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Homeschooling Out of Fear

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I live in a medium-sized town of about 90,000 people. During outbreaks of school violence around the country, our local schools have received bomb threats. Nothing has happened, thank goodness, but I'm scared to death to send my children to school. My child starts kindergarten next year and I'm considering homeschooling.

I'm a stay-at-home mom and we pretty much do just that -- stay at home. We do go to the park and my son has made a couple of friends. But he's not very socially interactive, which is my fault. I want him to be involved in sports and to enjoy the programs and activities they have at school, but each day I'm more reluctant to enroll him. Do you have any advice?

A: Given the wave of school killings in recent years, I am sure that many parents have second thoughts about enrolling or keeping their children in school. We've never had to think of schools as places where our children's classmates could murder their peers. But despite a desperate desire to keep our kids safe, I don't believe that we should now abandon the notion of sending our children to school. Letting our kids "hide out" at home is an unhealthy answer to the fear we have about their safety in school. We cannot make them prisoners in their own homes because we fear they will be shot in their classrooms. We must not steal their childhood from them.

These killings make it scarier for kids to attend school and difficult for their parents to send them. Schools, communities, health professionals, and individual families must help each other raise our sons to be non-violent. As we all dedicate ourselves to teach boys that they do not need to be physically aggressive to be men, we cannot cheat our kids out of the intellectual and social opportunities they need for their healthy development. Homeschooling should not be chosen out of fear for our children's lives at school. It should be chosen because we believe it to be the best environment for our kids' overall academic, emotional, and social development.

You have indicated that you may already be preventing your child from having a richer social life. He may also begin to internalize your fears and become unable to feel comfortable away from home. That would be most unfortunate. I am asking you to allow your desires for your children's healthy social, academic, and emotional development to override your present fears about their safety in public school. Work in any way you can to raise your sons differently. I am asking a lot from you but I think your kids deserve to live with less -- not more -- fear. Their fear can be lessened when they see our courage and our commitment to an appreciation of diversity and non-violence.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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