Overcoming Cultural Objections to Homeschooling

When you made the choice to homeschool your children, you based that choice on past experiences you’ve had, past relationships that you’ve had in your life, and all of that informed your choice. It’s the same way, though, with people who might have an objection to your homeschooling. They are coming from past experiences and past relationships as well, and it can really help if we understand where they’re coming from. We want to talk in this session about understanding where other people are coming from, the ideas that are behind their comments, the ideas that may be behind their fears. And joining me for this important discussion is Amber O’Neal Johnston, a good friend of mine and a wonderful author.

Sonya: We want to talk about people who might object to your homeschooling. We see that in many ways, but it seems like there are different ideas that are informing the fears behind it. And I think it is a fear that motivates those types of comments, but let’s just dive into this and see where it goes. So, have you ever experienced someone coming at your homeschooling with an objection? 

Amber: Yes, definitely. And I think that one thing that was really interesting to me was that there were objections within my own community, meaning the African-American community. And the question on the table was, “How can you pull your kids out of a system that so many of our ancestors and relatives laid down their lives for, to fight for the opportunity to desegregate school, so that they would have access to better resources and buildings and books, when ‘separate but equal’ was not working?” 

How can you pull your kids out of a system that so many of our ancestors and relatives laid down their lives for, to fight for the opportunity to desegregate school, so that they would have access to better resources and buildings and books, when “separate but equal” was not working?

Sonya: Yes, exactly. 

Amber: And they’re thinking about the blood, sweat, tears—everything that was poured into it—and you seem to be dismissing it. “Ah, we are not going to use all that. We’re going to do our own thing, according to Charlotte Mason,” or whatever it may be. 

Sonya: Who was a White woman. 

Amber: Yes, I mean, let’s be real, right? Because they’re like, “Well, who’s that?” I’m like, “Just an old, dead, White British woman,” (laughs) and you know, the looks are quizzical. And I’m having to overcome that. And as I’ve told some of my friends about this, it’s been surprising to me, but some of them could really relate even though they aren’t Black. A few of my friends, whose parents immigrated into this country, said, “Oh my goodness, my family has said the same thing. We gave up everything to come here for your education, and our grandchildren’s education, our future, and you’re pooh-poohing it.” And you’re kind of like, “I got this. I’m going to take it into my own hands.” 

Sonya: It’s like, “Thanks, but no thanks.” 

Amber: Exactly, and listening to that was very eye-opening to me, because I thought this is something that only we experience, and I’ve realized it’s more widespread than that. But it’s rooted in a similar thing: It’s this idea of honoring the people who came before you and the sacrifices that they’ve made. And how can you do that while at the same time not accepting what they feel were gifts? 

Sonya: And it also applies to families who have children with special needs. Because people have, you know, that “mama bear”; I’ve heard so many stories of mothers whose children are in a school system, and they have to go in and fight tooth and nail to get the support that that child needs. And because of their efforts, those supports are much more available now. Helping a blind child, helping a deaf child, helping an autistic child, all of those supports are now part of the system, if you will. And so we’re saying, “Eh, no. I can do it better myself,” is how they’re interpreting it, I think. 

Amber: Yes, I think so too. And I think sometimes rewording, or reframing, your ideas helps. One way that has been most effective for me is, instead of denying that and saying, “No, they didn’t. That’s not what they did,” say, “No, it’s true. Sacrifices were made. And parents have gone in and made sure these supports were there and families moved across oceans for this. And Brown v. the Board of Education, the desegregating of schools—that people fought for, those things are real and true.” And what I’ve done is kind of reframe that in the idea: Yes, they were doing those specific things. They were sacrificing in those ways, but ultimately, what they were after was freedom and choice and the ability to not be locked into only one thing. And in some ways, if we’re not careful, we end up going too far the other way. And so, I think to myself, “Would my ancestors or relatives be happy with this decision?” and I think that they would see it as the ultimate demonstration of freedom. They’d say, “I wasn’t fighting for your kids to be able to go to these better schools. I was fighting for you to have the choice.” And they wouldn’t have known to think homeschooling was one of those choices. 

Ultimately, what they were after was freedom and choice and the ability to not be locked into only one thing.

Sonya: But their desire was for a better education. 

Amber: Absolutely. And I think they’re getting it. And same thing with my friends whose families immigrated here. Was it really school—this particular building—that they were fighting so hard for? Or is it the life you actually have, the life that allows you to home educate? I mean, there are different ways to think if we take a more expansive view of it, but before we can do that, we have to acknowledge the aspects of the objections that are true. 

Sonya: Yes, now talk a little bit about how this concept can help people who have not experienced that type of cultural objection, if you will, or who just made the decision, and it’s fine, but how does it help them to be aware of this extra layer of challenge for certain families? 

Amber: I think two ways. One, we’re called to be in community with one another, and it’s really hard to grow closer to someone when you don’t know his or her story. I write a lot about the importance of storytelling. This is part of some family stories that are in your communities, and to grow closer with them, you would want to know that.

The second reason is because a lot of moms, who have been homeschooling with a Charlotte Mason education for years, have started to help other moms, mentor them informally, or consult more formally, and this is something that they have to be aware of. There are things that don’t impact my house, but because I work with so many moms, I keep them at the forefront of my mind, and this would be one of those things. While it may not directly impact your home, if you’re going to be a mentor mom or a leader in your community… 

Sonya: Or even just an encourager…

Amber: Yes, definitely, even in that most intimate space, these are things that are sometimes hard to talk about, because you feel like maybe that person won’t understand. “My challenge is so unique, nobody else can understand,” those are the types of things that keep us isolated. A lot of it comes down to building community and being a good friend. 

Sonya: Those are great words. Thanks so much. 

Amber: You’re welcome. 

One comment

  1. Thanks for sharing. My background culture is based on Christian schools, something people sacrificed a lot for as well (paying their taxes and then tuition on top of that, volunteering, fund-raising, volunteering some more, serving on various committees and boards, working for less pay than they could get in the public school system). Though no one has been unsupportive I sometimes feel a bit of a need to justify why we ‘rejected’ the thing that our parents, grandparents sacrificed so much for. Of course, we are still giving our kids an education with a Christian perspective so it’s the same goal.

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