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“He’s Bullied, But He’s Still Got to Go to School!” … Doesn’t He?

Jonah Mowry posted this video of himself about his fear and despair at the thought of starting eighth grade, because of the severe bullying he has experienced since first grade … and he started cutting himself in second grade. At some point – at several points – during the ensuing seven years, he has contemplated suicide.

How Can This Happen?

Jonah was fortunate to get a positive response to his video, and the kids at his school responded by befriending rather than more bullying. I am exceedingly happy for him that he’s got some friends now, that he garnered good feedback and his bullies realized what they were doing.

But.

But I find myself in a real morass of anger and confusion because of this video, because this can happen to a child in our society. Here is a child who began cutting himself when he was just seven or eight years old. A child that age cutting! This is incredible to me, and I can’t help wondering: when he came home crying, and beat up from bullies, and bloody from his own hand …

Why did his parents send him back to school?

I do not mean to imply that Jonah’s parents didn’t care or weren’t aware of what was happening to their son. I will work from the assumption that they knew and that they were trying their hardest to find the best help available for him both at the school and outside the school. But knowing that this is not a one-time scenario, that this is happening every day to children all over this country, I have to wonder how it is that so many of us have bought into the idea that keeping these bullied children in school is the most important factor to consider in this equation?

How has the institutional school system so brainwashed us all that we have reached a point where it is more important for a child to learn to add and subtract than it is to protect him from this sort of animalistic behavior? How can we – we parents, we teachers, we school bureaucrats – think that it is okay for him to despise himself, his life, and his peers, as long as he can diagram a sentence properly?

I’m filing this in the “Stupid School Tricks” category because this does not happen anywhere except in school (and if the school does nothing to promote it, it certainly does very little of real impact to stop it). If this were happening to your child anywhere else – anywhere else: church, the YMCA, the park – you would stop it. You would talk to the Sunday School teacher or church board or just change churches. You would go to the Y at a different time, or find another place to work out. You would stay inside, or go to the park only when the bullies were in school. You would find options.

You would protect your child.

Inside the Box

And yet, when a child is bullied to the point of self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide, rarely is the first thought of pulling him out of school. Nor the second, third, or fifty-third thought. It’s just not on the table.

Parents, I know you are trying to help and protect your child, but you are thinking inside of a box whose lines have been drawn for you by people with a vested interest in keeping your child in school.

I admit I do wish that more parents would simply realize that removing school from the equation is a viable option, but I realize that they will not. They can’t think outside of that box because they don’t even realize the box is there, hemming them in. So what outrages me is not so much the parents as it is the system that drew us into the box and has us all brainwashed into thinking that no matter how bad it is inside the box for your kid, leaving the box – leaving school – is worse.

“It Gets Better” … ?

Just think: a whole bureaucratic system with a vested interest in keeping your child in school, no matter how bad it is for him there. How bad must it be when a bullied population has as its slogan “It Gets Better”? That is an awful sentiment! “Stick it out, kid, because someday you won’t be bullied any more.” How about not being bullied now, in the formative and most tender years? How about protecting our kids?

So, if you are the parent of a bullied child, please let me reassure you: pulling your kid out of school is not the worst thing in the world. It’s not worse than watching him go through seven (or more) years of hell on earth; watching the professionals paid to educate and guide him through his childhood sit back and say, “Hey, don’t worry, it gets better after you’re gone from here”; watching him lose his sense of himself as a person of worth; perhaps walking in one morning to find he has taken the next step and eliminated himself from the equation …

More Options Than You Think

Please don’t watch your kid be bullied and think there’s nothing you can do because the system tells you “he’s got to go to school.”

NO, he doesn’t. Pulling him out of school and teaching him nothing would be a step in the right direction, would help him turn out to be a better person than letting him live through this sort of agony day in and day out and realizing that, to his parents and teachers, his mental state is of less importance than the fact that he must be educated so he can “make something of himself” at some hazy future date. How about helping him make something of himself right now, instead? How about helping him make himself into a whole person?

There are options. There are always options. One counselor might say, “Stick it out, it gets better.” Another counselor might say, “This other school is better, try it out.” But if your child is at this point, I have to say I think finding another counselor or switching schools is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Parents: I know you want to help your child. I know are trying to help your child. But moving his chair to the sunny side of the deck doesn’t change the fact that his ship is going down. Be brave for your child. Be brave with your child. Try something different. Bring him home. Bring him to the safest place on earth for him, and let him heal.

Even Schools Say It’s Better Outside of School

Severe bullying is an excellent reason to try homeschooling. Think of it this way: even the schools say, “it gets better once they’re out of school.” Listen to them and take those words to heart. Get your child out of school now. Homeschooling is not the only option, but it is an excellent option to take into consideration.

I know single parents who make homeschooling work. I know two-working-parent families who make homeschooling work, or who find a way for one parent to quit and be home with the kids. I know homeschooling families who use grandparents or neighbors or friends from church who can be with the child during the day if he’s too young to stay alone. I know homeschooling moms who need a little extra income and will homeschool a working parent’s child alongside her own, taking him to homeschool group meetings where he can make friends who won’t bully him.

No, homeschooled kids aren’t perfect, and of course there is some teasing, but that level of bullying just doesn’t happen in homeschool circles. It can’t. No homeschool parent would stand for it. The homeschooling parent already pulled her kid out of school; she isn’t going to hesitate to pull him out of a bad situation with a homeschool group.

And you shouldn’t hesitate to step outside the lines drawn by the institutional school system and enforced by the institutional school system, and pull your child out of a bad situation at school. It won’t be the worst thing in the world.

It might be the best thing you ever do.

P.S. to the parents of the bullies: I’m talking to you too. Do you want to stop your child’s bullying behavior? Take him out of the situation that gives him that power, or the environment that makes him feel he needs to assert power over other children. Let him start living a real life without fear, which is often what prompts that types of behavior. Let him be safe too.

FURTHER READING:
Jonah Mowry: A Typical Teenager
The Lingering, Devastating Impact of Bullying
Does Homeschooling Prepare Students for the Real World?
Rebecca Black (YouTube Viral Video “Friday” Singer) Bullied into Homeschooling
Bullying: A Reason to Homeschool – series of posts looking at short-term homeschooling


Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child
by Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson: A look at the perceived barriers to homeschooling for children who don’t “fit” traditional schools, and how to find educational options that fully address your child’s academic and emotional needs.

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26 comments

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  1. Jeanette says:

    I agree whith waht you said. The child is or should be most important.

    1. Carma says:

      Yes Jeanette – so sad when that is not the case!

  2. Missy says:

    Absolutely agree completely. Parents are terrified that they can’t do it, that they aren’t qualified, that the schools are trained and so they will do better – I’m a former PS educator and I’m here to say that the BEST teacher for any child is his or her parent. It doesn’t matter how much education you have. Learn along side him or her and facilitate as much learning as possible. You might not know calculus, but you know how to find a calc program online, you know how to phone a math friend, you know how to purchase a calc workbook. Empower your children, empower yourself.

    1. Carma says:

      Absolutely, Missy! I may not be able to TEACH every subject my child is interested in, but I can certainly locate the resources to get him what he needs!

      1. paxye says:

        I love this comment!

        and the post of course!!!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    EXCELLENT! I’ve had the same thought for years – playing video games all day long without bullying is a far better option than the emotional trauma bullied children have.

    I also add that all the anti-bullying programs for children in the world aren’t going to fix the problem until someone addresses the issue of TEACHERS bullying – students and each other. I saw it and experienced it in elementary school, I saw it often in my high school, and it was still happening when my oldest two were in public school when they were early elementary.

  4. Jen says:

    Excellent, Carma. Couldn’t agree more.

    1. Carma says:

      Thank you, Jen. I do wish we had an easier way to get the message out to parents and kids who are suffering through bullying!

  5. icklepay says:

    Very well said.

    1. Carma says:

      I appreciate that. I had a little trouble with targeting my outrage at first, but a friend who had bullied kids helped me see that my focus should be on helping the parents see they have other options.

  6. gregjrsmom says:

    Excellent post, Carma!

    1. Carma says:

      Thank you very much!

  7. jo says:

    Excellent post. I homeschooled my kids as long as I could, then had to put them in public school so I could work. Broke my heart!! They came through it safe, but were exposed to things I’d rather they hadn’t been. I know the time they spent at home was instrumental in their survival skills once they were in school.

    Thanks for the update on Jonah. That’s been on my mind since seeing the video recently. All our kids deserve to be safe.

    jo

    1. Carma says:

      Jo, good for you for doing what you could, when you could. I know your children were better off for it!

  8. fijawa says:

    It took me years to get over being picked on at school… it decimated my self esteem and cast a shadow over most of my childhood. parents don’t take this stuff seriously enough in my opinion.

    1. Carma says:

      Fijawa, I’m so sorry you had to suffer that. Kudos to you for rising above it!

  9. Kathy Thompson says:

    This is terrific and so well said, thank you for writing it. As a PFLAG mom I am very aware of the abuse so many kids deal with on a daily basis. I am also a homeschooling mom and know the benefits of being able to help my kids navigate the world within a framework of safety and acceptance. Kids learn all day, every day. I want mine, and all kids, to learn they deserve to be safe and happy.

    1. Carma says:

      Kathy, that is a wonderful thing to teach all our children!

  10. Lisa F. says:

    THANK YOU, Carma. I just discovered you after a friend posted this blog on FB. Common sense is so refreshing!

    1. Carma says:

      Thank YOU! Telling me I have common sense is about the biggest compliment you could give me. :-)

  11. Amy T. says:

    Well said Carma!!!

  12. KW says:

    This article rang so true for me. My son was bullied in school starting in 2nd grade. I hate the fact that my husband and I allowed him to stay in school until the end of 4th grade. We spent those 2 years trying to work with the school for a solution. I watched my sweet, sensitive, and caring young boy turn into an angry young man. He was angry all the time, He was making comments along the lines of wishing he had a gun to shoot the people who were mean to him. He spent all of 4th grade without eyelashes because he pulled them all out. This was the trigger that finally got my husband on board with homeschooling. Once that and the comments started he knew we needed to do something that did not involve him returning to that school. It was the best decision we ever made for our family. I am thankful we were able to arrange our lives so it could happen. By the end of that first year of homeschooling my sweet boy started to return. Now, he is a wonderful young man and you would never believe that angry person was in there for so long.

    1. Carma says:

      KW good for you for doing the right thing for your son! I am so happy to hear he is “back.” :-)

  13. Candice says:

    My first response is to say it’s NOT that simple. I could take my child (if he were being bullied) out of school but what does that tell him? Run away from your problems… My option would be to be such a thorn in the school systems paw (a honey coated sweet thorn… lol) that they would bend over backwards for me. I would confront the parents of the bully. I would go to battle for my child. Not just bring him home to lick his wounds. Not all parents are cut out for homeschooling and it takes a strong person to know their limitations. Not all schools are evil (I heard the principal talking to a child the other day about how he was being a bully. I’m very proud of my school!). It’s very disheartening to be bashed for how I choose to educate my children. Like every group of people there seems to be a lot of “my way’s the only way” when really… it’s not. Some people do NOT have the option or the personality to homeschool. There are other avenues to combating bullying and I think we all can agree that whatever options we take fighting bullying IS a priority!

    1. Carma says:

      Thanks for your response, Candice! I never said it was simple, I merely said homeschooling is a possible option. In fact I was careful nowhere in this post to say homeschooling is the ONLY option, so I must reject the idea that I bashed anyone for choosing public school over homeschooling. I clearly stated, “Homeschooling is not the only option, but it is a good option to take into consideration.”

      My entire point with this post is NOT that all bullied children should be brought home willy-nilly, but that it IS an option to be considered, and it is the right option for some families. When the parents of a bullied child are trying to consider options, they should be able to consider them ALL and not just those of which the schools approve. Just thinking about the logistics of homeschooling, even if they do not end up choosing it, may help the parents realize there are options for remediation besides the obvious ones presented by the school.

      And, personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the “run away from your problems” lesson, because there are times when that IS the best thing to do. For instance, if a boyfriend or girlfriend were cheating or beating or otherwise abusing my child, I would rather my child knows when to cut losses and get out while the getting is good, rather than try to tough it out and end up married to an abusive person.

  14. Cindy says:

    You are so right. If it happened anywhere else, people would pull their kids out and fast!

    I had to realize that my son’s esteem and our relationship was even more important than homeschooling. Yes, we still homeschool, but it looks nothing like it did when we started. I was trying to put him in a box. He was trying to invent something wonderful out of the box.

  1. 2012 Top Ten … or Thereabouts » Winging It says:

    [...] He’s Bullied, But He’s Still Got to Go to School … Doesn’t He? Young Jonah Mowry posted a devastating video about the bullying he had received since a very young age, and how one of his responses was to begin cutting himself in second grade, and his thoughts of suicide as he grew and the bullying got worse. I know that parents of bullying victims want to help their children, but my question was, and is: “How has the institutional school system so brainwashed us all that we have reached a point where it is more important for a child to learn to add and subtract than it is to protect him from this sort of [bullying] animalistic behavior? How can we – we parents, we teachers, we school bureaucrats – think that it is okay for him to despise himself, his life, and his peers, as long as he can diagram a sentence properly?” If this sort of thing happened to your child in any other situation, you would fix it or if it weren’t fixable, you would remove your child. My hope with this post is to let parents know that there IS another option besides just leaving their child in school and waiting for the “It Gets Better” campaign to come true. Bullying is an excellent reason to try homeschooling. [...]

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