Several years ago I was the mother of a very stressed out little boy. My son started kindergarten as an inquisitive, creative, and loving child, but after three years in public school he was angry and withdrawn. We fought in the morning to get him to go to school, he spent all afternoon fighting with his siblings, and then we fought with him in the evening over homework. The doctor’s solution to all this anger and anxiety was anti-anxiety medication. When people started talking about drugging my eight-year old, it finally registered that we had to remove him from his toxic educational environment. Within two weeks of being home, his behavior drastically improved. He fought with his brothers less, talked to me more, and started drawing again. We were thrilled with the improvement, but there were lots of people who told me I was doing him a disfavor. They told me he just needed to learn to “deal with” school, and that by rescuing him I was keeping him from learning real life skills. My only response to these suggestions was to ask, “Is that what your ‘real’ life is like? Do you spend all day in a room with 25 other people and have only two square feet of personal space? Do you have to shift activities every 30 minutes, whether you are ready or not? Do you have absolutely no control over how and when you complete projects and assignments? Do you have to line up and march to the ring of a bell several times a day?” It never ceases to amaze me how society expects children to function in such an environment, when most adults couldn’t handle it themselves.
Stress and anxiety issues don’t disappear overnight, but in the right environment it can be much easier to learn the coping skills that are needed to be successful in life. We have found that for my son a key to stress management is lots and lots of creative space. When he has the time he needs to read, write and draw, he is better able to deal with other people and their demands. We’ve worked at finding opportunities for him to grow in confidence and ability outside of the school setting. For example, he has competed for several years on a Science Olympiad team and he has had multiple leadership opportunities at church and in scouting. Little by little I’ve seen him grow in his ability to manage his stress and to accomplish the things he wants to accomplish.
We moved to Utah last June and spent the summer looking for a new house. We visited a different ward almost every week. Most of the wards were short on young men, so my son would usually go up and ask if they could use some help with the sacrament. As I watched him quickly learn his new route and pass the sacrament to a congregation of strangers, I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it was that my scared, stressed out little boy had become such an amazing and confident young man. Home schooling provides the opportunity to do so much more than learn to “deal with life.” It teaches children how to “live life” and become all that our Heavenly Father wants them to be.