When we lead our shiny, trepidatiously excited little children to kindergarten in Big School for the first time, I think our real fear is what school will do to our children, what it will turn them into...what they'll learn outside of the lesson plans.
I think we fear this because every one of us knows exactly what else we learned in school...the things our parents probably never knew about directly (although I expected they figured it out to some degree, having been there, done that too).
I think we fear this because every one of us on some level spends the rest of our lives undoing at least one thing we came out of school with that we don't really like.
I've never heard anyone say this out loud, but I think we all realize that school will be, to some degree, both the making of and ruination of our children. And we know our job has transitioned from CITB (Chief Influencer of Thought and Belief) to PUP (Picker Up of the Pieces).
I'm not being melodramatic, friends. I'm simply voicing aloud the deep down concerns I have. I suspect I am in good company here, too.
We have carefully knitted our children up to this point in time: selected the yarn (color and texture) and pattern with much thought and love. But with the start of school, the needles are increasingly out of our hands---more and more in our children's, and shared with others---and it's up to our children what they knit.
Our role now is---with gentle guidance and support---to provide the wisdom we have learned as we knit our own lives.
But that's so hard, isn't it.
This has been coming, slowly but surely, for a while. In the last year of pre-school in particular I noticed Patience coming home with more and more...well, for lack of a better word, crap.
It started with the "poopyhead" insult she picked up two years ago from a classmate who got it from an older sibling who got it from Big School.
Now it begins, I thought at the time, and steeled myself to deal with the rest of the usual that comes down that pipe.
Then she came home with some crazy ideas about how things in the world work, things she believed even though it went against facts and information she had already learned from books and science programs, simply because this Admired and Trusted Friend said it was so.
She's so literal and trusting, I thought, she'd only tell the truth and she expects the same from others. She fought me on the facts because for her it was easier to believe that "trees held monsters that came out every night to lure children into the trees to eat or take their place" than to accept that her friend led her astray, however deliberately or accidentally it might have been. I tried to explain storytelling versus lying, and making up versus knowledge, but it fell on deaf ears.
I've watched Patience try different language, patterns of speech, attitudes, new interests and styles, new priorities, and I've held her as she cried when girlfriends changed allegiances. I know, too, that this is the tip of the iceberg.
I could talk and talk about what schools teach and how challenging it is transitioning into the modern public school---from private, where I sat on a board and helped guide the educational direction of the school; and from the past, when I was in school and recall vividly things I liked and did not like, as well as experiences I'm still processing---and mention things such as
* the aggravation of schools' need to "sort" children and "label" children, which has already begun;
* the frustrating but necessary red tape procedures that feel so impersonal and frequently make me want to moo;
* my confusion about such limitations on art (only once a week? how is this?), music (only once a week? how is this?), physical education (only once a week? how is this?);
* group standardized tests (which I find asinine but lack any constructive criticism or better solution, other than something that veers alarmingly near judgmental talk against parents and teachers and priorities)
* questions about creativity and critical thinking, and flexibility within a structure
* worries about my quiet daughter slipping through the cracks (as I did too often) or being singled out because of her questioning and different way of thinking
* concerns about other children's needs taking too much top priority (and whoo boy the guilt I feel about this one...I know, I know)
I could also talk and talk about my own school experiences and everything I learned, outside of the lessons being taught such as
* the subtle (or not so subtle) preferences each teacher had for certain types of or sexes of children
* Eric showing me what marijuana looked like from the stash he had in his locker, the Ecstasy posters seniors put up in support of drug legalization, and the big protest when they went to change the drinking age from 18 to 21
* the disdain I developed for adults due to overwhelming number of dreadful teachers I had (and the permanent disdain I developed for public school)
* doubt of my own talents and abilities due to the aforementioned teachers (despite parental support)
* confidence in my ability to get through tough times, anyway, in spite of, and come out as such, because of
* how to fake it until I could make it when I landed in a school that was a level or two beyond my last one, and how I transitioned this into working too
* how to become the person that is more easily accepted than your own true self, including the theory that let's face it: very, very few of us are the sorts who can make who and how we are Cool---do your own thing and enjoy life but also, let's be real here people, that isn't necessarily going to gain you widespread acceptance and popularity
* friendship challenges I face to this day, largely due to bad habits I formed in school but also probably due to moving schools so frequently
If I had to narrow it down to one topic now, I'd probably go for the jugular of people abusing the educational system as a pulpit for their own agendas and beliefs. Although this sounds potentially extremely hypocritical, trust me, it is not---you don't see me passing state laws that require school children to recite a belief in God every day.
Oh the things I could explore, share and talk about without end, from memories to injustices, from good lessons and bad. I know I'd sound insightful and horrid, all at once. I know you'd agree with me and also want to set my expectations straight, too. It could be long and messy.
Luckily, though, other fantastic bloggers have tackled this topic too so we can see what others have to say and I don't have to worry about trying to capture all the areas, angles and nuances of school, by myself.
Kim wrote Kindergarten Declassified: School Survival Guide for Parents (MUST READ!)
Emily wrote Don’t know much about history
Stephanie wrote rambling thoughts on education
Snoskred wrote The Worst Year At School
Catherine wrote Just teasing?
Christine wrote School House Rock
Karen wrote September
Ali wrote Public versus Private
Julie wrote Too cool for school
Sephyroth wrote Back to School Shopping...out of control!
Lawyer Mama wrote Private School Angst
Magpie Musing wrote Daycare
Mary-LUE wrote To Sir, with Love: A Hump Day Hmm-er
Bon wrote Well Schooled
Kyla wrote Transference
Gwen wrote Feed Your Head
Aliki wrote Unschooled
Mamma of Pearls wrote All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten:
Send me your post today (or anytime this week) and I'll add in your link. To do this, simply mention the Hump Day Hmm in your post, link here to http://theartfulflower.blogspot.com and email the link to your post to me at j pippert at g mail dot com.
Thanks to all who join us as readers, writers or commenters.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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