Your Voice

April 1, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Socialization issues

"Because homeschooled children do not have access to the extra health and learning screening provided by schools and teachers, you must be vigilant in following your patients' health care and monitoring their socialization."

I hope pediatricians are monitoring the "socialization" of children institutionalized in schools! Given the daily reports of horrific bullying and sexual abuse by teachers, staff, and students, surely children institutionalized in government and private schools should be monitored as well.

By the way, I have noticed a distinct difference in my practice between homeschooled and institutionalized children. The homeschooled child looks at me directly, shows curiosity, asks questions, and answers my questions in full and complete sentences. The child who is institutionalized for his or her schooling has that 20-degree, off-centered, bored stare, and grudgingly answers my questions with grunts.

Eileen Johnston, DDS, MAGDMidway, Utah

Parental capability

I just read the article "What you need to learn about homeschooling." Overall, it was well written and well researched. There is a faulty assumption woven throughout the entire article, though, suggesting that parents just aren't capable of meeting the needs of their children.

Many homeschooling families provide the same "safety nets" that public schools provide, and are therefore the first ones on the scene when there is a problem instead of having to be informed of concerns later on. If we can trust a teacher with a classful of students to identify concerns, why can't we trust parents who, as homeschoolers, are with their children the majority of the time and on watch for any developmental delays? As a rule, homeschooling parents seek counsel from other homeschooling families and health professionals when there is any question.

As a special needs/autism therapist, I have worked with countless children who were overlooked in the public school system because they were quiet and good natured. Many of the academic problems they encountered were ignored. In fact, many of these children were misdiagnosed even by physicians. It required the parents being their children's advocates for them to be heard by the physicians and the school district. Individualized education programs aimed low, assuming from the get-go that the children were capable of little. The benefits of homeschooling a child with special needs can be great indeed. While public schools are required to provide special education for their students, the wide variety of disabilities does not allow for individualized care.

As far as sex education goes, homeschooling families can make sure their children get questions answered that their public school counterparts are afraid to ask. The children are not trying to impress anyone in their class, giving an opportunity for broader and more thorough discussion. While they may not encourage certain aspects of "safe sex," they tend to be open to talking about everything and they often give an option that is not commonly offered in the public school. Most homeschooled students also enjoy a prolonged study of health and sex ed, instead of a few days or weeks in certain grades. Many homeschooling parents aren't afraid to talk to their children about delicate issues, leaving playground knowledge-generally "taught" to public school children by their well-meaning but misinformed peers-at a minimum.

To make such assumptions without making the same recommendations of extra precautions for public and private school students is unfair and irresponsible.

Thanks, Annalisa Boyd