It happened. I feared this very thing for quite some time and I thought I had all my responses prepared. Most people we meet when we are out at unconventional hours for school-aged chidlren are kind and interested. Anything different can be fascinating, so we’re often met with curiosity when we say that we homeschool.
Not this time.
I love to get my shopping done either late morning or early afternoon. The stores are pretty empty then and it’s so easy to breeze in, get what you need and breeze right back out again. The kids always come with me because, honestly, we usually have a lot of fun together. We giggled our way through the store that morning and had ourselves a generally lovely time, with the boisterous 4-year-old garnering the attention of the few other shoppers in the store. The children all sweetly greeted each person we met with, my youngest proudly declaring to each, “I’m 4 years old!” And with each person they greeted, they were met with warm smiles and friendly responses. One of them, though, I could see didn’t approve. She was trying to figure us out.
Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. After all, when you go shopping in the middle of the day with 4 children, an obviously protruding belly announcing the imminent arrival of number five, and the children insist on being friendly and social with everyone they meet, it’s hard to go unnoticed, and everyone has their opinion. This disapproval from a stranger usually causes no more than a passing notice from me as we go about our day, neither approving or disapproving that strangers lifestyle choices.
When we got to the check out, we were the only ones there, so we all began unloading our cart onto the belt. Even the 4 year old delighted in helping and chatting with the lady behind the counter (did I mention we tend to really enjoy our time at the store together? She giggles as she watches everything move up towards the cashier). Before we could empty our cart out, the disapproving stranger got in line behind us.
“Why aren’t your children in school?” she asked, not politely, but accusingly.
My back had been to her. I was, after all, helping the children unload our cart. I froze for a moment and then turned with a smile plastered to my face. Grace, I reminded myself over and over.
“Actually, we homeschool.”
I turned back to the children, but the joy of our moment had fled. The cashier turned an apologetic eye to me and immediately engaged the children in some questions that I can’t remember. We finished unloading the cart, doing our best to ignore the lady behind us. But I could feel her staring at the back of my head. I smiled at the cashier, silently thanking her for distracting my children from the unpleasantness about to unfold.
“Is it even legal to homeschool? Are you qualified to do that?”
“Yes it is, and yes I am. Thank you for asking.” I hoped this would be the end and I willed the cashier to scan faster. To be fair, she was scanning faster than I’ve ever seen her go. She knew this woman was making us uncomfortable. Before we could finish our transaction, the litany of reasons why our choice to homeschool was horrible poured from this woman’s mouth. You can probably guess most of them.
Curriculum, electives, gym, stuck with a single point of view, indoctrination, lack of experience, and yes… the dreaded socialization argument. I think there were more that she said but I tried hard not to listen too closely as she unloaded on us. I kept reminding myself that the words she was saying were a reflection of her own ignorance and fear. And then I started chanting in my head… Grace. Grace. Grace. She was obviously having a bad day and decided to unload it on us.
We finished paying and loading the cart back up as she continued to rant at us. I kept a smile on my face and looked only at my children, studiously avoiding eye contact with her. Then, as we left, I thanked her for her concern and assured her that we do everything possible to insure the excellent education, safety and well-being of our children. I hoped she would have a pleasant remainder of her day. I turned to the cashier and thanked her, hoping my eyes conveyed the true gratitude I felt for her part in the whole affair, wished her a wonderful afternoon and we left for the parking lot.
I turned to the cashier and thanked her, hoping my eyes conveyed the true gratitude I felt for her part in the whole affair, wished her a wonderful afternoon and we left for the parking lot.
As we loaded the car up, she came out. Thankfully she just stared at us without saying anything else. Part of me wished that I had the courage to go over and defend our choice, refute every small-minded argument she had brought up in the store. I wished that I could even remember all my well-planned rebuttals to the issues I knew would be brought up some day. In the end, though, I went with simple grace.
I later marveled at the fact that my obviously social children who struck up lovely conversations with everyone in the store could be accused of being anti-social. How could their undeniable love for each other and utter delight in the company of both family and strangers be considered a negative? Why is it so hard to believe that a nurturing, loving family can raise up smart, well-rounded, confident children?
We are lucky to be able to choose this homeschooling life-style. I’m grateful for every day we have together here. I hope that woman, whoever she is, will do more than rely on her own misconceptions but I fear that she will continue to judge without really knowing anything about homeschooling. I wish I could have set her straight. But more than all that, I hope my behavior was a good example to my children of handling a difficult situation with peace and grace.
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Sandra Modersohn is a devoted wife, mother, and homeschooler. She loves great graphic design and has a passion for creating beautiful and useful printable materials for children. Little Learning Lovies where she shares her creations with the world. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and, of course, at the Little Learning Lovies Blog and Store.
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