Now, don’t get your feathers ruffled just yet, I’m not claiming that the public schools put the drugs in my hand or in any way personally encouraged me to use drugs as a teenager. My story revolves rather on the environment of the public education system and the so-called socialization model that it presents.
Really, it began long before I was teenager though, the struggles were evident as early as the age of seven for me, lost in a world where those who naturally do not communicate well are expected to jump in headfirst and go with the flow of what society considers “normal.”
The Early Years of Socialization
I’ve never been one to have many friends. In fact, for as long as I can remember I’ve never really had more than two or three friends and then just the odd acquaintances. Public speaking has always terrified the crap out of me and I loathe having to speak to strangers for any occasion.
Undoubtedly, I possess many of the same qualities as my son on the Autism spectrum. Nevertheless, when I was a child, I was just labeled the shy oddball, and really have no interest in determining if all of unique quirks are deserving of a label present day.
I remember clearly that I spent as much time as possible in elementary school curled up in a corner reading a book while the other children would talk and play. The situations always made me uncomfortable and escaping to my own little world was of course the more appealing option. Throughout elementary school, I never had more than two real friends, but at that point, in time I didn’t really care. I did not see the importance of “fitting in.”
The Testing Stage
Then comes middle school, you know that time that all of eccentricities suddenly become glaringly apparent. The whispers behind your back and lack of inclusion is hard to avoid and even as a socially defunct child, who up until know could have cared less about the general population around you, you suddenly realize you stick out like sore thumb.
This is when you, well at least I did, begin to make every change possible to fit into that socialization model as an attempt to be accepted among your peers. My hair was cut and cut again, highlights put in, clothing styles were no longer my own, but whatever happened to be the fad at the time and so much more.
I left middle school with still only two real friends as I clung to the outside of circle that I didn’t really belong in desperately trying to find my place in it.
Puff Puff Pass the Self-Esteem
Ah, and we enter the ever popular high school stage. The time in my life when I actually had friends, had garnered a bit of popularity and for the first time felt comfortable in my own skin. It did not come easily though, and this completely unsocialized woman never even got to that point until I found I myself partaking in drugs.
Now, you could sit and ask the question, was it the fact that I let go of my social oddities and managed to blend in better because I began doing the drugs, finally allowing for the social acceptance and appeared to be a normal happy healthy teenage life? On the other hand, was it the fact that so many of the people in the public school I was attending were also on drugs that they no longer had the common sense to notice how uncomfortable I usually was in social situations?
Whatever the answer, neither is desirable.
The Lesson I Learned
Public education is not the ideal educational model for many children. Forcing a one-size fits all ideal of what socializing “is” upon a mass variety of personalities and social complexes just cannot work.
I found a way to cope and made my way through and out with the use of drugs, others I went to school with were not so lucky. In fact, in fact I can recall two students during my high school duration who committed suicide because they could not cope with the social aspect of it all. Then there were many more in the years following that did the same as they entered the “real” world, out of the fairyland that is public education, and just couldn’t cope.
While I do not condone the use of drugs, I also do not regret my experience. It gave me strength I needed to stand up and fight for what is best for my children, not what someone else says they “should” be doing.
That is just one of the reasons my children are homeschooled, because I could not imagine forcing my socially defunct son to go through what I went through simply because. My children will be given the opportunity to work and converse with people of all ages and develop relationships among them as it is comfortable to them and hopefully I will never have to hear my child say that they got high because it was the only way they found themselves socially accepted.
Did you have any experiences with your personal public education that helped lead you to the decision of education your own children at home?