My wife and I have home educated our four kids since our oldest started kindergarten over 14 years ago. She is now in college and doing a summer internship in Israel before studying in Switzerland this next academic year. Our youngest is starting Kindergarten this fall. We say home "educated" instead of homeschool (or home school) for a reason. For us school is four walls, desks, blackboard (or whiteboard now), and too much rote memorization. We do not believe that public schools are evil, and that there are many teachers doing great work in educating the next generation. For us, educating our kids at home was a personal choice, not a mandate or flight from something else.
It was just over 10 years ago that I spent much of my time traversing the country and unveiling a new concept of home education known as virtual schools. There are stories worth sharing from each state I traveled -- from the questionable hotels before I started booking my own lodging to the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, and from sea to shining sea as the song goes.
I spent winters in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and summers in Florida and California, which seems to be the wrong timing I know. It wasn't my plan, that's for sure.
One of my fondest memories was just outside of Columbus, Ohio where I garnered my first nickname, the "agent of darkness."
It came after I gave a presentation to a packed room of families interested in learning more about the Ohio Virtual Academy, during its infancy. And it occurred during the Q and A time at the end.
He was a nice guy, yet when he posed his lengthy question (which was really more of a monologue as I recall), he framed it with the comment that "you come into our state as an agent of darkness, spreading all of these lies, and you know nothing about homeschool."
It wasn't easy standing there allowing him to "ask" his question, and he must have ignored my first part of the presentation where I covered the fact that my wife and I were home educating our own family. What I did find myself doing though was recalling something the great sales trainer Zig Ziglar had said a few years prior that related to situations like this.
Zig was at a conference, speaking with a fellow presenter who asked him, "Zig, what do you do about the man in the front row who is falling asleep while you are talking? What can you say that will convince him to pay attention to you?"
Zig, in his famous drawl answered, "Remember, you are not here for that man who is sleeping on the front row. You are here for the person next to him who is giving you their full attention. That is who you are speaking to, so talk to them."
I did the same thing that evening just outside of Columbus once the gentleman finished posing his question. I acknowledged his question, shared that the school was probably not for his family, and then answered his question for the rest of the room (at least for those who were there to listen), understanding that I was there for the other families and not for him.
Too many times we spend all of our time and energy trying to convince a prospect to listen to us when clearly they are uninterested, or even antagonistic at times. Sometimes you can't get away from them, however, you don't have to engage them.
Spend your time and energy finding those prospects who want to hear what you have to say, then share your information. Sharing is much more effective than convincing, even though both are considered activities.
And, thanks Zig, for all you did while on Earth.