Homeschoolers have to consult a number of different professionals. For example, I am often asked about having children tested for special needs. Another area I am often asked about is seeing a mental health professional. This could be seeking services for yourself, your marriage, or your children. Finally, we may need to consult professionals for our own or our children’s physical needs.
Why is this even an issue? Because as homeschoolers, we tend to lack trust for those who are outside of homeschooling circles. And this is understandable! We are DIYers. We like to do things ourselves and it can be hard to trust those who may not have a favorable view of homeschooling. However, there are times when not seeking professional help is hurting us or hurting our children. In fact, there are instances when failing to seek professional help could be considered neglect. There is no way I can tell you if you’re in that situation. But I can ask you to prayerfully consider whether it is time to seek professional help. One indicator that it is time is that you are you or your child is having difficulty functioning in daily life.
I wish I did not have to mention this as a reason you may be reluctant to seek professional help, but I feel I have to. If we feel that we have something to hide, we may not want to see a professional who could determine that we are not providing the best education for our children. If you are suffering from clinical depression or severe anxiety to the extent that you are not able to educate your children and this is a chronic condition, not a temporary one, I ask you to consider having your children educated in another way for now. Whether that means asking a friend or family member to help, or putting your children in a traditional school, I ask you to do what is best for your children. If people you trust are telling you that need to stop homeschooling, listen to them. Just because homeschooling isn’t the best choice now does not mean that you will never be able to homeschool again.
How to Work with Professionals as a Homeschooler
If the difficulties that you or your children are having do not threaten your ability to adequately educate your children, then I recommend the following six steps.
Get a referral. My favorite way to have people get referrals for professional services is through their local homeschooling support group. If you are part of an online forum, this is an ideal place to ask for the professional you need. Another place to ask, depending on the type of professional you need, is your church. Most pastors are aware of Christian counselors that they can recommend to you. Finally you may have friends who are in the medical or mental health field who can give you a good referral for a professional in your area.
Become a member of HSLDA. This is especially important if there is any reason to believe that you could go through a divorce in the future. More than just practical assistance, a membership to HSLDA provides you with peace of mind. If you should have contact with a professional who is anti-homeschooling and chooses to make an issue of it, you will know that you have good attorneys in your corner.
Pray for favor. It may be the case that you do not have a Christian professional who is pro-homeschooling that you can work with. That does not mean we should be fearful. Nehemiah prayed that he would have favor with an unbelieving king (Nehemiah 1:11) and he did. Pray that the professional you are seeing will be open and supportive to providing the help and services that you or your child needs.
Don’t tell the professional that you’re homeschooling if that information is unnecessary. There are certainly occasions, such as working with a reading specialist, where it’s obvious that you have to say that you’re homeschooling. But if you are seeing a general practitioner for depression and you are interested in taking an antidepressant, for example, there is no need for you to talk about the fact that you are homeschooling, especially if it’s not relevant. If it is necessary to talk about the fact that you are homeschooling, be prepared to educate the professional about homeschooling. Many people still aren’t aware of the facts of homeschooling or they have unfortunately believed some stereotypes about homeschoolers. For example, they may believe homeschoolers isolate their children so they have a better opportunity to abuse them. Because that is a potential issue, make sure you talk with the professional about the activities that you and your children are involved in. Do not be defensive, but be open and positive in response to their questions about it. You may have had some concerns about homeschooling in the beginning too. I know I did. Of course, I was worried about socialization!
Be open to advice. If you have prayed about your consultation with a professional, be willing to listen to what that professional has to say. Of course, this does not mean that you have to accept the advice, but do try to listen to another perspective. You may be given insights that you would not have had on your own. An example of this in my life was when one of my sons was struggling to read phonetically. Using phonics to read is the approach most accepted in homeschooling circles. But I spoke to my neighbor who is a reading specialist, and she told me that I needed to let my son use a whole language approach to read. If you have no idea what whole language is, that’s understandable. It essentially means that you allow your child to memorize words in whole. As soon as I allowed my son to stop sounding out words and to just memorize them, he was reading and feeling confident about his ability to read. Be open to advice you get from professionals. Research it and discuss it with your spouse and others.
Do not be confrontational. The final step I have for you in working with professionals as a homeschooler is one you need to take when your views of the problem and the professional’s view of the problem are in conflict. The Bible tells us to be kind to everyone and able to teach (2 Timothy 2:24). We cannot be kind or teach professionals about the homeschooling lifestyle and the advantages of it, if we are belligerent. If a professional makes a suggestion, such as you need to put your children in school, simply say, “Thank you for the advice. I will consider it.” Then it is well within your rights to move on to a different professional for a second opinion. I would not announce the fact that you are going to seek a second opinion, however. In every way we want to present ourselves as reasonable, open, and concerned with what’s best for our children. If you find that the professional you have consulted is not a good fit, start the process over again. Get another referral, pray for favor, and be open to advice. Sometimes finding the right person to work with can be as challenging as finding the right mate. Be patient and don’t give up.
What experiences have you had working with professionals as a homeschooler? Do you have any other advice? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.