Bullies have always been around and, unfortunately, they always will. Has bullying gotten worse? I do not claim to know. All I know is I was bullied horribly in school and now, as a mother, the thought of my own children being tortured unnecessarily brings me to my knees. I am sure that most parents agree that bullying is not okay and hope that their children never experience it. I have, however, spoken to people (parents and not yet parents) who think bullying is healthy in some bizarre way. It builds character… makes them stronger… teaches them how to stand up for themselves… um, am I missing something?? A kid must be kicked in the stomach to know it hurts? Or to burn their hand on the stove to know it’s hot? Do they need to be called a string of nasty names to know they don’t like being made fun of? I think that kind of logic is the most ridiculous and illogical bunch of nonsense I have ever heard.
My oldest son, who will be 12 in a few months, used to be autistic. I say he used to be because he has since come almost fully out of it after being homeschooled and having his diet changed at age 7.5. His last diagnosis 4 years ago was Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – a long name for “your kid has some characteristics of autism but not enough to fully diagnose him as such.” When he was in public school kindergarten for two years, he experienced a lot of bullying. I did not really know it at the time because I was not there and his teacher never told me anything. It turns out, she was one of the bullies, too. Unfortunately, he did not know how to communicate very well and was unable to tell me what was going on. Our after-school conversations never reached more than: “How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “I don’t know.” Any more questions were met with silence. A few times, he said some things that really bothered me, and when I pressed more, he would stop talking completely. He said things like, “My teacher kicked me,” “she grabbed my face and squeezed it.” It hurt me to know something was going on, but not know what. We pulled him out after that second year because he had learned nothing. He could not count, read and could not communicate with us. I could sense his unhappiness and did not want him to hate school.
Now that he has been out of school and functions like most other kids his age not on the spectrum, he has told me things about what went on. He has told me the things kids said to him… the things the teacher said to him. He told me how he was not allowed to go to the bathroom because the teacher didn’t believe he had to go. Or how he was yelled at by the teacher for taking too long in the bathroom. The list goes on and it hurts deeply whenever he just randomly tells me something. He knew the whole time that it was mean and it always hurt him, he just lacked the ability at the time to tell me. For all the kids who cannot express to their parents the pain of their day, either out of fear or an inability of some sort, my heart breaks.
Yesterday, my 8-year old got into the car after soccer practice and he burst into tears. I asked him what was wrong and he said the kids were mean to him and were calling him “tiny” and “little b**ch.” I was seeing red, but I calmly texted his coach and told her that some kids had called him a bad word. She replied that she was very sorry and would find out who said it and talk to that child.
Obviously, we will all experience bullying in our lives. As adults we will have to deal with bullies, too. We will even have to deal with parents who bully our children and allow their own children to bully. So for the people I have talked to who say homeschooling denies them of this wonderful experience, perhaps they are right. My “sheltered” children are not used to this. The friends they have are not used to it either. They are all missing this experience. And let me tell you something: I am okay with that! They may be sheltered and protected from that kind of “education,” but they are not incomplete people as a result. They shine with innocence and happiness. They do not suffer from anxiety and all these other crazy things I hear about, like kids cutting themselves because they are hurting so much.
The world can be a very cold, evil place. They will find this out soon enough. Why must they be thrown to the wolves when they are still so young and lacking the tools to deal with it appropriately? Sure, they learn… or suffer the consequences. At home, in public or private school, not every day will be an ice cream sundae. There are good and bad days and some days that are just hard. But our children are young and innocent for only a short period of time. I do not mind keeping that innocence in tact while growing their good character, morals, education and souls in a safe environment.