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by debbie harbeson

Although homeschooling has been growing steadily, it is still a very unusual educational choice. Most of us have encountered family members who have doubts and misunderstandings about homeschooling. Yes, I can see you picturing those penetrating looks from relatives that seem to say, Are you crazy?!

Engaging in open discussion and sharing resources like articles, books, and magazines can be helpful, but sometimes that just doesn't work. You can talk and talk and still attitudes are unchanging. The door isn't only shut; it has three deadbolts and two bar locks on it.

So go through the window. Instead of trying to convince them, simply let it happen naturally. Its a lot like the unschooling philosophy; you just trust the process and relax. However, I dot mean you have to sit around and wait for their enlightenment. Like an unschooling parent who finds resources to help kids follow their interests, you can do things to help family members understand that homeschooling is a valid educational option.

One idea is to write a newsletter. Work on it as a family, with each member contributing, or just let the kids take charge. Kids can write articles on what they have been doing and learning. They can draw pictures. Perhaps they want to report on an interesting place they visited, or an animal they have learned about. My son, Keith, liked to create fun puzzles and tests for readers to solve based on topics they were learning about. He made a clip-out section for anyone who wanted to fill it out and send it back. On some returned slips, we received comments about having to get out the dictionary or encyclopedia to figure out some of the test questions. Have fun with it; let the kids create a logo and title for the newsletter. Send it to family, friends, and even other homeschoolers. This has the advantage of quietly helping nervous relatives see the sorts of activities homeschoolers do.

Another idea to try is to make use of relatives talents, interests and skills. You have resources all around you in your friends and family. When they realize they have a talent or skill that one of your kids is very interested in, they will feel very flattered and useful. They will enjoy the fact that they can contribute. And a busy relative is a quiet relative! When my daughter, Melissa, began to get very interested in gardening, my dad wanted to help her get started. Before we knew it, he was out in our back yard with landscape timbers and a truckload of dirt and together they built a raised garden bed. They have had lots of fun over the years competing with each other to see who can get the first tomato of the season. The sometimes hidden message here is that they see first-hand how most education is learned not in a school building, but through purposeful activities as a result of following an interest. Grandparents quickly catch on to the advantages of being able to spend much more time with grandkids doing fun and interesting activities and learning together. Much better than having lunch in the school cafeteria once a year on grandparents day.

Having family join you on trips, short or long, can be another experience that shows homeschooling's advantages. The big difference here is that the trips you take can be tailored to the current interests of your kids. My brother knew about an interest Melissa had in Norman Rockwell and when we went to visit him in New Jersey, he planned a trip to Philadelphia to the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was a lot of fun for him to share the experience with her. He was delighted at her interest and fed off of that himself. There were none of the I don't want to learn, that only happens in school attitudes. Another lesson for the relatives, right?

Keep this up and perhaps one day you will see those family members giving themselves penetrating looks in the mirror and saying, "Were you crazy?" as they wonder why they ever thought homeschooling wouldn't work.



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is the Vice-President of IHEN and the Co-moderator of the IndianaHomeschoolers Networking and Discussion List.

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