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.