Thursday, September 4, 2008

The beginnings of unlearning

Yesterday I finally pulled my daughter out of the school system. It was after much consideration, but little planning. She is set on learning the school way at this stage, and I'm happy to facilitate that while we ween her of the institutionalised mode that has been created over the last 6 years.
There are many things I have yet to reconcile. For example not sitting at a table for 6 hours and starting the day with torturous mathematics lessons seems radical to me, and it's the way most of us learn to think of education. So I have concerns about my daughters maths, and concerns about her willingness to continue to embrace the idea of non-schooling. But I am relatively confident that my concerns will iron themselves out as we ween ourselves from the system.
My baby has always been a really keen researcher. She spends hours on the internet googling stick insects and rabbits and frogs and all manner of things that I would never imagine to be interesting! She'll do just fine.
When I floated the idea of homeschooling to her she was dead set against it. But she has had a tough year this year, with the first bad - and mean STINKING - teacher we've encountered, combined with the worst year in her short life, and there were bound to be problems.
This is the letter I am sending the principle.......
Dear Principle,

Re : ***** ******

I am writing to you to inform you that ***** will no longer be attending PPS.

As you will be aware, she has been having some problems in her home life (the death of a baby brother, her grandmother, and problems with her father and his sporadic contact), and they are causing her to rebel at school.

I have not been happy with the handling of her rebellion. I do not believe that shaming and punishing children - children who are deeply troubled -creates a healthy atmosphere in which to learn.

I have also not been happy with the comments made by a teacher, only last week, that “***** can’t hide behind her problems forever”. I found that quite alarming coming from a teacher who has no doubt encountered many troubled children in their career. Firstly, it is a well known fact that children with troubled lives often act up, and secondly, ***** is not “hiding behind her problems”, she is trying her best to live through what has so far been the worst year of her short life.

I was also perturbed by this teachers remark that “gaols are full of people who give up because life’s too hard”. Discussing gaol with 10 year old children in that context is not only bizarre, but unhelpful, and potentially damaging. This remark was made within 2 months of the death of her baby brother, when her Grandmother had been admitted to a hospice, and her father had not been coming to see her. I do not believe that frightening distressed children is encouraging them to live up to their true potential. In fact I believe it is harming their psyche and damaging them, sometimes irreparably.

I realise that within a school there will always be some bullying, and that schools really do their best to protect children for the most part. However some of the bullying ***** has been subjected to (for example prank phone calls and rude letters with sexual content in our letter box) have caused her to feel quite upset. One of the main reasons for her withdrawal is to protect her from this. When boys all but get away with treating girls badly, and girls are told that “it’s because they like you” it merely serves to further the rampant misogyny in our society, and creates the firm foundations for domestic violence later in life.

On the whole I feel that ***** was doing the very best she could do. She has represented the school numerous times this year despite her personal problems, she has been enjoying the vast majority of work in class, and achieving good results - to my knowledge, according to her half yearly school report. I would like to thank PPS for the many happy memories she will retain from her nearly three years there.

We are in the process of registering ***** for home schooling and she has been attending a local home school group and embracing the natural learning process at home. I feel that much of her love of learning and enthusiasm for self driven discovery has come from her happy times in PPS. I thank PPS for the many skills they have enriched her with, these skills will enable her to happily succeed in a home school environment.

The reason we are withdrawing her is to encourage a healthier self esteem, and stronger sense of desire to succeed in life. We (her father, stepfather, extended family, and myself) firmly believe that without this drastic intervention we run the risk of encountering serious problems in her teenage years, and we are attempting to curb them before they can take hold.

I am including a cheque for $104 which I believe is the outstanding amount we owe - my apologies for our struggles in paying for school costs, I realise this is an inconvenience, and greatly appreciate your understanding of the matter.

I am also including a postage paid satchel so that *****'s belongings can be forwarded to us. I would personally retrieve them only we are going on holiday to rekindle our family relationship before we batten down and immerse ourselves in home learning.

Kindest regards,

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