disturbed, yet again, by school

Many kids (and parents) are getting ready for back-to-school on social media, and some friends who have 4 and 5-year-olds entering kindergarten are crowd-sourcing answers to some of their parenting questions. Issues revolve around how to ‘ease the transition’, and basically get their kids to not be so terrified.

The whole idea is kind of, well, terrifying. I mean, we’re so indoctrinated as a society to think that school is as necessary as showering and brushing our teeth, that we totally accept the fact that the vast majority of young children do NOT want to go to school and have terrible adjustment problems (stomach aches, behavior changes, excessive tiredness, “blanking out” after coming home, etc). We’re told “oh that’s totally normal, it’ll get better when they get used to it.” No one ever even ponders the idea that if something is that upsetting to that many children, maybe it’s not in their best interest???

I know, I know. I sound like the crazy one. About 100 people comment on posts like these advising not to “coddle” your child, they need to learn how to deal with life’s challenges, this will force them to socialize and make friends, etc and so on. As someone who grew up with very real anxiety and panic attacks, I vehemently disagree. Being put into a foreign environment, a concocted and unnatural social milieu, with no support, no life experience, and a total lack of ability to cope with extreme stress (as children naturally do not), is just traumatizing. You don’t have to force kids to learn by putting them through that. They will learn just fine without feeling distressed. In fact, they will learn more easily, and they will learn to love learning!

Life is going to deal many challenges and hardships to your kids without shoving them into something they aren’t ready for, not to mention something in which they had no choice. In new jobs or social situations we, as adults, at least have the choice to be there or not, and the option to leave at any time. Children are essentially imprisoned within the school building for a large part of the day, without any input as to where they would like to be, how they would like to learn, and which types of people they feel comfortable around. They cannot leave if they get overwhelmed. They cannot step out and take a break, or threaten to take their business elsewhere. They can’t even pee without a fucking permission slip.

So yeah… I’m not impressed with the way most of my facebook acquaintances think of their children. I’m not surprised, but I’m also a little outraged. Why do we do this to the people we love the most?

And also, yes I send my daughter to “school” and no, she doesn’t have a choice. So am just the world’s biggest hypocrite? I guess because I have no choice (single working mom who needs child care) she also has no choice. I’m not saying children should not go to school under any circumstances… not at all. Some children like their school and would choose to go. Some would choose to go but only feel comfortable in certain “types” of schools (Montessori, democratic, learning community, Waldorf, etc). Some would choose not to go at all. Some parents would take their child’s beliefs and opinions into account and still make the decision to place them into school. And some have to go somewhere while their parents work, and as parents we put them in the care of a school or person we hope will be nurturing and understanding and fun.

I’m just advocating for more compassion, more awareness, and more willingness to take our child’s developmental needs, personal preferences, and individuality into account.

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6 Comments »

  1. Exactly one reason I hate our school systems/culture. It looks like I need to put Wallace in some form of half day preschool. I am hoping that I can work with him on the transition in a way that works for his personality and needs. My biggest concern is his emotional well being and if it turns out it doesn’t work, I will take him out. He will just have to figure out how to play while I do school and sewing.

  2. I do wish there was more of a transition from no school to all day kindergarten 5 days a week. We have the luxury of sending our kids to a preschool part time for a few years before the elementary grind begins, but I know that’s just it possible for a lot of people.

  3. I used Oak Meadow (a Waldorf based program) to homeschool my son from 2nd grade through high school. I pulled him out of public school for my own convenience, I didn’t like being bound by the school’s calendar and considering the amount of homework he had even in those lower grades it made more sense for me to just be his teacher entirely. Still, I think it’s important for kids to spend time with other kids to figure out how society works and not just who their friends are but what qualities they want to look for in friends. I think its important for them to spend time with other adults so they learn to deal with other authority figures. Not being home all day with mom can absolutely be scary, another kid picking on you or not wanting to be your friend can but hurtful but these are experiences that I think everyone needs to have in order to grow as people. As parents we should absolutely be there to support them and offer guidance but they need space to grow away from and make decision without us. I don’t think that kids necessarily need to go to school to get these experiences camps, scouts, playgroups, homeschooling co-ops and daycares all offer similar experiences.

    • I agree wholeheartedly agree that kids need social lives and independence away from parents to grow as people and learn valuable life lessons. Formal schooling can provide that but it’s not the only way and in my opinion has too many negatives that come with it. If you’re able to provide your child with opportunities outside the home for play, friendships/
      relationships, and learning then why is school necessary? And of course, your child then has the option to leave or discontinue such activities and relationships should they become harmful… In school you have no such option.

  4. My daughter is an experiment in nature vs nurture. I THOUGHT I could nurture the obnoxiousness out of her but no. Genes are important it turns out. Her parents are very obnoxious and it shows. (Especially her dad, just sayin.) So ho, homeschooling is not an option, we’d spend all day arguing the color of the sky. But she is an axioms child, and school was an issue. I found ways to help ease the transition. Reading a story to her in line before the bell rang, volunteering in her class. It helped. Now I work at her school and all is well in her world. I am weepy at how blessed I feel for this opportunity. I’ve only got 18 years with her, I want to do my best for them.

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