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    How to Talk to a Homeschooler

    September 21, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    We are not veteran homeschoolers {yet}, but I can already tell that there are people in this world who simply do not understand how to have a conversation with a child that is not educated by some sort of institution. People will ask my son if he has started “Kindergarten.” I did my son a favor and called school this year “Kindergarten” so that he could answer “yes” to this question. Of course, there is a total breakdown when people begin to ask who his teacher is.

    Hence this post.

    This is my completely inadequate attempt at creating a list of pointers for adults who wish to speak to a young homeschooled child.

    • Don’t ask who his teacher is. Obviously, if you don’t already know he is homeschooled, this might be how you find out! However, if you already know how he is educated, then asking who is teacher is is a very silly question. This is the equivalent of me asking a child who attends an institutional school what his mommy taught him all day. It is a question that lacks an understanding of the child’s circumstances.
    • Don’t ask him what his favorite subject is. I suppose that some homeschooled families actually separate every little lesson out into a “subject.” But children who are home educated learn throughout the day. We do science while taking a long walk. We do history while reading aloud. Sometimes, an entire “subject” might be covered at the dinner table. Parent-teachers plan, yes they do, but they also capitalize on every teachable moment they get their hands on. Our younger students are highly unlikely to know where history ended and literature began.
    • Do ask him what he likes to learn about. This is a better question. Our science this year is ornithology. If you ask our son his favorite subject, he will give you a quizzical look. If you ask him what his favorite part of the school day is, he will say Binder Time. If you ask him what he likes to learn about, he will give the real answer, which is birds.
    • Don’t ask him if he saw his friends at school. School, for the home educated, is a lifestyle, not a location. He sees friends at church, at Awana, at the park, and so on. And he might be educated in those locations. And he might be educated and see friends at the same time.
    • Do realize that all relationships count. We have encountered people who think that, since our son doesn’t have a huge and thriving peer group, that he doesn’t really have friends. Most homeschooling families we have met are like us and think that a variety of strong and nurturing relationships are superior than any sort of playground peer group. So our son has friends that are a variety of different ages. In fact, I can only think of one friend he has that is the exact same age as he is. He is also friends with his sisters. And he is friends with his third cousins {he has lots of those}. And he has wonderful relationships with even his great grandparents. All of these relationships count, and all of them are important.

      To say a child doesn’t have friends because he lacks a peer group is to fail to understand the reality of the world. God did not create a peer group. In fact, American schools were ungraded until the second half of the nineteenth century. Age segregation does not teach the child to interact with people who are different from himself.

    • Don’t ask him what grade he is in. Some families declare grades, some do not. Like I said before, I told my son he is in kindergarten. But his actual grade level varies greatly by subject. Some homeschooled kids aren’t told that they are in a grade.
    • Do ask him how old he is. Usually, when you ask what grade someone is, you are trying to put them into a category. If you really want to know, asking how old the child is and then subtracting five or so will tell you what grade the child would be in were he educated by an institution.
    • Above all else, when you find out the child is homeschooled, do not, under any circumstances, let your face fall into a frown. This is very important. We all know that not everyone approves of homeschooling. There is very little in this world that everyone thinks is great, and homeschooling is no exception. However, if you are speaking to the child, you should consider the child. Even if you believe that the parents are doing the child a huge disservice by educating him themselves, frowning at the child will not help.

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