This is a guest post from Sarah Griffith.

This a story I’ve read many times on Penelope’s blog: How I started homeschooling. But my story feels like the white trash version. 

I had thought for a long time that homeschooling would be right for my son, but I was scared.

He hated school: getting up early, being expected to function well at 8 a.m., told to sit still and do his work even if he saw no purpose in it, being restricted from the classes he truly loved like art and woodworking.

The routine calls from the principal drained me mentally. I knew that public school wasn’t doing right by my kids, but I couldn’t imagine an alternative. I questioned so much along the lines of what to do with him all day, how to expose him to a variety of interesting learning opportunities, how to know when he’s learned enough, and so on.

All of those questions melted away recently when my son made an inappropriate comment about school shootings (a think-it-don’t-say-it moment which are common to teenagers everywhere). His spoken thoughts put the school administrators on edge. They immediately pulled him from class, alerted the school police officer, and called me to the school.

After they told me why he was in trouble, I calmly asked what the next steps were (to have him seen by a doctor who will clear him as “safe to be around the other students”) to return him to school. I  collected my son and headed home.

Then he began to tell me why he made the comment. He felt that by being aware of the possibility of a school shooting, one would be more apt to be ready for it and survive.

This made sense to me in the same way that having an exit plan for your family in case of fire doesn’t make you paranoid or an arsonist. A plan just means you are prepared. And he casually mentioned how the police officer made a comment about how my son probably thinks it’s okay to torture small animals, too.

He started crying.

He was so upset that they misunderstood his thought process and his basic character. Now he feels like he can’t trust adults with his private thoughts. I want more for this sweet, nurturing boy who spends time with elderly family members, and has confronted a bully who recently caused one of his friends to attempt suicide. I knew he deserved better.

So I will not be seeking a doctor’s note, but will be letting my son find things of interest to him to study and allow him to chart his own course through education. While there isn’t a map, he is a good reader and very creative, so I am going to use everything at my disposal, which are things that are at everyone’s disposal: skilled friends, a library, a craft store, community classes, volunteer opportunities, and Khan Academy for the rest.

There’s been a huge weight lifted off both our shoulders in this house, and I’m not scared anymore.

19 replies
  1. Cáit
    Cáit says:

    Good luck!!!!
    Your experience encapsulates everything bad about school culture. It’s not you, it’s them.

  2. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    whoa! I am so sorry that this is your version :/

    I am unsure why you call it the white trash version.

    I am excited and hopeful for you and your kid.

    When I previously mentioned being so tired always (with little kids and a job that’s always the case) and homeschooling meaning a better quality of life because you don’t always have to hurry between places, the commenters in this blog acted as if I was this deranged woman and as if getting two more hours of sleep in the morning was a ridiculous. A ridiculous reason to not send my kids to school.

    But I think that when something is important to you, be it spending unhurried time with your loved ones, giving the child a safe place to actually speak out their thoughts, staying up all night learning and sleeping through half the morning….whatever it is, if it’s important to you, it’s important to you. Period. That should be enough reason.

    I am excited that he gets a chance to reconnect with his core and learn to listen to his intuition :)

    Best wishes to you both!

  3. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Our children are similar in their feelings of school and had I not pulled my daughter I could see us sitting in the same place you were. I applaud you for making the decision to homeschool. We pulled our ninth grader in January. It was almost to late for us but for different reasons. Good luck in your journey!

  4. MBL
    MBL says:

    Everything about that photo is stunning!

    Regarding “how to know when he’s learned enough,” my immediate response is “learned enough? already and never” but that doesn’t really help.

    I’m in constant struggle with figuring out how to guide my 10 y/o daughter regarding sharing her thoughts. All thoughts do not need to be shared but someone has to say that the emperor has no clothes. Good luck with that one. I am so sorry that he had this crappy experience to complicate things. Being misunderstood on that scale sucks. Truly.

    You mentioned other kids. I’m curious as to whether or not they are still in school and what their experience is like.

    I’m so glad you have been able to find a good situation for your son and wish y’all the best of luck!

  5. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    So excited for your new journey with your son! I’m so sorry to hear about the circumstances, and it doesn’t sound at all like a “white trash” version! It’s your story and is just as valid as anyone else who is leaving school to homeschool.

    Don’t forget about the deschooling process, it may take some time to heal and find out what works.

  6. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    The topic of his discussion is plenty reason to homeschool, but I haven’t seen that blog yet. Not sure I want to. I really don’t; but there’s some irony in this post and what we have conditioned ourselves and kids in school to live with. Maybe the threat of emotional wounds are just simply greater/ more likely than what I don’t want to think about.

  7. Stella
    Stella says:

    Check out the Human Design System for differentiated strategies for individuals to de-condition, discover their unique way of learning and navigating their life. Good luck and best wishes.

  8. Adina
    Adina says:

    My school is a fortress but not to someone determined. No security guard waste of time. They aren’t prepared. They corral kids into one room dumbest thing you can do! Did you read about Lang school kid expelled for threatening a student he’s like 9. Kids of all ages say inappropriate things. The vicious bullies and drug dealers they keep. Have confidence in yourself! Nothing has to be permanent either. Seems definitely right choice at this time.

  9. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Why didn’t you share exactly what he said in this post? You describe it, plus all the reactions and your assessment, and I expect you are spot on, but the fact remains you don’t give us enough context to make our own assessment.

    For me this is the difference between this blog being a default pro-homeschooling “right on!” blog or a space for critical thinking and hearing others stories in context so we can make the best choices for our families.

  10. tcbz
    tcbz says:

    Bravo, Sarah!

    This is probably my favorite post ever on Penelope’s home schooling blog, and she’s had some good ones.

    As another commenter said, this encapsulates everything that is wrong with school culture. It’s no surprise to anyone that the public schooling system is a state subsidized babysitting service. It’s a holding pen where children are “managed” in a sanitized bureaucracy. It teaches to the lowest common denominator, it does not encourage individual thought, and it completely misses the nuances of unique thinkers like your son.

    Those who seek better and question the system are punished and kept in line.

    Please keep us updated on how this goes! Bravo! I was a unique thinker in the public school system and since I was 11 I knew it was a waste. In high school I questioned the teachers. I examined modern day feminism for 1 week, deemed it unrealistic, and was kept in line. I was too smart for that system, and your son is too! Honestly, though, will you have your own blog?

  11. tcbz
    tcbz says:

    And you certainly don’t seem like white trash! That was a catchy first line but that’s not how you seem at all!

  12. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Sarah, I’m glad to hear your son is now being homeschooled. When I read – “The routine calls from the principal drained me mentally.” – it tells me he did not fit in that school’s learning environment. Perhaps in no school learning environment regardless of how suitable it may have been. It’s the reason why I think education choice is so important for everyone involved – especially the student. Your account of the “inappropriate comment about school shootings” sounds to me as though it was not this comment alone that “put the school administrators on edge”. It may have but I suspect it was the school taking it one step further than a phone call from the principal. In any case, it was their way of saying your son was not a good fit in their school and it was your son who would have to accommodate them rather than the other way around. I think I understand why you say your story feels like the “white trash version”. Your decision to have your son leave the school system was prompted by this latest incident rather than a “clean” break. In the future, after some time has passed, I think it will feel like some much better version. Good luck to you and your son.

    • Cáit
      Cáit says:

      Love this comment! I was reading a book by Hilaire Belloc written in the 1920’s discussing,in fact, the German speaking region of France and he lamented the rise of this recent phenomenon “compulsory schooling.” I often think of that when anti-homeschoolers act like I’m undoing thousands of years of human civilization and not since homo-habilis have any kids missed out on school. Actually, only about 4 generations.

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