Thanks But No Thanks

December 8, 2009

by Tammy Drennan

I get many calls from parents pulling their children out of public schools. Sometimes they’re worried and even afraid that someone at the school will try to discourage them.

This is what I tell them, “What you’re doing is perfectly legal. If someone tells you you’re making a mistake, just tell them you appreciate their concern but you’ve made your decision.” In other words: Thank you. Goodbye.

Walking away is our most powerful weapon when it comes to our children’s education. We still have that freedom. I worry that if it remains as unexercised as it is today, we may lose it, inch by inch, yes by yes, gimme by gimme.

There are parents and reformers and organizations and agencies that war endlessly trying to get public schools to do it their way. Maybe they feel powerful throwing around their rhetoric. Maybe they believe those miniscule concessions to their demands represent an intent on the part of schools to change.

Then there are parents and reformers and organizations that do the most effective and powerful thing possible. They say, Thank you, but we can handle this. We appreciate the offer of help, but we’ve got it covered. Bye.

No anger, no drive for revenge, no bitterness, just “goodbye.” Time to move on. Time to take our children back. Time to start defining our own future, creating our own possibilities, blazing trails so others can follow more easily. Bye.

What is it all the self-help gurus say? You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself. They’re right. If you’re going to live your life trying to force other people, especially when they are an institution, to be what you want them to be so that they’ll make your children what you want them to be, you better be wearing comfortable shoes. It ain’t gonna happen.

But… you can change yourself, even when someone is trying to prevent you from changing. You can tell them “Thanks for the expression of concern. I appreciate it. I’ve gotta go now. Bye.”

And remember, it’s not only individuals who have the power to quietly, firmly move on. Churches can do it, too, as can other groups. Parents, churches, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, organizations don’t have to keep trying to change what insists on remaining unchanged. They can create better options. They can define themselves instead of letting the government define them. They can lead rather than follow.

It’s a real option. That’s what we all need to realize. Look around. There are two million homeschooled children in the U.S., 27,000+ private schools, hundreds of small private schools in India, Africa and China serving the poor. It’s already being done. It just needs to be done more.

Start a conversation today with your spouse, your church staff, your parishioners, your fellow entrepreneurs, your neighbors, your relatives. It’s Step One. Take the step and see where it leads.