What Can I Say to Doubters and Critics?

This is a collection for the assistance and encouragement of people who have relatives and friends who are school-bound in their thinking, and who want to know what they could possibly say to get them to relax or maybe even back off.

Some things I've said:
"This is working for now. If it stops working, we'll do something else."

"Thanks. I'll think about that." (Or you could say "We thought about that," or "I think about that all the time.")

Mostly people want to know you heard what they said, and that you have thought about what they're suggesting. It doesn't hurt to say that you have, or that you will.

Sandra Dodd

Sandra, March 29, 2003:

I don't use the word "unschooling" except when I'm talking to homeschoolers.

When I'm talking to relatives or people at the grocery store or whatever, I say "We homeschool." Or more often, "Our kids don't go to school."

IF they seem interested, or if they make one of those canned-conversation responses like "Oh, that must be a lot of work," or "Oh, I could never to that," I just smile and say "It's fun. We mostly just have a lot of fun." or "We don't use a curriculum, we just learn from everything around us."

So within the inside of the inside of discussions with homeschoolers, I'm definitely an unschooler, but there's no advantage I've found in using that term with people who only want a one-minute "hi, how are ya? cute kid" conversation.

(original, fifth post down)

From a Facebook discussion in September 2015:

Someone wrote:

-=-I'm dealing with family/friends/advisors who say things like "some curriculum would be good" or "eventually he will need some type of school" it really aggravates me to have to explain or justify this new lifestyle of unschooling while still trying to figure it out for myself.-=-
My response:

#1, take care of your marriage. Go easy. Smile and be sweet.

#2, probably those people (most of them, anyway) are sincerely concerned for your children, so try to be grateful for that, or at least to understand it.

#3, you don't "have to" explain or justify it. Step back from "have to." Hear it every time you say it. See it when you write it. Pause when you think it.

Once in a while you might want to explain or justify. Many more times, you could just pause, and breathe, and think "She likes my kids," or "Yeah, unschooling DOES seem crazy to people who don't know much about it." And you do not have to respond.

The nicest thing to say might be "Thanks, I'll think about it." If they say he might need some type of school, you could say yeah, someday he might.

I liked to tell people that things were going well, but if that changed we would do something different. That gave them hope, and that was good for all of us. And it was true.

In a 2012 interview, I responded to a question:

RQ 7:
I would appreciate any insight that you could give in how to communicate more amicably with family and friends who are not necessarily “believers” about the choice to unschool and/or homeschool.
Some good and useful answers are “We’re going to try this for a while,” and “If this stops working, there’s a school right down the road.” If relatives or friends warn you or remind you of things they’re worried about, it would be courteous and sensible to say “Thanks, I’ll think about that,” and smile.

If someone asks a question about socialization, you could ask “What do you mean?” They probably don’t know what they mean, and trying to articulate their real question will probaby bring them to see that they were following a script, and to consider (probably for the very first time) what “socialization” in school really is.

If someone asks about algebra, you might ask how they use algebra in their everyday life. Nod and listen. Maybe say “I”ll think about that,” if they have thought of an example of everyday use.

When the question is “what about writing?” you could say “Do you mean penmanship or composition? Storytelling?” If they say “book report,” you could say “Like reviews on Amazon or GoodReads?”

A mom named Sheree wrote years ago:

In my sweet, nonarrogant voice, I simply say,

I am so glad to have this opportunity to enlighten you. We incorporate a constructivist approach with the experiential learning model. This is sometimes referred to as "unschooling" due to it's promotion of higher level thinking skills (which, more often than not, just does not happen in school). By the way, our nation's 4H program has been doing this active, hands on approach for many years. Feel free to do a google search to find the abundant research which indicates how this still is a preferred approach. Presently, hundreds of colleges are actively courting such homeschooled students for their overall educational excellence, intelligence and creativity.
After their heads stop reeling, they typically shut up and go away. lol


If the question is electronically sent, here's a link to send back, of the video below, which has some great quotes from John Holt's book Learning All the Time, and pictures of children, while two songs play: "The Logical Song" (by Roger Hodgson) and "Flowers are Red" (Harry Chapin).

"Like a fart in church"

In a discussion once someone was intimidated by questions someone else was asking her about her unschooling.

I wrote "You could say it's the open classroom philosophy of the late 1960's and early 1970's which doesn't work in schools but does work at home." She responded:

Might go over like a fart in church. 🙂
My response:
Well, then.

Fart in her church, maybe!

You don't have to bow and cater to her. You can tell her your unschooling information is shared on a need-to-know basis, and she doesn't have clearance.

When relatives, friends, professionals around you are critical, there are "been there, done that" ideas you might want to gather up and use in advance. They can be humorous. But you're not required to submit a formal report. Be conversational.
Original—the whole topic is good

At the end, there, someone talks about mandatory reporters, and there ARE people whose positions/jobs require them to report child abuse or child neglect. So if you say "It's none of your business," that would not be a good thing to say at all.

The best thing for ANY unschooler is to move quickly toward becoming so confident that you can easily explain what you're doing, with enthusiasm and clarity. Don't muddle along.

Do it!               really GET it!

Other ideas for responding to questions about homeschooling and unschooling

Peace for Unschoolers

a little bit on School