Handling Questions about Homeschool at Holiday Family Events

a girl in a red santa hat holds a pencil

The holidays will soon be upon us, and that means family get togethers. Yay! Right? Or…maybe not.You may be less than excited to deal with questions from curious or critical family members:

  • “So what are you learning in homeschool?”

  • “Have you joined a co-op yet?”

  • “Tell me about your friends?”

  • "What books are you reading?"
  • “How far are you in math?”

If holiday gatherings—and the ensuing 20 questions—make you feel a touch of anxiety, here are a few tips to keep you from spending your entire evening at the holiday punch bowl.

Consider Why Your Family Members are Asking

Before you get too upset, learn to discern the motive behind the question. Not every question has a nefarious undertone or ulterior motive. Sometimes a question is truly a question

Conversation Starters

Sometimes a family member’s questions about homeschooling are simply a conversation starter—especially if the conversation is started with your child, not you. It’s quite possible that Aunt Becky doesn’t really know what else to ask your child about, and is using homeschooling as a starting point with which to jump into other conversation. School is a large part of children's lives, so it's natural to ask them about it just like you ask adults about their work.

In all honesty, when you talk to the kids at your family get together, what do you ask them about? Does it have anything to do with what they might be doing in school—academically, socially, or extra-curricularly? Probably yes. So these questions about homeschooling may be innocent preludes into dialogue and not a critique of your chosen educational method.

Honest Curiosity

Confession: At family get togethers, I have totally asked other kids—public schooled and homeschooled—about fun things they are doing in school. It’s not because I’m trying to figure out if they are doing better or more or worse than my own kids. It's not out of some motive to trip them up and pounce on them when they mess up. It’s because I actually want to have a conversation with them about how they’re spending most of their day.

Consider that this could actually be the reason people are conversing with your kids about homeschooling.

If You Find Yourself Getting Defensive

If you feel your hackles rising, figure out why you’re feeling that way. Did Aunt Becky ask you something obviously offensive about homeschooling, or are you offended because of how you’re reading (or misreading) her? Does the way you’re interpreting her questions her have to do with your history with her? Would the same question be heard differently if it were coming from someone else? Step back from your emotional reactions and take the questions in stride, assuming the best of Aunt Becky until you know for sure that she's being snarky or critical.

Prepare Your Children Ahead of Time

It’s perfectly acceptable to have a discussion with your kids to make them aware that Aunt Becky or Uncle Josh might ask them some questions about homeschooling. Instead of giving your kids the answers you want them to say, use it as an opportunity to find out what your child is thinking about their homeschool experience. Ask them:

  • What are some of your favorite things we’re doing right now?

  • What things are you looking forward to?

  • What did you like best about the last fieldtrip we went on?

  • What kinds of things are you working on in co-op?

  • Do you want to continue homeschooling?

Hopefully by taking time to have this kind of discussion before the holiday party, your son or daughter will be in the right mindset to approach Aunt Becky’s questions naturally and without stress.

Ask Your Kids if They are Bothered

Are your children bothered by the questions about homeschooling? Because if it doesn’t bother them, why are you so worried?

Unless someone is outright quizzing them—or freaking out about socialization—I’ve found that most kids don’t view being asked about homeschooling as an attack on the fact that they’re homeschooled.

Handling Questions about Homeschool at Holiday Family EventsPut the ball in your kid’s court.

Instead of being nervous about what Aunt Becky is going to ask your kids, let your kids know it’s totally okay for them to start a conversation with Aunt Becky. And they can start the conversation about anything! Ask Aunt Becky if she’s excited for the upcoming holiday or if she likes the weather or what she thinks of her new car.

Mind. Blown.

Most adults will be so floored that a child started a conversation with them that they will forget all about the crazy question they were going to ask your kid about math or history or co-op.

Don’t overthink it.

When all is said and done, sometimes the questions at a holiday get together are only an issue because we overthink the entire situation.

Understand that generally speaking, most kids really don’t talk a ton about what they do in school. If you lined up all the kids at your family get together and asked them “How’s school going”, you’d mostly get grunts or blank stares.

So don’t put too much weight on how your kids answer questions about their homeschool day. Their publicly schooled cousins probably aren’t answering much differently.

Finally, remember that we don’t want to make people uncomfortable talking to our kids. Let’s not create a situation where Aunt Becky doesn’t ask your kids anything because a) she isn’t sure what to talk about or b) she’s freaked out about how Mama Bear will react.

Empower your kids to answer questions about their experiences as a homeschooler so they can help teach Aunt Becky, Uncle Josh, and everyone else around the table about the awesomeness of life as a homeschooled kid.

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Amy Dingmann

About the Author

Amy Dingmann lives in Minnesota with her husband where they have been homeschooling their two sons since 2007. Her hobbies include filling up her sons’ bottomless pits, drinking a lot of strong coffee, and smiling. Her least favorite subject is math. Her favorite subjects are everything else. She likes talking to other homeschooling parents and assuring them that even though they worry they’re totally screwing things up, they actually totally and completely rock.  Amy blogs at The Hmmmschooling Mom, and works as an author/speaker on homeschooling and parenting/family topics.