When Criticism Hurts the Most
- Monday, October 31, 2011
You are enjoying the fresh air and sunshine in your backyard. Your little boys are catching lizards, discussing the characteristics of reptiles and how cold-blooded animals regulate body temperature. Your preschooler, not impressed with such critters, is picking a bunch of flowers. She notes the colors of the flowers and sorts them by type. You leisurely chat about the beauty of her bouquet, photosynthesis, and the importance of caring for our natural environment. Your teenager is stretched out on a lawn chair, soaking in the rays and reading Little Women. Homeschooling at its best. Right in the middle of this beautiful morning, Cousin Tom drops by to return a borrowed jigsaw. Looking around at all the fun, he laughs, and says that it must be nice to play hooky every day.
Instantly you bristle. But what do you say? Do you launch into a lecture on the philosophy of student-directed learning? Do you say that you are just taking a break, and assure him that your children are at the books all day? Do you ignore him? Make a joke? Do you make a mental note not to allow the children to be outside until the afternoons?
With one careless remark, you are diverted from the freedom of homeschooling to the tyranny of trying to please others. Much of what threatens our joy as homeschoolers comes from outside of our actual homes. Teacher lobbying groups, the public school system, and society in general may staunchly disapprove of our choices; but we are prepared for that. We expect negativity from society. What really gets to us is negative comments from those we love.
Comments come from Sister June who loves us and means well, and is afraid that homeschooling will be too much for us. Brother Bob, who has a control issue, has to make his opinion known. Aunt Trudy can be deliberately unkind, and we may never know the reason for that. And sometimes Cousin Tom is just chattering, without giving a second thought to the damage his words are doing.
We shouldn't be surprised when criticism comes from family and friends. "But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." (Mark 6:4) This is when criticism seems to do the most damage. Knowing that not all will understand or agree, we still dearly hope that our own families, our friends, other homeschoolers, and brothers and sisters in Jesus will support us. When our loved ones make hurtful comments, we are often unprepared, and that can be painful. Be ready. As you read through Scripture, notice the circumstances under which persecution occurs. More times than not, it is from someone who calls himself a servant of God. Whether well-meaning, cruel, or thoughtless, criticism will most likely come from someone close to you. The key to peace is in knowing how to respond in a way that is pleasing to God.
Recognize that there are two main types of critics: those who are well-meaning and those who are not. When someone who loves you and wants the best for you questions whether you should be homeschooling, or questions your methods or your child's progress, be encouraged! Even though her comments may sting, it is a blessing to have someone care enough about you and your child to risk a confrontation for your good. Hang on to that friend. Whether she is misguided or only disagrees with you, you can thank her for her concern, while you reassure her that you are doing your child more good than harm. This friend may turn out to be a homeschooling ally in time.
The well-meaning loved one may not know much about homeschooling, or may have heard of someone having a bad experience. Often she has not given logical thought to her objections. She is just worried. This is where you meet her. Ask her to be very specific. If she says, "I don't think that it's good for the child," then ask, "In what way is it not good? What do you mean?" Listen closely. Pinpoint the concern exactly. Rephrase it, so that you are sure you understand, and she knows you have heard her. There may be several concerns. Break it down, and answer each one individually. If the concern is not specific, you can propose your friend give you a trial period without comment. Say, "Let's give it a year and see how Melissa progresses. If, after a year, you still have these worries, we can discuss it again. But let's agree to not say anything negative about homeschooling, for her sake, until the year is up."
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