My oldest son is the classic rule follower. He has loved order and structure from the time that he was born. At the age of 4 when all of the other kids were off playing on the giant playset at the local fast food restaurant, he was organizing their shoes so that they were matching pairs and making sure they were put in their cubbies properly. It is just how God made him. We thought he would do great in school when the time came around as he had it together and loved to follow instruction. What could be wrong with following rules?
Kindergarten arrives and he is assigned a teacher with a good reputation at the local grade school that is considered to be an excellent school. People buy houses in the area just for the school district. Our first sign of a problem occurs when our son who we called by a nickname of his full given name comes home and starts to look nervous when we call him by the name that we have called him since the day that he was born. His parents calling him his name was causing our little 6 year old obvious stress and quite a bit of shame. Why? It seems that teacher, who is a giant in the eyes of her students, has told them that they all should be called by their full given names regardless of what they are called at home. Despite the fact that one of the 6 year olds did not even know his first name as he was called by his middle name by his parents, the kids would be addressed by full names only and would get in trouble if they used nicknames. Rule keeper son was not about to get in trouble so even though he barely knew his full name, that was it from that moment on. No rule breaking for him! The idea that his parents dared to call him by his nickname and were therefore breaking the rules was causing him great problems. His parents were rule breakers with all the shame and pain that involved.
As the school year went on, our son in addition to asking us to call him by his full name also started to appear sad all of the time as we were picking him up from school. We asked him repeatedly what was wrong but it took time for him to first figure out why he was sad and then work up the courage to tell us. It seemed that there was a child in the class who the teacher could not handle in the group setting well. He was from a rough background with no or negative parental involvement and it showed in his behavior. He was a classic example of a child whose parents were terrible to him so he would be terrible with the world. Note — God loves and ministers to those children and I am very happy to love them and get involved as I was one of them.
The teachers solution to the classroom interruptions and generally the challenge caused by the difficult child was to pair our son with him — the good kid with the bad kid. I hope that the motivation was that my son would somehow rub off on the other boy and help him and not simply to throw the boy a sacrificial rule follower to distract him though that seems unrealistic for the age but charity is always good. The result was that the boy spent most of his time bullying my little boy during class and eventually all day long. The boy thought his bullying was hilarious and would laugh as he would torment him. My boy knew that his teacher put him with the other boy and when he complained was told disapprovingly that he needed to be patient with him and go back to his seat.
When our son finally told us what was going on after months of seeing him just miserable, we spoke with the teacher and requested that his seat be moved. Teachers response? — we just to need to be more tolerant, loving and open minded. I was not exactly doing well with my walk with Jesus at the time so I just about lost my mind. Similar incidents occurred throughout the 4 years we chose public school as our outlet for schooling, including one of our children being physically assaulted in 2nd grade and the school not telling us about it and a teacher shushing and outlawing any reference to God in 3rd grade – making the same picture from Sunday School in freetime and getting punished for it sends a bit of a mixed message, don’t you think?
People ask me all the time if I worry about socialization of my kids since we started homeschooling — it is like the one question that everyone knows when the subject comes up. Their kids might be getting in knife fights and pledging allegiance to ISIS and we get, don’t you worry about socialization of your kids by having them with you all the time. The frank uncensored answer from experience is yes, we really do — that is exactly why we homeschool.
In a short time, my son was being taught by his teacher and class to question his parents and that his parents were wrong. He was taught that who he is, his very name, was wrong and could be change by someone who is not a parent at the discretion of that authority figure. He was taught by his peers that abuse is funny and that he is not worthy of respect. He was taught by his teacher that he should sit there and be abused by another because she said it was ok. He was taught shame and pain were part of everyday life for a 6 year old and in some ways that his parents were not going to do anything to help him. He was also taught what the pain of having terrible parents was like from being on the ultimate receiving end of what the parents of the bully were doing to the bully. His bullying was like living in the family of the bully every day for 7 hours a day. God gave us him to parent and we were giving him to others to parent indirectly. Both of our kids were subject to all of the usual meanness and cliques that happen whenever a group of humans get together without Jesus as their anchor and they suffered for it…greatly.
When we started homeschooling it did not fix everything immediately and it was hard work. The transition was rough and to this day 7 years later we are still working some of the issues out from that time. But we immediately saw a great weight lifted off of our kids — the weight of the pressure of the society that is school, the weight of the pressure to conform, the weight of socialization was removed. We did not even grasp at the time what a crushing weight it was for them and I have been grateful to God for the spurring to make that change ever since.
So yes, we worry about what society that is not focused on God would do to our kids when they are immature. It is a core reason why we homeschool.