Goodbye School!


I was moved recently as I read the “My Story” account in a local magazine of a mother who, after years of watching her son become steadily more miserable at school, finally took his hand and walked out of the school gates for the last time. For the past three years, she has seen a transformation take place as she has home-schooled him. This could (almost) have been my story.

It started when my son was only four and in nursery school. I was called in and told that there were some “problems” with him and that I should take him to an occupational therapist for an assessment, as amongst other things, he was unable to catch a ball. Dutifully, I complied. After a three-hour session, the OT told me that there were absolutely no concerns with his development other than a very slight case of low muscle tone which did not require any therapy. In fact, she told me, he was way ahead of where he needed to be in some respects. When I presented the report to the teacher, she shook her head in disbelief.

Some months later, I was called in again, to be told that she had now identified the problem. “It’s his eyes – he has absolutely no depth perception!” It was recommended that I take him to an opthalmologist for testing. Once again, I complied. After extensive testing, the ophthalmologist informed me that, aside from a slight farsightedness which did not require glasses, his eyesight was perfect. When I told him that the teacher was convinced that the child had no depth perception, he reacted with astonishment and insisted that I myself take an 11-point test to test depth perception. I scored 8. He then told me that my son had scored a full 11! Armed with these results, I went back to the teacher, who once again shook her head in disbelief.

The following year, when I was once again called in and told that I needed to take him to another OT for a second opinion as there  was “definitely something wrong”, I dug my heels in and refused.

Throughout Grade R, then Grade 1 and Grade 2, I listened to constant complaints from teachers: he didn’t do his work, he didn’t pay attention, he was daydreaming….

In the second half of Grade 2, I became desperate. Not only was the teacher pulling her hair (and mine) out, but my son was desperately unhappy. He was weepy, frustrated and angry. He was being bullied by other children and teased mercilessly. He would tell me how the children called him weird and made fun of him. My heart ached for him.

Finally, at the end of his Grade 2 year, the teacher insisted that, in order to promote him to Grade 3, he  would have to be assessed by an educational psychologist. Reluctantly, I made an appointment, fully convinced that I already knew the outcome and that I would be told he needed to be put on Ritalin. I was exactly right. I had also suspected that the IQ test he was given would reveal that he had a high IQ. Again, I was correct, but was stunned at just how high his IQ tested. I was told that he scored in the top 5% of human intelligence. Ritalin would help him concentrate, I was told, so that he could reach his full potential.

Having studied natural health, I was fully conversant with the side-effects of Ritalin, and politely told the psychologist that it would be a cold day in hell before I gave my son Ritalin (or Concerta, or anything remotely like it!) Her report to the school suggested that I refused to accept her diagnosis or recommendations. I did, however, agree to allow him to have therapy to “deal with the anger and frustration he was experiencing.”

At the beginning of this year, he began therapy (and Grade 3), and things went rapidly from bad to worse. Not only was he miserable at school and constantly teased and picked on by the other children and his teacher, but he became impossible to deal with at home as well.  He would shout at us and accuse us of all kinds of things.

By the end of the first term, I had had enough! I demanded to see the psychologist and informed her in no uncertain terms that her “therapy” was doing far more harm than good. She suggested that I was to blame for not agreeing to medication, and tried to insist on a consultation with a neurologist so that he could tell me that this was the only option! I told her that we were discontinuing therapy and were considering homeschooling. This would be the biggest mistake I could ever make, she told me.

On the first day of the second term, I also took my son’s hand and walked finally and firmly out of the school gates.

Admittedly, in the past few months, there have been times when I wondered whether I am indeed “of right mind”, or whether I have completely lost it, but the smile on my son’s face tells a different story. He is happy again, and walks around singing like he used to when he was smaller. His school work too has improved dramatically, as he is being constantly challenged.

Some weeks ago, he crawled into bed beside me one morning, snuggled up to me and said: “Mom, thank-you so much for home-schooling me. It’s changed my whole life!” If I had any doubts, they were completely dispelled in that moment.

This post is part of the South African Carnival of Homeschool Blogs.  To join the carnival or visit past carnivals visit the SACHS Blogs page.  We hope you enjoy browsing!


26 thoughts on “Goodbye School!

  1. Hi Nicki,
    Eish – your story parallels ours. We walked out of nursery school in December last year, with Occupational Therapy, Educational Psychology and Paediatric Neurology reports under our arms. No-one thought our idea of homeschooling was a good one (though we are slowly turning people’s minds as our son has refused to turn into some kind of social misfit 😉 Though this year has been hectic – we have shot through Grade 0-2 in 9 months – I can say it has been a real joy to see how happy a little boy can be when he is in an environment that is stimulating, loving and completely flexible.
    I love Thandi’s comment about “very good parenting”,- the ultimate drug – should be prescribed more!!!
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Hi Joy!
      I agree – throw out the Ritalin along with over-prescribed anti-biotics etc. and just love and nurture your children!
      Have you read Robert Mendelsohn’s “How to raise a healthy child .. in spite of your doctor”? It’s well worth reading!
      James Dobson also recommends homeschooling and hands-on parenting above all else (especially for boys) in “Bringing up Boys” – another very worthwhile read.

      • Hi Nicki,
        Have not read Mendelsohn’s book, but being within the medical world myself, have a healthy respect for curing one problem by creating others, as a very old oath says “First do no harm”
        I have the Dobson book on my shelf, very encouraging. I also enjoyed his book “How to build confidence in your child” and just live on the hope laid out in Sally Clarkson’s book “Mission of Motherhood”. I am currently reading another very interesting book called “Future proofing your child”,by Nicki Bush. Quite an eye opener into what will actually help children succeed in the future (and school ain’t it ;-).

  2. Hi there Nicki
    I don’t think my comment is going to be too different from everyone elses – your story really does bring tears to my eyes too! As an educator (in a previous life) I’m so sorry that the system has failed you…but well done for doing something that goes against the grain, and for pulling him out. And that moment in bed? That’s the moment you’ve got to hang on to with both hands when the going gets tough!

  3. Thank you very much for sharing. This is just more confirmation for us to continue the HS-route. My youngest is only 2.5yrs now and a total stranger – teacher – met us in the local botanical gardens and came to me saying I will have to put him on medication, otherwise the teachers won’t be able to handle him in school one day! I was totally flabbergasted and could only stare at her. I hope I will one day be blessed by boys saying they are so happy being home, like your little one!

    • Hi Elize!
      Isn’t it amazing how everyone else seems to know just what’s best for YOUR child? From grandparents, to teachers, to aunties, to therapists … to total strangers!
      Be encouraged to know that NO-ONE knows your child better than YOU!! You have been with him from day one. You know better than anyone what his likes and dislikes are; what he likes to play with; how he responds to different people and different situations; and how he best learns about the things around him. You are therefore more qualified than anyone on this earth to teach him!
      Be blessed in your journey!

  4. WoW, this is like reading “the story of my life”. We too, walked out of school in August last year because we felt every day we left our 2nd grader longer was another day to cause more damage… I admit this year was tough, but it’s the best move we ever made. Now, a little over a year later we too have a “new” boy.

  5. Lulu

    Hi Nicki
    Well done! You won’t look back on this decision. Looking back, God protected my middle child from all your son had experienced, by forcing me to homeschool. It is the best decision you have ever made. You’ll find that because it doesn’t matter if he stands or sit at the table, school work gets done in half the time and double the concentration. Because he can be on his back with his feet in the air under a tree on a glorious day, that book that he didn’t want to read, becomes fun to read.
    Enjoy the freedom and let him show you how he needs to learn.
    And a warm welcome to our group!

    • You’re right Lulu! Often my son will be doing headstands while he does his maths, but somehow it does get done! (We’re still working on the “in half the time” bit though!) Thanks for the warm welcome – I am overwhelmed by the encouragement and support offered within this group of homeschooling bloggers! It’s great to know you’re not alone.

  6. Nicki, I so sorry for you and every other parent that have to go through this journey. We were also advised at using ritalin and I too refused. With the same reaction. So glad that you all and your son found a far better way 🙂

    • Hi Esther! Well done at refusing Ritalin. I’m hoping to find the time to write a post about Ritalin. I think it has become the easy answer for teachers who don’t know how to deal with children who don’t fit the mold! So sad.

  7. Wow! I’m doing my Psych honours this year and ADHD is one of the topics I’m reading about and one of the ‘natural’ therapies suggested is really very good parenting.And you’re living proof that it helps the child a lot. Well done for sticking to your guns!

    • Gee Thandi, your comment brought tears to my eyes! Thank you – not everybody sees it that way – I’ve dealt with a lot of opposition and negativity (not the least from family)

  8. You son’s comment, while snuggled and nurtured near you, is a wonderful confirmation! I’m sure that your son will fully regain his love to learn, and the Lord will restore his confidence and self-esteem. As you tailor-make his studies, encourage his gifting and allow his unique gifts and interests to flourish, he will blossom and grow! Blessings!

    • Thanks Nadene for your wonderful words of encouragement! We have made strides already – now I just need to trust the Lord to bring suitable (understanding) friends across his path, or find a local group of homeschoolers that we can slot into.
      P.S. I love your blog and often visit there for inspiration!

  9. Thanks for the encouragement Tanja!
    I think it is very sad that rather than giving a little extra time to these “odd-one-out” children, teachers pick them out and set them up for ridicule by their peers.
    I have seen so many bright kids sent down the Ritalin route to have their enquiring minds dulled by drugs, when with a little extra attention, they could have been given wings to fly …
    I do however understand that with so many in a class, teachers just don’t have the extra time to give.

  10. Hi, I have your submission for the carnival and have just read through your post…wow what a journey!
    I’m so sorry you and your son experienced so many problems, sadly it’s a journey I’m familiar with through my youngest brother’s trial and tribulations.
    He was nearly destroyed by negative teachers and pupils who picked up on the negativity, good for you on having the strength to stand up for your son and I hope you have a wonderful homeschooling journey together!

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