Education Without Labels
Jan Upton, Ph.D.
offers kids who do not easily fit into the system an educational
option that can be more readily tailored to their individual needs.
A lot of people do not realize that Thomas Edison got kicked out
of school and was homeschooled by his mother. We similarly expected
the school system would either kick out our son or require us
to label and medicate him. Instead, we chose homeschooling.
Our son has never been in public or private schools precisely
because, more than anything else, my husband and I feared the
labels that the system would place on him. It was obvious that
he would have difficulty with any environment in which he would
have to sit in one place for long periods of time, deal with a
room of 25 or more people (most of them also children), be “taught”
things that he already knew, and the list goes on and on. Instead
of dealing with the school administration on a daily basis, we
chose to educate our son on our own.
This kid could very easily be labeled ADHD (Attention Deficit
with Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder),
and LD (Learning Disabled) and likely traumatized by the experience.
Instead, at age 10, he is learning pre-algebra, doing his own
Powerpoint presentations, composing original compositions on his
Casio keyboard, and developing an art portfolio. He has incredible
self-esteem and is one of the happiest kids that I know.
I do not blame or have any anger at the school system. In my opinion,
it is unrealistic to expect the system to successfully educate
children like ours. He is simply too far off the normal curve.
In reading, math, and science, he is operating several years ahead
of his peers. Nonetheless, although he works well independently,
social interaction with more than a couple of people at one time
can still overwhelm him. As parents, we recognize his strengths
and limitations, encouraging him regularly to work on his weaker
areas. At the same time, we know better than to place him in a
noisy classroom with 30 others, in which failure would be highly
An increasing number of parents with such kids are quietly making
the decision to either remove them or not enroll them in the system.
Most of us are quiet about it because it is not the socially accepted
thing to do. We are taking our so-called defective children and
we are educating them, often without the use of psychotropic medications.
In most cases, with effective parenting and education customized
to their needs, these children are able to learn and feel good
about themselves. Yes, it is controversial and although it is
a very quiet movement, there is a growing community of parents
who are protecting their children in this way. Many of us are
weary from battles over IEPs (Individual Education Plans), and
homeschooling is a much less stressful option.
Homeschooling allows parents to design instruction based on the
needs of their children. For example, when you have a seven year-old
who is reading at a 6th or higher grade level, you
really do not have to spend a lot of time teaching them how to
read. In addition, you can cover a lot more material in a shorter
period of time with one-on-one instruction (homeschooling is basically
personalized tutoring). Finally, the kid can move around more–go
to the bathroom as needed and ride his bike or roller-skate in
the middle of the day (believe me, recess is essential for active
kids). Homeschooling is one of the best decisions that my family
has ever made.#
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