School Violence Led Us To Homeschooling

bullying leads to homeschooling, school violence, guns in school,

We became homeschoolers suddenly. One morning my oldest son, a freshman in an award-winning suburban high school, called home right before the first class of the day. The teen who’d been harassing him had just showed him a gun, saying it would be his last day to live.

“Get out now,” I said. “Run home.”

I phoned the principal to tell him about the gun. I insisted that he not call the teen to the office on the intercom but remove him directly from his classroom. “Please,” I begged. “I’m worried about every other child still in the building.”

Throughout the school year my son told us what he heard about this youth and a few other kids. They’d sexually assaulted a girl in the school bathroom, broken the arm of a student’s father when he tried to reason with them, fought a gang-style skirmish near the football field with the assistance of older relatives. When I asked school officials about these allegations they scoffed. I assumed they were baseless.

My son’s situation was pretty standard. Honors student versus tough kid. My son used sarcasm as his defensive weapon. A few days earlier he’d retorted back to the taunting with, “Bad mood? Drug dealer not giving you credit?”

That morning the principal seemed only mildly perturbed by my frantic call. I insisted my son told me these kids stashed weapons in their cars. He seemed more interested in containing what he called a “rumor.” When the principal didn’t get back to me, my husband and I called the police. Detectives sat at our table and confirmed every story. The girl assaulted, the father’s arm broken, the gang fight. In fact area businesses had been warned to notify police immediately if groups of teens assembled, in case another gang fight was brewing. Parents were not informed.

I’d assumed that police had been called to the school after my report of a student with a gun. They weren’t. Instead, the student in question was summoned to the office on the intercom. Other students said he went outside to the trunk of his car before heading to the office.

I met with the superintendent the next day. In my work life I taught non-violence to community groups, including school systems. I told him I’d teach this program free of charge to staff and students in our district. The superintendent turned me down, admitting that it might be safer if we homeschooled. My son never returned to school.

I’d always been committed to the idea of public schools. I believed it was not only right but necessary to work within systems to improve them. Plus, I had plenty of misconceptions about homeschooling. Yet I realized that school had never really “worked” for my kids. Our four-year-old already knew how to read but had to practice sight words in pre-school anyway. Our sweet but inattentive second-grader was deemed a good candidate for Ritalin by his teacher. Our fifth-grader could do college level work, but due to cuts in the gifted program had to follow grade level curriculum along with the rest of her class. And our freshman detested the rote tasks that filled his days and the hours of homework each night.

Overnight, I faced homeschooling kids who were eager to learn on their own terms. I learned right along with them. I learned how essential imagination is to innovative thinking, how freedom to play is vital for creativity (and fun!), and how pursuing their own interests can translate into advanced comprehension across a range of subjects. I learned how they sought out challenges and insisted on meaningful involvement. I saw what they gained from daily activities at home and how easily they could learn directly from people of all ages right in our community.

The ADD symptoms my third child exhibited at school were no longer present once we began homeschooling. The hurry-up days that roped my kids in from morning bus to evening homework were gratefully left behind. Instead we read books for hours, indulged in long-term science projects, went on adventures with friends, found role models in all sorts of fields, and let real learning unfold. The crisis that hurled my children out of school created a way of being far richer life than any of us could have imagined.

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This piece originally appeared on Wired.

7 thoughts on “School Violence Led Us To Homeschooling

  1. My daughter was bullied in kindergarten. The boys said since she had short hair and liked the color green they were going to call her a boy. They also tormented her on her weight. I approached the teacher who told me if the boys are chasing my daughter and she runs away then she is participating in the game and it wasn’t considered bullying. Then my daughter came home one day and was really quiet and unlike herself. Later on the details of her day came spilling out. She was in nap time when one of those boys showed her his private areas. Since we are a house filled with woman I asked for her to describe what she saw and that confirmed that she was telling the truth. She did not tell the teacher because it happened during nap time. A week earlier she had a bloody nose and got up for a tissue during nap when the teacher yelled at her in front of the whole class. She was scared to get up and kept the whole thing inside. I went to the principle now. Later I found out there was no action taken against the student. His parents were brought in but there was no punishment for this. Besides all the bullying in this “bully free” school zone she would bring home papers that were marked with stickers and happy faces but when I read through the answers they were ALL wrong. She digressed big time too. I pulled her after that year and started to cyber school. It is using the public school system but learning at home with teachers over the computer. Some days I wish I decided to homeschool but other days I like the set up and support of a cyber school. Either way, she is out of that school and away from those kids an adults that don’t seem to care that you are lending your children to them to raise for most of the day 5 days a week. I am happy in my decision too. Your story is scary but from what I hear, a normal. I applaud your decision to pull all your kids at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry to hear of your daughter’s experience in such a negative kindergarten environment. It’s remarkable to me how so many kids, even when they come from open and supportive families, struggle to put up with and even accept these situations. Thank goodness your daughter shared what she was going through with you. I’m glad to hear the path you’ve chosen is working out well for her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m actually crying at the pain that your son, that young girl, and the father who intervened have to endure because the schools, families, and community refuse to do anything about those lost, violent teens. That’s wonderful that you brought your kids out of such a damaging system!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a very interesting read 🙂 thankyou … i would love to home school my son , at two years of age i can already tell he is a very practical learner like his father, very hands on and I’m worried he will just be pushed aside and labeled difficult by teachers in our areas, you have given me aloft to think about 🙂 thankyou again

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi, We do a lot of self-defense training, much of it is verbal, how to handle a variety of scenarios. We have often offered our services for free and the school has always declined. Also after one of the school shootings we offered to do a workshop for city-wide teacher and staff training and they again declined. A. They don’t want to admit there is a problem. B. If they did and something goes “wrong” they fear accountability. You are not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

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