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Is Homeschooling a Reward for Bad Behavior?

Today I answered an e-mail from a parent who wondered when to remove her child from public school. The child was bored, the school had said they would provide extra for the child and yet had not, and so the child was beginning to act out his frustrations and boredom. She wondered whether to begin homeschooling him now or to wait until the end of the school year, which was only 2.5 months away. Her main concern seemed to be that homeschooling him now would send the message to her child and to others that bad behavior would get him what he wanted (the child had asked to be homeschooled).

This is not the first time I have heard this concern. For some reason, certain parents tend to view removing the child from the bad situation as a reward, as giving in to the child’s bad behavior. Yet, if the child were to behave well, then there would be no reason for homeschooling? Is the child to continue suffering in his present situation just so he gets the message that acting out will not get him a reward? More likely the message the child is going to get is that no one cares, that all is hopeless, that his life is just going to continue being an ongoing life of frustration and boredom.

Children are pretty much powerless in a public school situation. If they are bored, if they are being bullied, if they are frustrated, if they just plain do not like it there, what are their options? Unless someone is really listening to them, they have only three options:

1) They can tolerate the situation for the coming months, years, a lifetime, until they reach the age when they can drop out or, if they are really patient, graduate. By that time they have lost all hope of a life of interest and have really absorbed the message that learning is no fun at all and not for them.

2) They can act out their frustrations and boredom either by bullying or some other form of destructive behavior. And feel helpless and powerless as their frustration and boredom turns to rage and/or indifference.

3) They can turn their boredom and frustration inwards, becoming depressed and possibly, eventually even suicidal. Only by suicide do they see any way out, any way of taking back control of their lives.

None of those options are good ones, are they? Instead of viewing removal from the public schools as a reward for bad behavior, why not think of it as if public school were a disease which has infected your child and now it is time to remove as much of that disease as possible. If your child had cancer, would you leave the cancer there because removing it would give your child the idea that he would get special attention when he was sick? Or think of public school as an allergy. If your child had an allergy to milk, would you keep forcing him to drink milk? Or would you try some other alternative, like soy milk or coconut milk? Public school is simply one mode of learning among many, one pathway to an education.

Listen to your child. If he is telling you that something is wrong, it is your responsibility to do whatever you can to make the changes needed, changes that will promote your child’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being.

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