HA note: For this two-part post, we asked members of the Homeschoolers Anonymous community the following question: If you grew up in a bad or less-than-ideal family and/or homeschooling environment, what are things that people around you (other family, friends, community members, etc.) could have done to help you and make your life better, more tolerable, etc.? We edited and compiled everyone’s answers into a list of 40 suggestions and will present those suggestions in 2 sets of 20. Each set is a group post compiled from various people’s answers.
1. Compliment the child to the parents in front of the child.
Even if the parents shoot down the compliment, it might be one of the kindest things the child has heard about themselves in years.
2. Let them overhear you offer to include them in your own family events/outings.
Even if the parents refuse, it might offer the child hope for the future and give them a self-esteem boost.
3. Give them opportunities, however small, to express their own feelings or thoughts.
Tell them it’s ok to have feelings and thoughts, especially if they’re super repressed. Ask them if they have dreams, and if they don’t know how to dream, try to show them what it means to think about a future. Tell them about cool occupations, about sports, about music, about dance. That might seem like torture, if it’s something their parents won’t allow them, but maybe it will give them something to hang onto and look for in the future. Find ways to rekindle their inner fire.
4. Believe women who say they’re being abused.
Believe women who say they’re being abused, and support them in leaving their husbands. Don’t tell them to pray more, submit more, anything more. Help them get out, and help them and their kids through the transition.
5. Call children’s services if you suspect abuse or neglect.
Always call; what you see is only the tip of the iceberg.
6. If they come over to your house for some reason, a meal for example, don’t let them/ask them to help with dishes.
Don’t let them/ask them to help with anything, including table washing or sweeping — or anything housework related. Chances are they have a ton of that at home, and they think it’s their duty in life. Give them ice cream or start them a movie, or talk to them happily as you wash their dish for them. It might be really confusing for them. But it will be good.
7. Encourage them to dream of careers.
Encourage them to dream of careers beyond gender role ideals by remarking on what they’re good at. They’ll remember it for years and years..
8. Encourage them to dream big.
My “adopted grandpa” was convinced that I would be chief justice of the supreme court one day. Now, since I didn’t go an ivy school that’s highly unlikely, but that was one of the few voices I heard other than my parents who actually took my goals seriously. In the broader homeschool community there was usually a, “That’s nice, she thinks she’s going to be something more than a stay at home mom,” subtext.
9. If you want to risk being entirely cut out of the child’s life, offer to lend parent-unapproved books and movies for cultural education.
Maybe give the cover reason of helping them understand more about the culture for witnessing to the “lost”. Then be careful not to shock them too much with your choice of material if they are not ready for it.
10. Attribute their successes and their great personality traits to them, and them alone.
None of this “your parents must have raised you right!” or “you must have great parents” or “[parents] did a good job on this one!” Let the kids know they deserve praise for their own accomplishments. They are not their parents’ puppets or pet dogs.
11. If a parent tells you they’re being harsh or strict with their children, don’t praise them for doing so.
Don’t praise them for doing so or encourage them to be even harsher or stricter. You don’t necessarily need to assume they’re wrong — not every parent is narcissistic like mine — but you should always keep in mind that the parent you’re talking to is a potential abuser.
12. Tell them that fun doesn’t have to be edifying.
Happiness is enough for its own sake. Harry Potter is awesome and will not lead you on the path to hell. Most people are pretty decent, even if they swear, do drugs, or talk about sex. You can befriend people who aren’t perfect. It’s okay not to be perfect — just being yourself is a form of perfection. Being human is the greatest gift we have. Kindness is the best guide for morality I’ve found. Watch Star Wars.
13. If there’s a way to communicate to home schooled kids that the outside world isn’t this awful place on the brink of collapse, do it!
Help them realize there is more than one way to live a happy, fulfilling life.
14. If you notice they don’t have a lot of friends, for the love of Pete, be a friend and help them make some!
Suggest music similar to what they already like/listen to so they can listen to it at work or in their car and give it back to you without being in trouble. Offer books they can read while they are on their lunch or smoke breaks, or in Sunday school.
15. If they are stressed out about family, do your psychoanalyzing silently.
It is very likely they’re being gaslighted at home and otherwise mentally/emotionally abused. Process in your own head. If you suspect something, ask around how to appropriately intervene. Don’t embarrass yourself or them.
16. Let them know it’s never wrong to question.
Truth will stand up under scrutiny. Question down to the foundations, and when you get to a wall of assumptions or tenets or axioms you can’t get past, ask yourself why. Question your beliefs and question the reasons for your beliefs. Question authority. That’s not a statement of rebellion, it’s a search for truth. Truth will always prevail, and if/when your beliefs come out whole on the other side, you’ll be that much stronger in holding them, because the hard questions are behind you.
17. If you have your own kids, invite just the kids over.
Befriend the parents if you can and then invite the kids over often. When they are with you, don’t ask them to do any work, let them sit at the table while you talk about parenting gently, being happy your kids are growing and making their own decisions, how to write a transcript, when to apply to college. Tall about anything the kid needs to get to college and anything to crack the ideas about harsh parenting and gender roles and submission.
18. Tell the kids about other school experiences.
Even just seeing public schooled kids’ textbooks and homework in their car or laying around the house caused the beginnings of doubt for me. The program my mom used liked to say that homeschooled kids averaged 3 grade levels ahead of public school peers. Seeing homework revealed that wasn’t true. For me at least. Especially in math and sciences.
18. Check in on them regularly, personally or through your church.
We lived in three places where the churches we attended never checked on us. Like, we had one car and my dad had it all the time and no one once asked if we need help going to the doctor, grocery shopping, or if we wanted to have a play date or anything like that. A simple “Hey, do ya’ll have enough food to go on the table?” or “Would your kids like to come over and play?” would have been very nice.
19. Accept them.
Even if they are different, even if they seem a bit odd, shower them with acceptance. They need acceptance, not judgement.
20. Love them.
Listen to them like they matter because they might not get much of that. Simple little gestures like telling them it’s okay to be sad or saying ‘you can do it!’ ‘I believe in you’ or ‘I am proud of you’ can stick in their mind for years.
Part Two >