It’s that time of year again. The hiatus to school is in full swing. Pictures plastered on Facebook of grinning children in adorable outfits and well-kempt hair, wearing backpacks stuffed with important supplies and materials. I “like” most of them, love some of them, but secretly feel uncomfortable for all of them. Not because I believe that all children who go to school are miserable, anxious creatures. No. I indeed realize that some school settings are well suited for certain personality types and some even see school as a safe haven, an escape, from a tumultuous home life….a place where two warm meals are served, where there is structure and expectations with people looking out for them.
What makes me most uncomfortable is this…How many of those grinning faces had a choice? How many had a say so in this systematic separation of parent and child? How many desire a different flow to their day? One that doesn’t require a rigid schedule, a laundry list of imposed expectations, or spending their day with complete strangers. What about the shy child, who appreciates downtime and the quiet who is forced to be in a busy, noisy environment most of the day. Her heart feels conflicted and her nerves on edge worrying about when she will be called on to speak in front of the class. What about the gregarious, social type? The one who likes to chat and visit or talk out loud while he’s doing his work, who gets in trouble constantly for ‘socializing’ and punished so often he becomes withdrawn. What about the kids who are not capable of sitting still, who are full of energy and need space to roam and move, but who are told their energy is inappropriate and are disciplined for their innate needs to move about and explore?
As 50 million US children begin another school year in the confines of the system, we are embarking on another year of staying out. This was not a decision made overnight and it is not one that I made alone. My husband and I gave our children a choice. We discussed their options and offered to support their decision. Some may argue that five year olds are not capable of making big decisions for themselves and we are silly to give them such freedom. To the naysayers, I say this. Children ARE capable. They know what makes them feel uncomfortable and they know when they are ready to take the next step. They teach themselves to talk and walk, use the bathroom and ask for help. They learn to feed themselves, clothe themselves, organize their toys and their thoughts. They absorb their environment at an alarming rate and they recognize their limits and their abilities. If a five year old is afraid to leave the home, their siblings, their parents to join a school full of strangers they aren’t weird, they are normal.
My oldest is almost 12 and my youngest is 7.5. We have participated in this lifestyle from the beginning, but each year I ask them if they are happy with our current set up or if they’d like to give a school setting a try. Both of them have consistently answered with a resounding, “No Thanks.” Am I doing everything perfectly? No. Do I fumble? Yes. But we work together. It is a team effort. Our days are filled with life lessons. Some weeks are more adventurous then others, some days are busy, some are slow, but the pace is self set. Chosen. Individualized.
And most importantly, there is peace.