How to Tell the In-Laws, part 2

Matti

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, dear home educator, if your in-laws are very slow to accept your decisions, you may have a tough convincing task to attempt. You can ruin a relationship with extremely important people if you ignore the feelings of family members.

Never forget this:

  • No matter how right you are, you are the ones who are changing.
  • If there is a problem within the relationship, you are the ones through whom the problem is coming.
  • No matter how bizarre or painful your in-laws reactions may seem to you, you have the burden of proof.

This does not mean that you are wrong, no! If God is showing you to home school, then your decision is good and right. You can see that.

Your in-laws cannot, and maybe never will, unless someone who cares about them can help them see. This is where you may come in. They are the ones who feel bad, not you. Your patience toward them will help determine how this all turns out.

Knowing where to start can seem impossible, can it not? The best place to start any endeavor is on your knees.

Pray that God would give you the right words, springing from a right heart.
Remind yourself of the dedication your parents showed in your upbringing.
Recall that God provided for you, then, through them.
Remember His command to honor your parents.
Think how you would feel in a similar circumstance. It is not enough, in God’s eyes, to be right—you also must have a right heart attitude. (I Corinthians 13)

You must deal very gently and humbly with your in-laws. The way to do this is to enter the whole situation with thankfulness for your in-laws’ reaction. Three glorious things are happening in your life:

  1. Your in-laws care about you and your children.
  2. Your in-laws relate to you.
  3. You are home schooling.

Be thankful that they care, thankful that they still relate to you, and thankful that you home school. God can give you that thankful heart and the gentle humility.

Then, keep the reality of the problem in sight. The hurt, fear, and embarrassment are real to your in-laws, and will not go away for a long time. Only gentle, humble dealings will assuage their hearts. Maybe they do not really want to hear that their hurt is needless, their fears are groundless, or their embarrassment is baseless. While we can acknowledge that such a reaction may point to selfishness, pride, and lack of trust on their part, it does not change the fact that you, the messenger of such good/bad news, are finding it ill-received. It does not change God’s command to us to honor them. Part of honoring parents is to take their discomfort seriously.

The hurt is the hardest.

They truly did the best they could do (perhaps) for you, their child, and it truly is not good enough for your children. There is no getting around that.

Nevertheless, what your parents did—shifting their responsibility to educate you onto a worldly institution—was considered the best possible thing in their day. Now days it is not. Now days, experts cite home education as the best.

So in a way, you are doing exactly what your parents did: giving the best that you can.

In your parents’ days, homebound education was for children who had rheumatic fever or some other physical difficulty. In their parents’ days, though, the best often included instruction from someone who did not have a degree and many more received their education at home.

Perhaps you can make them see that what was “best” in Great-Great-Grandma’s days is now returning to vogue.

Perhaps you can make them see your home schooling as trying to keep up with current trends.

That is what they did. Thank them for caring and for their input. Let them know that you will need a lot of input. If possible, recruit their help from the start. If they can only provide a different type of flower for botany study or a different place to picnic, they can feel less left out and more as if “we help home school our grandchildren”. Help them see how much the worldly schools have deteriorated into something that is not the same as when you were little. Remind them that the Bible and good, common, Biblical sense no longer operate in the world’s schools, making them hostile places for children.

Their fears are not imagined, either.

How can your children get jobs or go to college without a high school diploma?

It was not so very long ago when you asked the same question yourself, was it? It is a legitimate question, along with many other questions that accompany the decision to home school.

Do not fault your parents or in-laws for asking the same questions you were asking just a year ago. They care, too. They may remember a few bad grades that you accumulated during your educational quest and may even feel that you do not know as much as you think you do.

Of course, almost anyone can teach most little ones the ABC’s, degree or not. What they really are asking about is high school math, is it not?

In most states, there is no test to prove “teacher proficiency” among home school moms, thank God! We are free to fail, if we want.

The simple answer is that we care about the children in our school, do not want to fail to meet their needs, and do not want them to fail. We will be diligent and we will constantly be checking our progress and theirs. Having a solid plan for checking their progress will help smooth the road for you with them.

Their embarrassment stems from what their friends will think.

These feelings can come from the idea of the dropout or the handicapped; ideas that, right or wrong, still carry a stigma for many people. Not too long ago, anyone who did not finish school was questionable.

Of course, we know that home educated graduates are more likely than others to find employment, in many cases, but our parents do not know this, sometimes (and neither do their chums.)

If you can find one of the lovely brochures that explain the preeminence of home schooling, it might help, especially if you present it quietly and gently.

If you know of other home educators who have had wonderful results (there are many) you might help the situation by pointing to their success.

One of the best arguments that I have found, one that even convinces me when I question myself, is the very long list of former home educated who became successful, even famous people. Many authors, scientists, and statesmen had the blessed start that can only happen on Mother’s lap. Many productive, moral members of our society have obtained their backbones from walking with Dad to town or to the barns and fields and watching him deal with the people he encountered. There is nothing like the way our country began, for generating good, solid life.

If you can make your family see that, they might catch your vision.

I can not promise that it will be easy. It has not been easy for us. Probably it will take a long time. Realize that you are asking them to trust you, regardless of their feelings, and . . .

. . . trust is something that a person must earn.

You cannot require or force it in any way; you must earn it. It is possible to earn trust, though, and some have done it. Until you see the beginnings of trust in your in-laws, at least you can base your words and actions upon humility and wisdom, and not leave your family with just reasons for their opposition.

Your calm, loving re-assurances can go a long way toward helping them have peace about your decisions.

It can help you have peace about it, too.

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