All the links above give great advice for homeschooling parents of shy kids, like mine.
As a parent who has often struggled with this issue, some days I wonder if I am doing the right thing by homeschooling them. Deep down I know that school is not the best place for my children, but the peer pressure is trying to make me bow down to it. Reading those 3 links above, well… that laid the nail in the coffin for me about my homeschooling decision. I am doing the right thing, after all.
It’s true. Homeschooling puts all the responsibility of their socialisation on me. I need to look for situations and friends for them to meet others often enough, to get their dose of socialisation. I cannot afford to be lazy about this. I just couldn’t. I care about my children and I know it must be horrible for them to have to undergo all the cruel bullying that takes place in schools when you are “different”.
And why should people be punished for being “different” if their only “sin” was to keep themselves to themselves and never hurt a fly? Why should loud, “sociable” and aggressive bullies always win in the schoolyard doing what they do? It’s all twisted to me.
People say school is preparation for life – and the cruelty of school children meted out to others who are “different” or singled out is part of this preparation for life. I totally disagree with that. School is probably the ONLY place in the world (apart from prison) where bullying is allowed to take place, often without any real consequences or legal punishment, and where the bullied are forced (should I say, “locked”) to stay inside school walls to be left to sink or swim. This is patently different from a working adult’s life. When a shy adult goes to work, if he/she gets bullied because of being “different” or whatever other reason, he/she is not forced to stay there. He/she has the option to leave the job and look for another job at any time he/she wishes. Leaving a job may not be an easy decision to make, but the choice is there. No adult in the adult world is being trapped, locked in a workplace and forced to endure bullying (if it happens) against his/her will. He/she always has a choice in where they want to spend their time.
And this is the key difference between school and adult life. This is why I totally disagree school is preparation for life. Especially when it comes to the “socialisation” and bullying aspects. Adults can vote with their feet if they are being bullied and are unhappy. School children don’t have that option.
Very often, school teachers (and even headteachers) turn a blind eye to instances of bullying in schools. Children who report bullying get labelled as “grasses” and get bullied even more severely for that reason, so often children who already are victims of bullying will be even more compelled to keep the bullying instances to themselves and not involve the teachers. The way the school system works like this is totally wrong. Teachers are supposed to act in loco parentis (i.e. taking the parents’ place) in the absence of children’s parents in school. That means teachers are meant to be substitute parents for schoolchildren when these children are in school. Parents are supposed to support a child’s personal development as well as protect a child from harm and keep the child safe. When you factor in just how many hours of a child’s life is spent within those four walls we call “school”, you realise just how powerful the school’s environment has on the child, for better or worse. And if school teachers – the children’s substitute parents in school – don’t do a good job of keeping our kids safe and enforcing correct moral behaviour in school, then they have failed to be good substitute parents.
Headteachers and teachers (well at least in England anyway) can and will deny bullying takes place. Not all the time and not all of them, but having had experience of one in an OFSTED-rated “Good” school which my children attended, and having shared stories with other homeschooling mums about this, I am convinced this is far from rare. In my experience, they would even go as far as to insinuate that my child was lying about the bullying. Now why do they do things like that? Because if they admitted that there was indeed bullying, then they would have a legal responsibility to log these bullying incidents down. And then when OFSTED comes visiting, they will inspect these log books, and they will ask the school’s head and their teachers why the number of bullying incidents are so high and why nothing has been done to ensure this problem is fixed. The school can be given a bad rating and put into special measures, and the head will face the axe, if agreed by the school governors to be part of the problem. This is one example of such an instance.
A lot of people have asked me over the years about why I decided to homeschool my children. I have learnt over the years to just emphasise the positive reasons rather than the ones that don’t quite sound so cheery. Positive reasons for homeschooling are many, mainly that my children are free to work at their own pace, we can pick and mix different books and resources and curricula so that we use the ones my kids prefer, and my children have more time during the day to explore their personal interests.
My homeschooled kids get to socialise with a far wider variety of people than they would if they went to school – over the years, we have attended so many homeschool meet-ups with different ages of children – most homeschool meets are not age-segregated so you get the very young with the older teens and everything in-between. We have attended workshops and courses organised for homeschooled kids, and my children worked with adults who imparted their expertise and knowledge to them in a friendly and personal way, which provided my kids with far more positive socialising experiences with adults than the authoritarian type of socialisation kids in traditional school receive from their school teachers and headteacher. Is it any wonder that many school children often, by the time they are teens, start to dissociate themselves from their parents and the older generation, and value peer relationships more?
My kids are free to join any after-school extracurricular clubs and activities, such as Girl Guiding, Brownies, choir, sports clubs at the local sports centre for the general public, dance classes, group violin lessons with Suzuki teachers, art clubs run for the general public, etc. And they did. Being homeschooled doesn’t mean my kids are locked inside our house and never taken outside to meet different people. Being homeschooled doesn’t mean my kids are banned from accessing clubs and activities held for the public. People who are not knowledgeable about homeschooling often assume that school at home is the same as regular school in terms of the “locked inside four walls” prison-like aspect. They couldn’t be more wrong. My kids took part in many of these extracurricular groups. They also had very relaxed playdates with homeschooled kids during what would be regular school hours and school days for schooled kids. Homeschooled children are free to go out, meet friends, have playdates, attend clubs and extracurricular activities. There is, thankfully, no rule (from the government or otherwise) saying that homeschooled kids must stay within the four walls of their home for 6 – 8 hours a day, just like school kids are forced to stay within the four walls of a school building for 6 – 8 hours a day.
And I’ve found that once my kids were homeschooled, they were so much more enthused about after-school clubs and extracurricular activities. I remember when my kids were in school, everyday after they came home, they were too tired to even bother about attending extracurricular clubs outside of school. They were so burnt out from school. But of course, it didn’t help that they were very shy in school, have always been, and were picked on for it, or isolated from peer groups by peer groups. Going to extracurricular activities helps them meet a wider variety of children and other people, and can help them develop valuable skills along the way, for example, musical ability in choirs and instrument lessons （since many state schools these days seem to put musical education on a low priority）, a more friendly and positive socialising experience than school （because the majority of kids at these clubs WANT to be there and are not forced to be there, as opposed to the majority of kids in school who don’t WANT to be there but are forced to be there）.
Homeschooling hasn’t turned any of my kids into social butterflies, but then again they weren’t social butterflies either at school, weren’t happy there, were bullied, and I highly doubt they would have become social butterflies in school eventually if I had forced them to continue attending school. But I can tell you what homeschooling has done for them. My kids have become far more emotionally stable as a result. My eldest stopped falling ill as often as she did in school （she only falls ill once a year nowadays, at most）, the headaches and stomachaches that she often suffered from when she was at school have all but mysteriously disappeared, and she is much LESS awkward and fearful around people now. She is still more on the quiet side, but that is what she is. She is not fearful or unhappy, and she can certainly conduct herself well around others. She is mild-mannered and sensible, helpful and responsible, and not a single person who has had to work with her at a club or at extracurricular activities ever had a bad word to say about her.
My eldest endured 4 years of school before I pulled her out and some damage was done, although I think I pulled her out just in time when I recognised there was a problem, and she has recovered quite well from the experience. My other children – one attended school briefly for a year and another who never went to school at all – they are both far more secure in themselves emotionally and more self-assured than my eldest. They are not social butterflies either, although they conduct themselves well in the company of others. And why should we expect that homeschooled children should be social butterflies or else homeschooling has “failed” them? Society has these double standards all the time. When people encounter a schooled child who is awkward and antisocial, they almost never blame school for that. They think that this is just the way that child is. But when they meet a homeschooled child which is not even awkward or antisocial – just shy – and they think the homeschooling is to blame for that. They never stop to think that this is just the way the child is, and accept it.
I’ve had the odd person tell me my kids should just learn eventually to punch the bullies back to teach the bullies a lesson. By implication, they are almost telling me my kids are wimps and they should just “snap out of it”. Well, what can I say? Alright the first thing I would say is that this line of thinking has the implicit assumption that life is a rat race. That we’re all rats here, and we should think nothing more about stepping on each other’s tails in order to triumph over our adversaries. I don’t know about you but I absolutely refuse to see life as a rat race (how sad life would be). I absolutely refuse to see life as just a series of events where you are constantly battling and fighting others, trying to be top dog – or at least, have fleeting moments where you feel like you are top dog.
A person who thinks the only way to be happy is to fight and be aggressively in pursuit of one’s so-called happiness (often defined by what the society’s hedonistic elements view as marks of achievement – such as having the most money, power, etc.) is living an oxymoron. The truth – the real truth of the matter – is that there is no such thing as happiness when there is fight and aggression going on at the same time.
I hope that by homeschooling my children and helping them take steps towards finding personal freedom and happiness, that even if they had to return to school in future (for we can never predict how our lives would turn out – it might just well be that I have to work too and so am unable to homeschool them) that every single year they were homeschooled during this time, that it has gone far more towards helping them become caring, conscientious people who were secure in themselves and not easily influenced by worldly atttitudes and expectations. I myself have not had the privilege of being protected from the world as much as my kids have; to be able to homeschool is indeed a privilege. But there is no rush to expose my children to the cruelty that exists in schools, prisons and sadistic colleagues when their personalities and characters are still malleable and easily negatively influenced by peer behaviour. Far more important for us to help our children to grow into strong, secure individuals, so that by then, they will be ready to face the world on their own.
Lastly, I am recommending this parenting book called “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers”, written by Gordon Neufeld. I recommend it to all parents and if a parent can only read one book in his/her lifetime, then I’d wholly recommend this one. It truly is worth it’s weight in gold. It also happened to be the book that helped me make the decision to homeschool my children, even though the author did not mention anything about homeschooling in the book.