December 5th, 2005

A couple of weeks ago, Lewi and I excitedly ventured off to the local school fete. This was no ordinary fete for our tiny town of 4500 people. This was a local extravaganza which the majority of the towns folk attended.

There were the normal cake stalls, raffles, face painting and grab-a-bargain-plant set ups. But the highlight, for our deprived small-town country children, were the rides, much like those at the agricultural shows. For my Lewi, and his friends, the rides were it. They were the fete!

The kids faces beamed as they slid down the giant, 3-laned slippery dip. Their heads swirled as the tea cups spun, seemingly uncontrollably, round and round and round and round. They wobbled and bounced all over the super-duper jumping castle fit with stairs and slide, miles above the ground. Fun was definitely had.

For me though, the night was crushed after I witnessed an awful case of so called ‘school kid’ fun while we lined up for one of the amusements. A group of boys, all still in their school uniforms (obviously from the school putting on the fete), were standing at the front of the fairly long queue, waiting for the ride to stop so they could be the first to get on. Along came another boy (whom I know) ready to join the queue at the end of the line. The boys at the front started whispering and jiggering to one another. They then called over to the other boy and asked him if he’d like to go to the front with them. His face beamed at the offer and he took his place right at the front. Behind this boy’s back, the others whispered and s******ed. I couldn’t hear what was being said but I could tell something was going on. As soon as the boy turned around the others would become normal again and include him in the conversation.

The ride stopped and the last of the ‘riders’ made their way through the gates. As the group of boys were about to get on the ride they all told the boy that there wasn’t enough room for him and that he’d now have to go to the end of the line. The boys ran off and jumped on the ride with s******ing and patting of shoulders. The boy, with a sullen look on his face, quietly went to the end of the line, saying nothing.

What was I to do? This was obviously their intentions all along, as there was certainly enough room. I felt sickened by this disgusting display of school-style bullying. The boys had gone before I could say or do anything. I didn’t want to embarrass the boy either by causing a commotion. I felt helpless. I went to the boy, who knows us too, and said hi. I then asked him if he was OK. To which he said, in a weak voice, yes he was. I mentioned that I had noticed what had gone on down at the front and asked if I could do anything to help. He, sadly said, no, he wouldn’t like me to get involved.

I walked away feeling much sadness. The teacher in me wanted to have a good old word to that group of boys when they came off the ride. The empathiser to the other boy’s feelings, told me not to. I still don’t know which was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to make things worse for him knowing he had to go to school with these boys everyday. I feel like I should talk to his mum at least to let her know that these things happen in that school (as many parents of children at the school seem to think bullying doesn’t occur there!).

The other feeling I walked away with that night though was pure relief. Relief, that for my son, I have definitely made the right decision in homeschooling him. He will be relatively free, throughout his childhood, from this type of bullying. The ‘school kid’ type that constantly goes unnoticed and that is never dealt with – where the victims feel powerless to say or do anything about it, will be fairly minimal for him.

Thank goodness for the choices we have now to choose how we want to educate our children. Thank goodness that we get to determine whether or not they should be exposed to the goings on in schools that leave children scarred for life. Thank goodness for homeschooling!