“Are you homeschooling because of COVID?” The lady who had come to do some work at our house asked with a knowing nod.

“No, that has been our plan all along,” I answered with a cheery smile.

Her face looked a little concerned. “Do you plan to homeschool all the way through?”

I’d heard the question often enough not to be thrown by the credulity in her voice.

“Yes, that’s the plan!”

“I guess that’s not the worst thing . . .” her voice trailed off.

Homeschool families are used to the oddest of encounters—and the responding to the advice and input from strangers on their education choices. But what if we took “unsurprised” responses to the next level?

When we were younger, my mother taught us 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Now, this verse primarily applies to the gospel: be ready always to share Christ and the reason for the hope you have. But this instruction can more broadly apply to giving gracious responses to people who question other areas of life.

I must admit, the gentleness and respect part of that verse tends to be where I struggle the most—which is probably why the verse admonishes us in the first place to “prepare” for our answers. I’m going to share a few common questions I’ve been asked, and the responses I try to share.

“Wow you have your hands full!”

This phrase is a common go-to when people see me out and about with all four of my boys who range in age from 7 to 3. Sometimes, we are passing so quickly, I don’t have time for anything more than the response, “and my heart, too!”

When I have a little more time, I like to elaborate: “my boys are such a precious gift, I treasure the time I have to nurture them into productive members of society.” Or if their voice is especially saucy, sometimes I’ll add the reminder, “I know so many people who struggle with fertility—I am so blessed to have four little blessings from above.”

“Do you really plan to homeschool all the way through high school?”

For now, the answer is definitely, “yes.” But rather than dismissing their intrigue with our education and lifestyle choices, I like to have a few perks of homeschooling rolled into my “prepared” answer. “I love the time I get to spend learning alongside my boys, and homeschooling allows us flexibility in our schedules and in pursuing our passions.”

Usually, that response invites people to continue the conversation with more questions, rather than shutting them down with a short, snippy, defensive response.

“I don’t think I could do that!”

While that one is less of a question, and more of a statement, my prepared response is, “I can’t do it all either—we definitely have to prioritize our schedule, but even the things I do get done are only possible with God’s grace and support from my husband, our family, and our community.”

“Have you thought about socialization?”

As an extreme extrovert who enjoyed my own homeschool experience, this question always puzzled me. In addition to a house full of siblings, we made friends at church, co-op classes, community orchestra, and community sports. Also, my mother encouraged us to develop social skills interacting with adults and peers as we ran errands, participated in political functions, and hosted other families at our house for dinner.

Summing up all the potential for homeschoolers to socialize can be quite a mouthful. Preparation is key to summarizing socialization for inquiring minds, “In addition to traditional schooling, we take every opportunity to teach our children about proper interactions with peers and other adults—from community events to playdates or co-ops. I appreciate the opportunity to intervene and guide them through polite interactions with adults, and through mature responses to conflict rather than hoping they find their way in a pack of peers.”

No matter the awkward question you regularly encounter, thinking through your response in advance gives you an opportunity to focus on grace and gentleness, rather than kicking yourself with what you “should have said” as you finish your day. In addition to easing dicomfort, thinking through responses in advance can help you capitalize on opportunities to share the truth of the gospel—or be an encouragement to others.