Are Schools Safe For Kids?

We all want to keep our children safe.

How Safe Are Our Children In School

Bullying Hurts

So why do we abdicate the protection of our children to complete strangers that do not have the authority or ability to protect them?

Our son was homeschooled for his first grade year. For his second grade year he begged and pleaded with us to go to “school” so that he could be around other kids and see what “real” school was like.

his heart was set

We warned him that he had it really easy at home and school wasn’t going to be so easy. He was finishing his course work in just a few hours each day. This left him a lot of time to play and learn other things on his own schedule.

When he was at school, he was going to have to sit still for long periods of time and he was going to have to do all the boring work that the teacher assigned to him.

He wouldn’t be dissuaded. He had his heart set on going to school.

We got a huge break and he was able to get into a charter Montessori school. We figured that this would help prevent the worst of the problems we expected he would have to deal with at public school.

The Montessori approach is more group based and encourages cooperative learning.

Within 3 weeks he was asking if he could come back home and be homeschooled again.

We let him know that there was a long waiting list for students that wanted to get into this school and because he took one of those spots, there was another student out there that wasn’t able to get into this school this year. So he needed to stick it out this year.

We could reevaluate during the summer and see how we all wanted to handle schooling next year. To his credit he agreed to stick it out the rest of the year.

anger and frustration…

Then the bullying started.

We knew that with the exception of a couple of other boys in the class, our son wasn’t really getting along with many of the other kids in the class. They wouldn’t let him join them in their activities in class or on the playground.

What we didn’t expect is to learn that three kids ganged up on our son and kicked him when he was down. It wasn’t a brutal beating, but it was very emotional for our son that has such a sensitive spirit. Just describing the event to us was enough to bring him to tears.

When our son told one of the teachers, their response was to brush it off and ignore it. This made me livid.

The next day I confronted the teacher and he apologized for not taking it more seriously.  It was obvious to me that the teachers in his class are either unwilling or unable to adequately deal with this type of situation.

Since then our son has become more sullen and withdrawn each week. When he plays with his little sister, he is becoming more violent and she usually ends up getting hurt.

Finally, today my son admitted to my wife that he comes home frustrated every day because he can’t express his anger and frustration at school and he ends up letting it out when he gets home.

this is the quandary

This is exactly what we feared would happen when we put him in school.

Isn’t this the kind of thing that we as parents are supposed to protect our children from?

Yet as a society we blindly shuffle our kids off to fend for themselves in the classroom and the playground because it is accepted that it takes a degree in education to teach our children. I call Bullshit!

I’m struggling with the desire to teach my son the importance of finishing what he starts against the idea that I’m allowing the playground bullies and indifferent teachers to do permanent damage to my son’s self image.

So, this is the quandary that I find myself in.

Do we keep him in school and have him tough it out? Or do we accept that the toxic environment is having a significant and negative effect on our entire family and pull him home for the rest of this year?

What would you do? Let me know in the comments.

A couple of weeks ago Seth Godin published a manifesto on education called Stop Stealing Dreams. I’m about a third of the way through reading the 30,000 words and I couldn’t agree more with what Seth has to say.

If you get the idea that public education is no longer meeting the needs of our children and this country, I highly recommend reading this.


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12 Responses to Are Schools Safe For Kids?

  1. Adrianne March 2, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    This is chilling. My sister is dealing with this but on a different level. Her son isnt being bullied by the kids (he is 3 so its a preschool and hopefully an age before kids even know what that means) but at the same time he learns diferently than the other kids.

    He is very active and wants to run around and play and the teachers dont know how to deal with that. He can repeat back work for word, what is being taught in class or the stories from story time, but because he is so active they want to label him as having a learning disability. Its crazy!

    Pull him out. The emotional impact on this is far greater then the lesson learned. I would be terrified of the lasting effects and what this might do in the long run. I think the more important lesson here is choosing to remove yourself from a situation that is doing you more harm than good.

    Think of it this context, if you were in a job where you had belligerent coworkers and an indifferent boss would you stay?

    • Paige | simple mindfulness March 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm #


      This sounds like my 8 year old son who we’re homeschooling. Basically, if kids won’t sit down, shut up and do as they’re told, teachers want to label them so that they can be drugged into submission. I’ve had personal experience with this.

      My husband brings our kids to work with him most of the time (he shoes horses). One of his clients (who is a retired teacher) asked if we were homeschooling our son when he noticed how active and curious he is. When my husband said yes, the client said, “Thank God! Schools would have him labelled ADHD and drugged as fast as they could.” He then commented about how smart, curious and fun to be around he is.

      Every child learns differently. My 5 yr. old daughter can’t sit still as she actively learns and tells fascinating stories. We need to adapt to our children. We don’t need to force them into a system that sucks the life out of them.

  2. Mike Routen March 2, 2012 at 8:50 am #


    Your nephew sounds a lot like our son. He was always on the move, yet was quoting commercials that he saw on TV. That is why we pushed so hard to get him into a Montessori school. The class that we observed looked more like a brainstorming session at where I work than a classroom in a school.

    There were three grades of students in the same classroom and they were all helping each other out while moving freely around the room. I was astonished at the level of freedom the the children were given and the relative calm that was in the room.

    We are seriously considering pulling him out. Yesterday was a snow day for us and my wife said that after they talked, it was the most fun, peaceful day they have had since he started school.

    Thank you so much for your input.


  3. Paige | simple mindfulness March 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Pull him out IMMEDIATELY!!! Finishing the school year has absolutely nothing to do with being bullied. They’re two totally different issues. Sticking with something could be a lesson if school were a good place for him to be.

    I’ve seen the effects of this kind of environment on kids and it’s very scary. You can’t control the teachers or the other kids. You can control what happens to your son. If he stills wants to be in school, find another school or wait until next year. Subjecting him to the bullying is not fair to him or his sister. And it’s definitely damaging his ability to learn and work with others productively. Who wants to live in fear and anger all the time?

    • Mike Routen March 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm #


      Thank you for the comment. We are going to schedule a meeting with his principal early this week and let them know that he is coming home.

      It has become painfully obvious to us that we cannot control the teachers, and they are either unable or unwilling to control the other students. Their inaction has made this an easy decision for us.

      I hope others that read this post can find encouragement in our situation so they too can give their children the freedom to choose where and how they get their education.

      If you don’t mind me asking, are you un-schooling or are you following a particular curriculum? We are thinking about continuing many of the Montessori methods as Nathan has really enjoyed their approach to math and English.

      Thanks again for your support.

      • Paige | simple mindfulness March 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

        Great news Mike!

        We’re un-schooling our three, not following any particular curriculum. We’ve found that we can find “teaching moments” quite easily with a combination of real life experiences (trips to the store, buying things online, walking in nature, talking about how governments work, etc.), trips to the library and a little internet research.

        Sometimes our 8 year old son can be a bit reluctant about spending time on something (he would rather go play with his younger sisters). But as soon as our 5 yr. old daughter becomes interested, he can’t wait to absorb it and teach it to her.

        The key is to figure out how your son learns best – both the what and the how. If he loves to dance around, maybe turn on some music while you play (not work) through a lesson. Some kids thrive with more structure while others can’t stand it. Keep trying different things, making sure he’s generally happy along the way. He’ll absorb more if he’s happy than if he’s somehow resisting the process. If Nathan is happy with the Montessori methods then, by all means, stick with them. If he starts to get tired with them, time to change it up.

        Putting things in a context that he enjoys is also helpful. For example, our son loves dinosaurs so we read a lot of dinosaur books. We cover biology, geology and geography by learning about how dinosaurs are built, what they eat, how they move, where they lived…

        We’re using the countdown to his birthday (this weekend) to learn about addition and subtraction (how many days until the big day?).

        Overall, the most important thing is to teach them how to love learning – or to not kill their natural curiosity and love of learning. Memorizing rote facts is much less useful in life than learning how to solve problems. I remember an exercise in my new hire training at a big public accounting firm right out of college. We were given accounting problems that had to be researched and solved. The answers to the problems weren’t the solutions to the specific problems. We had to say where we could find the answers. We were being quizzed on our knowledge of how to go about solving a problem, not immediately providing the solution. There are just too many accounting rules to memorize and the firm knew this. The same applies to anything else in life.

        I’m so glad to hear that Nathan is home with his best teachers. Please let me know how I can continue to support you guys! Say hi to Nathan for me! Maybe we can work out a Skype session between Nathan and Cody so they can meet each other.

  4. Jason Spencer March 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    This is really frustrating Mike. I am so sorry that you are going through this as a family. Our children are precious and we only get one shot to raise them, so it ought to be our best. Kudos to you for both homeschooling and allowing your child the freedom to explore what they thought they wanted. It is obvious that you are wonderful parents and giving your children both freedom and protection to the best of your ability, and working through this difficult issue alongside of them is to be applauded. Many parents just raise their hands in frustration and don’t really consider the options in front of them, and try to sweep the issue under the carpet while their child suffers the consequences. I hope things get better as you work through this.. you’ll have to keep us up to date for sure. I’d also like to get your full thoughts on Seth’s book after you finish — sounds awesome and intriguing.

    Did you ever read Sir Ken Robinson’s “The Element”? That is a great read on education and the modern challenges.

    • Mike Routen March 13, 2012 at 9:22 pm #


      Thanks for your concern. We have brought Nathan home to resume home-schooling. It looks like it will be a bit of a transition for everyone, as he had grown quite accustomed to the routine of school.

      I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with our own routine that everyone can flourish in.

      How are your children doing in their new school this year?

      Thank you for the recommendation of The Element. I’ll be picking that up soon.

      When I finish Seth’s book, I’ll let you know what I think of it. So far I like it.

  5. Colleen March 27, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    HI Mike! I’m a little late to the discussion, but what you wrote about your son broke my heart! I hope that by now your sweet boy is back home with you and Kelly.

    My son (who is 11) has always struggled with the school system. He has been labeled ADHD, hyper-active and more. Yes, he is energetic, learns super fast and doesn’t like to sit still. Gee, imagine a boy not wanting to sit still and being curious and energetic. He is consistently at the top of his class and in every advanced program that the school offers just to keep him challenged. It’s a real shame the labels that are placed on kids today! This is just one of the reasons that I am working so hard to get out of corporate America and be location independent!

    I have read Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams and shared it with everyone I know! Seth is brilliant! Thanks for being living proof that our dreams can be made into reality!


    • Mike Routen March 27, 2012 at 5:10 am #


      Thank you for stopping by. Yes, Nathan is now back at home.

      We are experiencing a transition period that we did not expect. Since Nathan was home schooled for the first 2 years, we thought he would fall right back into his old routines. Well that certainly didn’t happen. He had been so trained in the scheduled approach used in school that he really struggled with not having one. So Kelly and Nathan put their heads together and came up with a semi-scheduled routine that they now use to keep everyone happy.

      Another side effect is that Nathan is calling his mom “Teacher” while they are in “school”. Kinda’ cute.

      I’m still about half way through Seth’s Stop Sealing Dreams book. So far I really like what I’ve read.

      It is my deepest hope that we can in some way help you and your family escape the corporate treadmill and get you your location independence!


  6. Connor January 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Hey Mike!
    This thread is getting old, but I was wondering how Nathan is doing now? Also if you do decide to bring Nathan back into school, maybe have a guidance counselor assigned for him so Nathan can meet with every so often to see how school, recess, home, etc. are going.

    Best Wishes,

    • Mike Routen January 6, 2013 at 8:41 am #


      Thank you so much for you inquiry. Nathan is doing really well right now, he is homeschooling/unschooling and is really enjoying it.

      For those children that do not have the option to get away from a difficult situation like Nathan, I think the idea of hooking the child up with a guidance counselor for regular check-ins is a fantastic idea! It gets a neutral, third party directly involved and can bring some extra visibility to the situation.

      (Keep an eye out for some really exciting news about some new changes here at Route To Freedom coming soon!)