I remember reading an article about a kid being treated abusively at school. The author was rightly upset about it, and was advising parents that we should not put up with such behavior at school. The thing is, this abusive behavior was not coming from other students, but from the teacher. This post is not about bad teachers, but bad teachers are unfortunately a part of the racket we call school. Apparently whenever this teacher thought a student did not complete an assignment properly, or too sloppily or something, she’d berate the student in front of the class and write the child’s name on the board. This shamed and embarrassed the child (as it should, as an adult I’d hate to be humiliated this way at work), causing the mother to become concerned. The mother of this child contacted the teacher and was met with indifference. To put it simply, most teachers don’t want to be told how to run “their classroom,” and this particular teacher found public humiliation to be a powerful motivator. The mother disagreed so she took her case to the principal, and then to the superintendent.
The comments for this mother’s efforts were all praises and cheers, but what surprised me was that not one person mentioned homeschooling. Nobody seemed to notice that this mother still continued to send her child to someone whom the child did not like but also humiliated him. I’m not trying to be hard on this mother, as I used to think this same exact way. I used to think that I needed to change the school’s behavior. It never even occurred to me that the answer was to remove children from school itself. The solution was not relying on strangers that did not have a vested interest in the well being of my child. I know there are teachers who really care for their students, but it is impossible to meet all of their needs even in the best circumstances.
Why on earth do we hope our kids get a “good teacher,” and then just put up with the bad ones? Why are parents so afraid to take charge of their kid’s education? Even when children clearly aren’t doing well in school parents expect the kids to suck it up. If school is miserable or incredibly boring then kids just have to deal with it. Is this really what we want to teach our children? To blindly follow authority, deal with boredom, put up with bullies, and do work that doesn’t interest them? If children feel something is irrelevant and not of interest to them, no real learning will occur anyway. Many children just learn how to pass tests, but do not truly understand the material. There are teachers who do not understand children at all, yet they are considered experts who should be in charge of their education.
I love reading articles or blogs by non homeschoolers complaining about schools. I like to read the comments to see if anyone mentions that they can solve the problem by taking their kids out of school. It usually never happens because people think only fundamentalist Christians and really rich people who can afford private tutors homeschool their children. The very idea seems so crazy, that even when teenagers are suicidal due to bullying we don’t think about removing them from school. We think the schools should get tougher, have higher standards, and love our children the way we do. It won’t ever happen. It would be unrealistic to even try. Schools can’t meet every child’s needs. I am pretty sure I cannot meet my children’s needs at a ratio of 4:1. How do we expect teachers to do it with 20 or more? It’s unfair to expect teachers not to engage in detrimental behavior. They simply cannot manage otherwise, even the best teachers.
School can’t stop bullying, the very environment encourages it. Even some teachers are bullies and they are rarely reprimanded. School encourages stupidity and places value on superficial things. School forces kids to learn things that are irrelevant and things the kids aren’t interested in learning. What sense does it make to force kids to learn algebra if they hate math? Wouldn’t the child’s time be better spent learning something they’re passionate about? It just doesn’t make sense. There is far too much busy work being given to students and busy work is not education.
My school district is terrible and very impoverished. The school closest to my home is actually great and I was informed that this was the district my children would attend when I found my home. It turned out to be a mistake and a blessing in disguise. I am pretty sure I would have never learned about school and homeschooling if my kids were in a “good” school. While there are certainly some schools that are far better than others, there are no schools that are optimal for children. If you happen to be poor, then school is probably the worst place you can send your kids. Penelope Trunk once wrote a blog post about how school should be made into something like social services for the poor. That only the children from neglected, impoverished, or unstable families should go to school. I disagree with this as school seems to be more detrimental for poor kids. I’m not sure how to solve the problem, but I know that more school for poor kids is not the answer.
I truly believe all school is harmful to kids, but wealthy children have money and the connections in the real world for school not to matter as much. It should really be the opposite, let kids from upper middle class families and rich families have their schools. The kids who are poor and from the unstable families should not be going to school. Penelope Trunk was right that sending poor kids to a school where the majority of kids are not poor is always a bad idea. There have been countless studies showing that poor, unstable kids do just as terribly no matter what school they go to. School can’t fix poverty and instability, especially for older children. Sending kids to a school where everyone is poor doesn’t work either, it reinforces that this is where they belong, with other poor people.
I know some people will read this and think I’m just crazy. When most people find out I homeschool my children they tell me about how this particular school is great and how I should send my kids there. I find it very funny and odd that people think that school is where everyone belongs. That even if your school is so bad you pull them out, your next step should be to find somewhere better to send them.
Sending kids to school reinforces to parents that they are incapable of taking care of their children. I’ve had many people tell me they just can’t homeschool. Parents are perfectly capable of caring for infants, dealing with demanding toddlers, but as soon as kids become school age they are at a loss for what to do.
Then there are the excuses. The most common excuses are, “I don’t know how to teach,” “My kids like school and do well,” “I can’t homeschool, I have to work,” and “I cannot sit at home with my kids ALLLLL day,” which is probably the saddest excuse. I mean if you don’t want to deal with your kid all day, then what makes you think the teachers do? I used to feel these same feelings and I still have feelings of doubt and fear. I still worry I’m going to ruin their lives. This is normal. You will learn to trust yourself and your children more as you continue to homeschool.
I could go on forever but every parent should read the book “How Children Fail,” by John Holt, and “Weapons of Mass Instruction,” by John Taylor Gatto. These books are life changing and very powerful. John Holt was really incredible and a revolutionary. Even if you do not choose to homeschool, these books can help tremendously if you are an adult who is around children. John Holt has other books that are well worth reading as well. Both of these authors were teachers for many years, so they know and provide examples of how school harms children. Always believe in yourself, trust your children, nurture their interests, and most importantly let your children teach you. Everyone can homeschool, there are no special skills, or fancy degrees required. I will end with a few quotes from John Holt and John Taylor Gatto;
“We ask children to do for most of a day what few adults are able to do even for an hour. How many of us, attending, say, a lecture that doesn’t interest us, can keep our minds from wandering? Hardly any. Not I certainly. Yet children have far less awareness of and control of their attention than we do. No use to shout at them to pay attention.” – John Holt, How Children Fail.
“We adults destroy most of the intellectual and creative capacity of children by the things we do to them or make them do. We destroy this capacity above all by making them afraid, afraid of not doing what other people want, of not pleasing, of making mistakes, of being wrong. Thus we make them afraid to gamble, afraid to experiment, afraid to try the difficult and the unknown. Even when we do not create children’s fears, when they come to us with fears ready-made and built-in, we use those fears as handles to manipulate them and get them to do what we want.” -John Holt
“For we like children who are a little afraid of us, docile, deferential children, though not, of course, if they are so obviously afraid that they threaten our image of ourselves as kind, lovable people whom there is no reason to fear. We find ideal the kind of “good” children who are just enough afraid of us to do everything we want.” -John Holt, How Children Fail.
“If I had to make a general rule for living or working with children, it might be this. Be wary of doing or saying anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, whose good opinion and affection you valued.” – John Holt, How Children Learn
“School trains children to behave reflexively, teach your own to think critically and independently.” -John Taylor Gatto
“Well schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, they seek constant companionship through the tv, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired, quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more important life, and they can.” -John Taylor Gatto
“You can easily compensate for lack of schooling – the human record is full of stories of those who have done so in the past and those who continue to do so in the present – but without education you will stumble through life, a sitting duck for exploitation and failure, no matter how much money you make.” -John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction.