My wife and I homeschool our two children. We're pretty open about it even though some people feel the need to share their disapproval with us. This is, of course, something I don't do when talking to other people about how they choose to raise their kids but whatever ("Hey Bill, how come little Courtney dresses like such a tramp?"). Anyway, yesterday someone mentioned something about homsechooling that has now come up at various times from three different people at my job (people who work in higher educations).
It seems that we're depriving our children of the experience of getting the shit kicked out of them by bullies. Evidently this is character-building and teaches kids how to "take care of themselves." I think back to my experience in public school. I was a shy, thin, kid who liked to read and did well on exams. I was made fun of for that by many of my peers. Starting around 4th grade, and extending up until 8th grade, I was not just picked on mercilessly, but also physically beaten up at times. The useless advise from my mother - "Ignore them and they'll leave you alone" is complete bullshit in the Lord of the Flies world of young boys.
It's only when I was about 13 years old that, one day, in the hallway, I slammed one of the bullies into a locker in a violent rage and truly wanted to kill him. I grew large enough, and had endured enough, and finally fought back. Generally I was left alone after that except for the verbal taunts and general ostracism. One of the reasons I dropped out of high school at 14 (16 officially, but stopped attending pretty much in 9th grade). I can truly understand teen suicide from bullying.
You know what? Ever since I left high school I have never, ever been in a physical fight (and I used to hang out in a biker bar years ago). Given my size, and the fact that I regularly lift weights at the gym, I think I could handle myself today but don't feel any macho bullshit reason to do so. Now maybe I'm projecting my bad experiences onto my kids, but I don't think so. My nine-year-old son is much like I was at his age. Shy, a little odd sometimes (in a good way, in my opinion), and he reads more and better than most adults. He would be bullied at school. Maybe he'd learn to handle it, maybe he'd learn to hide the fact that he's smart and likes "nerdy" things, or maybe he'd get bitter and drop out of school like I did.
This doesn't mean we raise our kids in a vacuum, far from it. Between Aikido, history class, Muset orchestra, choir, library programs, Numeracy Club, local nature programs, homeschool co-op and other things we participate in, our kids associate with both homeschooled and public-schooled kids of a variety of ages. Sometimes kids get into arguments and even a shove or hit on occasion although parents quickly step in and defuse the situation. What doesn't occur is mob cruelty and repeated physical and mental abuse of the children.
When I hear of other people's kids crying and telling their mothers they don't want to go to school because they get picked on all day I think we're making the right decision (not just for this, but for a myriad of reasons). I don't think learning to fight is an essential life skill (although they do take Aikido lessons - which is more for self-defense). And, like I said, I've never had to physically fight with anyone, and have not been mercilessly tormented, ever since I left public school. And I don't think it's character-building (at least not in a good way) to be bullied for years of your life.
Perhaps my wife and I should do the following...