Education and the Drug Conundrum

Zan Tyler

Parents today face issues that mothers and fathers in previous generations did not. The concerns raised by the prevalence of medications in our society are monumental for parents.

We live in a highly medicated society. Record numbers of children are taking medicine for depression, AD/HD, and other problems. Our elderly in nursing homes are medicated to make them easier to control. People take drugs to lose weight, stay awake, go to sleep. We have a mini-crisis developing around drug-resistant bacteria caused by our abuse of antibiotics over the decades. We like to take pills to solve our problems.

So what do you do when your child’s doctor or teacher or grandparent suggests Prozac or Ritalin for your child? How do you know what is best? How can you get unbiased information on the pros and cons of medication versus alternative treatment?

Many families I respect have children who take Ritalin. From countless interviews with respected friends in the medical profession, I have heard that some children cannot function without Ritalin. I also hear the opposite viewpoint from other doctors who refuse to write one prescription for the drug. Smart people with good intentions disagree over the best treatment for childhood problems.

The purpose of this article is not to dismiss the problems of depression or AD/HD with a cavalier, capricious stroke of the hand. The goal is to encourage you, the parent, to carefully research the options before you make decisions regarding the children in your life. 

This article may seem skewed against taking medication.  There is a reason for this—it is. Parents don’t need help in finding drug-related solutions to their children’s problems.  Advertisements for various medications are everywhere—in magazines, doctors’ offices, schools, and on television.

In my eighteen years of working with home-schooling families, I  have personally come into contact with many parents who have been given this ultimatum by school personnel: “Put your child on Ritalin, or don’t bring him back to our facility.” Behavior that was once considered childish is now considered grounds for medication.

I began to contemplate the prospect of home schooling eighteen years ago when my oldest son was five and diagnosed as “borderline learning disabled.”  I had him tested by two different Ph.D.'s.

The first learning specialist—a female—said,  “Your son is a motor mouth, hyperactive, and easily distractible.”  She recommended Ritalin.

The second learning specialist—a male—said, “Your son is bright, energetic, and creative, a man’s man at the age of five.” He did not recommend Ritalin. I don’t think the thought even crossed his mind. What diametrically opposed ways of viewing the same child!

My husband and I opted for a drug-free method of education for our son. We home schooled him for thirteen years. He is now a senior in college. He attended college on a soccer scholarship, served as president of his freshman class, worked in Washington, D.C., in the United States Senate, traveled overseas—he has had exciting opportunities.  Many times during his K-12 education, I second-guessed our choices, thinking his life and mine would be easier and more “in-control” with the aid of medication. He studies harder for Cs than my other children study for As. But he has learned perseverance, self-control, and other invaluable lessons along the way. He has also learned to live life with great gusto—playing from his strengths rather than his weaknesses. He is a great young man, and an inspiration to many around him.

Everyone’s journey in life is different. Your journey with your children will be different than mine.  We shouldn’t strive to hike the same path, rather we should purpose to find the path that is best for each of our children.

Should you give your child medications like Ritalin and Prozac? Ultimately, the decision is yours. There are two sides to every issue. Don’t be afraid to search out both sides before making your decision, asking the hard questions of professionals you trust. You are in the best position to decide if your child will benefit the most from taking medication or from exploring other options. And, don't forget, that as a Christian, you have immediate access to free counsel and advice from the Great Physician.

Zan Tyler is the editor of the HomeSchool Channel and co-author of the book Anyone Can Homeschool. She and her husband have three children and have been homeschooling since 1984. Tyler founded the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools in 1990 and served as its president for ten years.