It’s time for the third post in the parent interview series about schooling a highly sensitive child. This week I talk to Tara who is in Canada. She removed her son from a funded state school in order to homeschool him instead.
HSK: Why did you start looking at alternative schooling arrangements for you son?
Tara: My son missed a lot of school because he simply refused to go. We thought it was a physical illness so we had a bunch of tests done to try and figure out what it was. All tests came back negative so we realised it was psychological.
At this point we reached out to the principle and teacher and arranged a meeting. David was banging his head when I tried to get him to go to school; the principle said once self-harm is evident we have to pull back and offer alternatives.
HSK: What support did you get from school to find solutions to help him with his anxiety? Did the school understand the idea of highly sensitive and the implications of that in a classroom?
Tara: We didn’t have much support from the school except a meeting after he’d missed a lot of school to talk about a plan.
However, the message back was that he should learn skills to cope in that environment because life is like that. I agreed, but said it doesn’t have to be when he is 6 years old. One thing about school they can’t change is the size. There were over 800 kids in that school and 25 in his class; it was too much for him.
HSK: How did you arrive at the decision to homeschool?
Tara: Because of the self-harming. Homeschool was offered as a viable option as we all realised that getting him back in the classroom was no longer an option. The school referred us to homeschooling through the board of education and also referred us to a school psychologist.
The idea was to give him a few sessions and then try to get him back to school for a few subjects. After 2 sessions they wanted him to try school and we felt he wasn’t ready so then he became 100% homeschooled.
He was so full of anxiety that it was our only option. He simply refused to go and was self harming at any attempt to drop him off.
HSK: What did your extended family and friends think when you chose the homeschooling route?
Tara: They were supportive as it is quite normal here to homeschool. And they saw how much happier he was. As parents we had a tough time adjusting as we were both schooled in traditional schools.
HSK: In what ways do you notice that your son is happier/less stressed since leaving school?
Tara: Telling him he didn’t have to go back to school took his stress away almost immediately . He said everyone was mean and it was too busy and loud.
We unschooled for 4-6 weeks to let him rest and come down after such a traumatic experience.
He is a very happy kid now and a lot more confident and sure of himself. We just wrapped up the term (jan to june) and we did really well according to our facilitator. I am thankful that our board of education supports homeschooling and that I am able to stay home with him to do it.
The principle still wants him to return as a new school is opening in our area which will be smaller but we aren’t convinced this is the best route, we will see. In the meantime David continues to see a psychologist for play therapy to work on ways to deal with his anxiety and stress.
Lessons from Tara’s Story
- It’s natural for parents to want to school their children in the way they themselves were schooled. Looking beyond our own experiences can reap great rewards.
- Sometimes you need to stand up for your child and fight to protect their best interests – you may not have school on your side.
- Many teachers, heads and boards of schools do not understand what highly sensitive is nor the adverse effect a busy noisy classroom can have on a HSC. Many parents find themselves trying to educate the educators about their HSC.
- A schooling solution can also be a temporary solution. Tara has kept their options open to suit the needs of her child. Don’t close doors.