Lately my life has consisted of lazy days, sweltering heat, a zucchini bonanza, and Shakespeare in the park. Oh, and lots of discussions about homeschooling.
I’m a county contact for Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, so people call me with all manner of questions and concerns. During this time of year, they’re busy with gearing up (already) for the fall, submitting education plans, figuring out logistics, or trying to decide whether to take the plunge. Sometimes, the callers are distraught parents, unsure of what to do to help kids who are suffering in school.
Today I read a piece by Lea Grover called How Homeschooling Changed My Life. She describes being taunted, bullied, and ostracized in school. When the taunts turned “sinister,” Grover needed an out. Her parents proposed homeschooling, and she jumped at the chance.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many stories like hers from parents whose kids are experiencing anxiety, depression, panic, insomnia, and self-loathing as a result of horrible school situations. Education? When energy is focused on day-to-day survival in a hostile environment, it kind of falls by the wayside.
It’s not like the parents haven’t made an effort to advocate for their kids. By the time I talk to them, they’ve usually tried long and hard to work within the system. The teachers and administrators they’ve appealed to couldn’t fix the problem, and sometimes have even fallen back on that age-old defensive posture of blaming the victim. These parents are desperately trying to help their kids grow up happy, healthy, and whole, so they turn to homeschooling, often with feelings of deep uncertainty and ambivalence. It’s a last resort.
Then something amazing happens. Their kids stop crying and tantruming. They start sleeping at night. They don’t frown all the time. They bloom, they glow, they laugh. They grow to love learning, and life. For these kids and their families, homeschooling is salvation. As Grover puts it, “Homeschooling saved me from a school situation that had always kept me from achieving my full potential and might have done me much more harm.”
Grover’s story is about escaping a bad situation, yes, but it’s also about finding a good one. She describes how homeschooling fueled her love of learning and enriched her family life and relationships. It’s a tale I’ve heard many versions of over the years.
So I’ll keep talking to parents, supporting and empowering them to make the best choices they can for their families, knowing that in some cases, I’m throwing them a lifeline.
Homeschooling. Salvation. Bring it on.