Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling

Each time we go to the doctor’s office, I am run through a predictable line of questioning.

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?

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Kash
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Well, we are some of those homeschoolers – the non-vax kind – which makes finding a good pediatrician more difficult. We’re pretty out there, and I want a pediatrician because I want good medical care, for those times when it’s necessary. Unfortunately, around here, the pediatricians that are most friendly to non-vax’ers are also the ones that don’t provide the actual medical care we’re looking for. We’re on our sixth pediatrician (oldest is 9.5), and so far we seem to have (finally) found a good balance. Because there are lots of homeschoolers around here, we don’t get much questioning about… Read more »

Dana
Guest

Just to be clear, my term “those homeschoolers” has nothing to do with my personal opinion of “those homeschoolers.” But vaccination does seem to be one of the things that separates “normal” people who happen to homeschoolers from fanatics in many people’s minds.

Believe me, with five children and being conservative Christians, we are “those homeschoolers” to a lot of people!

I’m glad you have finally found a workable pediatrician. Health care should be a joint enterprise between the doctor, the patient and the parent/guardian.
.-= Dana´s last blog ..Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling =-.

AngelaW
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AngelaW

We have only recently become “those homeschoolers” when the HPV vaccine came out. The nurse practitioner we saw that particular day looked at me like I’d grown a second head when I declined vaccines for my then 12 year old daughter. She went into this whole “but it saves lives” thing, and I felt I had to defend our choices to homeschool as well as not have vaccines then. She had already questioned my daughter about outside of the home activities, so this just made me feel even worse! My daughter takes it all in stride. It’s been something that… Read more »

Dana
Guest

Oh, I’m so sorry about that! Glad you have one pretty good doctor. Like I said to someone on twitter, I think a lot of it deals with tone. The doctor went over the HPV thing with us, and though we aren’t there yet, I sort of indicated that we weren’t going to go for that one.

He obviously thought we should get the shot, but took it in stride without any second head type looks of shock and horror!
.-= Dana´s last blog ..Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling =-.

Luke Holzmann
Guest

Haven’t had interaction with our doctor and the kids. But she was very open to our path of adoption and so I have high hopes that she will be as interested, connected and engaged with our homeschooling [smile].

Good thoughts.

~Luke
.-= Luke Holzmann´s last blog ..A New Beginning and a Quickly Coming End =-.

Mia
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Mia

Wow! Our pediatrician is wonderful – and so was the P.A. we saw when she was unable to see us on short notice one time. We do vaccinate, but she asked us if we do. I know people whose children go to public school that don’t vaccinate, so it’s no big deal. She’s very pleasant and matter of fact about our homeschooling – probably because there are a lot of homeschoolers in our city and community, so it’s not a big thing. Of course there are questions she asks that she wouldn’t ask a “regular” schooler – just like there… Read more »

Melisa H.
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Melisa H.

You know, this is actually an area that I am struggling with right now – particularly in regards to the vaccinations. The older 2 are mostly vaccinated (no boosters), but due to an event with our oldest son, we have decided to be much more careful with vaccinating our younger son. I am going only with the bare bones basics that I am comfortable with and postponing (perhaps indefinitely) some of the others. I have done my research on both sides and that was the best I could do (we have contemplating not vaxing at all, but so far so… Read more »

Dana
Guest

No problem. 🙂 It is important to find a pediatrician you can work with, not just fight against.

I hope all goes well at your appointment. You have enough going…fighting with doctors shouldn’t be another thing to worry about!
.-= Dana´s last blog ..Thoughts on pediatricians and homeschooling =-.

Crimson Wife
Guest

When we moved in December and had to find a new pediatrician, I asked around the moms’ club in our new town for a doctor friendly to natural treatments & alternative vax. schedules. We are not super-crunchy, and I do mostly follow the standard vax schedule (though we decline some & spread others out). But I figured that would be the most likely doctor in the area to be HS-friendly. Turns out that she’s wonderful and one of her nurses was even HS K-12.
.-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

TulipGirl
Guest

We had comprehensive (and I mean comprehensive!) medical exams for the kids in July, as a preliminary step to moving overseas. This was the first time we saw this particular doc, and I took all four boys in at once. And — the doc was great, the office was great, and even though he raised his eyebrow at the vax thing (selective vaxing) neither that nor homeschooling was an “issue” for him. And while I’m totally okay with kids being kids and it is important to me to NOT communicate to my kids a “performance” mentality — well, I’ve got… Read more »

JJ
Guest

It seems to me doctors as well as other medical professionals like nurses and pharmacists, are sometimes condemned for this same best judgment, “flexibility” and individual patient-centered approach when it is someone’s else’s family at issue, by some of the same people who appreciate it for themselves. It’s just not easy. Vaccination opt-outs can affect others,but it’s not just that. What about doctors deferring to parents by over-prescribing antibiotics to children for ear infections, or even for colds and other conditions completely inappropriate for that treatment? It can hurt everyone’s children and the general public when resistant superstrains then develop.… Read more »

Crimson Wife
Guest

JJ- the medical establishment has pushed parents to make all-or-none decisions about vax in many cases by doing things like suspending the manufacturing of the separate measles, mumps, & rubella shots. My youngest is due in a couple months for either the combo MMR shot (which I have serious concerns about) or the first of the separate shots. The unavailability of the latter puts me in a real dilemma. I could hold off on the MMR shot until she’s older and her immune system is better able to handle it, but that puts her at risk of coming down with… Read more »

JJ
Guest

Cw — right, I get all of that and see no difference compared to a desperate teen for example, seeking contraception or a morning-after prescription when contraception has failed. . .
.-= JJ´s last blog ..Why Fencing Knickers Make Me Feel at Home =-.

JJ
Guest

Our Catholic father=of-five pediatrician has been great ever since my first child was born and he was there in the delivery room to be her doctor in that first moment. But when she got older and developed naturally, and I delicately began to inquire from the staff how long she could be his patient before she would be considered too old for a pediatrician (gynecological exams?) the response was flat — up to age 18 if she’s behaving! No sign of a smile or a joke. They meant it — because nof what, sex or alcohol, smoking, maybe eating problems,… Read more »

Crimson Wife
Guest

The difference is that a teen girl is still a child. If she’s mature enough to be needing advice about family planning, then she ought to be mature enough to discuss the issue with a parent/guardian. And if she isn’t able to do that, then that’s a sign that she really isn’t ready for adult behavior with the very real potential for life-altering (even potentially fatal) consequences.
.-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

JJ
Guest

From the medical professional’s POV, what does that have to do with it?
.-= JJ´s last blog ..Why Fencing Knickers Make Me Feel at Home =-.

JJ
Guest

And who said she didn’t discuss it all with me in the first place? But I’m not the right kind of doctor for that . . . 😉
.-= JJ´s last blog ..Why Fencing Knickers Make Me Feel at Home =-.

Crimson Wife
Guest

I don’t have any particular objection to a mom taking her teen to see a gynecologist for the purposes of obtaining contraception. I don’t agree with it, but it’s her kid and she has the right to make whatever parenting decisions she feels are best. What I object to is the government interfering with my parenting decisions and authorizing Planned Parenthood or whoever to provide contraceptives or worse perform an abortion on my minor child without my knowledge. My kid can’t even get her ears pierced or visit a tanning booth without my consent but under CA law she could… Read more »

JJ
Guest

Pregnancy kills more teens than contraception, which is the kind of medical counsel even from pediatricians that used to be universally viewed as appropriately separate from church counsel.
.-= JJ´s last blog ..Why Fencing Knickers Make Me Feel at Home =-.