School Violence Led Us To Homeschooling

690px-GMC_B-series_school_busby Laura Grace Weldon

We became homeschoolers suddenly. One morning my oldest son, a freshman in an award-winning suburban high school, called home right before the first class of the day. The teen who’d been harassing him had just showed him a gun, saying it would be his last day to live.

“Get out now,” I said. “Run home.”

I phoned the principal to tell him about the gun. I insisted that he not call the teen to the office on the intercom but remove him directly from his classroom. “Please,” I begged. “I’m worried about every other child still in the building.”

Throughout the school year my son told us what he heard about this youth and a few other kids. They’d sexually assaulted a girl in the school bathroom, broken the arm of a student’s father when he tried to reason with them, fought a gang-style skirmish near the football field with the assistance of older relatives. When I asked school officials about these allegations they scoffed. I assumed they were baseless.

My son’s situation was pretty standard. Honors student versus tough kid. My son used sarcasm as his defensive weapon. A few days earlier he’d retorted back to the taunting with, “Bad mood? Drug dealer not giving you credit?”

That morning the principal seemed only mildly perturbed by my frantic call. I insisted my son told me these kids stashed weapons in their cars. He seemed more interested in containing what he called a “rumor.” When the principal didn’t get back to me, my husband and I called the police. Detectives sat at our table and confirmed every story. The girl assaulted, the father’s arm broken, the gang fight. In fact area businesses had been warned to notify police immediately if groups of teens assembled, in case another gang fight was brewing. Parents were not informed.

I’d assumed that police had been called to the school after my report of a student with a gun. They weren’t. Instead, the student in question was summoned to the office on the intercom. Other students said he went outside to the trunk of his car before heading to the office.

I met with the superintendent the next day. In my work life I taught non-violenceto community groups, including school systems. I told him I’d teach this program free of charge to staff and students in our district. The superintendent turned me down, admitting that it might be safer if we homeschooled. My son never returned to school.

I’d always been committed to the idea of public schools. I believed it was not only right but necessary to work within systems to improve them. Plus, I had plenty of misconceptions about homeschooling. Yet I realized that school had never really “worked” for my kids. Our four-year-old already knew how to read but had to practice sight words in pre-school anyway. Our sweet but inattentive second-grader was deemed a good candidate for Ritalin by his teacher. Our fifth-grader could do college level work, but due to cuts in the gifted program had to follow grade level curriculum along with the rest of her class. And our freshman detested the rote tasks that filled his days and the hours of homework each night.

Overnight, I faced homeschooling kids who were eager to learn on their own terms. I learned right along with them. I learned how profoundly they are motivated by their own interests, and how those interests translate into advanced comprehension across a range of subjects. I learned how they sought out challenges and insisted on meaningful involvement. I saw what they gained from daily activities at home and how easily they could learn directly from people of all ages right in our community.

Click here to learn more at Alternatives To School about the benefits of self-directed learning.

The ADD symptoms my third child exhibited at school were no longer present once we began homeschooling. The hurry-up days that roped my kids in from morning bus to evening homework were gratefully left behind. Instead we read books for hours, indulged in long-term science projects, went on adventures with friends, found role models in all sorts of fields, and let real learning unfold. The crisis that hurled my children out of school created a far richer life than any of us could have imagined.

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning, and a poetry collection titled Tending. She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where they raise cows, chickens, and droll offspring. Connect with the Free Range Learning community on Facebook and check out her site

Comments

  1. Agree with all information contained in this article. Incidents like this do happen: yes even in your “award winning” California School Districts in Marin County. School boards and administrators with their legal counsels either ‘whitewash’ incidents or completely omit reporting them. Any controversial day to day goings on in our local government schools involving violence, discrimination, harassment, bullying, incompetence and negligent practice are kept out of the public eye. The high stakes of millions of dollars involved in bond measure paybacks keep district debt reliant on property sales; the real estate market becomes an agent of the District, notably using the ‘distinguished’ school awards as a top selling point for potential buyers. Local home sales feed bond measure debt by property tax assessments, real estate and school districts share the special relationship of collusionary fraud in deceiving the public; school districts pump up their ‘award winning’ stats (through grade inflation and other data manipulation) for desirability to buyers in the local real estate market. Property listings use the ‘California Award Winning School’ to lure young families to the buy in the District; looking to relocate from the City, and to forego paying tuition for San Francisco’s private schools, they choose to buy in Marin County for the benefit of free ‘award winning’ public education. Truth be told, the public school’s confabulations of reputation by misrepresentation; and the Realtors hand in hand collusion to promote the District public schools for their ‘high achievements’ in support of their own self interest, leave young families to make the discovery of this unfortunate fact well after the purchasing their new home. So, besides incurring the parcel tax on their newly purchased property for exorbent bond measure debt they also incur costs of private school tuition once they realize, by experience, that the local public schools do not deliver an ‘award winning’ education to it’s students. Hindsight is 20/20 with their buyers regret.

  2. Sadly, too many people hear such stories and respond, “That would never happen in MY district.” I wonder how many such anecdotes it will take before these so-called exceptions are seen as representative of a problem that goes far beyond such terrifying accounts. To me, worse than the boy with the gun is the principal with the cover-up. Isn’t the cover-up usually what ultimately creates the eventual downfall? Here’s hoping.