing and thinking about how others perceive them, it’s important that they are first grounded in how they see themselves.

What to remember:

Kids in a more traditional school setting have likely learned their behavior from their peers, thus even if they’re not yet old enough to understand that, they are old enough to wonder how someone outside the group is able to mesh with everyone else.

How to respond:

This is an excellent opportunity to talk to your kids and encourage them to express the fact to others that homeschooled kids have the same abilities as others to participate in popular activities, sports, tv shows, music, fashion, etc. Going to school at home does not prohibit someone from understanding others.

Why are you weird?

This question is the antithesis of the aforementioned question. Because this question signals that there is a clear difference. The difficulty with this question is that it can feel, even to really young kids, like the implication is, “what’s wrong with you?”

Kids and adults often struggle to understand and accept that which is different. And yet, one of the very best things about homeschooling is that it provides an opportunity to allow kids to be who they really are and to pursue what they’re truly interested in without altered by the opinions of 30 other twelve-year-olds; it’s the perfect platform to raise independent thinkers.

It should be noted that this is written with the expectations that the behavior that has spotlighted a child’s differences isn’t rude.

What to remember:

Kids have a hard time understanding things that are new and different. With younger kids especially, the question is likely not driven by the intent to harm, but by genuine curiosity.

How to respond:

This question is often times best combated with its own line of questioning. If a homeschooler can help another think through weirdness, it will likely have a long-lasting impact on both parties ability to think through how they view other people. Questions your kids can ask in response:

  • Why am I weird?” and then “I do/say that because I enjoy it.”
  • “If I enjoy it, why should I stop doing it?”
  • “Do you only do things because everyone else thinks it’s normal?”
  • “Why or why not?”

So, you don’t go to school?

When this question is asked it is not as much about the actual act of going to school as it is about the idea that learning is happening outside the normal parameters.

This question often pops up in other ways too; it’s likely every homeschooler has been asked about doing schoolwork in PJs, in front of the TV, whenever they feel like it, etc. To other kids, the idea of doing schoolwork outside the traditional context, means that all other areas of tradition in schooling need not apply, and sometimes they’re right.

What to remember:

The kids who ask this have no perspective with which to navigate this question. Instead they likely have no idea what school at home looks like beyond their experience with homework.

Again, the premise of this question is not primarily about where the school is happening as much as it is about whether or not the school work happens legitimately. This line of questioning gives you the opportunity to talk to your kids about what their peers are experiencing versus what they’re experiencing.

How to respond:

There’s no reason that they can’t respectfully acknowledge that sometimes they don’t like sharing a learning space with their sibling. But they can also talk about why homeschooling works for them. Homeschool parents are experts at utilizing kids’ interests to enhance their education.

That’s the kind of thing that kids should be excited to highlight to their non-homeschooling companions: they get to spend time doing what they love.

Do you have any friends?

For a great many kids, the best part of school is the social group that they’ve surrounded themselves with. Therefore, it can be hard to understand how others have any sort of recognizable social situation.

What to remember:

This is about the situation and not the person. They’re asking a question about how friends are made without school, not whether or not the other individual is capable of forming relationships.

How to respond:

Your kids probably don’t need a lot of guidance here. The inevitable sequel to this question is, “How?” – and that’s another place for honesty. Yet another perk of homeschooling is that our children form lasting connections in extracurricular activities like sports, dance, and special art classes. And with the elderly couple next door. And with the kids they run into at the park. They don’t see barriers to making friendships or claiming unofficial mentors.

Homeschoolers are Ambassadors

The basic idea is that one needs to be focused in on the fact that these questions are an opportunity to act as an ambassador for homeschooling. In almost every instance, they're not a personal affront, but a quest for understanding.

Usually, these questions can feel difficult because the lack of understanding is so clear, and thus it’s awesome that they actually provide a means to attempt to remedy that. For parents and educators, the challenge is in preparing kids to think through the questions and answer them in a way that will be truthful and helpful.

Amy Joyce of The Washington Post wrote of a Harvard study noting, “About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others.”

Homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity to connect success with listening to others, achievement with expressing empathy, and happiness with caring wholeheartedly for their kids.

2nd Gen. Homeschooler

About Chloe Moore

Chloe is a reader, a writer, a prayer, a motherer, and a grilled-cheese eater. After becoming a homeschool graduate she became a college graduate with a degree in English. She lives with her husband, daughter (2nd gen homeschool student), and German Shepherd, and writes about them for fun and… Full author bio

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