Written by: Victoria Marin
As my son entered a new year in a public school setting, we encountered continued bullying from his peers as well as bullying from his general education teacher. He was excluded from leisure activities and teased for asking questions in class. His teacher displayed little patience for his lack of organizational skills and quite often set him up to fail. He was so affected by the bullying that he was placed in replacement classes for Language Arts and Reading. His fear of being mocked caused him to isolate and limit his interactions with others. According to school officials, my son suddenly had a learning disability. Numerous requests to his school to have his classroom changed were denied. After three months of enduring such hardship, my son stopped making eye contact and refused to enter the school building. My attempts to bring the matter to the School Board were met with denial of responsibility on the part of the Board members for they only deal with “budgeting issues and school policy.” It was at that moment that I made the decision to homeschool.
Each family has their own personal reasons for homeschooling. One benefit I immediately observed was the strengthening of the relationship between my son and his younger siblings. Where there was a time when his younger siblings were annoying, they were now close and support each other’s efforts. The relationship between parent and child grew stronger. We spent more time conversing and learning together. I truly enjoyed having him home with me and being an active part of his academics. His anxieties seemed to diminish almost instantaneously and in time he opened up to me about the true atrocities which were taking place in the school setting.
While everything at home was progressing quite well, I had to field much criticism from friends and family. Most were concerned about the lack of opportunities for socialization for a homeschooled child. I have found this to be far from the truth. In my case, no efforts were made to facilitate group play. He spent much of his day alone. Not being one to engage others in conversation, he would watch as the others frolicked on the playground. In addition, school children are grouped by similar age, therefore, their communication skills are suitable primarily for children at their same level.
Since being homeschooled, my son has developed the necessary skills to communicate with varying age groups. His increased involvement in community activities such as Boy Scouts, Little League, Ballroom Dance lessons and Church has provided him a multitude of social opportunities. The shorter school day left plenty of time for him to explore recreational activities. Involvement in these activities led to social and emotional growth.
Psychologically, bullying and harassment was eliminated, therefore, eye contact was restored as was a willingness to participate in activities outside of the home. The frustration and anger dissipated so much so that his demeanor appeared brighter. The rebelliousness faded and relationships were restored. His renewed self-esteem and self-confidence allowed him to become a leader on the dance floor and in community and church groups. In time, he became less dependent on me as his mother and more independent with his tasks and responsibilities. The emphasis on family and family values has helped to develop a sense of giving back to those less fortunate.
Not only was he blossoming socially and psychologically, academically homeschooling offered a number of benefits. The one on one instruction helped to restore my son’s confidence as a student. Areas where he required assistance were recognized and addressed immediately. He was no longer afraid to ask questions. I was able to introduce lessons which met his style of learning. The curriculum was individualized and he became an active participant in the learning process. The days of memorizing for the sake of passing an exam were long gone! Most importantly, the deficit areas identified by the school were less prevalent.
In addition, I was able to incorporate my family’s religious beliefs into his day without the expense of private school tuition. Our days became less stressful and less hectic as we focused more on home and family rather than being out of the home. Homeschooling provided a safe environment away from bullies where my son could nurture his talents and forge a strong foundation for his future. Learning became a family activity rather than a separate activity. Field trips and outings are learning experiences which all of my children benefit from. Joining me in the kitchen becomes a learning activity which also promotes closeness. A variety of life skills are learned. I am amazed by the creativity and ingenuity displayed by my son as a result of being allowed to think rather than provide ‘cookie cutter’ responses to relatively standard questions. An added plus is that I can decide when to introduce topics such as sex education and drug awareness.
After completing the school year at home, I am proud to share that my son scored so well on proficiency exams that he will be skipping a grade. More than likely, the phone calls I received reporting he was seated with his head down on his desk were a direct result of him being bored and not defiant. By taking action, I was able to salvage a pivotal school year and tap into hidden talents which were begging to be unleashed.
I am hopeful that more parents will recognize the subtle signs of bullying as well as the richness of homeschooling. Bullying does not always show itself as black eyes and bruising. Know your child and respond to their nonverbal calls for attention. Keep questioning until you get answers. Do not be discouraged by the stigma of homeschooling. Homeschooling has many positive benefits which will prepare your child for success in adulthood. My best wishes to you as you partake in an experience which we will be enriching for you, your child and your family.
Victoria Marin graduated from New York University with a degree in Occupational Therapy.She is the author of Aiden’s Waltz which is a sublimely reflective tale of a young boy with Autism who journeys to find acceptance and strength within himself. From peering through a frosted window while watching boys and girls playing soccer, Aiden rises from the shackles of Autism as he dances across the ballroom dance floor with the grace and elegance of a swan.