Saturday, September 8, 2012

Damn Compulsory Education - Part 2

So I keep being asked how it goes. With the whole school thing. (For Part 1 see here)

The short answer is... it goes.

The long answer is it's been a pretty shit week in my world. I have felt in conflict with my husband over the whole education thing. This was really, really hard. I felt sick, shaken, yuck - I hate that feeling of discord. I felt, if truth be told, like I was in the wrong - in his eyes, in the teacher's eyes - and all I was trying to do was the best for our daughter. As of course was he. I was ready for her to quit - for the rest of the term, the year, for ever. He was not, he felt we needed to give it time... And so we took his path. And I felt like my vote was not being counted. I felt like I was abandoning my sacred mother contract to protect my daughter from trauma.

Monday we got her to line up in the school yard. She freaked, bit me hard on the wrist. Went in with the assistant teacher, crying. Me promising to follow on once I'd collected her little sister from the other side of the yard. I didn't, because the crying subsided. I felt shit.

Monday night she wet the bed (her third time in a week.) Tuesday morning she wakes covered in big fly bites. She stays home. She plays so well with her sister all day. We really need to home school I think, this could work.

Wednesday she has an hour melt down in the morning. She goes in at break time, we settle her in the classroom whilst the other kids are out playing. Cries for five minutes. The sun is shining, it's a friend's birthday party, I take my son out early - all he misses is "power walking" - this is a valid sports choice for 6-7 year olds apparently - WTF?!

Thursday she's fine going in for her dad.  I have a heart to heart with my dad. I go and talk to the teacher, ready to warn her that we're going to pull her out. I ask the teacher how she has been, "Oh great, wonderful, the only problem was the first day until you had gone..." ("that's right, pile it on woman, the whole clingy mother making it all worse shite", I think) "I would have told you if we were having problems..." So I begin to tell her about the melt downs, the wet beds... but to her it doesn't matter, it's not on her watch so it doesn't count.

Friday she goes in at the start of school, we settle her in the classroom before the other kids come in. She's fine.

I have really enjoyed my days at work. Really enjoyed having just little Ash home with me in the mornings. Enjoyed having more energy to enjoy and focus on them all in the afternoon. Felt sad that the sun was shining and my kids were shut in a classroom. Felt cross at forcing our son to do piles of pointless homework on sunny evenings. Delighted at how enthusiastic our daughter is about her homework, doing it a day in advance, with great care. How quickly she is learning her letters. She loves her uniform, you can see that she feels more grown up. I hate making packed lunches. Grind my teeth over filling in school forms.

It's a mixed bag. Truly.

I have been torn between the two competing camps of home ed and schoolers, comforted by the few who find themselves in my position - who crawled out of the work on Facebook, by email, at the playground and the school gate to say - you are us, we know your pain, we're there too. Families who are taking the home ed route - and feeling ill at ease. Families who are taking the school route and feeling deeply conflicted. I know that I am not alone in this.

Here's the truth - there is a lot of feeling going on - mamas and kiddies and papas, yearning, resisting, mourning, regretting, hurting, being scared, feeling overwhelmed.... and school doesn't do feelings. And our class teacher doesn't do feelings. And that's what I struggle with. You go from the home environment where we judge by feelings, intuition, careful watching - to a school environment where the only thing that really matters is on the page, not in the heart, on the page, not in the brain, on the page, not in the soul. Where the currency is stickers and ticks and smiley faces.

Oh that I wish there were clear answers, here where we live. But instead we live in a muddle of compromises. And it's alright. And whilst it's alright we'll stick.

But I reserve the right to twist at any point.


  1. Lucy, I can't say how much I LOVE how you write, you have a way of putting your exact feelings into words and I know that this is what they are... your exact feelings. hugging you, lots of love x x x

  2. Thank you dear friend for seeing me, knowing me, hearing me, getting me, loving me xxx

  3. I understand so much what you are going through. Our just turned 5 year old is going to her last term at the local steiner school after having been there a year. We love it, but can't afford it due to job changes and a new baby. I feel sick at the thought of her going to the local school and have cried for pretty much the last 9 months. I have debated home school on and off and are still undecided. I can honestly say its the most difficult decision. Im praying for a money miracle. Big hugs.

  4. Thanks Lucinda. May your miracle happen.

  5. this entire saga so far makes me feel so torn and sick and heartbroken and..scared. for what is to come.. i already knew it. i already hear about it from one of my kindreds, with her gloriously, amazing, spirited daughters.. with their wild minds and imaginations, their brilliance.. and then having to sit in a classroom, colouring fucking mickey mouse colouring pages- when at home they're drawing DNA strands because they find them beautiful...
    fuck. school..... why. why. why did it ever end up in this way?
    i was hoping so much that there would be a beautiful little natural educate together.. or a lovely little waldorf school for when my daughter is ready. but oh. there is.....not.

    sigh. i have a few years. so much can change.. but still, i feel ill already.

  6. Oh erin. I started thinking and planning for my kids education 8 years ago when I was first pregnant. I read books, dreamed dreams, visited the local-ish steiner schooll when he was three weeks old, which no longer exists, tried gathering support to create an alternative school, looked into home schooling, helped set up and educate together school (but dropped out cos of the principal that was appointed)... and now we're back to square one.
    I hear you, I feel you. And your friend too.
    it makes my heart weep not just for my children, but all children that school is as it is - and yet there seems no desire form the 99% to do anything to change or question it -and so the dissenting parents are just that, annoying dissenters who are a bit cranky about everything. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  7. its such a tough one, I feel for you and your family Lucy!
    Our LO went to the local playgroup but cried every time (and i could hear her from my yoga class each time)- she would stop- either when she was cuddled or when she fell asleep (shutting down?) - on the 3rd time I heard her crying i took her out- the leader told me they were "leaving her to cry, as they weren't allowed to cuddle the children"- that decided it for me- no more play-school! what kind of people don't cuddle little children when they cry??
    She has her name down at the Steiner school to start kindergarten next Easter- although i don't hold Steiner education up there as whats exactly right. I was asked to take my son out of a Steiner school after 6 weeks (he was 3) as they couldn't cope with his special needs- so much for a school that nurtured the individual child! He ended up doing pretty well for a while in mainstream, then we Home ed'd a bit (i went a bit crazy!- I was a single mum with no support) and then he really thrived in a special school. He has just finished 4 years of college and came out with a distinction :)
    On the other hand my husbands family are all home ed'd- 6 kids!! 1 is now a doctor and 1 is a nurse/midwife in the US. Whats interesting in his family is the girls really resent that they didn't go to school- they really struggled when it came to studying, but the boys just accept how it was- although my husband wants our kids to go to school!! We probably cant afford for our LO to go all the way through Steiner- plus she is very bright (my eldest daughter left Steiner ed at 6 because she was bored), our local school is welsh speaking- so thats another hurdle, I'd be open to Home ed if there were other local families to join with.
    At the moment its just a case of seeing how it goes! good luck, keep to what you know is right for you and your children- they are all different and have different needs! xxxx

  8. Thank you for the update -- I feel your struggle still & think you're wise to remind us that if something is NOT working, we can choose to work to change it. I think you absolutely nailed the primary difference between schools and home - we do operate at home from a place of feelings & intuition & schools do not, perhaps can not. Much luck to you & your lovely family in this big transition.

  9. I do feel your pain. I am a Montessori teacher and have been for almost 20 years. I preface with that just to say that I kind of have a combined teacher/parent perspective. When my boys were young and went to the school where I taught I always felt ENORMOUS pressure for them to be perfect, and when I disagreed with some of what was being said about who they were and some of the behaviors etc, I was sort of given the message that I needed to tow the line or find other employment. I always felt that I was wrong. Now that I am older and a bit wiser(hopefully), I see that my maternal instincts were correct. I cannot tell you how much grief I have at some of those earlier choices. I so applaud you for talking to the teacher. I am just sorry that she didn't listen more fully.

    I have so many thoughts on the issue that would be too long for a comment, but I just want to encourage you. Your instinct is valid. And it is true that there is sometimes a huge disconnect between home and school...sort of an invisible us and them mentality. I have been working hard to change that perspective on the teaching side and truly listen to parents. But it pains me deeply to hear other teachers constantly complain about parent interference. Parents are after all entrusting that school with their beautiful children. I am actually seriously considering homeschooling my daughter when she gets to be school age(I am again a mom with a toddler at age 43!) but am trying to be open to all options until we get to that point. So many good thoughts your way and thank you for this lovely and honest blog.



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