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Why I Homeschooled my Son

After speaking with you, I wanted to tell you why I decided to homeschool Stephen.  You asked me if I ever regret my choice, and I have to be honest, there are days he tires me out and I want to enroll him back into public school.  But then I take a break and realize how far he has come in our homeschool journey.  He is already so much healthier in both his self-esteem and his determination to learn. 

My decision began with him complaining about bullying at school, and that worried me.  It worried me even more when I realized that not only was the school not dealing with it, but Stephen was actually learning from these experiences.  He was learning how to bully others.  I was so embarrassed when I witnessed how he was losing friends because he was using inappropriate social behavior to get his way.  That is not the child I spent so much time and love raising!  It had to stop.  So I began looking into what I could do.

When I was looking around online, I came across a number of videos that opened my eyes to the education my son was getting.  I had certainly noticed a lot of changes in him after he began public school.  His attitude, and also his drive to learn had changed.  These videos were from former teachers, and they all tore me up to watch, but one really touched me.  The male teacher was explaining to his community why he has resigned and why they should be questioning their children’s education.  After listening to what he said, I had to agree that I had seen it for myself.  The teachers no longer have the authority to teach.  They are no longer able to reach the children and the district doesn’t care as long as they can make the numbers look good.

So another month had passed and I was still in the middle on what I wanted to do.  I knew I didn’t want him to continue on as he was (he had already lost his natural curiosity and his love of learning and in contrast, he had begun to hate learning).  The day I made up my mind was when Stephen burst out in tears because he was asked to do his math.  

I know the first reaction any of us parents will have is to tell the kid to step up and stop acting like a baby.  But he had been getting more and more frustrated with math and with writing, procrastinating on those subjects and whining a lot.  When he broke down and went into hysterics that day I wanted to yell at him because I was frustrated too.  But I tried to think how this fear he had developed would affect him in the long term.  And my yelling at him would not make him suddenly become a man.  And it most certainly wouldn’t cure this irrational fear of learning that he had developed at public school.  So I knew then that I was going to have to home school him, and I was going to have to slowly work on undoing all the damage they had done.  If my son were to continue to panic when he came across numbers, or even writing, his career choices were going to be slim, and worse, his feelings of self-worth would be non-existent.  

When it comes to self-esteem, well, that is almost more important than our level of education.  I know that sounds false coming from me.  I insist on education.  Our kids must go further than us.  But think about it – if a person does not believe they are worthy, they will pass up opportunities and they will self- sabotage any happiness they could have had.  Whereas a person who knows they have value will go out and get the things they deserve.  And you know what?  If they think they deserve to be better educated, they will find a way.  A strong sense of self- worth is vital to any person’s success.  

Somehow, Stephen had lost the sense of who he was meant to be.  Whether it was the teachers or the other students, I don’t know, but at this age, they are still highly impressionable, and when someone tells them they can’t do something, or that they aren’t as good as everyone else, they believe it.  They might keep a brave face and say they don’t, but deep in their darkest thoughts, they hear those nagging negative thoughts and many, many people will live within the boundaries of what they are told they are capable of. And Stephen was told he couldn’t do math.  I don’t know if you remember when Stephen was in second grade and Ryan was in third, and Stephen was trying to teach Ryan how to solve certain math problems?  Well, whatever confidence he had to be able to effortlessly do math was stripped away, and by the time I decided to unenrolled Stephen, Ryan wouldn’t have been able to teach him anything because Stephen would have already convinced himself he couldn’t learn it.  What a drastic change. 

Now, it’s been a year and a half.  It took about one year to undo the damage that had been done – not that it’s completely gone, but oh, what a difference.  He no longer freezes up when math is due.  He just does it.  He has an ‘A’ in math, and although he will gladly tell anyone who listens that “math is like girls, he doesn’t understand either one”, (and then he laughs for effect) he is now accepting that he can do it, and that it is not as stressful as he was convinced it was.   His writing has also improved.  Where at the beginning of this journey we spent five hours with “But I just can’t think if anything.  I don’t know what to write.”  And any suggestions were tossed out as not good enough.  So hours of nothing happening because he was procrastinating.  Why?  Because he FEARED his ability to do it.  Why?  I don’t know.  It was a fear he learned at public school.  Now, though, he comes up with witty ideas for his assignments and each month he needs me less and less.  In fact, this last writing assignment, I told him to start with his references at the bottom of the page and to start jotting down his ideas.  An hour later he came downstairs with a finished essay. 

If I would have decided he needed to man up and learn to be like all the other kids, he would have deepened his mental blocks toward learning, and guess what?  He WOULD have been like so many of the other kids in public school.  Barely surviving and faking his way through.  Not at all college ready when the time came.  Now I feel confident that when he finishes homeschool – if I can find a high school I can trust with my child – I can put him back into public school and he will be one of the smartest kids they have there.  Because he wasn’t being slowly sucked dry by them.  I only want him to attend high school for 11th and 12th grade, just for homecoming and prom, and the big social moments.  By then he should have a strong enough sense of self that they can no longer mess up the job I did of raising a great kid.  

We don’t get a second chance at this.  If we let someone else raise our kids and they are not doing the job right, we can’t get that time back.  And if they are harming our child and we allow it to continue on, our child will be weaker and more susceptible to negative thinking, and their chances of success are possibly already decided.  Some kids do well in public school, either by being the bully or by being invisible, or by having a skill that helps them blend.  And if they are able to keep their love of learning alive over the years, then they should stay in public school.  

You mentioned being worried that taking him out of public school would be coddling him, not letting him learn to stand up for himself. But if our child is being harmed, why would we allow that to continue?  If I were to leave Stephen in the hands of my weird uncle who is a child abuser each week- would that make him stronger for having suffered through the abuse?  Or would he end up with emotional issues and always be held back in life?  He certainly would be permanently damaged, and even if I hadn’t realized the extent of what was happening, he’d be resentful towards me to boot, since I had the power to stop it and did nothing.  A child cannot end up being the person they were meant to be if they are being torn down along the way.  So don’t leave your child with anyone who isn’t looking out for their best interests.  Whether it be that weird uncle, or the public school.  If Ryan is being harmed, right now while he is still vulnerable and impressionable to what the world thinks of him – save him.  It’s not coddling.  If you want to make sure he grows up strong in self-defense, then do two things.  One, make sure he knows he is valuable in every way.  That counts no matter what.  That way he can give himself permission to stand up for himself.  And two, enroll him in karate classes and have him stick with it until he is a black belt.  (I know they used to, and might still, have free lessons in Crosby.) That way he has the skills to stand up for himself.  But don’t let him continue to be harassed when he is unable to do anything but accept it as part of his life.

And watch that his love of learning is not messed with.  A person can continue to grow their minds their whole life.  The desire to learn is even more effective than a high IQ. 

Oh, and as I mentioned when we spoke: aside from putting him back on track for wanting to learn and not doubting their intelligence, or value, homeschooling is also great because they can focus on what they need, not what the students next to them need.  So if Ryan is strong in one subject, but needs to spend more time on another, he has that option.  His learning is no longer being stunted by the rest of the class.  Cool, huh?

 PS: Homeschool doesn't have to be awkward.  My son still interacts with many other kids.  He plays soccer with Heatwave, he goes on "field trips" with friends, he is a member of the blacksmith association, and here he is (in the batman shirt) after a mini ninja competition.  (Sam Sann, one of the American Ninja Warriors, opened a gym and gives lessons to adults and children.  Stephen is in his mini- ninja classes, and once a year they compete, just like the athletes on TV.  There are so many opportunities to be politely socialized while homeschooling.

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