Updated: Sep 23, 2018
By 2010 Tristan was in 4th grade at LPS, Miss Evan was in her 4th year of French school and I had already been through hell and back with my first born as a family of freethinkers in a not so free school environment. We had always known this system wasn't for us but didn't know there was an alternative.
The nightmare really kicked into high gear in 2005 when we moved from the Niagara region back to our small, snooty hometown. I don't know what else to call it, this is a town where mothers would gather at birthday parties, bragging about their ridiculous arbitrary rules. The competition was fierce, no one wanted to be "that parent" who let their kids stay up past 7 or watch inappropriate movies... like Harry Potter. I swear it was like living in Stepford, or the Twilight Zone. In Niagara we had lived on a farm with dogs and horses and tractors along with other things you'd typically see around a rural home. Things like bows and guns for example. We often caught our own dinner and the kids learned early how to do things like drive, take care of animals and of course handle guns safely.
Julian, my oldest boy was starting 7th grade the year we moved back. He had a sense of humour to match his above average intelligence. He was witty and divergent, just like his AQ`mama :) Otherwise he was your average boy who liked climbing on things and playing paintball and army games out in the bush with his buddies. Apparently this was a problem with our new school administration. He was targeted from day one at that school by a tiny little pipsqueak of a principal who clearly had a Napoleon complex. She quickly had him labeled as "mentally unstable" and our household as "in trouble and in need of professional help." Oh yes she did. We endured two years of home visits by CPS, social workers and I was thrust into parenting classes faster than I could say "violation of human rights!" Her abuse of power had spiralled completely out of control by the time he graduated 8th grade and she gifted this decent kid with a ridiculous rap sheet that followed him on to high school but not before making our lives a living hell.
With him gone, she turned her focus to Tristan, who admittedly was a handful with his SPD. School was not the environment for him and I knew that in my gut but I let her put us through a few more years of hell because I didn't know I could stand up to her and say no. I didn't know I could simply pull my kid from the system. She sat me down in her office once and threatened to have me charged if Tristan's attendance didn't improve. Her exact words to me “It’s illegal to not send your child to school.” I had no idea that was false information and that she was intentionally intimidating me. Bear in mind, Tristan was a kid who oddly enough, loved both day care centres he attended but kicked, bit and scratched to get away from that school. It was actually the principal's decision to not allow him to be there on those days. He was 4.
A perhaps petty but perfect example of the narcissism I was dealing with were the many occasions I respectfully asked the school to not give Tristan candy as a reward. We found that removing sugar, wheat, dyes and chemicals from his diet greatly improved his ability to deal with, well, life. After several incidents of him being given candy at school anyway, I pleaded with her to respect my wishes. She boldly replied that unless I had a doctor’s note indicating a life threatening allergy, she was well within her right to give him whatever she deemed appropriate. Then she grinned the most evil grin and handed him a bag of candy. Imagine! I would often ask myself if it was all even real, you just can't make this shit up.
When it came time for little Miss Evan to begin junior kindergarten, I enrolled her in a nearby French Catholic school with a good reputation. There was no way this woman was getting her claws into my baby girl after what she had put my boys through.
The bullying and abuse she handed out to Julian was far from petty and when that rap sheet finally ended up coming back to bite him in the ass in high school, I had had enough. I contacted a children's advocacy lawyer in Toronto who felt we had a strong case to bring to the Ontario College of Teachers. She did advise however that this would begin a long, most likely painful attack on Julian by the school administration as they would surely present a united front. He understandably did not want to relive all of those accusations from the past even though the records and facts were all in his favour. No one wants to believe their kid is "that kid" who is disrespectful, hurting others or damaging property but I assure you, this is definitely not a case of parent-in-denial. Julian was definitely a prankster and when he crossed a line, and he could on occasion, he and I both acknowledged it. Otherwise he was and is now at 26 years old, a very respectful person, almost to a fault. I had been keeping notes for years and had a dossier 3 inches thick by the time things came to a head. I had documented all the times he had been suspended for an act that occurred on days when he wasn't even at school. Accusations of acts that would have justified a police report (which the principal refused to do) even when I made the request. It would have been helpful to have these events documented by an outside party but she back-pedalled and changed her story when I pushed for police involvement.
The lawyer advised Julian that he would have to be present during an informal hearing and would have to respond to each accusation himself from seventh grade forward in front of a panel of representatives from the college and that it would be very stressful. He decided to let it go and just move on with his life. Even though the rest of us were chomping at the bit to crucify this woman and had the evidence to do so, we had to support his decision.
In the meantime, I continued to deal with being treated like riff raff by the public school because I was a single, working mother in a town full of well-to-do Suzie Homemakers. I was called out of work almost daily for unnecessary meetings with the principal. I was eventually told by one of her social workers that I may have to quit my job to focus on Tristan's issues. Because being unemployed and living in poverty is totally the answer to stress at home. I'm still trying to figure out who they thought was going to pay the mortgage. A few of the girls in my office actually felt the school was trying to sabotage my career with their frequent interruptions and eventually stopped putting them through to my extension. It always seemed to be much ado about nothing.
I don't recall the day the light bulb went off and I started researching homeschooling laws but little did I know it would be so incredibly life changing. Fast forward probably 6 months to 2011 and you’d see this picture. Tristan, Evan and a group of local Belizean kids checking out some stingrays on the beach on our way home from town. Tristan, never happier and life, never easier. No more school, no more office, no more schedule to keep, no more mortgage payments… just the three of us, on a beach, living a simple yet truly enriching life. Tristan & Evan learned more in that first year out of school than they could have in all of the school years they had combined. They spent time with locals in Mexico and Belize, learning about their culture and were exposed to multiple languages every day. Living abroad allowed them to get up close and personal with animals they could only read about in books back home (Evan has the bite to prove it!) At only 8 & 10 years old, they researched the people, food, wildlife and eco-systems of their new home both online and in their everyday adventures. They calculated currency conversions during shopping trips and helped with budgeting. Not once did I have to nudge or encourage them to do any of it. Their excitement and natural inquisitiveness led them. The way it should be. We didn't even know it was a "thing" back then but there we were, unschooling/worldschooling and loving it!
Now you know our “why”… what’s yours? We’d love to hear it! Leave a comment, tag us on social media or write your own blog post and share it with us :)