Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homeschooling parents, please watch your children.

Everyone knows kids who just can't manage to behave in public.  Kids who speak out inappropriately.   Kids who need to be the center of attention or show their knowledge.  Kids who can't control their movements or emotions. 

Hey, we all know adults like that too, don't we?

When we encounter those kids in the context of homeschooling, they seem even worse.  They seem to represent everything other people dislike about homeschoolers.  I'll just say it: they make all homeschoolers look bad.  And they  make it harder for us. 

We ran into a couple of kids like that on a recent field trip.  There was a boy who could not ever be quiet. He talked over the speaker or other kids who were trying to ask or answer questions.  He made snarky comments about something someone else was saying.  And he made random noises.  Everywhere we went we could hear him.  But no parent appeared to pull him aside and correct his behavior.  I didn't even know he was accompanied by an adult until the event was nearly over.

There was a girl who seemed to be emotionally fragile.  She alternated between participating enthusiastically and becoming hysterical and upset.  She was continually accusing other kids of stepping on her feet or otherwise hurting her.  It's true that sometimes the kids were packed close together and some unintentional physical contact made.  It happens in crowded places.  Most people don't like being jostled but they understand that it's not intentional or malicious; she didn't or couldn't.

We have no idea why these kids were so out of control. They looked like kids who were undisciplined and never taught how to behave.  Maybe they weren't, but that's what they looked like.  There could be much more to their poor behavior:  autism, OCD, so many possibilities.  But, we had no way of knowing that. And, in a way, what difference would it make?  They were still disrupting the group.

Now this is where someone might say that I'm a mean person, lacking compassion for these kids.  It's OK, I've been called a mean person before. Let's assume they are not just undisciplined free spirits but have some serious issues that make it difficult for them to behave in groups.  Should those kids stay home so they don't annoy others?  No, I don't think so. I think they should have the same opportunities well-behaved kids do.  But the parent(s) - who surely know exactly how their kids are likely to (mis)behave - should have kept a closer eye on them, and stepped in more quickly when something went wrong.

A boy shouldn't be able to stand among a group of people saying "boop... boop... boop..." over and over without the parent getting him out of the way and quieting him down.  A girl shouldn't be allowed to scream at someone for an accidental push or poke without the parent moving her away, and apologizing to the object of her anger, not to mention the presenters and the kids who can't learn anything because her daughter is screaming.

You might also say "it takes a village" and suggested that other parents step in.  Of course someone was continually asking the boy to be quiet and respectful of other people.  But he did not recognize anyone's authority.  He didn't say "you're not the boss of me," at least out loud, but he may as well have.  And who is going to tangle with a teen girl who is screaming at a another kid for stepping on her foot in a crowded area?  Better to just move away. 

I suppose there are disruptive kids on school field trips too. But at homeschool events there is usually a parent for each child or sibling group.  We tend to travel in family packs.  Sometimes one family may take the child(ren) of a friend along along with their own, but still, the adult to child ratio is pretty high.  And the chaperones know the kids in their charge. They know if the child is likely to have or cause a problem.  So they should be close by and ready to respond right away.

Remember, people are watching homeschoolers closely, more closely than schooled kids.  Maybe that's unfair, but it doesn't matter.  We are the ones who have shunned social norms to raise our children in a different way, so we are subject to more scrutiny.  Our kids are too.  And there are people who are anxious to point to any misbehaving homeschool kid and say,  "See?  See that out of control kid?  That's what homeschooling does."

Parents, please:  watch your children.  Because other people are.


Barbara Frank said...

Yes, yes, yes! And even if you give them the benefit of the doubt that they have some kind of disability or disorder, their parent(s) should still step in and help them get their behavior under control. I say this as the mom of a mentally retarded 17-year-old. We call it "civilizing him."

Great post!

DADvocate said...

They looked like kids who were undisciplined and never taught how to behave.

Sounds like my oldest daughter's kids, except there's no "looked like" about it. They are undisciplined and never taught how to behave.

In every other case of homeschooled children I know, the children are better behaved than typical same aged kids. I think the motivation to homeschool is usually that the parents want their children to have a richer, broader education, often with a religious element included, and to be able to advance at their own rate (usually faster). My daughter just didn't want her kids to have to suffer controlling themselves which virtually every school expects of children.

Jen said...

My son is usually the one acting out in a situation like that. He has Asperger's, so I tend to expect (or at least anticipate) some sort of "bad" behavior. And while I understand that he has trouble with crowds, noises, new situations, etc., I refuse to allow him to get away with being rude or disruptive. Parents of special needs children aren't doing them any favors by not expecting good behavior.

Ahermitt said...

I concur! I had a series of incidents in our early years of homeschooling where both the child and mother appeared to be autistic. Hence the child was not controlled,I learned to avoid the family, but the mom actually contacted me and berated me for not exposing my children to hers. You never know what is going on behind the scenes, heck, the child may even be a new homeschooler, fresh out of public school. Sometimes you just have to use the moment to teach your child how NOT to behave.