Is it time to home school?

I’m due to have a baby on Columbus Day (and may have even given birth by the time this goes to “press”), so I’ll try to rip the band-aid off quick and say this in a way that stirs up as little controversy as possible.  Ready for a bombshell?

In general, I do not hold a favorable opinion of home schooling.

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with statistics on the subject or with just how horrible some of our public schools have gotten.  I have several friends and family members that were home schooled and/or choose to home school their own children, and I suppose its worth mentioning that both my husband and I have been home schooled.  I’ve been exposed to home schooled students that have impressed the socks off me, and I’ve been exposed to students that I feel were practically crippled by their parents choice to pull them out of a traditional school setting.

Maybe someday, when I’m in a less fragile hormonal state, I’ll write at length about why I hold the opinions that I do on this hot topic, but in the mean time, I wanted to share a blog post I read recently from Skunkboy Creatures on why THEY chose to home school: http://skunkboycreatures.blogspot.com/2011/09/why-we-home-school.html

She doesn’t go into a lot of detail on what went on with her child in a traditional school setting, and perhaps that lack of detail is what allowed me to see so much of myself in the story about her little girl.  I was one of those lucky kids that got pulled out of middle school to be home schooled!  I had actually been attending a private Christian school, but the way I was treated there by my classmates was downright abusive.  I’d been cut and bruised and spit on and had all kinds of nasty things thrown at me, and that’s not even mentioning the verbal abuse I received on a regular basis.  We had a caring staff with a great teacher to student ratio (about 15 students to one teacher), but I’m convinced the adults at my school had no idea what went on when they weren’t watching–particularly when the ones instigating this bullying were usually great students and high achievers!  Perhaps most sixth graders would have learned to rise above, deal with the obstacles, and grow stronger through the trials.  In my case, however, I just became more and more withdrawn, similar to the story Katie tells about her first grader.  I remember in my last few months of school functioning essentially mute.  When any words I would say became twisted and used for hateful, hurtful purposes, I chose to stop speaking at all, when possible.  We wonder why kids don’t tell their parents about bullies, but there was always the fear that adult involvement would just make things worse, and when I did share a few heavily censored tidbits with my parents, they didn’t seem to understand that I wasn’t exactly the most popular kid in my class.  “Sounds like she’s just jealous of you!” my mom would say to cheer me up.

The next school year, due to completely unrelated circumstances, I found myself home schooled.  Today, I’m convinced it was God’s way of letting me recover and reprogram from several years of peer abuse.  It was one year’s break from middle school (although I would be home schooled again when my high school closed in the middle of my junior year), but it made all the difference in the world.  Without fear of abuse, I got to experiment and learn my own likes and dislikes.  I began to learn to play guitar.  I made friends with other home schoolers and learned the important lesson that not everyone was as cruel as the students I’d been exposed to up to that point.  And yes, I fell behind academically–it was worth every bit of catch up.  In future years, I would encounter bullies and stupid kids and mean kids and drama, but, personally, I believe having this year long break is what allowed me to grow enough to not be crushed by those difficulties again in the future.

Even as somebody that generally doesn’t care for home schooling, I would do it in a heart beat if I noticed signs of abuse on my children from the traditional classroom.  But where is the line?  After all there will always be mean kids and bullies.

I worry about sheltering and coddling my kids too much.  We’ve all heard about how a butterfly emerges from a cocoon.  The butterfly struggles for hours, and the observer may be tempted to make a simple tear and end this hardship in matter of seconds.  However, without struggling, the butterfly will emerge crippled, never to spread its wings and fly.

But I’ve also heard childhood described as a greenhouse and our children as little saplings.  When put out in the wild too soon, their chances of thriving are minimal, but when raised and nurtured in a protective environment, their roots will give them everything they need to stand strong in the outside world.

Which analogy is more accurate?  I think it depends on the kid and their developmental pace.  Like I said, I was a beat down, broken sixth grader.  But I work with middle schoolers regularly today, and most (not all) that I know could probably respond to my challenges with growth.  For whatever reason, I don’t think I ever could have.  Maybe I just developed emotionally at a different pace, or maybe I had just been abused too early and too often to even have a chance to gain the necessary social skills.  Whatever the case, some kids just need a time out.

Even for having my negative feelings toward the home school option, I definitely realize this:  Academics can be caught up on pretty quickly, but healing from abuse can take years and therapy.  Whether public, private, or home school, I want to know, first and foremost that my kids growth as people goes unhindered.  Don’t you?

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