Considerations when deciding whether or not to pull your child out of school
Your child wants to drop out of their school. This isn’t just a passing complaint. You and your family must address this question. How do you and your family make the decision to pull your child out of school? This decision has three characteristics: reversibility, “nowness” and the “failure” issue. Your child can attend a private school or do homeschool which includes unschool and then later return to the public school at grade level. From 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 at Winterberry Christian Academy and from 2011 to 2017 at Marketplace Mission Learning Center, the school I started, I have taught many students who successfully returned to the public school. ” A “now decision” has two aspects: you can’t postpone this decision indefinitely and “now” because it is not about the future such as college. Your child needs to complete some education successfully now, and by successfully I mean that your child learns to learn, learns to value learning, learns that they can learn and learns that they like to learn. The “failure” issue means “quitting” the traditional school. How about you and your family decide to “fire” the traditional school and “hire” another school - private or homeschool. So how should you make this reversible and “now” and not a “failure” decision? First, who should make this decision?
Remember the “Five W’s?” How about seven questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How and How Much. Think of your child’s traditional schooling as your child’s job.
Education is your child’s job. What work conditions would drive you to quit your job and seek another? Are those conditions there for your child at school? School when and where you went to school is not the school your child attends. Your child is not the academic, athletic, social child you were? Your neighborhood, your friends, your classmates when you were in school are not the same people for your child. Listen to your child. What is your child’s school world really like for your child? You only have now with your child, not a month or a year, just now. Let your child help make this decision. Have your child go through decision making processes such as listing the pros and cons, taking hourly decision polls by listing leave or stay each hour, and following a seven step process: identify the decision and/or goal, gather information, identify alternatives, weigh the evidence and consider the consequences, choose among alternatives, take action and review your decision.
Deciding to pull your child out of traditional school is not a self-evident, a “known knowns” decision, unless you were pulled out of public school and home schooled or sent to a private school. Don’t be susceptible to “entrained thinking” and blinded to new ways of thinking by your past experience, training and success. Don’t be complacent and react too late. Your world is not the world your child lives in every day. The complicated “known unknowns” in this decision exist in your worry over did I make the right decision for my child’s future, so do research and seek expert advice. If the decision is a family group decision, if the child buys into the decision, if you have sought expert advice and if you have followed a decision making process, then it is the “right” decision for now. “Analysis paralysis,” deciding not to decide, is a decision for which you are responsible. Your child’s world is like the Brazilian rainforest not like a Ferrari. An expert mechanic can take apart a Ferrari and put it back together. The car is a static whole that is the sum of its parts. The rainforest is in constant flux where the whole is far more than the sum of its parts. Your child’s world is in a constant flux both internally and externally and is far more than the sum of its parts. This is the complex realm of “unknown unknowns” and this is the world of your child both internally (intentionally) and externally (extensionally) ever changing moment by moment.
The Cynefin framework offers five decision-making domains (contexts or environments): simple, complicated, complex, chaotic and disorder which give decision-makers a “sense of place” from which to view the situation. Simple Domain represents “known knowns” where the rules or best practice create a stable, cause and effect environment. Complicated Domain represents “known unknowns” where a range of right answers require analysis and judgment. Complex Domain represents “unknown unknowns” where cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect with no right answers and only instructive patterns can emerge. Chaotic domain represents the world where cause and effect are unclear so an “act-sense-respond” behavior is needed to establish order to find where a sense of stability is present and where it is absent and then to respond to transform the situation from chaos to complexity. Disorder Domain, in the center of all four domains, represents situations where no clarity exists and leaders argue and cacophony rules and where decision makers must work to break down the situation into constituent parts and assign each part to the other four domains. How would this apply to your child? You believe your child’s desire to leave the traditional school is in the Simple or Complicated Domain, but to your child this situation is in the Complex or Chaotic Domain and maybe even drifting into the Disorder Domain which means your child could be thinking about purposely failing, running away, self-harming, using drugs to escape the chaos and even suicide. Are you listening to your child, really listening? The world your child is describing is their “now” world. Is their world simple or complicated or complex or chaotic and moving toward disorder?
So probe, sense, respond, reach out, reflect, interact, look for patterns, try different tactics, create environments and experiments that allow positive patterns to emerge. In the flux and unpredictability of your child’s desire to leave the traditional school be patient and together make a decision.
Cynefin framework. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2017, from Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework
Snowdon, David J. and Boone, Mary E. (November 2007). A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making