Just because you’re homeschooling doesn’t mean you’re suddenly required to help all of the neighborhood kids with their homework. But educating their parents about homeschooling may not be such a bad idea. With today’s very busy lifestyles, and folks coming and going without ever talking to anyone else on the block, one never knows which neighbors understand about homeschooling and which do not. Explaining just a little bit about what you’re doing, being sure that neighbors understand it’s all completely legal, could work in your favor.
Now, I’m not suggesting the drop-in, have coffee together and hang out kind of relationship with everyone on the street (unless you want that kind). What I am suggesting, however, is getting to know your neighbors in a way that helps insure that your homeschooling will never be placed in jeopardy by someone with an unfounded concern about your kids or by someone in the area that has some other bone to pick with your family.
When meeting neighbors, are you going to spend hours talking about your educational philosophy and giving tours of your classroom? Certainly not. But what you will do is explain that after carefully considering the alternatives, your family has chosen homeschooling over sending your children to the local elementary school, or middle or high school, or wherever. You’re not knocking the other neighborhood kids who do (theirs?), but just saying that you made a different choice.
When chatting with neighbors, you’ll make sure to say that your family will usually be home during the day when others in the neighborhood head off to work or hop onto school buses. You’ll tell them that, while your family is usually hitting the books indoors, you also sometimes get outside during the day so that your students can sketch flowers, observe the clouds, or get exercise in the middle of the day. (By the way, some neighbors like knowing there is a family home during the day, so feel free to emphasize the benefits to them as well — an extra set of eyes on their property, a convenient place to ship a daytime delivery, or whatever feels right to you.)
And finally, when talking to neighbors about homeschooling, you’ll always make sure that they understand that many of other families in your state/city/town do exactly what you’re doing, and that it’s all completely approved and legal with the school system, city, state, or even the sheriff’s or police department if you feel that this kind of name-dropping is warranted.
Keeping in mind that accurate information has the power to dispel rumors and clear up confusion, when homeschooling, providing just a bit little information to neighbors could work wonders to prevent the quizzical looks you get while walking to the mailbox, deflect awkward questions during encounters on the street corner, or avoid unwanted attention on your kids when they’re out playing in the front yard.
And as a bonus, getting to know neighbors can work in positive ways, too, like forming relationships with helpful people, creating a greater sense of community on your block, and even making new friends for your children — you just never know. Gauge each specific case individually, and do what you feel is needed to keep your homeschooling freedoms intact, and help yourself in the process.
Photo: Free Digital