When your friends and family are unsupportive

You may have come to home education happily and willingly, or it may be that home ed is your last resort after persevering with mainstream school before realising it just won’t work for your child.

Regardless of the reasons why you are home educating, you would hope that your friends and family support your decision and encourage you. Or, at the very least, if they don’t agree with your decision, that they respectfully keep their thoughts to themselves and support you as well as they can.

Unfortunately for some home educators, the pushback, or even open hostility, from friends and family opposing their decision is made quite clear, whether it be in response to your announcement that you are home educating, or even if you have been at it for years. If you are in this position, you might be feeling sad, anxious, angry, disappointed, frustrated and in a state of stress where you are dreading social engagements because it means another interrogation for you!

A very common question in home ed land is ‘How do I deal with my friends and family being unsupportive?’ While there is no quick, single easy answer, there are a number of things you can perhaps try. Of course, a lot depends on your personality and your relationship with your loved ones. But rest assured many people have been in your position, and made it through to a place where they now feel more content. It might have been quite a journey, perhaps with a few bumps still left in the road, but people can usually reach a point where they feel okay about things.

Setting boundaries
This is easier said than done if you’re a person who doesn’t like confrontation, or have difficulty standing up for yourself! Drawing that line in the sand early on may however be something that helps you down the track. You can be calm, gentle and diplomatic in your delivery, showing appreciation for having these people in your lives, but being assertive when saying this is your child and you have the right to make this decision, and you won’t be discussing it further. If you really don’t want your loved ones raising the issue with you again, be clear about that too and if you have to, talk about how it makes you (and your kids or a partner too if applicable) feel, and that you want your relationship with this person to be built on positivity.

Some home ed families find themselves in the position where a relative or family friend feels it’s their place to interrogate the home ed child on capital cities or times tables. And of course, if the child doesn’t answer immediately or know the answer, the parent will hear about it! Again, setting boundaries that cover this kind of problem is important, if this type of interaction is a problem for you and your children. Being quizzed doesn’t help you feel confident and it can be really uncomfortable for the kids as well. If you have a loved one who insists on quizzing your kids against your wishes, you may need to have a chat about it. Is there a way this person can interact with your kids in a more joyful manner?

Getting your facts straight
Some home educators print out copies of home ed or education research, or provide a list of websites for friends or family to look at. That way, if someone wants to enter into a debate or give their opinion, the home educator can request the other party read the material first before a discussion can take place. Sometimes people don’t want that discussion and instead just want to give you their opinion on your home ed when you didn’t ask for it, but it never hurts to offer this information to people so they can understand home ed and your decision.

You might want to prepare yourself for the more common questions: Yes, it’s legal. Yes, home ed kids get into uni and jobs (quite often earlier than school peers). Yes they will have friends. No they will not be locked up at home with zero socialisation. Brace yourself for the socialisation comments to pop up more than once!

Make it about them
Perhaps the person opposing your decision is a grandparent. Can you look for ways to show them how they will benefit from the home ed too? For instance, being able to spend more time with their grandchildren and taking an active role– playing with younger children, sharing family history, passing on recipes, or having a day out somewhere. It’s not uncommon for grandparents to express disappointment at seeing less of their grandchildren during the teen years, due to increased homework load, after school activities or school sports on the weekend. None of that needs to be an issue with home educated teens, who often have more time to see their relatives during school hours.

Find support
Is there someone that can act as a support person for you in situations that make you uncomfortable? Sometimes a friendly word on your behalf can help matters, if you are not in the mood to engage.

These situations can be really difficult, but other home educators understand what you’re going through. If you’re on Facebook, there are a lot of groups where you can share your thoughts with a sympathetic audience, such as the HEN Victorian Group. Knowing you are not alone, and that there are others who can share your frustrations and laugh with you at the sillier questions or assertions, can make all the difference when it comes to keeping things in perspective.


HEN has pamphlets that you are welcome to print out.

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