Thursday April 19, 2007

     Homeschooling is a big job.  It’s not an easy one.  It’s not made any easier when your parents or in-laws don’t approve.  What is the best way, then, to handle a situation like this?  I cannot, of course, know what each and every situation is that you might be facing with your own parents or in-laws.  Your relationship with your parents and in-laws may be wonderful, and perhaps homeschooling is the only divisive issue.  It could be that your relationship with them is already rocky, and homeschooling is just one more thing that there is disagreement over. Every family and every situation is unique.  However, I think there are some principles that can be applied in every situation.

     First and foremost, you are to honor your father and mother.  Hang on, don’t throw up your hands in despair just yet.  Hear me out.  You are to HONOR them, not obey them.  Your time for obeying your parents ends, I believe, when you establish your own household.  For most of us, that happened when we married.  However, we are still bound scripturally to honor our parents.  We are to honor them whether or not they are believers.

“Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 NKJ

“Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God has commanded you that your days may be long and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Deut 5:16 NKJ

“Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with promise” Eph. 6:2 NKJ

     It is possible to show honor to your parents, even if they do not support or approve of your homeschooling. Moreover, God requires that you honor them!  But, how?

     You can honor your parents by never speaking of them negatively to your children or to anyone else.  Speak only in a positive manner of your children’s grandparents.  If your children have caught onto the idea that Grandpa and Grandma do not approve of homeschooling, you can assure your children of two things.  First, that you and their father are homeschooling them in obedience to the Lord.  That you, as their parents, are the ones responsible before God for their upbringing.  However, tell your children that Grandpa and Grandma love them very much, and want only what they think is the very best for them . Unless your children ask more detailed questions, I’d leave it at that.

     You can also honor your parents by not making homeschooling a make or break issue in your relationship. Trust me, I know from experience that it is possible to homeschool your children without the approval of your parents and/or in-laws and still maintain a good relationship with them!!

     If the issue of homeschooling is one that often leads to argument, you may have to talk with them at some point and just let them know that you will have to agree to disagree on this issue.  If you’ve come to this point with your parents, then be sure that you are not the one constantly bringing up homeschooling.  Don’t send them articles about how wonderful homeschooling is.  Don’t send them newspaper clippings showing the latest statistics about violence and crime in the public schools.  Talk about the weather.  Talk about sports.  Talk about whatever you might discuss with your parents, but try to avoid the topic of homeschooling.  By and by, your parents may request more information about homeschooling; but until they do,  avoid the topic.

     Be sure that you are doing a good job of homeschooling their grandchildren.  I’m sure that most of you are, but I’ll say it again.  Be sure that you are doing a good job of homeschooling.  If your mom receives a busy signal every time she calls your home during the day, she may assume that your are spending your day on the telephone chatting and not educating her grandchildren.  Would her assumption be wrong?  If your father-in-law stops by the house at 11:30 and you and the children are all still in your jammies, even if you really are homeschooling in your jammies, it will not look like school to him.  If every day is a park day or a field trip, your parents will begin to wonder what their grandchildren are learning.  Be sure that you are really doing a good job of homeschooling, and be sure that you are giving every impression of that fact to those looking in.  (Not a bad idea if you have disapproving neighbors, either!)

     If your eight year old is not yet reading, your parents may, reasonably, wonder why.  Let them know why.  I had a late reader.  He really and truly just was not ready for phonics.  We’d try, of course, every couple of months; but phonics didn’t click for him until later.  Let the grandparents know what the situation is.  Maybe your child has a learning disability.  Just respectfully let them know that you do understand the problem and that you are working on it.

      We know a family who decided to not teach their children cursive handwriting.  Instead of letting the grandparents know that they made this decision because they knew their children would, in the future, rely on keyboarding skills for most of their writing, they said nothing.  They felt that having a nice, legible printed hand and excellent keyboarding skills were the best tools to give their children.  The grandparents, remembering their own school days and the importance placed on good penmanship skills, were concerned that their grandchildren were missing an important part of their education.  The grandparents could have been put at ease if the homeschooling parents had simply taken the time to explain their reasons to their parents!

     If your parents or in-laws are still open to discussing the issue of homeschooling, you can share encouraging articles with them from time to time.  Don’t send them an article every week.  Instead, carefully choose what you send.  You might highlight some important statistics, or write a note in the margin telling how a certain portion of the article really encouraged you.  You might ask them to pray for your homeschooling, especially if there is something in particular that they can pray for.  You might offer to let them look over your curriculum, lesson plans, or other materials.   

     Many local homeschooling conferences offer a reduced rate or free admission to all or part of their conference for grandparents.  If so, invite yours to attend.  If not, you might consider paying their full price admission and inviting them to attend anyway.  One look at a well-stocked exhibit hall might be all that it would take to calm the fears of many homeschooling parents.  Others might benefit from attending workshops with you to understand better the whys and hows of your homeschooling.  They might enjoy attending other workshops, too.  You never know!

     Pray for your parents and/or in laws.  Ask God to give you discernment when you speak to them about homeschooling.  Ask the Lord to soften their hearts concerning home education.  Ask the Lord to soften YOUR heart towards them!  Petition the Lord for wisdom in carrying out your God-given responsibilities to your children in a way that is still honoring to the grandparents.  It’s not an easy task, but with the Lord’s help all things are possible!

     When your homeschooling is questioned, try not to be defensive.  It does no good at all to immediately become defensive, or worse, to come out swinging!  Take a moment to think about how you will answer before you speak.  More than likely the questioning is coming from an inquiring mind, rather than from a desire to do harm.  Don’t automatically assume that their questions are meant as criticism.  Answer the question respectfully, and to the best of your ability.  You might ask for an opportunity to think about your answer or to gather some information to share with them before answering.  Do not turn this into an argument!  Try to answer in a soft-spoken, matter-of-fact manner. 

     As I said at the beginning, I cannot know each of your situations.  However, no matter how grim things seem, please give my recommendations a try.  It couldn’t hurt!

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27


     (I’ve never closed comments before, but I have decided to close the comments on this post.  I do not want to tempt anyone to use the comments box to reveal family struggles publicly, or to vent their struggles with their children’s grandparents.  As always, I am available by e-mail if you have a situation that I might be able to help with.  Please, though, do not e-mail just to tell me how awful your parents or in-laws are.  I‘m glad to help those who earnestly want to better their relationship with their children’s grandparents in this area.)

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