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?
Don’t forget to visit this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, Oddities Edition!