To School or Unschool? That is My Question.

This was not the subject I had planned to write about today, but as many things go in my life, the items on my to-do list often remain undone as my attention is diverted elsewhere. I was happy for today’s diversion, which came from a wonderful post on the blog http://www.naturalattachment.com/wordpress. The blogger, Michele James-Parham wrote about Radical Unschooling. Follow the link below to read her post on this subject. I began to write a reply to thank her for her knowledge, insight and honesty about Radical Unschooling, but after my reply reached 4 paragraphs I decided simply to have it be today’s post. I encourage you to read the post here: http://www.naturalattachment.com/wordpress/2013/11/27/nablopomo-day-27-new-to-unschooling/ as well as the many other incredibly smart and engaging posts written by Michele.

Have you thought about unschooling your children? Perhaps homeschooling? Here are my thoughts for my children.

Last year we decided to take our then 1st grader out of public school for a myriad of reasons – health problems for the entire family becoming a chronic issue due to all of the kids at school having stomach bugs, viruses, infections and then finally a two-month long awful lice takeover, which affected nearly all of the first grade students. I was due for a brain surgery for a three-year long rare nerve disorder, and my husband, daughter and I sat down to talk about trying another method of schooling for the duration of my major surgery and the 6-month anticipated healing time.

We decided to try a free, online public school. I had done a lot of research and I was impressed with the curriculum, promises of daily teacher support and interaction online with other students. These were the very reasons we decided to enroll our daughter in this online school versus a couple of other ones. We believed the promise of daily student-teacher coaching and the fact that numerous times each week our daughter could log in to school on our computer and engage in interactive classes with the teacher and other 1st grade students. Very quickly we realized something- online public school was horrible!! There was no support from teachers or any other administrators, the lessons were outdated and the history lessons were based on conservative Christianity, which had never been mentioned prior to the delivery of the school materials. It seemed as though the school was set up for my husband to learn all the lessons to then teach our daughter, which made us question why on earth they existed in the first place. We could educate our daughter ourselves with much less hassle and no religious history that contradicted  our beliefs. I felt terrible for having taken my daughter out of school to be enrolled in a school that operated completely differently than how we were told it would be. We had been lied to. I can’t say swindled, as the online school was free, but it still felt as though we had been had.

We have not thought too seriously about traditional homeschooling, because my husband was raised in a very strict Southern Baptist home where he was homeschooled for a few years and his four sisters were homeschooled from kindergarten-12th grade. He did not like being homeschooled at all. Since it is not my own experience I will not write more about his personal opinions on homeschooling. Suffice it to say he has no desire to homeschool our daughters.

I like the public school my daughter returned to, however this year she has been physically bullied to such an extent that last month we had to rush her to the hospital fearing her wrist was broken from a classmate yanking on her hand incredibly hard for two days in a row- a Thursday and Friday during recess. The assistant principal was involved, all of the children who were near when my daughter was hurt were called in to share what they had observed, and on Monday the boy who had hurt my daughter was suspended for a couple of days. Today a teacher I do not know followed my daughter to where I pick her up from school to say she had just been punched in the ear while walking with her friends. It was not the same bully, as I was worried it was. My daughter had no idea who the older boy was or why he would come up from behind her, punch her in the ear and then run away. The teacher told me she would immediately report the incident to the assistant principal- a kind woman we have spoken to several times now, since my daughter’s wrist was strained (thankfully not more seriously injured!) from the bullying less than a month ago.

School is supposed to be a safe place. With the terrifying increase in school shootings and attacks, elementary school students now practice lockdown a couple times a month-something that scares me and causes me immense anxiety. I don’t want to sound like an elderly person with a “Back in my day” story, but truly back in my day (and I’m not that old!) the only things we practiced at elementary school were fire drills and the dreaded emergency evacuations from the school buses- an activity that made me feel sick with worry. I was born 4 months premature with mild cerebral palsy. I could not leap out of the back door of the school bus as my classmates could. I would either walk to the back of the bus trembling with fear, then sit on my butt and then slide down slowly, or if my anxiety was very bad the bus driver would come over and carry me off the bus. Thank goodness we never had to put any of the knowledge we gained from practicing drills into action. Still, this was all we really had to worry about. It seems positively quaint nowadays.

After one of the most recent school shootings in a neighboring state, my husband dropped our daughter off at school and saw armed police in the school’s office. We live in a small, safe (thank goodness!) town. It is disconcerting to think that something terrible could happen at the elementary, middle or high school, just as it could and has been happening more and more often at schools (which were also considered safe) across the country. When we drop our daughter off at school each day I feel uneasy. Will she get hurt again today? Is she in danger, along with all of her classmates? Is school more dangerous than home, or the park or the library? I used to think I knew the answer to this.

My daughter loves school and she does well there. More and more often though, as I ponder what the future of her education and our youngest child’s education I think more about unschooling or a much less strict version of homeschooling than my husband experienced. I know I should not base my decision solely on fear, but that is one of the main reasons – that and keeping my child safe from injury from bullies.

Do you homeschool or unschool your child or children? If your kids go to public (or private) school do you share the same worries that I do? The one question I find myself asking every other parent I meet- is the world we are bringing our children up in scarier than the world we grew up in, or does it simply seem more frightening due to the 24/7 365 day coverage we now have access to, which in most cases is not full of adorable puppies and miraculous diseases cured. Has the world changed? Have people? Do we need to change- the way we school or unschool, behave, teach our children (i.e. self defense or karate lessons) in order to prepare them for this world? I have always been a pacifist, someone who doesn’t fight back, instead internalizing past abuse from an ex-boyfriend and sexual assault from a friend of the woman who babysat my daughter. I do not want my girls to react the way I do in a situation of physical or mental bullying. How do we change the world to make it a safer place? Does anyone have the answers? I keep trying to find them.



3 comments on “To School or Unschool? That is My Question.

  1. I share some of your concerns. I pulled my daughter out of public school in the middle of 1st grade. There were lots of reasons why…she stayed sick and brought it home to the family, there was a lice scare, there were several lockdowns (complete with police dogs and helicopters), she was bored, her behavior deteriorated, and other reasons. I didn’t want to homeschool, but I felt I had no choice really. We found a great curriculum to begin with (Time4Learning.net) which did what I needed it to do, meaning set my mind at ease about homeschooling, and allow my daughter to move at her own pace. Eight years later my daughter is homeschooling high school 9th grade. I cannot imagine educating my daughter in a different way now. I think homeschooling is not only a good educational choice, but I believe it has allowed my daughter to grow up independent, un-swayed by peer pressure, and confident. I’m not sure I would have the same child that I have now if she had been in public school. I suppose I will never know the answer to that but I never regret the decision to homeschool. I might not be able to protect her from everything, but I believe homeschooling is a great option for my child.

    • Linda,

      Thank you so much for writing! I am so sorry for my delay in replying to you. I’ve been fighting an immensely painful nerve disorder for the past several years, and for the past month I have had in incurable, awful sinus infection. I am honored when anyone reads my blog and writes- thank you!

      I share some of the same concerns you had about public school, especially as of late, as my daughter has been hurt at school by bullies and her behavior has worsened. We’ve especially been concerned that her teacher has not kept us informed of areas she needs help in, and that the second incident of a child punching my daughter was never followed up on. I used to fear that the lockdowns were necessary – now I fear each day she will be hurt.
      Thank you for sharing your story and the name of the site that helped you. I see homeschooling in our future, if for no other reason than to protect her from another sprained wrist or worse.
      Thank you so much for writing!


  2. Thank you for linking to me and for your kind words about my blogging 🙂

    We each have to make the decisions that make the most sense for our families. The fact that you are actively thinking about and deeply care about your children’s educational options means something. Like I said in my post, home/unschooling is not for everyone and it is not forever; you and your children can change your minds about how, when, where, and why a certain educational option is a good fit and when it is not.

    Good luck in whatever path you choose for now.

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