Homeschool Contradictory Confidence

Homeschool Contradictory Confidence

Reading Time: 4 minutes


A homeschooling parent needs to be prepared before interacting with people who don’t support or understand their homeschool endeavors.

By Wren Everett  Everyone who decides to homeschool their children will, at one point or another, be confronted with “The Questions.” Whether they’re from the mouth of a well-meaning friend, a meddling mother-in-law, or an antagonistic neighbor, you’ll hear something along the lines of the following: 

“How will they get a job?” 

“Aren’t your kids sheltered? How will they socialize? 

“Didn’t you hear that story about those homeschooled kids who ended up totally messed up?” 

Regardless of the nature or motivation of your inquisitor, there is something that is absolutely crucial for the homeschooling parent to have in place: contradictory confidence. This is the foundation you’ll plant your feet on when push comes to shove, when the questions get a little too personal or probing, and when the criticism starts jabbing you from unexpected angles. 

“Contradictory Confidence” is a term coined by Samuel Thayer in his excellent foraging book, Nature’s Garden. In it, he uses it as a measurement for the surety that is required before an intrepid forager adds a new plant to their repertoire. It is a deep conviction and knowledge that what you’ve decided is the right choice, even if a hundred people were to try convincing you otherwise. For the purposes of this article (and my own life) I’ve transposed the concept to homeschooling endeavors. Homeschool Contradictory Confidence, then, is the deep-seated knowledge that homeschooling is what is best for your kids and your family, no matter what opposing arguments, anecdotes, or antagonisms are brought against you. 

How do I build up contradictory confidence? 

Ask yourself: why have I chosen to homeschool? Maybe you don’t want to miss out on your kids’ childhood years. Maybe you want to ensure that your kids are guided in the way you feel is right. Maybe you’ve previously been part of the school system, and you know that it’s often broken at best. Maybe you want a holistic education that’s connected to your land and animals, preferring a hike through the forest and a splash in the stream over hours glued to a seat. Whatever the reason, believe it enough to use it as an anchor. You don’t need to bring out this reason in every conversation, but having that conviction in the back of your mind will help you withstand the inevitable “questions.” 

To lay this solid foundation, you’ll need to go through some preparation. Just as pro athletes get “in the zone” before a big game, or performers have their rituals before they go out on stage, a homeschooling parent needs to have their mind in a prepared space before interacting with people who don’t support or understand their homeschool endeavors. 

How Do I Use Contradictory Confidence? 

Calibrate Your Responses

This is a tool to be wielded wisely. It must be backed up by the commitment and capability to follow through on your claims, but the degree to which you express it should be calibrated to the person who is confronting you. 

For random passers-by that comment negatively about your brood of youngsters being out on a school day afternoon, don’t sweat it. Some busybodies just have to say something, even if they have no business doing so. Your contradictory confidence should buoy you strongly enough that their words shouldn’t even matter. 

For a non-homeschool friend who has concerns, perhaps your confidence can help them see beyond the anecdotal, sensational “horror stories” they’ve read in the news. If they’re truly a friend, they should listen to what you have to say and, hopefully, realize that the huge majority of homeschooled kids turn out (better than) fine. 

For a meddling relative, you’ll have to figure out how to respond to their critical asides or endless “suggestions” with maturity. You may need to use that confidence to calmly, privately confront them, to decide to not associate with them anymore, or to set the record straight with the folks they’ve gossiped with.  

And if you are questioned by someone that you trust or someone who has experience with homeschooling, perhaps you won’t need that confidence-armor after all. Instead, listen to what they have to say, and see if you could benefit from their advice. Just because we’re armored against the folks who “don’t get it” doesn’t mean we’re immune to learning and improving.  

Don’t Overshare 

It can be tempting to document your efforts to prove your success to others. And in our modern era of social media, it’s almost second nature for most of us to divulge intimate details to the unblinking eye of the internet. Endless photos of our children and endless descriptions of their activities can, however, become endless sources of fodder for critics. They might not see the wonder on your boy’s face as he holds up a frog he found while doing a stream survey: they might only see his worn-out sneakers and faded hand-me-downs. With so much information, it can be easy for them to cherry pick bits of information to build up a (baseless) case against you. You should be confident enough in your choice that you don’t have to constantly justify and explain it. 

Be Innocent, But Wise 

In the face of criticism, it can be easy to start feeling victimized, attacked, and overly defensive. It hurts to face so much misunderstanding or mischaracterization when all you’re trying to do is give your kids their best chance. As someone who has personally weathered a heaping helping of unsolicited advice, out-of-the-blue antagonism, incorrect accusations based on assumptions, and just plain mean people, I’ll conclude this article with these hard-won “don’ts.” 

  • Don’t lie about what you’re doing. When the truth comes out, it will make whatever you tried to conceal seem suspicious, even if there’s nothing suspicious about it. 
  • Don’t immediately trust everyone who acts interested in what you’re doing. Let trust be earned, not assumed. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to completely answer every single question that anyone asks you.  
  • Finally, don’t let the criticism make you feel like you need to be ashamed. You’re doing nothing wrong by choosing to teach your own children, and you need to know it. 

WREN EVERETT and her husband quit their teaching jobs in the city and moved back-to-the-land on 12 acres in the Ozarks. There, they are learning to live as modern peasants: off-grid, as self-sufficient as possible, and quite happily. 

Originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *