By Denny Mather
I reread the article “Drugging Kids” by John Merrow this morning and it really made me mad – again!
I was told by Vinnie's 3rd grade teacher and principal that Ritalin might help calm Vinnie down... Number one: I didn't know that Vincent needed to be calmed down. From what I saw on my weekly visit to help in the classroom Vinnie was well-behaved and polite in the room and no more rambunctious than any other boy on the playground. Number two: When did teachers and administrators get their medical degrees?
I watched one bright-eyed, bushy-tailed little child (maybe a little over active—what about diet? Or more discipline at home?) turn into a drooling caricature of a boy after his parents did put him on Ritalin. (They were white, middle class, very decent people and parents.) The playground supervisor said she could tell almost immediately the kids who were on such drugs...
Enough of that tirade, back to school at home…
Each state has its own rules so check them out before you begin. I did have to sign a form at the Superintendent’s office yearly, informing them of my intention to home school. (Which I quit doing when Vincent was 16, the legal age to drop out of school.) Montana is not very clear on what you should teach but the basics are required. Reading, writing, math, history, and good citizenship are the foremost. Keeping proper attendance records is mandatory as are immunizations.
I printed monthly calendars and wrote down anything pertaining to education. I kept track of which books we read for fun, for education, and any text books I purchased. I do believe in immunizations so have kept all of that with other important papers.
We were never asked to show any proof of what we were doing but I was definitely prepared for the possibility. I know of some families who were harassed by the school system, a torture that we thank fully missed! Montana does have a legal defense organization for home educators; we opted not to join but you may consider it if your area has one.
Due largely to one-on-one instruction, most home-schooled children do better on standardized tests than conventionally educated students. As a parent you should know your child/children better than anyone else and so can cater to their special needs or talents.
There were times when Vincent and I were really frustrated by each other. Time-outs are perfect for those situations: sometimes I would go to another room and chill, and other times Vinnie would. Kids are kids and will push the limits!
I liked the flexibility of home school. Dale, my husband, traveled a lot for his job so we would go with him when we could. We certainly got to see a lot of the state and would look up facts about where we'd been or were going. We'd sometimes stay in a KOA campground where we met some interesting people, other times we'd camp in the wilderness. On one trip a coyote followed us around for three days. We'll never know if it was trying to lure our dogs off or was lonely and wanted the company. It made sure we knew it was there by howling or yipping at us when we went for hikes. He never got too close but was within eye-sight daily. Make sure you always carry a camera!! I missed out on some great shots of wild animals by not having my camera handy.
Sumtown has a nice orchestra that gave free concerts yearly to the public school children and we were invited as well. I was impressed by how well all the children behaved and was furious that a teacher in front of me not only answered her cell phone but walked out during a piece while talking on it. I still regret that I didn't say something to her about what a fine example she was setting for all.
I want to apologize for a mistake I made in a previous column. We skipped 6th grade, not 7th, because it all looked like review. I shall write about seventh grade later and didn't want you all wondering why.