The standard reply that I use for many difficult comments regarding homeschooling, unschooling, extended breastfeeding, cosleeping, etc.... is simply, "This is what works best for our family right now." Who can argue with that? A few times when someone responds with continued negativity I simply repeat the same sentence with an even bigger smile and an even more positive tone. Usually they get that I'm not up for an argument or further discussion with them regarding that matter. Sometimes I've even reversed the question and asked them what works best for their family. People like that love to talk about themselves and it usually changes the focus off of me. :)
Mama to Ainsley (7/01) , Finley (10/06) and Jade (10/06)
I haven't had much of any negativity. We do a lot of community work as a family so we have a pretty decent respectability quotient in our little town. People see our family -- including the un/home-schooled kids -- as committed, community-minded, reliable and hard-working. And they tend to assume that all this community experience is in addition to a "school at home" program that is equally reliable and committed. That impresses them. I don't make any great effort to dissuade them from that assumption.
I joke a fair bit about our homeschooling, too, and I think that people read that as confidence. I'll say "Well, we're heading home now: she needs to finish the twenty-thousand word essay I assigned her for tomorrow." Or "Oh yeah, we love homeschooling. I give them straight A's in exchange for them doing all the housework. It's a pretty cool arrangement. Right, kids?" No one takes any of this seriously, and it seems to put them off asking any serious questions. They figure if I can joke about homeschooling with my kids around enjoying the humour too, I must not be hiding any dirty secrets.
So I guess my suggestion would be to exude confidence and not to engage in serious discussions about what your educational approach is. Have a clear sense of your boundaries and if people are trying to cross them, brush it off, change the subject, crack a joke if it seems likely to go over well, and keep the appearance of confidence up.
I also think that the older your kids get, the easier it gets because they become Exhibit A for unschooling success. People can increasingly see what capable, interesting, intelligent people your young unschoolers are becoming: "Whatever it is they're doing, it's clearly working!"
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
I just try to remember that negative comments are more a reflection on the person making the comment than on me - they are usually feeling insecure about something and feel the need to criticize those who are different.
But the trick is not to let this attitude block me from recognizing when something I am doing does need to be questioned / criticized / changed. "This is what works for us" is a good standard reply esp for people who arent' very close to you but sometimes it is also fine to say, 'good point, thanks for bringing it up and we shall look / are looking into that as well."
no longer or or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
I try to remember that people in general are genuinely concerned, curious, and are just sharing what they know. I don't necessarily feel the need to address the issues they bring up but thinking that it comes from a good place (generally) helps me remain positive during such interactions.