033: The Holidays: Don’t Fall Into the Relative Trap!

by | Nov 2, 2021

Welcome, my Tenacious Homeschool Tribe!

Today I’m coming to you from our little condo in Florida. So I’m using a background filter.  It’s actually a picture of one of the homeschool rooms we have had throughout the years. 

So, with the holidays coming up, I thought I’d talk to you about some of the pitfalls and some of the fun things that you can do!

No one can ruin the holiday season for a homeschooler faster than family. What do I mean by that? 

During the holiday season, family comes together.  The questions start emerging! But this is not a good time to explain the benefits of homeschooling to a family who doesn’t understand or is resistant to it. 

I remember one time, I was so looking forward to seeing my sister, who lives in California. We were living in Florida at the time. I was super excited! This was Thanksgiving. I thought, “Oh my goodness! We’re going to have a great time!” 

The kids really love my sister. It’s going to be such an enjoyable experience. Instead, she decided to question me about homeschooling. And I truly did my best to answer all of her questions as honestly as I could. What did she say to me? 

“I’m just really concerned that the girls are going to be ‘the weird homeschoolers.'”

As someone who had always been very careful not to express negatively about my sister’s children, this just really hit me hard! It hit me harder because this was the holidays. This was Thanksgiving. We were supposed to be grateful that we were together. We were supposed to be having a good time. And instead, she kind of soured the whole thing. 

The girls kept asking me, “Are we the weird homeschoolers?”

And I said, “Yes! Yes, we are. We are the weird homeschoolers. Let’s go on a field trip!” 

My daughter was, “Okay… I’m down with that. I’m down to being the weird homeschooler.” 

But honestly, they were the weird homeschoolers anyhow because they have an extensive vocabulary. They’re very well-read. They’re very smart. They’re up on social issues, and they tend to have very adult opinions about things going on in the world. And their mother is a retired college professor. She has a quirky personality, as they said in The Big Bang Theory. So, they didn’t have a shot. They were going to be weird no matter what. But this incident really soured the holiday for everybody, not just because you’re going to be asked to explain your choice to homeschool. But because many people will spend a lot of their time trying to convince you that it’s wrong to be a homeschooled family. 

So, how are you to handle this situation when the holidays are coming up, and we get together for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas? The key is to be prepared for the potential questioning. If you’re prepared mentally and talk to your kids about it, it won’t hit you as hard when the questions and potential nastiness come up because it will come up. It’s the holidays. 

So, how should you respond? Really, the response is up to you. Everybody handles things differently, and a lot of it has to do with how family approaches the situation, the mood that we’re in, how stressed out we are. But here are some good comebacks that I’ve heard from other moms or that I’ve used myself and will share with you.

The random testing. During the holidays’ relatives love to test your homeschoolers. Right? They will say things like, “I can’t believe your child doesn’t know X!”  

Think of the absurdity of this—why are homeschoolers expected to know everything? Traditionally schooled children don’t know everything. But in the case of a homeschooled child, the quiz hits, and the expectation is that they should know. You start to question yourself, “did I do a good job? Why doesn’t my child know this? Should I have prepared them better?”

Don’t go there! Just don’t go there. Keep in mind that your child has been tested by someone who is used to the traditional educational system, yet at the same time, they’re not teachers. And even if they are, even if one teacher were to test children from one classroom and test children from another classroom, the kids would give completely different answers. That’s just the way that it is. So, it’s absurd to get trapped into quizzing. I like to call it “the quizzing quicksand!”

As I said, my kids never had a chance. They have me as their mother, and I’m pretty weird. The reality is that homeschooled kids tend to participate in many extracurricular activities centered around their specific interests. Traditionally schooled kids just don’t have the opportunity to do those things. They just don’t. I see it with my kids’ friends. Like right now that my kids are attending conservatory in the afternoons. They attend it four times a week. They are in plays, and the other kids are limited because they can’t finish their schoolwork before the conservatory classes start and because their schedules are so full. 

So sometimes our kids seem weird because they are so focused on their areas of interest and know so much about these particular areas. They’re not necessarily interested in a broader perspective. In the case of my kids, they are interested in a broader perspective because one of them is interested in forensic science, and the other one’s interested in being an attorney. So they’re interested in a broader worldview. But even then, people think they’re weird because they are so well informed. Their vocabulary is so large, and they are incredibly articulate. 

Now I feel very strongly about this one—when people start calling your kids “weird homeschoolers.” I don’t allow it with mine. Even though mine has gotten older and they embraced “the weird homeschooling” label. I don’t allow it because it’s a form of bullying and harassment. They’re happy. They’re confident, and it is important for me that they stay that way.

Now, believe it or not, a supportive family is not necessarily any easier than a family that is not supportive of your decision to homeschool. They will make endless suggestions, sometimes very unrealistic suggestions. Often, people will say, “Well, your child is so smart. Why don’t you put them in college? They have been tested in ending college level for almost everything, beginning college-level math. Just put them in college. That would be the best thing for them to do.”

No… No! I know that for some families, that’s the right option. But it isn’t for us. As you heard earlier, one of my daughters suffers from anxiety. The other one suffers from anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and now Tourette’s. And even if they didn’t have any of those challenges, here’s the situation. They just turned fourteen. I want them to go through the process of growing up emotionally. Not just educationally. I want them to have the time to be kids and enjoy their adolescence as much as they enjoyed their childhood. I don’t want to take a stage in life away from them. I want them to go through all the stages at the pace that they need to go through. Not the pace that everybody else thinks they should be at. 

Of course, there’s also the family that supports you and wants to volunteer to homeschool your kids. This was my mom-in-law, and she had this thing about handwriting. She wanted to teach my kids to have perfect handwriting. The reality is that in today’s society, we’ve outgrown handwriting. We really have. While we did do a lot of handwriting books, my kids never got to the point where it was beautiful. It was perfect. It was like calligraphy. And frankly, I didn’t care. I just didn’t. My neurodivergent daughter, you know, the one with ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, fine motor skills are a problem with kids with ADHD. 

One of the good things about the school system is that they accommodate kids with these kinds of challenges. So while we did handwriting classes when they were younger, I still allowed her to use her laptop to type out her work A) because it was less stressful for her and B) because then I could read it. 

Did her handwriting improve? Yes, it did. We actually went through fine motor skills therapy for several years. But the bottom line is, it is not important to our family. So, having somebody pressure the kids or me over something we don’t think is important was unnecessary stress. 

So, how do I handle these situations? What should I say? As I said, the comebacks are a matter of personal choice. But over the years, I did develop a few comebacks. You’re welcome to use them if they fit your needs or your personality. 

When people with children start questioning me or giving me a lot of aggressive advice, they’re being very persistent about what I should be doing with my homeschoolers. I very graciously ask, “Hmm… If I let you decide where my child should go to school, will you allow me to decide X for your child?”

And people usually stop that call there. Because, of course, they don’t want you to make any decisions about their children. They don’t. And right then and there, they realize they’ve crossed a line. Right? And they usually apologize and backup. 

Another one that I often use, especially with people I like, is, “we don’t discuss our family decisions with others.” 

Because we don’t. We don’t ask other people’s opinions regarding our kids’ education, health issues, or challenges. It’s just… we don’t. The reality is that I’m confident that I know my kids better than anybody else. And I bet you do too. You understand your kids’ needs. You understand their challenges. You understand their strengths better than anybody else.

Another version of that comeback is, “we don’t discuss the decisions we make about our children with others.” 

And the people will sometimes push that boundary. You know, they will make the argument that they have your kid’s best interests at heart, which they probably do. But that still doesn’t make it their business. 

What I find in my personal experience is the faster you nip this in the bud, the faster you will be enjoying your already stressful holiday! Because let’s face it, there’s cooking, stuff to do, running around, and gift buying to do. You don’t need to be dealing with this. All in all, what is important is that you enjoy your family time with your family. Respond in the best way that meets your personality and your needs.

In general, during the holidays, I take the diffuse or reroute attitude. I will change the conversation because I want to enjoy myself, and I want my guests to enjoy themselves. I want the kids to enjoy themselves. 

The rest of the year is another matter. I let my sarcastic snarkiness come out! But you don’t need to hear those. Those comebacks, sometimes they’re not very nice. 

So, the thing to remember is, life can be overwhelming, but homeschooling doesn’t have to be! So don’t let family ruin your holidays!

Don’t forget to join our sometimes challenging but always rewarding homeschool journey by subscribing to our podcast, blog, or YouTube channel! If you’re new to the show, don’t forget to check older episodes. You will probably find some helpful information there.

Also, check us out on Facebook! We just started our homeschooling support group on Facebook. Look for Homeschooling with Dr. B, and you can find more links and resources by visiting our website! Till next week! Enjoy your kiddos!

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