After reading many of John Holt’s books in college and subsequently working with him in Boston, I became committed to the homeschooling movement. This was in the mid 70’s, way before homeschooling became an acceptable alternative to traditional schooling. When my children were young, we homeschooled off and on through the elementary school years. Dan, in particular, loved the freedom of being able to explore his interests as he pleased. He continued homeschooling throughout high school, and received his diploma from a non-traditional school that works with homeschoolers. Always bright and self-motivated, he was truly born to homeschool.
His OCD diagnosis didn’t come until after he graduated, and while he had known something was wrong for “a while,” his father and I didn’t have a clue. So the decision to homeschool, on our part, had nothing to do with the fact that Dan has obsessive-compulsive disorder. From Dan’s point of view, it was how he learned best. He did give high school a try for a few months in ninth grade, but decided to leave so he could “continue his education.” Whether his OCD played a part in that decision or not, I don’t really know. But I do know that Dan genuinely loves learning, and he and homeschooling were a great fit.
Over the years, I’ve noticed, mostly from talking with people and reading blogs, that a considerable number of children with OCD are homeschooling. This is a totally unscientific observation; I don’t have any statistics. But I do have a question: Why? No doubt everyone has their own reasons, but some possible explanations might include:
- The school is not able and/or not willing to meet the child’s needs (even though they are legally bound to do so).
- The child refuses to attend school. This might be directly related to the OCD (for example, he or she may believe the school is contaminated), or indirectly related (the child is being bullied because of his or her odd behaviors).
- The child is willing to attend school but parents feel it is advantageous (in reference to OCD) to keep the child home.
- The parents and/or child believe homeschooling is the best way for this particular child to learn (independent of any issues with OCD).
I believe in homeschooling. While I know it’s not for everyone, it can be a rewarding experience for parents and children who undertake it for the right reasons. But figuring out if your reasons are indeed “right” might not be easy. If your high schooler is overwhelmed with school work because of his or her perfectionism, or your middle schooler thinks something bad might happen to you if he or she goes to school, is avoiding school altogether the answer? It’s easy to say “avoidance is never the answer,” but what parents wouldn’t find it torturous sending their children off to school in such distress?
As with everything related to OCD, there are no easy answers. Teachers, school counselors, parents, therapists, and students all need to become educated about OCD and the appropriate ways to deal with the disorder. They need to keep the lines of communication open, and work together in the best interest of the young OCD sufferer, whether or not it involves homeschooling.