Years ago when we began our homeschool journey, I was careful to keep our children home during normal school hours. The fear that others would judge us as non-schoolers and report us was real at that time, even though we had plenty of proof to the contrary.
Today we are more adventuresome. With more homeschoolers in our community, we are now “one of those” rather than a unique oddity. Our lifestyle is still strange, but its legality is questioned less frequently.
Now we face other questions. The socialization question still comes into play and we smile as the kids themselves explain all they do with other people. Fewer formal school hours and no bus ride time gives ample time to pursue those extra-curricular activities that usually provide socialization.
A recent trip to the grocery store brought the usual questions by a new cashier. “What grade are you in?” My daughters giggled a bit. While we do use grade levels loosely, the fact is that they are never in one grade. One daughter is working in subjects that would be considered three different grade levels. Even our twins differ in levels. One is more accelerated in math, the other in language. How do you respond to the “what grade” question?
Sometimes they choose to give a grade level, choosing whatever one is age appropriate. That keeps the conversation limited on that topic. On this occasion, as with some others, they choose to explain that they homeschool, so are at different grades in different subjects. The confused cashier accepts the answer and jumps to another subject quickly. A senior in high school herself, she obviously was not sure how to respond. We chatted about the upcoming weekend, a topic with which she felt more comfortable.
Summer vacation is now upon us and I expect more questions regarding that. Like an increasing number of homeschool families, we use a flexible year-round schooling approach. If we need a week off, any time of the year, we take it. Family visiting from afar? Vacation time! Relative needing help? Vacation time! Just needing a break for a couple of days? We are free to take that, too. Year-round schooling gives us that flexibility with the added bonus that learning is continual; we don’t need to review last year’s material before continuing on. Weeks are saved in each subject in this manner and I’ve noticed that our children have always preferred it.
But what do homeschoolers say when asked if they are excited about summer vacation? When they were younger, I would smile and say, “shhh…they don’t know about that. We homeschool year-round” and laugh. The children would laugh along with me, sometimes with a cute comment of their own.
Now that they are older, I let them manage the question on their own. Often it’s a simple response of “Oh, we homeschool year-round so we get breaks when we need them, not all summer.” Sometimes it’s a little more of a discussion; occasionally they will joke about how they don’t get vacations, then continue, explaining.
I’ve learned to relax with these homeschool-unique questions over the years. We do have a different lifestyle. Our kids are with us most of the time, by our own choice. We are free to set our daily and annual schedules the way that works best for our families. If we need to shop at 9 am, then do school at 6 pm, it’s not a problem. Work at 3 different grade levels or even more? Whatever is best for the child at that time.
While it’s true that we don’t owe others an explanation on any of these topics, we find it’s an excellent time to educate other people about homeschooling. We aren’t looking to convert them, but we do strive to show glimpses of our lifestyle, to bring some understanding. No doubt some will look into the option themselves, but if we can just help them understand a little of why we choose to homeschool, we’ve accomplished a goal. I try to impress upon my children the necessity of being respectful and kind as we respond to the questions, just as they wish that others were always kind when asking.
Many years ago I feared those questions, concerned that we were being unfairly judged. Now I welcome them as a way to reach out and tell others how happy we are as homeschoolers!