A mother on Twitter just referred me to a blog post she wrote entitled, Seven Reasons I’m Sending My Child to School and Three Big Reasons I Wish I Wasn’t. She said I helped inspire her to write the post and I’ve actually been inspired to write a post in response. She has considered homeschooling and unschooling, she knows many people who are taking that path, but right now she’s chosen to send her daughter to kindergarten. Here’s my responses to her 7 reasons she’s sending her child to school and my 1 reason not to send your child to school and embrace the freedom of homeschooling/unschooling/worldschooling:
1. Reputation. We live in the catchment area for the best elementary school in the school district….Parents I meet who are teachers tell me it’s the best….
People, especially teachers, usually have no idea how joyful, free, and full of learning, life can be without school. They’re comparing this school to other schools. Even when it comes to academic tests the average homeschooler out performs their peers by an unbelievable margin (here’s one study from 2007 and another from that just came out this August, 2009). That’s not even getting into the things that can’t be measured and are really important. And the “best” schools often put the most pressure on students to perform well on tests: not to actually learn.
2. Location. The school is not only in our catchment area, it’s a ten minute walk from our house…. The school is also surrounded by farmland and forest, not shops and highways – a lovely rural school setting. I went to two different elementary schools, which both backed on to forest and trails. I have the fondest memories of running through the woods and along a stream bank, making forts under the big trees and exploring inside rotting stumps. These days such school properties would be fenced to keep predators out. And this school is fenced too. But my daughter will have a lot of fun walking there at least….
I also love to explore the woods and think it’s wonderful thing for children. But I’m sorry: you don’t seem to really believe some of your reasons! You acknowledge that your child will be fenced in at this school. Won’t your child have much more of an opportunity to wander and explore the woods, and everywhere else, if she’s not stuck in a school stuck inside a fence?
3. Everyone thinks she should go. For a variety of reasons, our daughter has been assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After two and a half years of observation and tests, the results came back negative. We continued on with more testing afterwards and everyone finally came to the conclusion that she is a “high-spirited” child with a language processing disorder and a smattering of other significant, but not diagnosable, issues.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say: “There is nothing wrong with your child.” Children under five years old are all over the place, they’re full of life: it’s healthy! I’m so glad everyone did come to the conclusion that she is just “high-spirited” and doesn’t have anything diagnosable. But, again without knowing her, I’d say the only thing “significant” about her “issues” is she’s a kid. Mainly, I’d pay attention to what seems like an issue and ask yourself if it really is a problem at all. Pay attention to the present not what track “experts” say she should be on.
One of her challenges has always been large groups. However, when we anxiously sent her to pre-school last year we discovered that she does very well in group settings, as long as her parents aren’t there. If we are, she becomes whiney, clingy and won’t play with the other kids. If we aren’t there she follows the group norm and participates…. We agree that she responds well to structure and feels comfortable with caring adults who interact with her. She gets challenged by being in this kind of milieu, but unlike at home, she accepts learning how to face the challenges, and with support, often comes through them with newly instilled pride….
This sounds wonderful and understandable. We depend on our parents and when they are gone we are forced to rely on our own resources. It’s great you’ve realized the wonderful way your daughter benefits from being in groups without her parents. I’d just assure you: your child can have that experience with homeschooling. Some homeschoolers hang out at home during the day and do their socializing with schools kids after school at different structured activities: sports, dance, theatre, yoga, etc. where you wouldn’t have to be present. And especially since you know so many homeschoolers you can also trade off with them for who takes care of the kids and runs activities and outings on different days. That of course leads into your next “selfish reasons”:
Now For The Selfish Reasons…
4. I need a break. I’m frustrated that her behaviours appear to be somewhat out of my control. She doesn’t respond to the gentle discipline techniques of my attachment parenting style. She also has a trait aptly named “negative first reaction” which means she always says “no” before she says yes, and all the patience I’ve practiced with her “disagreeableness” is finally wearing thin. We will only be apart two and a half hours a day five days a week, but I know it will be enough time for me to re-charge and be able to be a more loving and patient mom.
5. I will get to spend some 1:1 time with our other daughter. I think it will be nice for my youngest to get mommy to herself for a little while everyday. I have a very strong bond with my oldest daughter. I changed my life around so I could be a stay-at-home mom for her. I think it’s time for my youngest to benefit from my full attention.
First of all I don’t think this is selfish. But it sounds like you also need a break from your frustration with your daughter! Maybe she doesn’t need to be disciplined at all, even in a gentle way. Maybe her behavior doesn’t need to be controlled. Letting go of these expectations might be like an amazing vacation for you! Still, I acknowledge I don’t know what it’s like to actually be a parent. Of course you want time alone. And free childcare from school every weekday could be very attractive. But I think you can get time alone with homeschooling and unschooling with a little creativity.
6. It takes a village to raise a child. As my daughter grows up I hope that her life will be touched by many caring grown ups who will help her to develop all the many facets of her burgeoning personality. I don’t believe in raising my child in a vaccuum, and even though homeschoolers often participate in homeschooling groups and many extra-curricular activities, with me there by her side, she would be. I accept and welcome all “teachers” in her life.
I really think your child will get to so much MORE experience of the community and the world as a whole with homeschooling than with going to school: that’s part of the reason I like to call it “worldschooling”. And again, I think you can send her to homeschooling group activities without sticking around in the immediate area. And I think unschooling parents would tend to be a lot more caring than teachers with dozens of new kids every year. And some “teachers” don’t care at all or are just plain mean and I would not welcome them into your child’s life.
7. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom forever. As much as I value homeschooling I also want to get on with my life outside the sphere of motherhood….
Again, I don’t know what this is like but I can really appreciate what you’re saying. Still, I think with unschooling your child will be far more independent at an earlier age than if she goes to school. You may have much more of an opportunity to pursue your own interests. And that in turn will help inspire her to pursue her interests: children learn by example.
Now here is my ONE real reason to not send your child to school: I don’t want to sound strange but you talk about the importance of breastfeeding all over your blog. I imagine you’ve felt this bond between you and your child. You’ve connected to a light, a life force inside of her. You’ve seen that complete beauty in your child.
I really think, school is going to damage both that beauty and the bond you have with her. Some would say school as we know it was specifically designed to do that: make people into good tools and break up the power of families and communities.
I’d say school is a machine that isn’t necessarily out to crush, damage, or control our souls: that just tends to be a by product of its function. School tends to make us view the persistent and uncontrollable ways our souls want to shine and express themselves as an inconvenience.
Many, or probably all, of us who went to school try, to some extent, to cut ourselves off from our soul as a way of survival. It’s a hard road trying to regain your whole soul after that. My selfish reason for wanting your child to homeschool/unschool/worldschool and not go to school is I think it’ll help make this a better world to live in! We need more people who are in touch with their whole soul and aware of the world; more people who follow their bliss and their passions down new paths that lead us to solutions to big problems and whole lotta joy!
Freedom/unschooling/worldschooling/life is DELICIOUS. And it’s true what you say: your child will still get a taste even if she goes to school. I just want her to have the WHOLE thing.
I’m glad to hear you’re ready to pull your child out if things don’t work out and you are just doing what you think is best for her at this time. And I know of at least one unschooler who went to just kindergarten and then unschooled very successfully the rest of K-12.
Still, from my experience in Waldorf/Steiner schools, “good” suburban public schools, AND unschooling: I think you understand I still encourage you to reconsider unschooling!