The Covid pandemic has highlight many of our society’s ills. From the precarious nature of our food supply chain (If you want to explore food security more, check out my @HomeCrazzyHome blog). To the importance of key workers. Inequities in health services. The vulnerability of the elderly, poor, disabled, and PoC. Problems that we have all known existed for decades were exacerbated by an invisible virus. The occasional drip-drip of the leaky faucet has become a stream of pressing issues that need to be dealt with before our pipes burst. But it is one drip that I want to address today…
Many parents have faced the high cost of schooling on their children. Without the constant pressures to ‘succeed’ at standardized tests. Those overcrowded classrooms we now realize detrimental to their physical as well as emotional health. Without being told what to think instead of encouraged to practice the critical thinking skills that many companies complain is severely lacking in the workforce, our young people are exploring their interests. And of course, the elephant in the room… bullying.
Many parents are coming to realize that their little humans are happier and learning more at home than they did in school. This combined with very real safety concerns has seen an increase in home education in the US and UK.
But many are making the same fatal mistakes that schools do.
- Limiting learning to 9 til 3.
- Telling their children what to think rather than helping them to think for themselves.
- Thinking that learning only happens with boring workbooks.
- Testing their ‘knowledge.’
- Thinking there is only one path to ‘success.’
The truth is that most parents need to re-learn for ourselves how we learn. Sadly, most of us are the product of that same education system. And it did an amazing job of indoctrinating us into the world of oppression and repression. Quite frankly to ‘fail’ at living. Yes, even those of us who may appear outwardly ‘successful’ are all too often too tired, too busy, or too hung-up to honestly enjoy life. We are not living. We are surviving. We are most often working long hours to buy things we don’t need and make someone else rich.
But that was because we learned our most important lessons in school:
- Show up on time.
- Work hard, even when that work is stupid and meaningless.
- Appearances are more important than substance.
- Don’t talk too much.
- And for goodness sake, NEVER question authority.
So, of course, it is incredibly hard to break with the ‘schooling’ tradition. It triggers this intense fear and insecurity in us. Are we doing the right thing? What kind of future will my child have? What if I fail?
The hardest thing for any of us to do is…
Look in the mirror.
To question all those things that we were taught about ‘success’ in school. And our parents. Our grandparents. Great-grandparents. Great-great-grandparents. And maybe a couple other generations further back, depending on your country of origin, class, and sadly, race and sex.
But that is exactly what we must do. We must examine our own lives, as tough as that may be. We need to ask ourselves…
- Am I a ‘success?’
- What does that even mean?
- By whose standard?
- At what cost to my mental and physical health?
- Am I happy?
Then most importantly, we need to pause and ask ourselves…
Is this really what the future I want for my little human?
Or do I want something different? How do I change? How can I give them the important stuff I never had?
Those are incredibly hard questions. And ones that you cannot answer quickly or easily. Unpacking all the junk that came with schools for many of us is traumatic. Yet, society, family, and friends pressure us to do repeat the same pattern (mistakes) with the next generation.
It takes incredible courage to face those hard questions. And even more to take action. And more still to withstand the constant barrage of disapproval from those well-meaning and misguided, still enslaved, friends and family. It takes a warrior to fight the system for your little human’s right to an education that works for them.
For the next week, I challenge you to consider what the United Nations says about:
Goals of EducationUnited Nations, Convention on the Rights of the Child
Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
Was that the kind of education you received? Did school develop your personality, talents and abilities to the fullest? Are you a better and happier, more fulfilled person thanks to schools?
Was that the type of education your child was receiving? I’m betting not. Because if it was, you would not feel compelled to make this life altering decision.
Now, I want you to think about the things you learned in school? Really learned. Take some time. Sit quietly and just remember. The good as well as the bad. I’m sure there has to be some in there somewhere. Though, frankly, I have trouble remembering mine.
Mr. Berman, the Vietnam vet history teacher, in junior high who taught world religions. It was so incredibly easy to get him off topic, so he forgot the syllabus and those pop quizzes. But I learned so much more about the world, it peoples, and life from his rants than I did the text book.
Mr. Mills, the black civics teacher, who first taught me about global warming. His presence filled our classroom and ignited a thirst for knowledge and a passion for learning.
Mr. Kemp, the probably gay English teacher, who made Romeo and Juliet come alive.
And I can’t even remember her name Creative Writing teacher in high school, who saw my talent and encouraged me to submit my poetry for publishing.
Four teachers out of over fifty? Less than 10%. Fewer than that real friends. Too many and too traumatic bullying. Always feeling out of step, different, and alone. Frankly, scared for life from twelve years.
Maybe you are that rare breed for whom school was the best time of your life. No offense, but isn’t that a bit sad and disappointing?
Some people fall somewhere in between the two extremes. A mix of good and bad, as if school was something you had to get through. The waiting room for life. It was supposed to prepare us for that. But did it?
Now think about the things you learned outside of those classrooms. Before they made you go, after school, or in summers. Running and playing with friends. Or if you were like me, sitting quietly alone with dolls, a book, or just a field of clovers, looking for your lucky four-leafed one.
Please don’t rush this process. Give it some time. Allow your little human and yourself a break from all that other stuff. Just do something fun. Or nothing at all. Plant a vegetable garden. Go for a walk on the beach or in the woods. Make dinner together. Watch a movie as a family. And all the while allow yourself to process those memories and the feelings they bring up.
This is the foundation. Until you have work through this process, you may not be ready to handle all the rest. It’s okay if this takes weeks or months or even years.
This may be especially difficult if you or your little human are #neurodivergent. Being ‘different’ in our school system is…
There is simply no words to describe that feeling.
And for many of us, especially women, we may not have even realized that we were neurodivergent. Autism and ADHD were ‘boy’ things. And even those were rarely recognized or diagnosed unless you were non-verbal. Instead we were ‘naughty’ or a loner. The quiet ones especially lived in a world of pain all our own.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, or if you are the parent of a neurodivergent little human, I encourage you to explore your neurodivergence. I was in my fifties and it was only through learning more about @PanKwake’s autism that I came to accept my own. I am not suggesting that you rush off and demand a diagnosis. Those are incredibly hard to access for many adults. But there are free resources online, including self-diagnosis tools based on the ones that those ‘experts’ use. It is something to consider.
It is not until we take stock of where we are and where we come from that we can look to building a brighter future for our little humans, our families, our communities, this world, and ourselves. That process begins with honest reflection. I encourage you to journal, talk with friends or partners, and share this process with your little human. I bet you’ll be surprised at how astute their observations on the subject will be.