Category Archives: socialization

Homeschool socialization v. public school socialization.

“He’s Bullied, But He’s Still Got to Go to School!” … Doesn’t He?

Jonah Mowry posted this video of himself about his fear and despair at the thought of starting 8th grade, because of the severe bullying he has experienced since 1st grade … and he started cutting himself in 2nd grade. At some point – at several points – during the ensuing seven years, he has contemplated suicide.

Jonah was fortunate to get a positive response to his video, and the kids at his school responded by befriending rather than more bullying. I am exceedingly happy for him that he’s got some friends now, that he garnered good feedback and his bullies realized what they were doing.

But.

But I find myself in a real morass of anger and confusion because of this video, because this can happen to a child in our society. Here is a child who began cutting himself when he was just seven or eight years old. Cutting! This is incredible to me, and I can’t help wondering: when he came home crying, and beat up from bullies, and bloody from his own hand …

Why did his parents send him back to school?

I do not mean to imply that Jonah’s parents didn’t care or weren’t aware of what was happening to their son. I will work from the assumption that they knew and that they were trying their hardest to find the best help available for him both at the school and outside the school. But knowing that this is not a one-time scenario, that this is happening every day to children all over this country, I have to wonder how it is that so many of us have bought into the idea that keeping these bullied children in school is the most important factor to consider in this equation?

How has the institutional school system so brainwashed us all that we have reached a point where it is more important for a child to learn to add and subtract than it is to protect him from this sort of animalistic behavior? How can we – we parents, we teachers, we school bureaucrats – think that it is okay for him to despise himself, his life, and his peers, as long as he can diagram a sentence properly?

I’m filing this in the “Stupid School Tricks” category because this does not happen anywhere except in school (and if the school does nothing to promote it, it certainly does very little of real impact to stop it). If this were happening to your child anywhere else – anywhere else: church, the YMCA, the park – you would stop it. You would talk to the Sunday School teacher or church board or just change churches. You would go to the Y at a different time, or find another place to work out. You would stay inside, or go to the park only when the bullies were in school. You would find options.

You would protect your child.

And yet, when a child is bullied to the point of self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide, rarely is the first thought of pulling him out of school. Nor the second, third, or fifty-second thought. It’s just not on the table. Parents, I know you are trying to help and protect your child, but you are thinking inside of a square whose lines have been drawn for you by people with a vested interest in keeping your child in school.

I admit I do wish that more parents would simply realize that removing school from the equation is a viable option, but I realize that they will not. They can’t think outside of that square because they don’t even realize the square is there, hemming them in. So what outrages me is not so much the parents as it is the system that drew us into the square and has us all brainwashed into thinking that no matter how bad it is inside the square for your kid, leaving the square – leaving school – is worse.

Just think: a whole bureaucratic system with a vested interest in keeping your child in school, no matter how bad it is for him there. How bad must it be when a bullied population has as its slogan “It Gets Better”? That is an awful sentiment! “Stick it out, kid, because someday you won’t be bullied any more.” How about not being bullied now, in the formative and most tender years? How about protecting our kids?

So, if you are the parent of a bullied child, please let me reassure you: pulling your kid out of school is not the worst thing in the world. Watching him go through seven (or more) years of hell on earth; watching the professionals paid to educate and guide him through his childhood sit back and say, “Hey, don’t worry, it gets better after you’re gone from here”; watching him lose his sense of himself as a person of worth; perhaps walking in one morning to find he has taken the next step and eliminated himself from the equation …

Please don’t watch your kid be bullied and think there’s nothing you can do because the system tells you “he’s got to go to school.”

NO, he doesn’t. Pulling him out of school and teaching him nothing would be a step in the right direction, would help him turn out to be a better person than letting him live through this sort of agony day in and day out and realizing that, to his parents and teachers, his mental state is of less importance than the fact that he must be educated so he can “make something of himself” at some hazy future date. How about helping him make something of himself right now, instead? How about helping him make himself into a whole person?

There are options. There are always options. One counselor might say, “Stick it out, it gets better.” Another counselor might say, “This other school is better, try it out.” But if your child is at this point, I have to say I think finding another counselor or switching schools is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Parents of bullied children: I know you want to help. I know are trying to help. But moving his chair to the sunny side of the deck doesn’t change the fact that his ship is going down. Be brave for your child. Be brave with your child. Try something different. Bring him home. Bring him to the safest place on earth for him, and let him heal.

Severe bullying is an excellent reason to try homeschooling. Think of it this way: even the schools are saying, “it gets better once they’re out of school.” Listen to them and take those words to heart. Get your child out of school now. Homeschooling is not the only option, but it is a good option to take into consideration.

I know single parents who make homeschooling work. I know two-working-parent families who make homeschooling work, or who find a way for one parent to quit and be home with the kids. I know homeschooling families who use grandparents or neighbors or friends from church who can be with the child during the day if he’s too young to stay alone. I know homeschool parents who need a little extra income and will sit for and teach the child of working parents, taking him to homeschool group meetings where he can make friends who won’t bully him.

No, homeschooled kids aren’t perfect, and of course there is some teasing, but that level of bullying just doesn’t happen in homeschool circles. It can’t. No homeschool parent would stand for it. The homeschooling parent already pulled her kid out of school; she isn’t going to hesitate to pull him out of a bad situation with a homeschool group.

And you shouldn’t hesitate to step outside the lines drawn and enforced by the institutional system, and pull your child out of a bad situation at school. It won’t be the worst thing in the world. Instead, it might be the best thing you ever do.

P.S. to the parents of the bullies: I’m talking to you too. Do you want to stop your child’s bullying behavior? Take him out of the situation that gives him that power, or that environment that makes him feel he needs to assert power over other children. Let him start living a real life without fear, which is often what prompts that types of behavior. Let him be safe too.

FURTHER READING:
Jonah Mowry: A Typical Teenager
Does Homeschooling Prepare Students for the Real World?
Rebecca Black (YouTube Viral Video “Friday” Singer) Bullied into Homeschooling
Bullying: A Reason to Homeschool – series of posts looking at short-term homeschooling


Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child
by Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson: A look at the perceived barriers to homeschooling for children who don’t “fit” traditional schools, and how to find educational options that fully address your child’s academic and emotional needs.

The Easy Way to Run a Homeschool Group

It’s not a NO-work homeschool group, but definitely LESS work. Still sound good?

I’m the leader of my local homeschool support group. We’re pretty laid-back, so much so that I really don’t consider myself the “leader” … I fulfill more of a secretarial role in my own opinion. But most of the group calls me the leader, and in those few (thankfully VERY few) instances where leadership is called on to arbitrate disputes or deal with problem members, I get called on … definitely my least favorite part!

But as for what we do, we have a framework or routine in place, and we’re flexible within that framework. We’re not a co-op; that is, we don’t offer cooperative classes, although within our group different people get together and form their own co-ops, such as the history co-op taking place at my house this fall. But that’s not what we’re discussing.

Get Half the Planning Done in a Snap!

Our homeschool group meets every Friday afternoon for some sort of group activity. Every other week (sometimes more often) is a park day that is just relaxed and the kids hanging out and the moms hanging out … very nice. Very conducive to building relationships and friendships and even finding someone who has kids just your kids’ age and who is looking for a teaching co-op in just the same subjects you’re looking for. We have a few activities associated with our park days, such as a book club that meets once a month during one of our park days.

With half of your group meetings set as park days, half of your planning is done. Fini!

Plan the Rest of the Meetings

We have two planning meetings each year to work out a schedule for the rest of the weeks. First planning meeting is either at the beginning or end of summer. (Our group does not meet over the summer. This is not so much a concession to school schedules as it is a concession to summertime in Arizona. No one wants to go to the park, and a whole heckuva lot of us leave town altogether.)

I like to have it at the beginning of summer, because all the little changes we might want to make are fresh on our minds. I don’t know about you but after three months of travel and summer camps, I can’t remember what I was thinking six months ago that I wanted to talk to everyone about next time! The second planning meeting is right after Christmas, usually our first meeting of the new year. At these meetings we discuss when to have our semi-permanent days (parties and such) and what kinds of field trips and other activities we want to do on the other Fridays.

Have a Yearly Routine

We have several semi-permanent days set (semi-permanent meaning: we know we’ll have these events, but need to schedule the exact day). We always start off the fall meetings with a Kick Off Party (usually a pool party at someone’s house). We have a Fall Harvest Party each year, usually late October. Our Friendship Party comes near Valentine’s Day. And of course, there is a fabulous Year End Party at the end of May!

We pencil in days for the group to attend the state fair (October), a “school portrait” day (October), the American Heritage Festival (November), and the Estrella War (a Renaissance-fair type festival put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism each year in February). We schedule a day for our own Academic Fair (March or April), and a day for assembling our homeschool yearbooks (April or May) (you might like our easy method of making a personalized yearbook for your homeschool group!).

We also schedule in our regular recitals at a local senior home, which we do two or three times each year, and Christmas caroling at the senior home as well. Our TnT group (tweens-n-teens) hosts an annual charity yard sale (they raised almost $1,500 this year for a children’s home in Africa!), so we pick a day for that too. We like to volunteer as a group for Feed My Starving Children, so we’ll put that on the schedule for once or twice each year.

As you may imagine, these semi-permanent activities coupled with the regular park days take up a LOT of time on the schedule. In fact, the fall schedule is so crowded, any field trips we want to take are usually pushed over to January and February! With so many “already scheduled” activities on the books, the weekly planning that can be so burdensome when just one or two people are doing all or most of it becomes much easier to handle. In addition, with regular park days interspersed with the more energetic field trips and other outings, the kids (and the moms) have plenty of time to get to know each other and create real friendships. And there’s still plenty of time for feeding giant tortoises at the herpetological society when the opportunity arises.

Feeding Desert Tortoises

Encourage Participation

We encourage participation in the two planning sessions, asking people to bring in ideas for things they want to do, field trips they want to take, etc. While we make it a point that anyone can bring in an idea and does not have to be the one executing it (for instance, someone might have a great craft activity but not a home that will host everyone), we do encourage everyone to participate as they can. I find it is much easier to garner participation in a face-to-face meeting by sending out a plea over email! As we discuss what we’ll do as a group, if someone brings up an idea for a field trip, I will encourage them to find out the details of what we need to do to get it scheduled, and then I help them as needed to get it onto our schedule.

I do end up planning and carrying out field trips and such for many of the unscheduled days that are left, but it’s not so many that it becomes troublesome. I and a couple of other moms keep our eyes open year-round for attractive opportunities and pop them into the schedule when the time is right. I find this is a pretty easy, low-key, low-pressure way to run a homeschool group; at least it has worked for us for over half a dozen years now! But I admit, our sister group in town has it even easier: they have ONLY park days. And that works too!

Wordless Wednesday: Homeschoolers DO Know How to “Make” Friends!

Homeschool Friends

See the Wordless Wednesday hub for more wordless posts from other bloggers.

A Day in the Life

One of the most consistent questions homeschoolers and unschoolers get is “what is a typical homeschool day like for you?” It will always look different from one family to another, and often will look different in one family from one day or week to another!

For an unschooly family, our current schedule is pretty hectic. It comes of having four kids of widely varying ages and interests, and trying our best to accommodate everyone – including the chauffeuring mom! It changes frequently, but here’s what we’re doing in November.

MONDAY:
11:00 Vision therapy for 8yo Mink. Everyone has to tag along for this since it is quite far from our house but close to the next activity.
1:00 Play practice for everyone. Our homeschool theater group is staging Romeo and Juliet, set in the 1920s. My kids are the stage manager (16yo Nova), Lord Montague (13yo Lock), Nurse’s servant Peter (10yo Kyro), and part of the children’s chorus who will recite the prologue and bystand (8yo Mink). Oh, and I’m one of the costume mistresses. This is our fourth year performing with this theater group, which boasts a professional director, and we love it!
4:00 Art class for 8yo Mink, with several friends, which generally translates into a boys’ playdate since one mom from the play takes Mink and her own daughter to art while I bring her son back to my house for a while; we trade kids after art class is over. Our teacher gives lessons in her home to a mix of homeschooled and public schooled students.

TUESDAY:
Our busy day! Lots of people come to our house in the afternoon, so this is generally our pick-it-up and scrub-it morning.
10:00 General science class (Apologia) for Lock, who wants to be a medical professional someday, in a homeschool co-op.
12:00 Bass lessons for Lock with a homeschool dad, who then brings Lock and his own kids to my house for the rest of the afternoon for the …
1:30 History co-op at my house for all my kids plus friends. We have a pretty sweet set-up which you can read about in this history co-op post!
5:00 Logic class for Nova and Lock and friends. This is also at my house and involves several of the kids from history, so they just hang out and have a free-for-all during the afternoon. Our teacher is actually a schoolteacher who also teaches Latin and logic classes to homeschool groups like ours.

WEDNESDAY:
Until November, Wednesday was my free day. And it will be again!
1:00 NaNoWriMo group with a bunch of friends. They encourage each other and work on plot points and writer’s block and so forth.
4:30 Jester’z improv class for Lock. This is a teen improv class held at a local comedy club. Lock and one of his homeschool friends are in the class with several public school kids.

THURSDAY:
10:00 Drum lessons for Kyro. Thankfully, his wonderful drum teacher comes to our home!
1:00 Piano for Nova and Mink. They have back-to-back lessons with the same teacher, very different lessons! Mink is just beginning, while Nova is working on her own compositions.

FRIDAY:
12:00 Park day! Our local homeschool group meets for park days, field trips, parties, and so forth.

That seems like a lot of “lessons” for unschoolers, doesn’t it? But they’re all at the kids’ choice. Lock wants to be a chiropractor or something along those lines, so he understands the need to get some formal science under his belt. The history co-op is just plain fun. I did encourage Nova and Lock to take the logic class, but they understand the trade-off for me not stuffing their heads full of random facts every day is that they must learn to think for themselves! (Plus, it makes dad happy for them to have a class here and there.) Art and music and NaNoWriMo are all things I encourage too, but the kids take formal classes at their own request. Believe me, when Kyro started asking for drum lessons, I didn’t “hear” that request until he had remembered it over time and asked me three or four separate times!

Other than this, we play lots of games: some explicitly educational, most not, all fun. Right now we’re watching a bunch of the older Disney movies that my oldest two saw a lot of when they were young, but the younger two haven’t seen. The kids often make their own movies together, the older kids write a lot, and Nova draws constantly either in her room or on her computer. There’s a lot of Roblox and Minecraft and Club Penguin at my house (general rule: no computer until after lunch), other homeschoolers in and out all week long, and music most of the time. We read a LOT, both together and separately, and I am so thankful to vision therapy for enabling my youngest to discover how much she enjoys reading when just six months ago she couldn’t stand it! They all know that mom’s “professor mode” button has a hair trigger, but they actually seem to enjoy my philosophical waxings … most of the time, anyway.

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