Most of us have chosen a “different” path in life. We homeschool. And even more than that, we don’t use a traditional method of homeschooling. We use Charlotte Mason’s approach. Those choices can be unsettling to onlookers.

And if that’s not enough, many of us have chosen to wander away from the crowd in other areas of life too: what we eat, the size of our families, what we wear, our goals for our children. Onlookers sometimes become more than just curious; at times they may share their “concerns” in no uncertain terms.

When those moments happen, it’s natural to have one of two reactions: we either withdraw into ourselves and say nothing or we explode and say everything we can think of. Neither is fruitful.

Here is Charlotte’s counsel when faced with opposition: “State your theory and practice, but attack nothing. Be indignant at nothing. When people’s minds are put on the defensive they have no room to receive new ideas” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 106).

You can be sure that Charlotte received more than her fair share of criticism and opposition from the established school system. Her ideas and methods were revolutionary in her day. And she knew that her coworkers and student-teachers would face some of those antagonists as they went to their positions in various communities.

So she warned against either extreme. Don’t withdraw into silence; go ahead and state your theory and methods when given the opportunity.

Which raises a question: Can you briefly and clearly explain what you do and why you have chosen that path? Sometimes it’s hard to give a succinct explanation to others. We might do well to give some thought and rehearsal to stating our theory and methods.

But our attitude during this explanation is paramount. We cannot afford to slide to the other extreme and go on the offensive. When we become angry—even at an unjust or mean statement—we shut down the lines of communication. Attacking may make us feel better for the moment, but it will never convince the other person that we’re right.

“When people’s minds are put on the defensive they have no room to receive new ideas.” Those of us who have chosen different paths have done so after much thought; those ideas are not new to us anymore, they are old companions. But for any onlookers, our ideas are new. They will need some time to make friends with the new idea. So our task is to present our idea-friend in a favorable and polite manner, giving time and space for it to be invited into the onlooker’s thoughts. And who knows, maybe it will start to settle in and find a home there too.


  1. Perfect! I am constantly on my guard against attacks. I do both, depending on who it is attacking (questioning?) – go to silence and say nothing, or go on a “tirade” of sorts attacking back. Obviously not the greatest solutions… I never really know how to react except for those 2 extremes. It’s great to hear how I *should* handle those moments. Now – to put together something I can say while I am calm and can practice….. 🙂

  2. I agree with Sara B…excellent and much needed. I feel like I am always on guard, too, as no other family members share the same vision for our families.

    I’m always amazed at how Charlotte really had all the “bases covered”. I’m sure that was because she was a Christian and listened to what the Lord spoke to her.

    Yesterday I heard a little story about when Ronald Reagan was President. He was really good at “disarming” antagonists with his quips and humor. A reporter had nastily degraded him, saying that “he was just a “C” student from a dinky little college in IL”, and he replied, without missing a beat or getting angry (paraphrased) “You know, I’ve thought alot about that and you’re right. If I had studied harder, just think how far I could have gone” 🙂

    Humor goes far at diffusing anger! I need to remember that.

  3. I’m new to homeschooling and when I mentioned my desire to follow the CM approach to a veteran hs mom with 7 children she balked “you can’t do CM in high school.” I just listened b/c I don’t know why you can’t nor what her knowledge of CM truly is. It is a constant thing I hear though. Why do people say you can’t do CM through high school?

    • I hear that sometimes too; however, I know several who have done just that. We here at SCM have graduated four doing CM methods. Some of the misconception might be in thinking that CM is too “gentle” for high school or is only for using nice little story books. However, CM methods can be continued through high school (and beyond) and require a much higher thinking level than most textbook-oriented methods. A lot of it has to do with the books you use. The methods continue; you just use harder books. This series on Homeschooling through High School the CM Way might give you more ideas as you think through an appropriate way to state your views.

  4. This article was beautifully written and such an encouragement as to how to handle those difficult situations. The best take-away for me was that I need to “rehearse” ways to respond in these situations. Thanks for the great advice!

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