How to Handle Homeschool Pharisees

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How to Handle Homeschool Pharisees: The Homeschool Sanity Show

Hey homeschoolers!

We've discussed homeschool haters before. It's more understandable that someone who has never homeschooled is driving us crazy with their comments and interference. But what about when opinionated homeschoolers are driving us nuts? That's what we'll discuss in this episode of the Homeschool Sanity Show: Homeschool Pharisees. There's one way to homeschool and it's their way. I look forward to chatting with you in a few minutes.

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How to Handle Homeschool Pharisees

First, what's a Pharisee? I love this definition: one of a group of Jews who thought that they kept all God's rules. They did not like the things that Jesus taught. They thought that they did not do any wrong things. So, they thought that they were very important and clever. What then is a homeschool Pharisee?  Someone who thinks they are homeschooling the right way and that you aren't. This is someone likely to be vocal about their dislike of your methods. Of course, because homeschooling is a lifestyle, these individuals are likely to be critical of your parenting, marriage, style of dress, money management, recreational time, and more. Sounds like such a fun person to hang out with, doesn't it? So why do we? I'd like to take you through typical phases of a Pharisee relationship.

Phases of Pharisee Relationships

You may feel drawn to a homeschool Pharisee because you don't feel confident in your homeschooling or other areas of your life. You may feel that by spending time with someone who is so confident, you'll become more confident. You may think that the Pharisee you know really is doing it right. If you spend time with her, you'll be doing it right, too. Whether because of pride or insecurity, we can get to know a homeschool Pharisee and may live to regret it.

At first, your Pharisee may be very encouraging. He or she is glad to be asked for advice and assures you that you'll be as good a homeschooler as they are in no time. Pharisees recommend books and seminars and if you take their advice by reading and listening, your Pharisee will continue to approve of you.

It may take some time, but you'll start to feel uncomfortable with what you're reading and listening to. The experts your Pharisee has recommended are just as confident as she is. They have done everything right in their homeschooling, parenting, marriage, and more — never mind that they typically still have young children. You will notice the harsh judgment of those who don't homeschool or don't homeschool and live the way they choose to. If you don't feel uncomfortable with the experts, you'll find yourself feeling uncomfortable with people who don't follow the experts. Why on earth are they using anything besides the Bible for curriculum? Why do they allow their children to attend Sunday school? Why would they consider sending their child to school when it's so clearly wrong? The more you express your discomfort with others' choices to your Pharisee, the more approval you will have.

That is until the next stage. You find yourself struggling to implement a pure unschooling philosophy, so you ask your Pharisee what you're doing wrong. You're met with not help and encouragement, but judgment. You are indeed doing something wrong, you're told, but you're still not sure what. Your teen is becoming more and more withdrawn as you isolate him and take privileges away. “It doesn't seem to be working,” you tell your Pharisee. She asks if you've let him use social media. “That's the problem,” she says, feeling certain. You feel even more insecure than when you started and are getting even less approval.

You may decide to try harder to get your Pharisee's approval. “Can I watch you homeschool? Can my child spend a week with your family? I've decided to start a vegan diet like you.” These things can get you back in your Pharisee's good graces. Or you may take a much different tack. “I don't really think classical education is working for us. We're going to change churches. We're going to let our daughter date.” Uh-oh. That's not going to go over well. You'll seesaw back and forth between being angry at your Pharisee and angry at yourself. Who is wrong? Why does there have to be only one way?

When you get to that question, it's likely that you'll recognize that you've been relating to a Pharisee. And even worse, that you've been one yourself.

I'm able to describe these stages not because I've done professional research, but because I've been through them. The truth is there was a part of both my husband and me that was very insecure about homeschooling and parenting and Christian living. It was so appealing to hear from people who were so confident that they had the formula for a perfect family. There was also a part of both my husband and me that wanted to be better than other parents. That's called pride. We thought we were better for homeschooling, better for spending so much time teaching the Bible, better for protecting our children from the heathens.

I didn't understand why every Christian parent didn't homeschool, why every Christian parent didn't keep their kids with them all Sunday, why every Christian parent hadn't decided dating was evil. But eventually the Pharisees didn't understand me either. Why did we have a television? Why did we allow our child to play video games? Why would I send my son to public school?

And eventually when every rule I was following that was supposed to produce a perfect family failed, I saw that I was a homeschool Pharisee following homeschool Pharisees. And there was only one answer for how to handle my homeschool Pharisees, just as there was in New Testament times. I had to follow Jesus. And following Jesus requires humility. I had to admit that I wasn't capable of making my children into full-time missionaries who were also geniuses. I wasn't capable of holding a marriage or home or blog together, even with the seemingly good advice of others. My husband and I were messing everything up. And suddenly that humbling realization helped us to have compassion on other parents. The rush-to-judgment of the parent whose daughter was pregnant, whose son was on drugs, whose child had walked away from the faith wasn't there. And to this day, that is such a relief.

Being a Pharisee and hanging with Pharisees is exhausting. It's being a slave to extremes in philosophy and the approval of others. Following Jesus in homeschooling is freedom. It's freedom to use textbooks at home, unschool, enroll in online academies, attend school or co-ops part-time, or all of these in the same year. It's the freedom to make bread from scratch or head to McDonalds for lunch. We don't want to trade one enslaving philosophy for another. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Steps Forward

How do you handle homeschool Pharisees? Check your own motivation. Are you feeling insecure or prideful? When you spend time with your Pharisee, how do you feel about yourself and about others? Consider journaling your thoughts and feelings. As you read over past entries, you'll be able to pick up on insecurity or pride.

Put the books away. Stop attending the seminars. Go to God and ask Him for His wisdom. Listen to your spouse and your children. Admit to extreme, judgmental thinking and ask forgiveness where necessary. Limit contact with Pharisees. Leave groups that live by the law and judgment, local and online. Share as little information about your family with Pharisees as possible. When you can't avoid their advice or disapproval, consider replying, “That's something to consider.”Build healthy new friendships. Look for people who are willing to be honest about their struggles. This is one of the things I love about the moms in HomeschoolScopes on Facebook.

Finally, pray for Pharisees. Because of Jesus, there is hope for anyone who is caught up in being a homeschool Pharisee. If a Pharisee you know asks sincerely why you have withdrawn from them or a group you were involved in, give them a gentle answer.

Today's Action Steps

Subscribe to Register for the 2016 Digital Homeschool Convention. Handle homeschool Pharisees by check whether you have been living as one or following them. If you have, pray today for a new perspective and for freedom. I'm so thankful to God that He humbled me and set me free. I pray He does the same for you.

Today's episode has been brought to you by The Organized Homeschool Life.

Have a happy homeschool week!

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Author: Dr. Mel

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