“Your son makes himself a target for bullies.” While this sentence wasn’t the only reason that I pulled my kid out of the clutches of the public school in the small town we lived in, it was one of the many reasons behind my thinking. For one, I thought “Way to blame the victim here!” For another, I thought, “If the teachers aren’t behind my kid, advocating for his fair treatment from classmates why is he going to this school?”
There are many different reasons why parents choose to homeschool. As a single parent, it’s not a decision I thought I’d ever make – I mean, time is limited enough as it is. However, I still believe it was the best decision I could have made for my son’s growth and development.
The Public School Story
My story begins with a very eager student and a school system that was looking hard to place a label on him. I'm not sure if this is just my experience, but I found that being a single parent automatically raised the eyebrows of administrators in my son's two public schools. Perhaps it was because it was small town America; perhaps it was because I've been going it completely alone on the parenting path from the beginning. Whatever it was, my son became a target.
Before the schools realized I was parenting solo, I got compliments, "He's sits so still;" "He listens well;" "He seems attentive." Shortly after parent teacher conferences when I had to explain, "No, the other person contributing to the DNA of my child will not be in attendance," things began to change for us.
The "attentive" child suddenly had something wrong with him – I was told this was because he was "high risk" because, after all, I was a single parent. When I pointed out that I was also a graduate student, with a graduate student assistantship who rarely went out and worked two jobs while attending school full-time as an undergraduate, this didn't faze them.
They began testing for learning disabilities. Never mind that my child was pulled out of class because he disagreed with a teacher's political views in one instance, argued that religion wasn't supposed to be in public school, and was able to do math at a higher level than other kids. They were convinced there was something wrong.
When we switched schools for second grade I thought, "Things are getting better" after the IEP meeting where I was told "I don't understand this diagnosis. There's nothing wrong with your child." However, my son would come home and tell me of more reasons he was pulled from class. When I asked the teachers why they were continuing this even though they'd determined he did not have a learning disability, they told me that it was because he seemed to do better when pulled from class.
The decision to homeschool was made for many reasons. One reason was that my otherwise outgoing and happy child started seeming despondent, depressed, and withdrawn. He'd often come home from school either in tears or close to tears. He was being bullied. He was tired of being pulled out of class and feeling like he had no clue what was going on in school. He said the words "I hate myself" to me. Something needed to change. I looked into private schools, but they were overpriced and not close enough to home. As an 8th grader, and again for the first semester of my 11th grade year, I had been homeschooled. My brother had been homeschooled from fifth grade on. It seemed like a natural choice – especially when I was called in yet again about a bullying incident at a school that had a "no bullying policy" to be told that my kid made himself a target.
I was afraid he'd grow up to feel like there was something wrong with him that made people and administrators pick on him. I was afraid that he'd be lost in the system. I was afraid he'd get put into the public school's dumping ground of special education. So, in February of 2007, I lined everything up. My child did not set foot in his classroom again, I had a curriculum purchased and lesson plans set up, and we began our journey at the kitchen table in my small grad student apartment.
It was very difficult to homeschool as a single parent, I won't lie. However, within three months, my son went from struggling reader to working at grade level in every subject except reading – where he'd jumped from emergent reader to reading at a fifth grade level. Since then, we've been through ups and downs, from falling behind because of life stuff, to catching up within a matter of weeks, to being ahead. At the time of this article, he was in "7th grade" working at a high school and college level in reading, history, and science, learning four languages, and working through an algebra book. Kids develop at different rates – and the administrators at the public school were right, he did thrive with individual attention – my individual attention. Taking my kid out of public school was the best decision I made.
The decision to take your kids out of public school and teach them at home is not something that should be made lightly. Instead, it should be done with a lot of forethought. While to some people it seemed impulsive, I'd been studying methods for homeschooling for a while and implementing them when I could after school. Be sure you understand your state and local rules governing homeschooling. Most of all, have fun! Your kids only have one childhood. How do you want them to remember it?
If you homeschool, what helped you make your decision? If you're thinking about homeschooling, what is making you consider the decision?
- Ronda Bowen has been homeschooling since 2007.
- Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1336260