I didn’t come to the decision to homeschool lightly. In fact, it took me far longer than many to actually step forward and commit to the decision. In many ways, I think it took far too long. My eldest, Danielle, was a teenager before I finally decided enough was enough and took back control of something I should have had a say in long before.
For many, homeschool is not an easy choice or one they first arrive at. It is found at the end of a dark road, after so much heartache, resentment and stress.
If you have missed a previous entry on Why I Chose Homeschooling, click here for a complete list of entries.
Dee’s Continuing Frustrations
Soon Danielle was having problems in her school. She had just begun the 6th grade and we were struggling to work out the kinks of having a blended family (among other troubles that do not bear mentioning). These continued through 7th grade and into eighth, worsening it seemed with each year.
How I wanted to homeschool! But I felt completely inept. How could I possibly teach her all that she needed to know? How could I do this and work, when my income was so desperately needed in addition to my new husband’s?
By the end of the eighth grade I was beside myself with worry. It seemed that every time we turned around there was more bad news about her schooling and I had grown tired of dealing with the teachers and principals.
Several sterling examples of outright lying, hostility, and pompous know-it-all behavior on the part of administrators and teachers alike come to mind. It was not just Danielle misbehaving or not doing her work, it was what seemed like a concerted effort to break her will and have her conform to their expectations.
Now only employed part time, I pulled her out of school three months before the end of term in 2001 and announced my intention to homeschool. A month later, this was thrown into a tailspin with the beginning of a horribly messy divorce. The man I thought I married did not exist – and Danielle and I were suddenly alone in this house, disoriented, hurting, and clinging to each other for comfort.
I asked Danielle if she wanted to go back to the public school in the fall and she said yes. Probably in part because I was looking for full-time work. How could we possibly homeschool with me working full-time? I rationalized to myself that things could be different – instead, it was the worst year ever and it ended with me losing complete faith in the public school system.
Here are several incidents that would culminate in Danielle’s permanent removal (by me) from public school in April 2003:
The Problem With Danielle
Two months into her freshman year, and Danielle’s first year at the local high school, I was hopeful as I walked into the first parent/teacher conference. The teachers were scattered throughout the cafeteria, papers and report cards for each class surrounding them. Danielle pointed out her Social Studies teacher and I walked over and introduced myself, asking, “How is Danielle doing in your class?”
Without even bothering to look at me the teacher said, “The problem with Danielle is that she fancies herself an artist.”
I can’t remember much more of what he said after that. But that particular sentence became burned into my brain. What a complete jackass.
And for the record…yes, my daughter fancies herself an artist because…SHE…IS…ONE.
I would have liked to have responded, “Yeah? And you fancy yourself a teacher. One of us is right and one is dead wrong. Wanna guess who that person is?”
Instead I was silent and at a loss for what to say. Please forgive me, Danielle, that I did not champion you right then and there.
“You read ahead? That was stupid.”
Danielle had been regaled with accounts of my private high school years and had actually approached her Language Arts teacher and asked if she could do something similar. The teacher shook her head and told her no. A few weeks later, as the rest of the class was bumbling through what could not even be considered a full-length novel (it was 1/2 inch thick) and whining the entire time, Danielle had finished the story and was reading the latest Harry Potter novel (and thickest one yet) when her teacher asked angrily why she was not reading along with the class.
“I finished the book,” Danielle explained.
“You read ahead?” the teacher asked.
“Yes, I finished it the same day you assigned it,” replied my bookworm of a daughter.
“You read ahead? Well, that was stupid.”
What Language Arts teacher in their right mind would ever discourage a child from reading?
“I Don’t Get This Stuff, So You Can’t Possibly Understand It.”
Danielle had taken a shine to Philosophy that year and started reading one of my antique book collection The World’s Greatest Philosophers. At a quiet moment when the gym teacher (also the school football coach) was distracted, and she had nothing to do, Danielle pulled out the book.
Moments later it was yanked out of her hands. “Why aren’t you walking laps?” the coach inquired. Danielle shrugged, told him she had just stopped to read a little bit. The man looked at the book in his hand, and read the title.
“The World’s Greatest Philosophers, huh.” He snorted, “I don’t even get this stuff, so you couldn’t possibly understand it.” He confiscated the book for nearly two weeks, until I heard of the incident, called the school office and asked that he return it to Danielle.
Reverse Psychology – Well Known for Its Failure to Effect Any Positive Change
The phone rang in my cubicle one afternoon. It was Danielle on the other end and she sounded miserable, “Mom, I know you always say you want to hear from me first, not someone from the school, but I couldn’t call you until I got home.”
I was mystified. I hadn’t heard anything from the school. “What are you talking about? What happened?”
Danielle proceeded to tell me about being pulled into the school counselor’s office where he told her that people like her who always wear black (she had a total of two black outfits) and hang out with the wrong people (two kids in her class that she had known since 6th grade) were heading down the wrong path. He assured her that if she continued with her errant ways she would end up dropping out of school, getting pregnant or in trouble with the law, and would be in prison by the time she became an adult.
She was so incensed that she suggested he perform an act of self-love and stormed out of his office.
I could hear her crying as she explained, “I called you as soon as I could.”
When I arrived at the school the next day to confront the counselor, he explained it all away (but in far more fancy words)as a method of reverse psychology.
Reverse psychology is a technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what actually is desired: the opposite of what is suggested. This technique relies on the psychological phenomenon of reactance, in which a person has a negative emotional response in reaction to being persuaded, and thus chooses the option which is being advocated against….
Questions have however been raised about such an approach when it is more than merely instrumental, in the sense that ‘reverse psychology implies a clever manipulation of the child’ and nothing more
…don’t try to use reverse psychology….such strategies are confusing, manipulative, dishonest, and they rarely work
When I asked him why he would not call me, especially after she said what she did and left his office without permission and so angry and upset, he responded that he “didn’t think it was a situation that warranted [my] attention.”
What the hell? No really, WHAT THE HELL? If I had stormed out of someone’s office after screaming “Go f— yourself” when I was 14 years old, my parents would surely have heard about it!
A month later I removed Danielle from their talons and declared my intention to homeschool. I had had it with public schools.
Click here to read Part 5 – Believing In Myself
p.s. That counselor received a service award that year. It seems that in public school they give awards to people who pigeonhole, label and put into nice neat little boxes kids who are struggling to find their identity and path in life.