So, here’s the thing: mean girls and bullies exist everywhere. If you think that those of us that homeschool are trying to shelter our kids from this stuff (or if you’re considering homeschooling in hopes of eternally avoiding it)… guess again.
Admittedly, homeschooled kids have better odds of escaping this kind of thing than public schooled kids. For one, the parents are often present with their kids for various things so we can intervene, redirect and educate quickly. We CAN leave a group or class and just not come back if the situation is not handled appropriately. We don’t have bureaucratic crap to contend with in that process. MOST OF THE TIME.
But unless you are a hermit, you will never escape the possibility of your kid being bullied. Homeschooling is not Lala Land. In fact, in some places, the homeschooled kids are largely made up of the ones who were behavior problems in the schools. Frankly, sometimes the bully lives on your block. Homeschool parents also don’t all agree on how these matters should be managed. I recently overheard the mom of a mean homeschooled girl say to another mom “You know how kids are”. My jaw hit the floor.
Make no mistake: homeschooling has it’s share of parents who are either unwilling or unable to manage their kids behaviors.
Did all of you schooling parents just give a big “HA! I KNEW IT!” as if I just divulged a big homeschooler secret? Because it’s no secret. We know it. There are probably circles of homeschoolers that truly have never experienced this and might truly and honestly believe that their circle of homeschoolers represent the norm. Fair enough. That perspective is also not unique to homeschooling.
BigGuy has been bullied. Twice. Once the incident stopped because the bully’s mother walked up on it. That family really took the bull by the horns and turned things around for that child in the most loving and far-reaching ways. And someone that knew that family better than I led me to believe that would NOT be the more likely outcome. The other incident went unreported. My son didn’t tell me for several weeks because of his overwhelming shame. It was a really bad one. And at that point, how could I tell the parents? The details were more fuzzy so far after the event. I couldn’t give them enough to confront their child on, and given what happened–it was a scary thing to NOT tell them.
Neither of these incidents happened BECAUSE my son was a homeschooler. It’s not like these kids targeted him because of their feelings about him being a homeschooler. He was–like most bullying victims–just an easy target for that particular bully; and the bully thought they were in a position NOT to be caught. That can happen anywhere. Usually, bullies prey on the weak to make themselves feel more important and powerful.
This is the part of the equation that is usually lost when trying to fix bullying problems: that bully feels pretty horrible about themselves and is doing the bullying to make themselves feel better. While they need to know that what they did is not acceptable, they need to be handled with care–because whatever love or acceptance is being given to them is not reaching them. It’s like math: whether or not a kid understands it depends on how it is presented; and how the teacher presents it (because it makes sense to the teacher) is not always going to be how a kid receives it. Love and acceptance are no different. And when those disconnects happen between parents and children, sometimes it’s really hard for a parent to accept.
For the homeschoolers who involve themselves in classes and co-ops, etc. we have the same concerns as anyone sending their kid into a school. You simply don’t know what the kids are going to be like or how the adult in charge is going to handle it (although with homeschooling, it’s more common for parents with concerns to grill the adult in charge and this is a commonly accepted practice rather than being singled out as “that parent”).
That being said, homeschooling definitely offers a safe haven for kids who are being bullied. It offers them the chance to live life on their own terms with their parents guidance to help them gain a stronger sense of self without the confines and reactions of the pack. They’re not simultaneously trying to navigate the social awkwardness (or full out fear) of being “that kid” while learning. They can learn at their own speed (for those who are not public schooling at home) and they can do it without the overarching social backlashes and pressures. They aren’t confined for 5-6 hours/day in a building with someone (or multiple others) that they fear. They’re not distracted from learning or just growing as a person with the underlying (or overflowing) anxiety of what could happen to them next.
It’s not that I think that kids shouldn’t have to learn to deal with it. I mean, they SHOULDN’T–because if these incidents happened between adults, they would often be criminal offenses. I believe they DO need to learn to navigate the social intricacies of the world and deal with difficult people. My perspective is that doing so at home, with support and modeling, means that when I set my kid loose on the world (whether I ship them off to high school at 13 or whether they’re home until they’re in college), I am not throwing them into the water and telling them to figure out how to swim. It means that I’m throwing them in the water after having given them some lessons, examples and understanding of how swimming works so that they are far better prepared to figure it out; and know where to turn if they need help. Even more important is that they have the maturity to know who they can trust and turn to better than they would’ve at 4, 7 or 10 years old. In fact, with a solid enough foundation, they may be fully unphased by some of the actions of many bullies. A mama can dream, right?
But you’re not escaping it.