Great School Debate: RaeAnne and Steve

Overprotective Mom?

"My husband, Steve, believes that our girls should go to a public school," says RaeAnne. "I do believe that public schools have become more dangerous, and I'm not willing to put my girls in jeopardy and risk losing them to a monster who would come in and torture them or take their lives."


RaeAnne's family lives in Loveland, Colorado, approximately 45 miles from Columbine, and 90 miles from a recent school shooting in Bailey. "The death of Emily Keys hit home because I pictured my girls being 16 and in that situation," she says tearfully. "Not being able to protect them and never seeing them get married or graduate college. It was very, very personal for me."


Her husband thinks she's being irrational. "I don't believe sending them to any school is any safer than keeping them at home. You can go to the bank and get robbed or shot there. Or if you're driving your car, you can get hit. I think public schools are very safe," Steve maintains. "RaeAnne is very protective of her kids. If she could, she'd wrap them up in bubble wrap and keep them here at home for as long as possible."

RaeAnne now wants to educate the girls at home, but Steve is putting his foot down. "If they're home schooled, the kids will not get socially adjusted," he says. "My kids will miss out on prom, flirting, having their first crush on a teacher " the little stuff that helps you grow into a well-adjusted adult."

"I really don't see a lot of drawbacks for me being a teacher for the girls. I'm familiar with the planning the preparation of classes and grading. In my mind, I have made my decision," RaeAnne shares. "I'm very adamant about my stance on home schooling."

"Are you concerned that if you unschool, that your children may not be competitive in the work-a-day, performance-oriented world?" Dr. Phil asks the couple.

"I do believe in a structured education, but I don't believe it has to be done in a public school system, "RaeAnne replies. "With the tools that are out there for home schooling, I believe my girls are going to get a better education than they possibly could in the public school." 

Dr. Phil wants RaeAnne to consider the social needs of her daughters. "What happens when they get to that age when peers kick in, and all of the sudden they want to belong to a group of friends, they want to be around boys and girls all day, they want to be involved in the social process that is the community of life when you're at that age?" he asks. "What do you feel about that?"

"It makes it sound like home schooling, we lock our kids in a dungeon in the basement, and we throw books at them, and we'll feed them food and water every three of four hours, and that is not what home schooling is about. We have churches, we have Four-H that my girls will participate in, there's gymnastics, there's still sports that they participate in with the public school systems. There are so many things out there that my girls would be a part of that the concept of them not being socialized is just laughable," she says.

Dr. Phil disagrees. "There's a lot of research that suggests that what I said is, in fact, a problem after they hit puberty and they get into those middle school years," he tells RaeAnne. "There does seem to be a developmental deficit from middle school years on for those kids that don't get involved in the school process itself."


Turning to Steve, Dr. Phil says, "She's describing something here that sounds peachy keen. What's your problem with it?"


"Just about everything. You just can't lock your kids away and hide them out," he replies. "You have to let your kids experience life."


RaeAnne tells Dr. Phil that she's motivated by fear for her daughter's safety. "I would rather be overprotective and have my girls be alive to resent me," she says through tears.


"But it's not just that they are alive to resent you. It's just are they able to navigate and negotiate the demands of life when you're not around, because you're not going to always be there," Dr. Phil points out.

Deanne, an unschooler, speaks up from the audience. Pointing to her three children, she says, "If you ask them, I think they're very happy with their lives. They actually have been in school, and we took them out."


"Are you concerned about any of the things you've heard here today about unschooling?" Dr. Phil asks.


Deanne points out the difference between schooling and unschooling. "We're using the world as our classroom, rather than our dining room table. We are out and about. My children, we have a geography club. They have a book group that they meet at the local book store once a month," she explains.


"They didn't have to take SATs. If the guys have to take SATs to get into a university, how will they do?" Dr. Phil probes.


Deanne replies, "I have no doubt that they will do awesome. There have been many unschooled kids who have never taken a test before, and gone and taken the SATs and done quite well."