The story appeared in yesterday’s Toronto Star, about the Mom who has become the bodyguard for her 11 year-old, escorting her daughter around school, to lunch, and at recess. According to The Star, she says she’s taken on a fix that she calls “extreme, but necessary” because she’s dissatisfied with the way the school is handling the bullying that her daughter has allegedly been enduring for months. She also told the paper that although she finds the whole situation “ridiculous”, she’ll do it for the rest of the school year if she has to.
Now, if I know parents across Canada one-one millionth as well as I think I do, most of us have already made the jump to putting on our “Judge and Jury” hats; however, I think we can do something far more constructive here. Because this solution implies to me that the bullying this girl was experiencing must be even worse than the humiliation and embarrassment that would come from having your Mom show up and be your bodyguard at school, and that this child may have been in real, imminent danger. After all, most kids don’t even like having their parents drop them off in front of the school. And a goodbye kiss from your Mom? Oh, the torture.
I’m going to offer up an alternative here, and invite you to do the same in the spirit of actually trying to help. Let’s not turn this into some kind of Reddit feeding frenzy where the goal is to have the funniest line, or the most vicious response; we have a chance to make a difference in at least one kid’s life, so I’d encourage you to take it.
For parents in a similar situation, here’s my suggestion: Home schooling. Before you roll your eyes, or think that you’re not qualified, or even question the legality, let me offer some perspective. It’s legal in all Canadian provinces and territories, and it’s becoming more and more common. And it’s far, far easier than you think. In Ontario, it’s as simple as sending a Letter of Intent to your local school board. Ontario imposes no requirements on curriculum, although they do post the curriculum they use on the Ministry of Education’s website.
Worried that a home-schooled kid might get a substandard education? Even if you throw aside the advantageous element of a vastly reduced “class size”, consider the limitless resources that are available to you at your fingertips by going online. If we’re having this conversation twenty years ago, I agree that finding course material and information might be difficult. But a quick Google search will keep you busy all day. In addition, there are hundreds of groups of parents (like this one in Ontario) who have banded together all over the place to share information and tools at the click of a mouse.
So if you’re considering escorting your kid to school as a “last stand” against bullying (which I’d submit might have even more tragic consequences as the bullies try to maximize the few windows of opportunity they might get), consider that home schooling would take far less of your time and resources. Most people I talk to remember the child geniuses that used to be paraded around on the Oprah show, home-schooled and in college by the age of 13 or 14, whose actual “classroom time” at home only consumed a couple of hours a day. Add to that the fact that your area’s Parks and Recreation Department likely has myriad programs that would serve as more-than-adequate replacements for the school’s extra-curricular activities, and it kind of surprises me that home schooling isn’t growing even faster than it already is.
Got a better suggestion? Let’s hear it.
MORE THOUGHTS FROM NEIL HEDLEY: