How to Answer Homeschool Critics with Love {Not Snark}

Answering Homeschool CriticsI hear the words streaming out, as if from a distance. I’m defending my choice to homeschool with a  sarcastic, superior attitude, right in my own kitchen.

We aren’t even talking about homeschooling.

Did I go into defense mode for no reason? Are the critics getting to me? Clearly, I need an attitude adjustment.

It happens in the grocery store, the park and at family gatherings.

The critics speak. They ask questions. I consider nodding, smiling and pretending I don’t speak English. Then I consider showing off my sharp wit and throwing around obscure S.A.T. words they won’t understand.

I’ve considered putting together a full color brochure explaining that yes, homeschooling is legal and filling it with info-graphics detailing the success rates of homeschooled students in college. On the back I’d feature a list of amazingly successful people who never went to school.

I don’t mind answering questions when people are legitimately interested in how we live our lives, but sometimes the questions…irritate me. I want to reply with snide comments.

The Most Common Questions from Homeschooling Critics

  • Do you take them out anywhere? You mean like, here?
  • How do they make friends? They interrogate strangers in line at Target.
  • Do they know how to take a test? Wrinkle nose, stare until they loose interest.
  • How will they get into college? They’ll apply.
  • Are you smart enough to homeschool? I’m a Jeopardy Grand Champion.
  • Is there a book to help you? No. We’re just winging it.

My friend Kalena recently shared this conversation with a stranger:

Stranger: Are you a teacher?
Kalena: No.
Stranger:Then how can you be qualified or know what to teach them?
Kalena: *stunned silence* I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Most of the time,  the critics we face are uninformed and convinced that there is only one way to do things.

Knowing this helps me keep my cool.

When a critic has a question or  snide comment for you, remember they are uninformed. We won’t use the word ignorant. That wouldn’t be kind.

They don’t know that your child was bullied to the point of threatening suicide and that bringing him home  saved his life. They don’t know that your child’s academic (or social, or physical) needs were being ignored. And it’s likely that they don’t know about the negative effects of homework and high stakes standardized testing, or how school sucks the creativity right out of our children’s souls.

So we have a bunch of choices.

  1. Shoot a snarky remark  at them to match their cynicism.
  2. Educate them right there in the grocery store.
  3. Carry a brochure explaining the facts.
  4. Carry a file full of articles to hand out. Tell them to do their reading and give you a call  to discuss the topic like educated adults.
  5. Smile, nod and turn away.

There’s a time and a place for a snarky one-liner, but motherly discretion is advised.

Your kids are listening.

My kids don’t hear me when I say it’s time to clean up, but if I curse under my breath three rooms away from where they are listening to music with their ear-buds in place, they hear it.

I guess I’m properly motivated to change the snark to love. If  I can assure a stranger or family member that our chosen path is right and good for us, my girls feel it.  They trust. And isn’t developing a  strong, loving and trusting relationship with our children our priority?

How can I answer the critics simply, with kindness and love  (or at least NOT sarcasm)? How can I use these opportunities to set a good example for my little women?

My answer is a bit dismissive. It’s honest.  This is what I would like to say with a breezy smile:

Thanks for your concern. It’s wonderful to know that you care  about my child’s well being.

No one cares more deeply for my child than I do. No one is more motivated to  ensure that they are well educated, socially adjusted and thoroughly equipped to take on the world as an adult.

This is how we have chosen to raise our children and we love it.

What do you think? How do you answer critics? And should I get to work on that brochure as a back-up?

Looking for more answers? See what other homeschooling moms have to say at the Answering the Homeschool Critics Link-Up.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  -Steve Jobs


  • Melanie Chisnall

    I honestly think there is a lack of information out there on homeschooling. I can’t say much for where you are, but over here, it’s practically unheard of. I haven’t come across a single person who homeschools their children – but I’m sure there are many. And I find myself asking similar questions when I read things online about homeschooling. Socialising was a main concern. Because I had a preconceived idea about homeschooling. Until I started reading your blog. Then I learnt that there’s more to it than sitting for hours at home at a desk. It’s teaching when you go out, wherever you are and letting your child soar with creativity and aspirations. I love it! And I love this blog. You are an inspiration. Keep doing what you’re doing and spreading the word, because there are a lot of clueless people out there who have no idea what they’re talking about!

  • Debbie

    Well, I have to admit, I’m usually the snarky one. Or…..I stand there with my mouth open at the arrogance and gall they display, when they insult my choices, to my face. I usually think of great responses – after they walk away. I’m in my 16th year of homeschooling, already graduated my oldest, and about to enter high school with my youngest. You would think people would trust me by now!! My oldest is a worship leader and my youngest can make friends with anyone, anywhere, yet the socialization questions will still come – and from people whose kids won’t look you in the eye or speak when spoken to!
    But, anytime you decide to pull away from the societal pack, they will get defensive and want to know why. Poor things….they just don’t know how to speak or ask questions that actually have relevance.

  • Ha ha! I do kind of like the idea of the brochure; if you get those printed up, send me a few, okay? 😉
    But you’re right that most questions and comments come from an uniformed point of view. And snark, while sometimes satisfying at the moment, does nothing but make them even more leery of homeschoolers. Reminding myself, too!

  • Cyndi

    Love your snarky answers. 🙂 And you know, here in Asheville, SO many people homeschool there are serious organizations, soccer leagues, community centers and all kinds of stuff devoted to homeschool families. You’re almost an anomaly if you DON’T homeschool, LOL. That said, now that I work at this holistic school where the emphasis is on holistic approaches, centering, developing a child’s spiritual, physical, natural, academic domains, I feel like I’ve found a home where not only do I feel loved as a teacher, but I would send any future kid of mine here in a heartbeat. No, the emphasis is not academics: it’s the whole child. Some people have a problem with this approach because when students leave here, they’re not always well-adjusted to a testing environment, but the fact that we send out kids that are ready for a changing world, who can think and speak for themselves, who love and respect nature…well, that says more to the overall health and well-being of a child. I tell you, if I had not found this, I would homeschool in a heartbeat. Heck, I STILL might. 😉

  • Cyndi

    I so need to write a blog post on this. 😉

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  • Ruchira

    I loved how you answered those queries…confidence was oozing out.
    I agree when people wanna go on a different route they are always questioned, poked. You are a strong woman to not only take up the education of your kids in your hands but also designing their curriculum and then to top it all..answer to those strange queries.

    Wish people would just mind their business!

  • “Are you smart enough to homeschool?” Wow! That one definitely needs a snarky answer!!

  • Emily (OhBoyMom)

    No brochure necessary…though I love those snarky comments and I would be sooo tempted to use them, I love your replies in the box above. They are calm, confident, and just plain perfect. I have learned so much about homeschooling from your blog and snippets from your life and there are times when I am truly envious of the learning environment you have cultivated for your girls. I question whether my boys are in the right schools, camps, activities, etc. ALL the time…and I wish I felt more confident about the choices we’ve made for them.

  • HerStories Project

    I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about homeschooling from many different communities, including the educational community. I, for one, was a teacher for 12 years and then a doctoral student in education, and I still had preconceptions based on growing up in a rural community where I knew a lot of homeschoolers but most of them were fundamentalist Christians who did not want their kids exposed to modern science and contemporary norms about gender equality, etc. Homeschooling — and the reasons why people do it, how they do it, what the outcomes are, etc. — has changed a lot in the past few decades, and a lot of people are just catching up! People deserve the snarky comments, but some people just have to catch up to a rapidly changing educational landscape!

  • Collegedad

    I signed up to follow you on twitter this morning after I read some of your articles. I’m a teacher in progress who also home schools. I’m always amazed at the questions that I get from teachers and parents a like. Many are exactly as you have portrayed them. The questions I get most often are about socialization. Usually this comes from a teacher who just staggered out of an unruly classroom. I present them with the quality socialization argument, which usually results in a light bulb moment. This was a really great read!

  • JW

    My favorite answer to the “Are you smart enough?” is that I don’t have too know everything. I just have to know how to find the answers, and the mentors to expand on that knowledge. We live in an information age, and everything you could want learn is available outside a school setting.

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  • Laura

    You do realize the words “throwing around obscure S.A.T. words they won’t understand” is in and of itself a little snarky. They may or may not understand the words, you would have no way of knowing. I was looking for evidence that individuals who home school do not see themselves as superior to people who have made other choices. I found no evidence here.