DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family belongs to a segment of the population about which there seem to be many misconceptions and uninformed opinions. Specifically, we are home-schoolers.
I thought friends were exaggerating about the number of questions and criticisms they had to deal with, but now that my child is fully home-schooled, I am experiencing the same thing.
I believe I know how to deal with any harsh criticism, but I am at a loss for how to deal with what, at first, seems to be genuine interest, but turns into more of a test of whether I am fulfilling an unwritten set of standards that non-home-schoolers seem to have for home-schooling families. They seem to think, for example, that we do better in “co-ops,” which are optional and not liked by all.
I would not normally wish for relatives and old friends to feel they could not ask us about our lives (though I did wish my gynecologist had waited until my physical exam was over to express interest), but the fact is that I can predict how each conversation will go as soon as I hear the question, “Has she started school?”
Concerns over the acquisition of playmates and my readiness for the long-term commitment required for home-schooling will inevitably be expressed, and I will begin to feel that my home-school has a self-appointed principal, who is not thrilled with my performance.
If I answer the questions sincerely, I seem to be acknowledging the role of the other person as an appropriate judge of the matter, while most other answers I can think of would make me appear defensive. I have given a great deal of thought to the benefits of home-schooling over public schooling, and yet I would never question other parents’ choice to send their children to public school.
Would it be harsh to head off these conversations before they begin? If not, how can I politely do so?
GENTLE READER: It is never a good idea to enter a conversation looking for a fight.
But if the seemingly inevitable line of inquiry ensues, Miss Manners encourages you to say, “We are teaching our children at home, which we have found unequivocally to be the best method for us. There is a lot of literature on the subject if you are interested.”
And then change the subject -- perhaps to the relative schooling of your gynecologist.