Home » rant, socialization, unschooling

Do kids need to be bullied?

28 May 2009 695 views 24 Comments

I’ve heard this too many times, that kids need to be bullied to learn to deal with difficult people.  That’s bullsh!t.  I have yet to meet one parent who has actively introduced bullies to their children.  If it’s that important, I think it would be a factor when people choose a school. ‘I can’t send my kid to XYZ School – there just aren’t enough bullies!’  Schools can be rated on how likely a child is to be bullied and all these parents who are so concerned about learning to deal with difficult people can send their children there in droves.  Actually, parents who really care about it should just cut out the middle man and bully their owns kids.  Why leave it to chance?

I haven’t been bullied in YEARS. It’s not a normal part of adult life.  In adult life, bullying is harassment.  It can get you fired from a job.  It can get you sued.  It is not acceptable and yet there are people who believe it is a necessary lesson that children need to learn though most never do. This is one of the most half-assed, non-critically considered arguments that non-homeschooling parents come up with as an excuse to not consider a viable alternative.

Bullying in schools is not normal.  It’s bad parenting being spread from the bully to other children.  Ask a parent if their child can go over a bully’s house to spend time with the parents and the answer will be a resounding ‘No.’  I’m not saying at all that kids who bully are bad – they are victims, and they’re often worse off than any kid they bully.  But it is not normal by any means.  Children can learn to handle a jerk when they are good & ready, and that’s different for every child.

This goes with the fallacy of socialization. Sticking 30 kids who are learning to be social together & then asking them to sit down & be quiet is pointless.   It’s completely and utterly antisocial.  When I want social interaction, I don’t go to someplace and sit quietly next to other people without talking to them.  Socialization in schools is the biggest crock of sh!t reason to school out there.  I’d buy the socialization argument if recess were 6 hrs long so kids could actually practice being social.  (and being bullied of course…)



  • Chris said:

    I completely agree.

    Recently I bumped in to a friend I haven’t seen in some time. After the typical banter back and forth, she asked about our son, who is six-years-old. She asked how he enjoys school. I dropped the home-school bomb and watched her eyes widen. The first words out of her mouth were “aren’t you worried about socialization?!”

    My response was “we used to be, but now that we’ve chosen this lifestyle, we’re not.” I let the hamster in her head tread on the wheel for a while until I could see she slowly started to process that no, I’m not worried about socialization.

  • Arp (author) said:

    I don’t think schooling parents realize that we had the same concerns as they did at one point, or that we have spent *copious* amounts of time thinking about it, learning, teaching ourselves, reorienting ourselves and worrying. It’s not a decision that we come to lightly – certainly far from the painless decision for most to send their kids to school. I did get flustered by such questions when I was a curious & nascent homeschooler, but having seen my children grow before my eyes and – more importantly – having enjoyed the process with them – I have no worries or doubts.

    Of course, I’m not afraid to tell people that either, and it is taken the wrong way sometimes.

  • Sam said:

    That’s fantastic. I’ve never heard it put that way before, the whole socialization thing.

    Sometimes my response to people who ask the “aren’t you worried about socialization” question is, “YES, I am concerned, that’s why my kids are at home!”

    Sam’s last blog post..Broken Glass Jello

  • Jamie said:

    This is something that has always bothered me about traditional schools. Teachers will often turn away a child that is trying to get help for violence. They’ll say: “Learn to get along, ” or “Work it out between the two of you.” Where else would that be acceptable? If someone was being physically aggressive in the workplace, no one would stand for it. The perpetrator would be fired and probably have legal charges filed against him. The boss wouldn’t say: “Oh, well, why don’t the two of you just play nice.”

    Jamie’s last blog post..Ivy League Education at Home Part 4: Literature

  • Arp (author) said:

    I never actually thought of it that way either :-P I think it’s been simmering for awhile – what exactly is social about school? I don’t live like anything in school at all. Well, except for changing clothes in front of other people, except I do that several times a day instead of once a week.

  • Arp (author) said:

    I will admit that I was bullied for awhile and my parents fought on my behalf. The teachers & principal (this was a small parochial school) gave some lip service but didn’t want to do much. And it was the whole class against 5 students. It only stopped after I grabbed one of the perpetrators and kicked him several times, within 10 feet of two teachers who ignored the incident. While it has had a significant effect on my life, I don’t think anyone has to go through something to ‘grow’ or ‘become stronger.’ tbh, it made me into a bit of an a## and extremely competitive academically, to the point of utter arrogance.

    I never actually connected the experience with my extreme competitiveness until now. Very interesting, considering the competitiveness about academics is something that really spurred me to unschool my kids. I didn’t want them to be a competitive jerk like me.

  • Cat said:

    I was unschooled until Gr 8, then bullied until Gr 10. What I did learn was that I could skip school without my academics suffering much. Two great reasons to homeschool my own kids.

    Cat’s last blog post..…And the Lighthouse

  • Trish said:

    Hey Cat – loving your blog!

  • Megan said:

    Thanks for writing this…it’s an issue for me which really gets my back up…some of my friends feel the need to let their children be bullied (and probably bully their children themselves). I know I’m not the ‘wonderparent’ but I try very very hard not to pass on preserved good parenting tactics.

    I’m also very interested in home schooling and would like to have some good background/beliefs/sayings to think about from other home schoolers. I live 2km away from the local school so I’m having quite a few ‘looks’ when I say what I’m considering….but 32 5 year olds jammed into a room for hours on end does not sound like a wonderful learning experience to me….the school also has a name for bullies as well.

    Megan’s last blog post..Breastfeeding forgotten joys

  • Saratica said:

    Our standard response to the socialization question (always the first question, usually asked with genuine concern) is: “That’s the very thing we are trying to avoid.” Nobody has an answer for that one, it’s such a new idea. We are so brainwashed!

    I can’t believe “learning how to deal with bullies” is offered as a valid reason to send kids to school! That one floors me. My boys are 16 and 17, self-confident, funny, sharp tongued (they get that from their father.) Anyone with half a mind can deal with a bully. Even me.

    Saratica’s last blog post..Deliciously, Delightfully Insightful

  • Arp (author) said:

    The bullying thing was one of the first defenses of school anyone gave me, the first time we mentioned to some (now former) friends that we were considering homeschooling. The fellow who mentioned the bullying qualified it with ‘I think they need that,’ and at that time I hadn’t even considered the issue and had no answer. Other ‘friends’ were quite dismissive, and I found it especially disconcerting coming from the group who defined themselves as anti-mainstream. Now I know they were a bunch of poseurs ;-)

    @Megan: There should be groups of homeschoolers in your general area you can meet with. You could probably find a Yahoo group or two. I would recommend meeting up with different groups to see who you jibe with best. When we decided to homeschool we got in touch with our county homeschooling group and went to a couple of activities. We didn’t really mesh with the people, though they were cordial, and found them a bit too didactic. But then we read ‘Dumbing Us Down,’ which made us decide on unschooling, and after meeting the local unschooling support group, we’ve never looked back. It’s great that there are so many blogs with people talking of their experiences – you can get in touch with people who seem to share your outlook and take it from there. If you have any questions about unschooling, feel free to contact us directly.

  • piscesgrrl said:

    When I was still teaching and my son was in kindgergarten, he started having some difficulties with separation and fear of getting on the bus (there was a 5th grader tripping kids as they walked the aisle to their seats). Helping my son feel secure again was naturally a top priority for me as we quit school and began unschooling. In explaining that to a colleague, a special ed teacher of all things, she said, “So how will you help him not be afraid of being alone? Put him in a room alone for a few minutes a day, gradually increasing the time?”


    “Um, Nooooo, I’m going to never, ever leave him alone.”

    I should have added, “And thank you for confirming that indeed this is not the right place for us.”

    piscesgrrl’s last blog post..Mmm French Fries. Or, My Interview on Unschooling

  • Arp (author) said:

    Wow – that’s quite the special ed teacher. Just goes to show that a piece of paper saying you’re a teacher doesn’t mean that you’ll have the ability to relate or respond to individuals at all.

    Did you teach at the same school or no?

  • Trish said:

    Ah…another ex-teacher-turned-unschooling parent! Welcome!

  • Summer said:

    There’s such a high priority on the “importance of bullies.” I’ve heard that crap time and time again. When i look around I can’t help but wonder if it’s been pushed too far, it feels like every person who gets an ounce of power becomes a bully in their own way. Has anyone thought that maybe if more energy was put into teaching kids not to be bullies rather than learning to just ignore them there would be a lot fewer assholes in the world?

    Summer’s last blog post..Breastfeeding Help Face To Face

  • Arp (author) said:

    Assholiness seems to be contagious. Of course it’s easier to tell someone to learn to deal with it than actually teaching the bullies, which sends the wrong message to both.

  • Stacey said:

    Both my children had 2 or 3 instances of being bullied in elementary school. I learned very quickly that the teachers and bus drivers either don’t care or are powerless to stop it. There was no way I could allow this to go on, so I became a bully right back. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am non confrontational and non violent. But when it comes to my kids, watch out. I found out who the kid was, got him alone for a few seconds, got down to his eye level, took him roughly by the chin or ear, looked him straight in the eye, and said with a very mean sounding voice, if I ever heard ANY complaint about him again I would follow his school bus home, see where he lived and crawl in his window at night and cut off his f%#king head! And you know what? That was the end of it. I’m not proud of terrorizing a little kid. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever done to any child by far. If I had more knowledge in my 20′s I would have unschooled my kids from day one so that they didn’t have this daily crap to deal with. I didn’t get it until my son was in 9th grade. And then he had no “formal” schooling until he starting college which is entirely his choice. Now they are 23 and 21 and they are both great! I wish I had kept them out of schools from day one.

  • Arp (author) said:

    I’m glad that worked. Nowadays I think it would immediately become a nasty lawsuit.

    But yes – the teachers & bus drivers are powerless or just don’t care. My nephews in grammar school have encountered rotten teachers and a bus driver who threatened to kill his student passengers if they ratted him out for being a bully. Oh – and the other day a gunman upset about the lack of reporting of cases of swine flu in his area (seriously) went to one of their schools to make his point known. At least I can protect my kids myself. Of course, my SIL firmly believes that they really get a lot out of school, but these negative experiences will be seared into their minds far more than the platitudes and constant backpats.

  • Arp (author) said:

    btw, I would agree Stacey that your not-so-little pumpkins are great :-)

  • Stacey said:

    Thanks for the compliment on my “little pumkins”. To avoid any lawsuit issues, I tried to “speak” to the bully one on one without any other onlookers. :)

  • Arp (author) said:

    Ah – so if s/he tried to rat you out, it would the word of the little shithead vs the Responsible Parent…

  • Sarah said:

    Bullies made my school experience a negative one that would impact me forever. I won’t allow my children to go through that. The day either of them come to me and tell me school is a stressful place for them, they will be out of there. I tried to get my mom to let me transfer to an alternative school in 7th grade where much of the work was done independently and she was also worried about the socialization thing, but my social experience was not very good. Ultimately I dropped out of school at 15 and at 18 entered college where I could at last learn in peace. School authorities never did a damn thing either. My 5 year old daughter is excelling and very popular but if my 2.5 year old, shy and an observer like I was, ever has a hard time in school, I will homeschool her. Bad school experiences is to blame for so many shooting rampages. IMO, it is one of the most traumatic things some kids will ever experience and sets them up for lifelong difficulties, especially with self-esteem.

    BTW, congrats on your beautiful baby. I read the birth story with much interest. Trish you are very brave! It’s nice to be reminded of the strength us women have inside of us that we often don’t tap into. Hope your Costa Rican experience is good and getting better.

  • Kelly said:

    This was a great read, and I completely agree with pretty much every point. Especially:

    “Children can learn to handle a jerk when they are good & ready, and that’s different for every child.”

    Right. I mean some ADULTS can’t handle a “jerk” very well, eh? I don’t think forcing a kid to be around bullies is good for them. Kids run into jerks in their lifetime, and I do think like anything else, our support and guidance (while hanging back a bit to see how they’re doing) is what’s necessary. Not just, dumping them off somewhere with jerks and saying, grimly, “Deal with it!”

  • Arp (author) said:

    There’s a lot that kids are expected to deal with that isn’t the case for adults. And a lot of ‘I dealt with it and you have to as well.’ As much as my several month experience of being bullied by almost my whole class has shaped who I am, I would not want my kids to go through that. Along with the positives (fierce & confident individuality) came the negatives (hyper academic competitiveness as a means of constantly proving my superiority, which took me away from who I really am).