Dear Helping Hand,
I have been homeschooling for six years, and to tell you the truth, my biggest challenge is home school support groups. Many members are judgmental and offer way too much advice without even being asked. I love to socialize, as do my kids, but what the heck is one to do?
People are our biggest challenge throughout life, aren't they? What you do will be determined primarily by your personality and situation. Truly, I can think of any number of responses, dependent upon the personality type involved.
"You know, I must have missed part of the definition of 'support group'. I really was under the impression that we were here to aide, not to attack."
"Well, Susan, I appreciate your willingness to offer so much unsolicited advice. In exchange, I'll give you some of my own. First, you should..."
Yes, I'm being snide. Actually, I used to be firmly in the 'grin and bear it' camp, taking what people said with a bag of salt and then walking away the moment they were finished -- not necessarily the best reaction, but typical of the non-confrontationalist I am by nature. This meant that... 1) I permitted myself to be provoked to wrath far too often and 2) Too many hours of mine and my children's lives were wasted while others had their entertainment.
It seems I'm getting contrary in my old age, however. My book says a support group's purpose is to build up, not tear down. If the support group as a whole were into judgementalism and attacks, I'd be history. If, on the other hand, only certain members were that way. . . I'd have to pray about how to handle each one. I still show much grace to the ignorant woman on the street, but when the attacking party is with me in a group specifically designed for support. . .well, gone are the days when I would take that lying down. I do try not to return attack with attack, however. In watching a friend deal with similar situations, I'm learning to handle these people with humor. . .
"Been sharpening your knives, Grace? Try throwing them in the proper direction, please. We're supposed to be playing on the same team, remember?"
Unsolicited advice, however. . . <sigh> Your problem, of course, is that people in general tend to lean toward a free dispensation of unsolicited advice. The newly wed couple is plagued by their elders who 'know all'. The new mom is rebuked in turn with "Keep that baby's head covered!" and "Lord have mercy! Give that child room to breathe!" Homeschoolers are the same way. When I hear a mom talking about her struggles to find just the right curriculum for her five year old, I'm dying to jump in with, "Oh, honey, don't worry about curriculum. Just read to him, answer his questions, and let him play!" This, of course, is why I have a question/answer column.
But you are truly in need of practical suggestions for dealing with this overabundance of unrequested counsel. . .
Here's a thought, something that might work in many cases. The one thing about advice is that it's easily forgotten. . .especially the stuff you want to remember. Why not try carrying a small notebook in your purse and, when someone starts in on you -- grab for it and a pen, put a huge smile on your face, and say with great enthusiasm. . .
"Stop right there! I have a terrible time remembering such things and I've determined not to miss out anymore. Here, write it down for me and that way we both know I'll have the right information later."
Some will refuse -- to them reply (politely) that they'd best not waste their breath then because you're guaranteed to forget it the minute you walk away. Others may fill pages with suggestions. Most, however, may well condense what would have taken half an hour to say into one or two written lines. And who knows? You may even find an invaluable gem or two in this new little advice book of yours.
A Helping Hand
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