Why homeschool?

The short answer?  The status quo was not working.  Resolutions available to us were not moving fast enough, were not permanent enough, or were outright ineffective.  Our son was stressed, scared, and his education was stagnating.  We were frustrated watching him go through it despite our best efforts to help him navigate the rough waters of being a kid with a couple extra challenges, and something had to change.  We all reached the end of our patience and ability to tolerate others’ intolerance with anything resembling poise or restraint, and chose to forge our own path together.  The long answer, however, requires a bit of exposition.

Our son was being bullied.  Before you might question, we are not “system” haters; each instance was handled quickly and efficiently by school administrators; whatever they did, those mini-offenders learned the errors of their ways and did not repeat.  The problem, however, was there seemed to be an unlimited supply of children who felt it was acceptable to treat another person with such disrespect, and they were only 8 and 9 years old.  What would they be like at 12, 15, or 17?  Administrators assured us that programs were in place to teach children how hurtful and hateful it was, and just give it time to get through to them.  But our son came home far too frequently with stories of being pushed, elbowed, shoved, insulted, demeaned, teased, and the rest.  It had to stop, immediately, not if and when kids listened to those presentations.  We both went to public school…  We know how effective those pep talks are.  The whole “part of the problem or part of the solution” translated to keeping our son in a hateful environment so he could be a potential target by kids that might or might not listen to wisdom, or doing what we had to do to put him in a safe and loving environment.  Hmm.  Tough choice.  (That’s sarcasm, in case it was too subtle.)

Our son was growing more stressed by the day.  So you might be saying to yourself, every other kid in public school manages it so why couldn’t he?  Day by day, he grew more withdrawn as his confidence and self-esteem took another blow.  At ten.  One of the challenges of parenting a child on the Spectrum is keeping them engaged with the world around them.  It was always a constant struggle to keep him from disappearing into his internal world before little punks began knocking down our boy to compensate for their inadequacies, and it became a monumental undertaking to engage him each time one of them used him as their personal kicking post.  As soon as we got him cheered, it was time to take him back to that place.  I put a cheerful little boy in the car, and the closer we got to school, the more withdrawn, nervous, and scared he became, until we pulled up to the curb and he got out with big, frightened eyes, barely mumbling goodbyes.  Every day, I watched my happy child morph into a terrified victim before anyone said a word to him.

His education suffered.  The more withdrawn he became, the harder it became to get him to focus on school work.  Each time a kid treated him that way, he grew distracted for days as he tried to figure out why.  Additionally, teachers are just one person with a lot of little minds in front of them; they teach one way, and it was not “his” way.  We bought duplicates of textbooks for home, and he would come home each night so we could spend a couple hours “translating” what the teachers said to something he understood, after spending the day doing classwork with minimal comprehension.  Academically, he was keeping up, but we often wondered if he was taught “his” way originally, how much better could he do?

And then there were those school personnel without a clue.  Okay, to clarify, we appreciated the efforts of most school staff.  His second grade teacher, however, was the one that put us on a serious path to homeschooling.  During yet another parent-teacher-admin meeting following yet another incident, that woman said, “he is going to have a hard life, he’s going to need to grow a thicker skin.”  I can still hear those words with the clarity only motherly fury can sustain.  To clear up any concerns, I think I remained outwardly calm despite the many reactions readers might imagine came to mind, and I assure you, all were given serious consideration in that instant.  We are well aware he may have a bit more challenge to deal with in his life, but she might as well have said, “the only real fix is to give all his classmates tire irons and let them go to town so he can see what the real world might bring.”  I know he’s going to need to learn to handle intolerance, ignorance, and pure stupidity on his own someday.  Adults with half a brain generally understand it is our job as parents and teachers to help children build self-esteem, confidence, and poise in the face of such poor qualities before we throw them to the wolves.  In my personal experience, only two types of people result from a “sink or swim” upbringing: 1) those that are so beaten down they accept abuse as normal, or 2) those that are so calloused they refuse to allow anyone close.  I refuse to accept either option for my son without at least trying to give him tools to stand up for himself with confidence and independence, and that was not going to happen when he was being knocked down – metaphorically, not necessarily literally – on a daily basis.

So each of those points ultimately led us to the conclusion that homeschooling was the ideal situation for our family, despite any difficulties we might need to overcome.  It may not be for every family.  Other children, families, school systems, and so on might be able to work through those issues.  We might have been able to, but it was a gamble with stakes too high that we could not take the chance.

We will figure it out.  And probably mess up horribly at varying points along the way, but we will do our best and know it will be healthier for him physically (all that stress cannot be good for a little body), emotionally, and academically.  He is capable of learning like every other kid, when taught how he needs to be taught.  We intend to give him the tools and chance to be a self-assured person that can someday withstand the real world.  In the meantime, we intend to give him a safe, loving environment all the time to be a happy, care-free kid a little while longer.


6 thoughts on “Why homeschool?

  1. As a former teacher, I would like to apologize to you for what that teacher said to you: “he is going to have a hard life, he’s going to need to grow a thicker skin.”

    I am floored! That is not professional at all.

    Welcome to the homeschool world!! Enjoy your journey!!!

    • It is representative of who she was as a person, but she is thankfully in our little guy’s past. He has a very good teacher this year, so we are pleased that we can end his public school experience on a high note to avoid the possibility that he gets assigned to someone else like that his second grade teacher.

      I can tell you were one of the good ones! Thank you for the welcome; we are very excited to begin our homeschooling journey.

  2. I am battling with my daughter’s school district to get her the help she needs (suspected attention-related-disorder, I don’t want to medicate unless all else has failed), and the principal says to me “I don’t understand why the doctor is so reluctant to medicate, maybe you should find a more medication friendly doctor”.

    I almost punched her, I really did. And then, because my daughter is still managing to test at her grade level, this principal told me that I couldn’t get the eval that the pediactrician was requesting to get a more complete picture of the school day so she could make a definite diagnosis (yeah, school was pushing meds and my daughter hasn’t even been diagnosed with anything yet. *disgusted snort*), unless she had a behavioral problem.

    I was half tempted to go home and tell my daughter to “Go to school tomorrow and flips some desks over and kick the teacher so they’ll help you.” But she’s not the type of kid who would do that. They wouldn’t evaluate her unless she was failing. She’s in second grade!! Am I supposed to wait until it becomes a problem? Why? Why do I have to wait for my brilliant, beautiful child to fail? Why can’t I just set her up to succeed? Why do I have to watch her struggle to do her homework, fight (and fail) to stay on task, and then watch as she gets frustrated and bursts into tears (I don’t *just* watch…I hold her, and most times, I cry right along with her)? I myself have ADHD, I know how hard it must be for her to have such a hard time paying attention…

    Goodness. I meant for this to be message of kudos for you, for doing what is best for your son. I wish I could homeschool, but we have a tiny house that barely fits us, and there’s no such thing as private space where we can be left alone in peace and quiet. And instead it turned into a ventfest for me…I’m sorry!!!

    • Oh honey, I’m so sorry you’re hitting such a roadblock. Your daughter has rights, and the school cannot withhold them or hinder the diagnosis process. We had one reasonably minor issue with educators trying to be med pushers, but gently pointing out that our son’s doctor does not dictate the curriculum they use, so they need not interfere with his ability to handle our son’s health quickly put it into perspective. Simply put, it is illegal for school officials to even imply your child needs medication, and if they have spoken as openly as you’ve described, they must know they are in the wrong and should step back if you press the issue. Go to http://www.cchrint.org/cchr-issues/childmentaldisorders/ for information on your options. You are your child’s best advocate. While homeschooling is the solution for us, that decision was only reached after trying all possible other avenues, and is by no means an easy decision or the easy road. You still have a lot of options before you and your sweet daughter.

      Good luck! No, your daughter does not need to struggle, and you do not need to watch. Brush up on the laws, get your doctor’s support, and make them do the right thing. Keep in touch! I’m no expert, but I can try to put you in touch with others who are, if you need more help.

      • I actually, more recently, went to the school to request what’s known in my state as a 504 action plan, which would give my daughter provisions and accomodations of a reasonable measure until which time she is diagnosed and an IEP is put in place. I informed that same principal in a little note I enclosed with my formal 504 request: “I may have stated previously that due to my unfamiliarity with NJ Special Needs procedures and process, that I am flying blind, but I have been doing some research, and speaking with advocates. This is my official notice that I would like a 504 for my daughter. I am aware that you have 30 days, by law, within which to comply. I am also now aware that it is illegal for you to express an opinion to me regarding medication and my child. You are not a doctor, you are not even a med student, and for you to suggest I find a more medication friendly pediatrician is against the law, and should it happen again, any subsequent communication will be through the Special Education Services advocate and my attorney. My child has not been diagnosed, largely due to your unwillingness to provide the evaluation that my pediatrician needs to paint a complete picture of what happens as school during the day, and any pediatrician worth their degree is not going to medicate an undiagnosed child. I advise, for the sake of our professional correspondence regarding my child, that you stick to educating children and let my daughter’s doctor do her job in accordance with what is best for my child and my own desire to not medicate until everything that YOUR district offers has been tried. Sincerely, Merry Wench.”

        Yeah. I was on a warpath and heads were gonna *roll*. Two days later, I get an email that they will be doing the requested eval and will let me know when the report meeting is so I can attend….Yay me!!! *clapclap* Thank God for small steps of progress and miracles.

  3. Good for you for standing up for your daughter’s needs. I would like to say getting an IEP is the hard part, but at least in our experience, it was the easiest hurdle to climb. It does seem strange the principal would interfere with the diagnosis; very few doctors are merely going to hand out medication, so if that is the route she wants, one would think she would be eager to help. Hopefully it is an easier road from there. Good luck!

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