Monday, March 2, 2009

What's The Point of School?

The following is in response to a comment made on the last post regarding homeschooling for autistic kids. It refers to a comment from a special education teacher. Go read it, first. Califmom's response needed to be its own post.

Sorry to be petty here, but if the argument to send my child to school is being put forth by a teacher who has more grammar/spelling mistakes in his comment than content, I have a difficult time swallowing that pill.

However, I'm a bigger person than the product of my (formally schooled) environment. So, I'll bite.

What I read in Mr. Black's comment is that my son should attend a formal, school setting in order to experience poor treatment by his age mates and failed social situations, which will then require the support of a team of professionals.

This scenario is seen as superior to providing my child with social experiences outside the academic setting, where stress is lower, and success is higher, which then result in positive experiences in the building blocks of his social competence.

Underlying all of this is an assumption by Mr. Black that I, as the parent of the child, check my opinions at the door, trust the system, and let the professionals do their job.

Mr. Black, just so you know, we were not always homeschoolers. We didn't even choose this path, initially.

In fact, for over 7 years, my children attended an expensive, award-winning private school that touted its ability to address special needs.

My personal educational background is in child development and elementary education.

We did not arrive at our decision to homeschool because we had some idea that it would be a great way to exclude our child from the artificial construct we currently call our schools, an institution largely existent as a remnant of the Industrial Revolution and the requirement that we produce a society of factory workers with a similar world view--followers, non-thinkers, non-questioners.

We arrived at this decision via a difficult path, but we are beyond pleased with the results we see in our children. More, our family and friends are impressed with the change they see in our children.

You see, nowhere else are we grouped in such an artificial fashion as we are in a traditional school setting. Children are grouped by age, and often ability (or disability), and then expected to derive value from this socialization.

I have yet to find a workplace (the argument most put forth for a school-based education is to 'get a job') comprised of same-age coworkers. Have you?

Aside from prisons and psychiatric wards, nowhere else do we lock people in for the day and attempt to control their behavior. Seems odd that we expect only 1 of 3 of those scenarios to be appropriate for all members of our society.

I want more for my child, and I have the ability to provide it. Maybe it's not what everyone can provide their child. Maybe it's not the right thing for everyone, but it is what is meeting the needs of my children and our family. It's also the beauty of living somewhere that provides us this freedom.

If you really want to boggle your mind, Google unschooling. That's what we do. I'm guessing it'll make your head fall off, but maybe it will just open your mind.

Because of her son, califmom knows more than she wants to about Asperger and Tourette Syndromes. She doesn't think autism needs to be cured. She does think that autistic spectrum disorders are more likely orders--another way of being in this world. Visit her at califmom and califmom homeschools.


  1. Well said. And now I don't have to say it.


  2. Thank God some has put into words what i have been trying to say behind the frustration and tears in every single one of my son's IEP meetings. Since I have started home schooling in October i have see amazing results!! Thank you again! I really want to add this link to my page!!

  3. While reading Mr. Black's post, I was amazed that he didn't realize that if a special needs child wasn't in a public school setting with "typical" peers who are more often than not insensitive at the least to our kids and their issues, our kids would not have "incidents" that they would then have to have "deconstructed" by professionals.

  4. I too, never intended to homeschool. That happened when I started spending more time complaining at the school than my kids did in school.

    I have also run into the educator's attitude that homeschoolers don't actually teach their kids, that they don't have the proper credentials, and that we are simply "babying" our children.

    My kids would laugh at that last line. I frequently find myself being more of a drill sergeant than a mommy.

    That said, when I have sent my homeschooled kids to high school, they are ahead of the rest of the class (often by years), have no difficulty with the work or the socialization, and are already disciplined to handle the workload without parental involvement.

    While we may not work in a rigorous schedule or on a specific curriculum, my kids know how to THINK.

    That's the greatest gift any educator can provide.

  5. I Just Googled Unschooling and yes it's different to what I thought.

    I was very much in a position where I had to consider home schooling when Jonathan finished prep (the Australian year before grade 1), the school he was at was mainstream and simply didn't have the funds or teachers to give him the best. Even if they applied for extra funding he would get an extra 5-6 hours a week.. almost a whole day. 'One' whole day.

    So we went to the local Special School and had to go get another 'label' for him to be able to go, fortunately our doctor was happy to write a letter to give him the label and he went along, and has progressed brilliantly.

    They have 2 teachers for a class of up to 7 kids. I still have in the back of my mind that the day may come where I need to bring him home, and I admire those parents who do this, perhaps I can get some tips form you if the day ever comes for me :)

    If you want to read more about what we went through at the time of changing school systems, have a look at my blog.

    Karen Francis

  6. So well said! We still have our son in school, mostly because he's happy there and doing well in a class with a staff whom he really clicks with. I have made it a point to work from home though in the event that he stops having such a good experience. I'd bring him home in a minute.

    My Autism Insights

  7. I'm glad you made a blog post out of this comment - it answers the "concerns" that Mr Black raised and that other people come up with when you mention homeschooling. Brilliant post.

    Dr Chun Wong

  8. Amen to this post! I am fully intending to homeschool my son this fall. He is incredibly smart, and I feel his anxiety towards being at school is seriously hindering his ability to reach his full potential. Of course he is seen as defiant, when the work to him is boring and the behavior starts to creep in. Keeping him enclosed in a classroom all day, is not the way he is going to reach his fullest potential. Schools, I don't believe have the kind of flexibility that some of our children need to learn and to stay engaged.

  9. My son enjoys school very much but I feel I could teach him much better. I taught him to read, write, count to 50... so much and all before he was 3. The kindergarten teacher was a special needs teacher for 30 years and could not teach him what rhyming meant. For weeks. I sat him on the couch and taught him in 10 minutes, literally. I just don't know if I want to pull him from school when he loves it so much. But reading blogs like this helps, thanks. :-)


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