A lot of times when people ask why we homeschool, I just say “Because we enjoy it.” When it was a question about why we pulled our child out of school, the question was harder to answer without a lot of care taken not to offend, but now that answer seems to cover it. It’s not a “schools suck” or a “my kid is too special” kind of thing; just “we like it.” It’s the truth, most days.
Still, sometimes the other reasons come around to beat me over the head.
As the school year ramps up, I’ve heard a lot of talk from parents with gifted kids in public schools. Across the state, a common theme has been that schools—teachers, principals, administrators—are refusing to follow state law in allowing parents to play a role in teaching their kids.
According to Minnesota state law, parents are free to object to a curriculum and substitute one of their own, provided that the family pays for it and does the teaching. The law originated with sex ed, naturally, but was written broadly to allow all kinds of flexibility. Parents of gifted kids have used the law to provide appropriate content for their kids in specific subject areas.
Yet in school after school, parents are being denied that right. Principals are stating flatly, “we don’t do that,” even upon being shown the relevant statute.
The reasoning behind that puzzles me. What does the school gain by refusing?
It’s hard on my liberal, teachers-union-loving self to look at that and not question the assumptions behind the blatant disrespect for parents (not to mention the law). While I have no fear that the government is trying to brainwash my children, I do see a clear assumption on the part of those representatives of the school system that a parent has no right to participate in the formal education of her child – even something as simple as providing a laptop and an alternative math program for 45 minutes a day – except at the discretion of the school.
Were it just one teacher, I’d be ready to accept the “bad apple” excuse. But as parent after parent chimes in with similar stories, it’s hard not to see a pattern. And it’s a pattern that reminds me of the battles I’d rather not fight. Tough as it is to get along with my volatile little snowflakes some days, that’s my job as a parent. I have a lot more invested in weathering those storms than in fighting battles with someone who doesn’t even know me, who sees his school as his own private fiefdom, where state law doesn’t apply.
And that’s just the people who work there. What about other parents?
Many of my friends were saddened by a blog post by a journalist who decided to lash out at parents who think their kids are gifted. The sad part isn’t that a minor blogger doesn’t like the word “gifted.” Rather, what came out of the discussion was how many people had someone in their lives say the same things to them directly, in person, about their own kids or parenting, and how hurtful it could be.
The blogger also reiterated one of the weirdest, but very common, anti-gifted-ed arguments: parents of gifted students seek more challenging classes for their children because they are trying to eliminate life’s challenges for their children. Chew on that logic for a while. Yet it is so common: some parents seem determined to believe that there is something elitist or nefarious about trying to put your child in a setting where she has the opportunity to learn something new. Frankly, I have even less interest in coping with those parents than I do with the school. At least I can cite statues at the school; being an ignorant jerk is still fully legal.
I can’t lie – homeschooling intense children is hard. Being a driven, impatient, introverted person makes homeschooling hard. Is it harder than dealing with that other crap? I’m not sure, and besides, dealing with that other crap isn’t an essential part of my job description as a parent. Dealing with my kids’ ups and downs is, and sending them to school wouldn’t change that. But it might just add a bunch more BS to the pile, and I’m already shoveling as fast as I can.