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Cave liberum...the Hump Day Hmm for 8-29-2007

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 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
Also blogging at:
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thailandchani said…
You are essentially correct and I'm not sure I have any more to add. The public schools are set up with a defined purpose, primarily to socialize children for the competitive workforce.

That includes the values that go along with that objective.


Lawyer Mama said…
My post will be up in 5 minutes. I just need to proofread & I'll mail you the link!
Kyla said…
I'm going to attempt to get one to you this week.

God, it's scary, isn't it? We are in private, but still, handing over those reigns. It is difficult. Great post.
Ally said…
Your fears about kindergarten, handing the knitting needles over to other people? They are my fears as well, only I've never stated them as well as you just did.

I'm looking forward to reading these other posts as well. It's so nice to know that many of us are going through this together.
Christine said…
i SO SO SO SO hear you on the art, music, pe thing. aren't we supposed to foster a love of art and music? Aren't we supposed to emphasis fitness. And those stupid standardized tests!
Tere said…
Julie, I loved this post and am in total agreement with you. I am years from dealing with this (and even so, as he becomes more verbal and can understand more, I'll be dealing with this in daycare), but I worry about it, too.

School as the making of and ruination is a perfect way to put it.
Lawyer Mama said…
Finally got a chance to actually READ your post!

Your fears are my fears as well. This one:
"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"

Yep, yep. (Nodding along.) Thinking differently & questioning are things that I treasure about myself & want to pass on to my kids. But I know from experience that this is NOT something revered by all.
Bon said…
Julie, this was amazing...i've had my head down most of the week and had missed your k-orientation post (heartbreaking, dude) and the hmmm but will actually try to join, for once. late, but still.

will be back later with link.
Anonymous said…
Love the knitting analogy. And the topic this week. But the thought of your daughter getting only one PE class a week makes me want to curl up in a little ball on the floor.
ewe are here said…
FAbulous post. Really.

It's a few years away, but I am absolutely dreading sending my boys off to school... because I worry about what they'll learn there, and how much their peers will influence them, and how low the bar has been set in so many schools these days. And once a week PE/music/art classes? That is so unacceptable. horrifying, really.
Magpie said…
We're not in the school system until next year...but lots of this horrifies me.

I did, however, do my own take on your Hump Day Challenge:
Anonymous said…
Yes, they now spend more time at school than they do with you. I think it's really important that a school reflects your values(I don't mean religion or "family values" either).

At the middle school I've declared war on the PTA board because of their bad attitude, lack of faith, and lack of financial support for Reflections, the National PTA's arts program. I may hurt somebody in the end.
S said…
I identified with a lot of this, but probably most with the once-per-week gym, music, and art.

How could it be?
Aliki2006 said…
Excellent post. I'd love to write one of my own (time permitting) since school is a subject CLOSE to my heart.
mpearl said…
My child began kindergarten earlier this month and I have posted plenty about this on my blog so I won't bore you too much. This is my second child in the school system(public). It is super scary and each system is different. My child does get PE twice a week and 3x's every other week. I am chairperson of our reflections program(art& music pta sponsored activity) We go to a rather small school and I try to be up their as often as possible.(work 3days a week and have a 3yr old at home.) My son is in 6th grade at the same school. I was a complete nut when he started school. First he was hyper, then he was going to fail, and 3yrs ago a diagnosis of ADD. Today he is in the gifted program and doing extremely well. I credit his wonderful parents, dedicated teachers, and caring doctors. Sometimes it does take a village. I read "kindergarten declassified" and I have to agree.
You are an obviously wonderful mother and extremely intelligent woman and you and your family will find what is right for you. Hang in there!
Gwen said…
Chani's comment was spot on: school is a microcosm of later life, life in a consumer, capitalist society.

Like others, I loved your knitting analogy, but I think I disagree with the notion that we are handing over the reins to the school. I'm still in charge. Period. My brother in law, who is also a public school educator, and I agree that parents are the biggest part of the education equation, but the one part that the State can't really address.

I know that school will damage my children, but I know that I will, too, and that in the end, my children are still responsible for what they choose to make of the cracks and injuries of their lives, and that those scars cannot be prevented, that they are necessary, even.

That, honestly, is the scariest part for me.
Julie Pippert said…
Chani, I def. think you have a valid point.

I believe this is one source of one of my dilemmas. i don't find that I fit too well within those strictures, so while I recognize this is the society we live in, and I want my children to succeed better and more easily than I have within it, I also know you don't have to conform and I rebel against forcing my children to conform.


To those of you who share my fears and who expressed your own...thanks for being a part of the support system in this. it helps to know others understand, doesn't it.


Thanks to those who complimented!


Thanks to those who are further down the path and who shared stories of success, and methods of succeeding, as well as reassurance and validation!


Gwen, to be clear, I said the knitting needles are more and more in my kids' hands. My letting go is about accepting others into the equation, not handing it off to others. I don't want it to seem like I'm resigned and shrugging off in a corner like oh well. I've been at the school all week, including lunch one day. I've signed up to volunteer. I'll be there during the day, and as Top Advocate day and night.


As always the comments are top drawer. Thanks all!
Gwen said…
Oh Julie, I didn't mean to imply that I think you're ceding control or responsibility. I made a poor transition from complimenting you on knitting (you knit? awesome!) to another train of thought entirely. Sorry 'bout that.
River said…
I had no trouble sending my kids off to school. They were ready to go and I was ready to let them go. I think it's harder for children whose parents still see their children as babies instead of seeing such big grown up 5 year-olds.They pick up on every little worry you express and become fearful thus intensifying your fears and so it goes on.

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