Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling

Each time we go to the doctor’s office, I am run through a predictable line of questioning.

No school today? (We homeschool.)

Oh, that’s right!  How are they doing?  (Pretty well. Insert small talk type comments about what we’re actually doing.)

So, do you want a flu shot today.  (No.)

Not filling out the form and not requesting one must have been an oversight.  Or I must be anti-vaccine because the nurse never fails to ask the next question on the list.

Are your children current on vaccinations.  (Should be.)

Because, you see, there are homeschoolers and then there are those homeschoolers.

What kind of social activities do you have the children involved in?

At this point, a few of the nurses go into their spiel about the importance of organized activities and friendships for social development and emotional well-being.  Most just go on to checking over my child, satisfied with my list of activities.  I know this is not the normal line of questioning for every parent, however, because on the rare occasion I come in with only one younger child, none of it comes up.

Then the doctor comes in and we get to go through it all again.  Except he always pulls their chart to check on their vaccination schedule and displays much more interest in the list of outside activities and encourages me to join a local homeschool group.

Talking with other homeschoolers online and off, this seems to be an occasional source of frustration.  I’ve heard more than a few complaints about the lack of trust the pediatrician displays, the frustration of defending decisions regarding vaccination or limiting outside activities, the “ignorance” regarding “socialization,” and the general annoyance of having your parenting questioned by a physician in front of the children.

Some, apparently, even have questions for the children regarding how safe they feel at home and what kinds of things they feel threatened by.  Few parents I know would be comfortable listening as the doctor broach the topic of child abuse.

I’ve never been annoyed by the questioning, however.  Amused, yes, but never annoyed. Part of it is because I’m just not really a confrontational person.  Not anymore, anyway.  Part of it is because their office really is supportive of homeschooling, and they manage to go through the questioning free of any accusatory or concerned tone.  In fact, their tone is much more like “What did you do over the weekend?” rather than “How can you do that to a child?!”  Part of it is because I expect it.  There is no shock at suddenly being asked what I’m asked at every visit, and with five children we have enough visits to the pediatrician to know what to expect.

Most of it, however, is because I want the questioning.  I pay my pediatrician for his professional opinion regarding the healthy development of my child, not to encourage my choices, nor to affirm my choices nor to even agree with my choices.  If he has cause for concern, I expect him to educate me.  If we disagree on some aspect of my children’s care, I expect him to do his best to make sure I’m making an informed decision.

And honestly, I expect my children to be cared for and treated differently because they are homeschooled.  Because they are unique individuals in a unique situation.  My pediatrician earned my respect and loyalty a few years ago when I brought our eldest in with some generic, non-specific concerns.  She looked healthy.  I’m not sure anyone else in the world would have looked at her and wondered if something was wrong.  All her vital signs were normal.  But she just wasn’t quite herself, and hadn’t been for some time.  The doctor took my concerns seriously, but what’s more he took into account that my daughter does not complain when she isn’t feeling well.    He did a thorough exam, drew blood and encouraged me to schedule another appointment if it persisted.

I don’t think it was coincidence that she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis a few months later when some specific symptoms finally began to develop.  But you know…I would be very disappointed if our pediatrician did not take into account my daughter’s ulcerative colitis when treating her.  If he wasn’t concerned about side effects of the medicine, interactions with what he’s prescribing, her bone density, and her general nutrition.

Why should it be any different with homeschooling?  It certainly isn’t any sort of “risk factor,” but it is a decision that comes with a unique set of parenting challenges that a good doctor should be aware of.  I would be very uncomfortable if the state were to come into my home and start asking these sorts of questions simply because I submitted paperwork to homeschool, but the pediatrician isn’t the state.  And I pay him to do it.

How do you deal with your pediatrician’s questions?


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0 thoughts on “Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling

  1. Well, we are some of those homeschoolers – the non-vax kind – which makes finding a good pediatrician more difficult. We’re pretty out there, and I want a pediatrician because I want good medical care, for those times when it’s necessary. Unfortunately, around here, the pediatricians that are most friendly to non-vax’ers are also the ones that don’t provide the actual medical care we’re looking for.

    We’re on our sixth pediatrician (oldest is 9.5), and so far we seem to have (finally) found a good balance. Because there are lots of homeschoolers around here, we don’t get much questioning about it. Both of the older two are usually only too happy to tell her all the things they are up to. 😉

    So, yeah, I’m used to some hostility about vaccination decisions, but I would be upset if the questioning about homeschooling crossed the line from “appropriate interest” to “interrogation.”

    1. Just to be clear, my term “those homeschoolers” has nothing to do with my personal opinion of “those homeschoolers.” But vaccination does seem to be one of the things that separates “normal” people who happen to homeschoolers from fanatics in many people’s minds.

      Believe me, with five children and being conservative Christians, we are “those homeschoolers” to a lot of people!

      I’m glad you have finally found a workable pediatrician. Health care should be a joint enterprise between the doctor, the patient and the parent/guardian.
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling =-.

  2. We have only recently become “those homeschoolers” when the HPV vaccine came out. The nurse practitioner we saw that particular day looked at me like I’d grown a second head when I declined vaccines for my then 12 year old daughter. She went into this whole “but it saves lives” thing, and I felt I had to defend our choices to homeschool as well as not have vaccines then. She had already questioned my daughter about outside of the home activities, so this just made me feel even worse! My daughter takes it all in stride. It’s been something that seems “normal” to her to have people intrude in your life and constantly have to defend your choices to friends, family and strangers.

    We still go to the same pediatrician’s office- it’s a conglomerate of doctors. However, e can request a specific doctor, and we do- one that also homeschools. We know the family- I go to a women’s Bible study with his wife- have now for years. It was a lapse in my judgment to just come to the appointment without first making sure I would gt the doctor we wanted. Silly me, I thought I could trust the other people who worked there not to pry into my personal life and judge my intentions towards my children. Now that my oldest daughter is, well, older, there is a whole new set of stares and comments. She still calls me “Mommy” and at almost 15, is as tall as me. One thing I have been faced with, that is probably not that unusual, is that we are often seen holding hands….my husband and I are not of the same “race (I hate that term- we are of the human race, so we are the same race in that way, BUT there are obvious differences in our skin color)” and she really favors her father. People have always assumed that she is not my daughter, and now that she’s older many assume the worst. It is a sad overly sexualized world we live in- what happened to “greet each other with a holy kiss?” Could you imagine what the world would think believers actually did that? Showing affection to your child should not be met with suspicion…not from the doctor, not from a stranger in the grocery store, not from anyone!

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry about that! Glad you have one pretty good doctor. Like I said to someone on twitter, I think a lot of it deals with tone. The doctor went over the HPV thing with us, and though we aren’t there yet, I sort of indicated that we weren’t going to go for that one.

      He obviously thought we should get the shot, but took it in stride without any second head type looks of shock and horror!
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling =-.

  3. Wow! Our pediatrician is wonderful – and so was the P.A. we saw when she was unable to see us on short notice one time. We do vaccinate, but she asked us if we do. I know people whose children go to public school that don’t vaccinate, so it’s no big deal. She’s very pleasant and matter of fact about our homeschooling – probably because there are a lot of homeschoolers in our city and community, so it’s not a big thing. Of course there are questions she asks that she wouldn’t ask a “regular” schooler – just like there are questions she asks them but not me, simply because of a difference in lifestyles. I have never heard a negative comment about homeschooling from anyone in real life, except from a few silly family members. Our oldest daughter will be 12 in a couple of weeks, but we haven’t heard anything about the HPV vaccine. But, from what I’ve read, there have been a lot of problems with it. I have noticed that I haven’t seen any of those commercials pushing it lately as well. Maybe the hype is over?

  4. You know, this is actually an area that I am struggling with right now – particularly in regards to the vaccinations. The older 2 are mostly vaccinated (no boosters), but due to an event with our oldest son, we have decided to be much more careful with vaccinating our younger son. I am going only with the bare bones basics that I am comfortable with and postponing (perhaps indefinitely) some of the others. I have done my research on both sides and that was the best I could do (we have contemplating not vaxing at all, but so far so good with what we have done to date). However, ever single appt. is the same old conversation about our choice, how we could catch up by age 2, etc. etc. I wanted to throw up last week at his last appt. They handed me papers for 14 different vaccines and that is not including one we completed. The nurse knows how I feel and she is just doing her job (in fact, she said while she had to give them to me, we could make paper airplanes out of them if we liked, lol – but her daughter homeschools, so she is used to us homeschoolers bucking the societal norms). There was a comment made about the baby’s weight (he is 85th % for ht, but 32nd % for weight – but he is not skinny – in fact, his older brother was the same ht and weighed 1/2 lb less at a month older – and I know that no comment was made – ugh!

    I have the older 2 children’s appts later this week (have not done a physical in a couple of years – this should be fun!). Basically, our pediatrician may or may not be our pediatrician any longer after this appt depending on how these appts go down. I know that I will be declining at least 1 set of vaccinations and perhaps a 2nd with dd. We have been through the questions in the past about physical activity, what do we do, etc. Sometimes, I am annoyed, but sometimes not. Perhaps I am just ready to fire my ped after 11 yrs and am prepared to be disgusted – I don’t know, but the attitudes get really old after a while and they seem to get worse the more you go against the current. It is as if it is supposed that since you are bucking the system, you might not be taking care of your children in an appropriate manner. Sigh – I was not, do you really think I would be there in the first place?

    Sorry, it is late, I am tired (and pregnancy hormones are winning out right now), so I think I just unloaded on your blog, lol!

  5. When we moved in December and had to find a new pediatrician, I asked around the moms’ club in our new town for a doctor friendly to natural treatments & alternative vax. schedules. We are not super-crunchy, and I do mostly follow the standard vax schedule (though we decline some & spread others out). But I figured that would be the most likely doctor in the area to be HS-friendly. Turns out that she’s wonderful and one of her nurses was even HS K-12.
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

  6. We had comprehensive (and I mean comprehensive!) medical exams for the kids in July, as a preliminary step to moving overseas. This was the first time we saw this particular doc, and I took all four boys in at once. And — the doc was great, the office was great, and even though he raised his eyebrow at the vax thing (selective vaxing) neither that nor homeschooling was an “issue” for him.

    And while I’m totally okay with kids being kids and it is important to me to NOT communicate to my kids a “performance” mentality — well, I’ve got to say I was oh-so-thankful that the kids were super cooperative, super well behaved, and quietly read during our four hour appointment. I think that allayed any misgivings the doc may have had. (That, and I was very open and honest about some sensitive medical concerns. . .)

  7. It seems to me doctors as well as other medical professionals like nurses and pharmacists, are sometimes condemned for this same best judgment, “flexibility” and individual patient-centered approach when it is someone’s else’s family at issue, by some of the same people who appreciate it for themselves.

    It’s just not easy. Vaccination opt-outs can affect others,but it’s not just that. What about doctors deferring to parents by over-prescribing antibiotics to children for ear infections, or even for colds and other conditions completely inappropriate for that treatment? It can hurt everyone’s children and the general public when resistant superstrains then develop. I don’t want unconventional parents mistreated at the doctor’s office — but I don’t want any mistreatment, period so as the best we can do, I like Dana’s take on how to balance the personal, the professional and the public interest.

    Just remember many (a substantial majority of?) parents want vaccinations and reproductive options, e.g., as legal, medically mainstream treatments and services, and therefore expect all practitioners to be willing and competent to accommodate those decisions, even though some may have personal or professional concerns. So don’t we each have the obligation to openly, intentionally stand for that parent and every parent deserving the same wide range of options, deference, privacy, access to and respect from doctors (and other professionals, the body politic, fellow homeschoolers) that we want for ourselves?
    .-= JJ´s last blog ..Why Fencing Knickers Make Me Feel at Home =-.

  8. JJ- the medical establishment has pushed parents to make all-or-none decisions about vax in many cases by doing things like suspending the manufacturing of the separate measles, mumps, & rubella shots. My youngest is due in a couple months for either the combo MMR shot (which I have serious concerns about) or the first of the separate shots. The unavailability of the latter puts me in a real dilemma.

    I could hold off on the MMR shot until she’s older and her immune system is better able to handle it, but that puts her at risk of coming down with one of the diseases. I could go ahead and give her the combo shot, but that puts her at risk of having a serious negative side effect like autism. BTW, I’m not just parroting Jenny McCarthy or Dr. Mercola, I’ve done my homework and have legitimate doubts about the research “proving” the safety of the combo MMR shot.

    It makes me angry that I’m being pushed into an all-or-nothing decision on this. Why can’t I just get the separate shots for my 3rd the way I did for my 2nd?
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

  9. Our Catholic father=of-five pediatrician has been great ever since my first child was born and he was there in the delivery room to be her doctor in that first moment. But when she got older and developed naturally, and I delicately began to inquire from the staff how long she could be his patient before she would be considered too old for a pediatrician (gynecological exams?) the response was flat — up to age 18 if she’s behaving! No sign of a smile or a joke. They meant it — because nof what, sex or alcohol, smoking, maybe eating problems, cutting problems and depression, what??

    We got her a female gynecologist the next week and she didn’t go back to the pediatrician.
    .-= JJ´s last blog ..Why Fencing Knickers Make Me Feel at Home =-.

  10. The difference is that a teen girl is still a child. If she’s mature enough to be needing advice about family planning, then she ought to be mature enough to discuss the issue with a parent/guardian. And if she isn’t able to do that, then that’s a sign that she really isn’t ready for adult behavior with the very real potential for life-altering (even potentially fatal) consequences.
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

  11. I don’t have any particular objection to a mom taking her teen to see a gynecologist for the purposes of obtaining contraception. I don’t agree with it, but it’s her kid and she has the right to make whatever parenting decisions she feels are best.

    What I object to is the government interfering with my parenting decisions and authorizing Planned Parenthood or whoever to provide contraceptives or worse perform an abortion on my minor child without my knowledge. My kid can’t even get her ears pierced or visit a tanning booth without my consent but under CA law she could at age 12 secretly receive medication or major surgery that could kill her (yes, that’s rare but it does unfortunately happen).

    A large percentage of girls who become sexually active in their early-to-mid teens are being coerced into it by older men. This is where the lack of parental involvement under current law is most dangerous. How can I protect my child from being exploited when the law deliberately keeps me in the dark?
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

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