Monday Meditations: Ignore the Nay-Sayers

Don’t let the opinions of other people determine the image you have of yourself. There is no need to feel either appreciated or understood. Be even-minded. What you think about yourself is everything. What others think about you has no value at all, unless you choose to give it value.
— Shantidasa
Other people have a lot of opinions about homeschooling — but that doesn’t mean you have to be influenced by what they say.

I’ll never understand why people think certain life choices are up for public debate, but homeschooling — along with what kids should be eating, whether you’re expecting, and what your family electronics policy happens to be — is one of them.

Thank goodness for that handful of lovely people who just want to cheer you on — “I loved homeschooling!” “I always wanted to homeschool my kids.” “My neighbor homeschools, and it’s so great for them.” — because so many people seem to feel that they need to warn us of homeschooling’s potential pitfalls. What about socialization? And reading levels? And calculus? And college? And, really, how do we do it all day? (The look that accompanies that last one is the same look your elementary schooler gets when he’s trying to identify a new and particularly weird bug.)

It’s not so hard with strangers, whose words are easy to let go when you leave them. But when your mother-in-law, or your sister’s best friend, or your mom’s favorite neighbor gets in on the action, criticizing or interrogating your choices, it can be hard not to let their words nag at your nerves. After all, homeschooling is a big project. What if you don’t do it right? What if you let your kids down? What if you really should be worrying more about socialization and calculus?

It is not easy to let go of the sound of other people’s voices, especially when there’s a part of us that holds many of the same fears.

But most of us have worked through those fears, many times. We’ve held them up to the light and planned parts of our lives around them: We want our kids to have friends, so we don’t lock them in the basement with their grammar books all day. We join co-ops and go to park days and schedule play dates. We want our kids to learn the skills they need to get wherever they want to go next — so we pore over curricula, sign up for classes, and enlist assistance from other homeschoolers. We face our fears — proactively — pretty much every day of our homeschool lives, so why do those voices get to us so much?

I don’t want to tune out the sounds of the world my kids have to live in, but I don’t want to give them any more weight than they deserve either. My rule is to listen — once. And to listen as thoughtfully and as thoroughly as I can, to consider the words and the meaning behind them, and to decide if I want to rethink my strategy because of them. After that one time, though, I smile and nod and tune them out. So the 33rd person who asks me if I’m worried about homeschooling gets the cheery “nope!” and not one second of my headspace.

Truthfully, I have plenty to worry about all by myself. I don’t need to add other people’s opinions to my list.

Food for Thought

  • What worries in your life are generated by other people’s ideas and opinions?

  • How much weight are you giving other people’s opinions about your choices? Does that feel like the right amount of weight?

  • How can you let go of the need to justify your decisions to other people? Why do you want other people to approve of your choices?