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Bullies: Homeschooling a Possible Solution?

© Beverley Paine

Have you ever met anyone who wasn't a victim of bullying at school, or on the way to or from school? My mother's answer was to learn to ignore bullies, which I did, and this behaviour was largely successful. As a young mum I even gave this advice to my children when they encountered bullies. But it's not an answer; it's actually an appalling solution that simply perpetuates the problem.

Luckily my children, once they reached school age, rarely encountered bullies, and when they did they were in settings where they were surrounded by caring adults who quickly intervened. This is because we homeschooled our children.

We weren't perfect parents: sometimes we were guilty of using bully tactics in our relations. Not all homeschool parents are perfect parents either. However, over time I noticed a trend in homeschooling parents to genuinely like children, and especially like being in their company, which is generally missing in society. Wanting to be with children, rather than seeing them as an inconvenience that must be tolerated, eventually changes the social dynamic and behaviour in groups. Homeschooling parents seem keen on discovering and sharing with each other a new set of social skills, based on cooperation and collective as well as personal responsibility instead of competition and individualism.

The difference between the social environment homeschoolers inhabit and the environment of school is that ours is voluntary: we choose to be there at that particular time. We don't have to be. No one, no law, forces homeschoolers to associate with each other in a particular way at a particular time. As homeschoolers, our children knew this. They knew that is was okay to walk away and ignore the bullies if they chose. They knew that if they asked for, or needed, help adults or peers would rally around and help them resolve the situation. They knew that part of that process would involve taking care of the bully's needs, as well as the victim's. They knew that all everyone really wanted was to get along, but that it's not always easy and that learning how to takes time.

As a teenager I was bullied by my brother at home. He wasn't a mean or nasty as a person, it's just that school teaches us that sisters aren't cool; you don't play with them and you don't like them. I took my mother's advice to heart and I avoided him: I didn't speak to him for twenty years! Silly and sad advice.

I tell my children, now young adults, that if we want world peace it has to start with us, at home, in our family. If we can't resolve conflicts within the family then world peace will never eventuate. Think globally, act locally. We don't have all the answers, which is why we hang out with other people, to garner new ideas, to observe other ways of being, to learn. Exposure to bullies is part of that process, but we know we're not alone. We live in a community of caring people that want to help.

I've spent twenty years fostering the development of this voluntary community: the homeschooling community. If you're interested in any aspect read my other articles on this website.

first posted as a reply on Online Opinion 31st Dec 06

Other articles in this series on Bullying and Home Education by Beverley Paine

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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