Saturday, November 28, 2009

the process of de-schooling

When both of your parents are teachers, and both of your partner's parents are teachers, de-schooling is complex! One progresses through adolescence rebelling against one's parents, and grows into a person who begins to understand why their parents did the ODD things they did, or one who has a decent understanding of the intentions behind the behaviour of the parents anyway. Of course I am only referring to healthy parents here, not abusive or neglectful parents.

And that is what I did! I grew to respect my parent's belief that education was the best pathway to a chosen future. I always believed that public education was the best way for children to achieve their goals, and the best start for dream weaving. 

So when I put my daughter into a local public school I was surprised at the way I was treated by her teachers, as s single mother. The teachers I had encountered in my past life were all lovely, and they would never have judged me. No, not me - but they did judge others!  I remember a child at my primary school (where my mother was a teacher, and my father had himself attended school) who once handed in a late note that explained his partial absence with the simple notation "had to find pet snake". It was a well known fact that this child's mother was a stripper, so the snake was obviously a part of her act, and the child was late to school because of his involvement in her dodgy life style. Admittedly this excuse for lateness is funny, no matter what the context but ... Regardless of the link between the snake and her career, the teachers assumed, and discussed it all with each other! And I heard about it through my mother's conversation with my father. 

Upon my daughter's arrival at school we were experiencing on going problems with her father's presence in her life, it was sporadic at best and what small contact there was was coupled with maternal alienation. Whenever I tried to discuss this with her teachers I was met with stoney silence. I understand the teacher's duty is to stay out of the private lives of the parents and concentrate on the well being of the pupils, but surely taking into account serious events (such as my daughter being poisoned against me on an ongoing basis) would have HELPED them to meet her needs. 

The rest of her story in prison .... I mean SCHOOL! is documented in the earlier posts from this blog. Suffice it to say that things did not improve. When my daughter's father and I finally went to court to work out a permanent agreement, when her baby brother died, when her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer - and consequently died, the teachers refused to involve themselves in the welfare of my child. When there was so much going on at home that I literally sent her to school for a break from it all .... she did not get one. The way I view teachers is similar to the way I view check out staff at the supermarket. Some are helpful, some are useless. Some are good at what they do, some are not. To expect otherwise - with the number of students the education system is responsible for - is foolish.

De-schooling was a slow process for me. I first started to hear of homeschooling as a genuine option for my children from my sister - she planned to homeschool her two children. At first it was an odd idea that worked on an extreme rejection of everything we had both grown up with. 

The more crap I witnessed going on at the school where my daughter spent her time, the more I started warming to the idea of home learning. The more time I thought about home learning, the more time I spent wondering about the things that schools teach. The longer this went on, the more I de-schooled. All that remained was to convince Stylish of the validity of leaving conventional education. Sleeping in was a bit of a clincher. No stressing over maths was a big one. learning whatever she was interested WHEN she wanted to learn about it was pretty significant. And she eventually consented to being withdrawn.

It's been over a year now since I pulled her out of prison. In that time de-schooling has been an ongoing process for us all. Interestingly, I went through a huge leap towards de-schooling recently, only to encounter my daughter struggling with it herself. I thought she had finished the process, however after 5 years and 9 months in the institution it's hardly any wonder that she continues to question our current path.

I expect to keep going through this process for some time. It's no longer an emotional battle but there are still days that schooling comes to mind as an advantage, or as the correct way to go about raising children. For the most part I know, and genuinely FEEL in my bones that I have made the right choice, and I know my partner is getting to grips with it now too. The preschooler - who will forever remain a preschooler - tells strangers on the bus "I homesool" so he's clearly not struggling with the idea, and the child who spent years hating so much of her forced existence is slowly, ever so slowly, warming to the idea that she IS learning. I guess for her, learning was always about boredom, subjugation, a lack of freedom of choice - and bodily integrity (eat when you're told to, pee when you're allowed to) so it's normal and expected for her to encounter some doubts as she discovers her love of learning anew, and centres herself as a person, not a student with a teacher who holds the power of her whims against her.

Life is all about learning. Centurions are often quoted as saying that they have spent their whole lives learning, so why do we think that children will only learn if they are imprisoned? We do not teach children to walk, or talk, with Any method past simple demonstration, and yet they must be goaded into learning inside the institution which calls itself "school", and teaching methods are argued over by "experts" from here to Timbuktu

I, for one, am going to make an effort to relax, while I support my daughter to de-school herself. I am also going to work extremely hard on fully de-schooling the entire family before my son reaches the official age of institutionalisation, so that he never has to endure the life time of crap the rest of us have, and so we never have to go through the painful and complicated journey of de-schooling with him!

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