As the final days of my kids time in formal school come to a close, I’m struck with just how much I think my son’s time in school has damaged our relationship and I wonder to what effect the school system plays a role in our increasing societal woes.
“M” is currently in the second grade but it was clear within weeks of him starting kindergarten there was a problem. I remember vividly what his kindergarten teacher said to me, “There are kids who fit in the box; They love the box and do well there. Then there are kids who think outside the box. Then there are kids who say, ‘why do I even need a box?!’ and your son is in that third category!” I took that as a compliment but sadly, the result of his divergent thinking was that he believed himself to be so different that he must be “bad” and because his brain was always going, he could never attend to his work the way other children did. He just plain didn’t care because logically, he had much better things to do but that led to him always being in trouble.
Gosh, it hurts to write those words! My 5 year old son was always in trouble.
How is it that the school system (private and public) has given root to the idea that a 5 year old child should be in trouble for not sitting still, working quietly, and finishing his work?! When I was a child, kindergarten was a half-day and during that small chunk of time, we had a lengthy snack AND a nap. That school would be laughable today. Kids don’t nap anymore and school is a full day. In many places they are expected to read before entering first grade. It feels wrong yet we as parents have accepted it.
Oh how I wish I had removed him from school and listened to my gut instinct but instead, I felt societal pressure coupled with sheer selfishness on my part and forced my son to endure two more years. Allow me to share some of my shame-inducing internal dialogue during that time:
Me: You really should pull the kids from school. You always said you would homeschool.
Selfish Me: I know, but I can’t.
Me: You don’t even believe in organized schooling!
Selfish Me: I know I don’t but I just can’t handle them all. I’ll kill myself and possibly them within two weeks.
Me: I can’t believe you’re that selfish.
Selfish Me: I’m a horrible mother, I know. But they fight constantly, and will want to play games and do boring kid things with me. They’ll drive me crazy! If only there were a “democratic school” around here like Sudbury that would be like homeschooling but I could still send them to “school”! There isn’t though and I like drinking my tea and getting my work done in peace and quiet.
Me: You suck.
Selfish Me: Yes, I admit it… I suck. But he kids will be fine. Kids everywhere go to school and are fine. I do suck but at least I’ll keep my sanity.
Sadly, selfish me won the battle and my kids stayed in school. My son was miserable and I became increasingly frustrated that he would not just do the homework or stay out of trouble.
– Yes, I did say homework. When the heck did homework in kindergarten become acceptable? –
Life at home was a daily battle that has continued until today and I am positive I’m not the only parent suffering. We have become harpies who must sit over the shoulder of our children to get them to finish endless pages of mind-numbing work as they protest that it’s “boring” and “stupid”. They beg to be released to play but it’s our job as parents to make sure the work is done. “JUST DO YOUR WORK!!” I’d end up screaming. Or worse, we end up using coercion and bribery just to keep the peace.
Today’s children are manipulated constantly and we use prize and punishment to forcibly push them into a box where no kid is meant to live. In many ways we have stolen their childhood to keep up with some imaginary schedule that must be met to make us feel good (superior) about them and ourselves. We subscribe to the idea that there is a specific catalogue of information that must be learned to have a successful life and we use force to ensure it is acquired yet most of the information is patently unnecessary… Quick – what is the capital of Rhode Island?! Faster – what is the chemical symbol for Gadolinium? Finally – solve this because surely you’ll run into fractions like this every day and remember, NO CALCULATORS!:
46 • 35 • 54
43 • 65 • 23
Has society’s over-emphasis on accelerated schooling and endless testing allowed us to sacrifice the relationships we have with our kids at the alter of good grades and early reading? Has family-time, play-time, and exploration gone by the wayside as we focus on schedules, studying, and test scores? Have we created an army of robots that will “do as they’re told” throughout their whole life and was that always the goal of industrialized schooling? And, if we are constantly evaluated by how well we did/do in school, where does that leave those “why do we need a box?” minds who rather than embracing their creativity are left imagining that they are “less than” because they don’t fit the mold of the compliant and the grade seekers?
Let me know your thoughts. Do you think the current school system damages families? Is society better for or worse off because of industrialized schooling?