Damn Compulsory Education

We are struggling at the moment.

Really struggling. To send our two children to school. It is compulsory education. For them, for us.

This does not feel good. 

For two mornings in a row we have spent 1 1/2 hours cajoling and forcing them into uniforms. Cajoling and forcing them to walk the 100 metres to school. Cajoling and forcing them into their classrooms. And then, after another hour of endlessly prising the younger one’s hands from my neck/ skirt/ arms/ hands, walking away from my child who was screaming for me- albeit left one to one with the very lovely classroom assistant.

I know she is safe. But she does not.

I know that she will be OK, but she does not.

She looks like a rabbit in the headlights. A trapped tiger. Her need to escape, to be with me, to feel safe is primal. She wet herself.

The teacher wanted me to up and leave her straight away. She tried to bribe away her tears with stickers. I could sense her desperation as more and more toys and books were pushed her way and questions asked. “Don’t feel your feelings” was the lesson she was teaching her. Shut down. Shut up.

She snapped at me for waiting outside the door and “starting her off again.” And so I sat with her as the list of rules and controls was explained to the other children. Don’t speak, don’t swing, don’t wriggle. Don’t use the toilet unless you ask…

This is compulsory education.

26 little bodies dressed the same, sat in rows, bribed with stickers to sit still and shut up and colour inane shite.

“School is boring” – my 7 year old informs me. “I know, my love, I know. This is not my vision of education.” I think.

I wish we could run free in the woods, with the river as our guide, the seasons as your teachers. I wish we could paint all day, and get up when we want. I wish I didn’t have to force and cajole your precious bodies and spirits to satisfy the powers that be.

But I have learnt too, since becoming a mama – I am not the patient, all loving, full of energy mama I thought I would be – I get tired, and over whelmed. I long for peace, to do my work. I am a good one-to-one mama. But there is not one. there are three. Three different characters, different needs – each I want to serve and honour – but the cacophony of competing desires overwhelms me. I begin to sink.

I need to honour you. And I need to honour myself.

We have agonised over school for many years – see here and here.

We have agonised over school for her all year – she is young for her year – but academically and developmentally well above the older kids. She is too young for this year, too old for next. She was getting bored at playschool. Her free pre school childcare year had been used.

She is her – she is highly sensitive, with suspected Sensory Processing Disorder – which is not a “thing” here in Ireland, just in the US.

If we “give in”, then what do we do? Do we allow them both to home school. Do we try to find the money for playschool – which we do not have. Do we teach her that when she tantrums she gets her way?

If we don’t then we are complicit in forcing and traumatising our daughter. We are not honouring her fears and needs. But will home schooling really be that different – then all the responsibility for their learning will be on my shoulders.

We are trying a gentler approach, of quarter days, to ease her in.

But oh, how I wish there were an easy answer. For her, for him, for us all. One where we all won. One where our days were full of learning, joy and excitement at the world – not fighting and forcing.

Damn you compulsory education!

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