As we head into our 5th year of life without school, I've been reflecting on our journey. Having had a few conversations this summer with people who weren't familiar with our family and how we go about learning, I've been reminded of how differently we approach life. After hearing about my daughter's friend who has been physically ill due to anxiety created by the thought of going to a new high school for her junior year, the sadness I feel for those kids, who are miserable but whose parents won't consider any other option, is ever present.
Today I reread the blog posts I've written about the first day of school, the effects of school on our kids and our relationships, and learning. As the school year gets underway, perhaps you will find something among them that will be helpful to you and your family. Click on the titles to read the full blog posts:
The First Day of School
"Whatever you do on the first day of school, I hope it strengthens your relationship with your child. If your child dreads school figure out why and find a way to meet their needs. If your child is begging to go to school, let go of your need to homeschool. Your child may cheerfully wave from the school bus window on the first day, but if after the first week school mornings have become something to dread it is time to look for options. Ask yourself, "What are my child's needs and how can I meet those needs?" No matter how official and in control of your child's life school may seem, remember: School is not more important than your relationship with your child. It took me years to figure that out. This will be our second first day of school that we celebrate in our own way. Last year we went to a park and made S'mores. How are you going to celebrate the first day of school with your children?"
The Other Side of the First Day of School
"You may not think that looking forward to the start of school and being a mother who yelled at her children are related. My life is an example of how directly connected they are.... I changed my parenting before our children stopped going school. Because I changed how I was parenting, my need for time away from my children decreased. Because I changed how I was parenting, my children's desire to spend time with me increased. We have chosen to be a family who loves and supports each other. We have chosen to live a life of respect and connection. Because of this, our lives have been transformed. I can no longer imagine wanting my children to get on the bus and leave me for 7 hours. My children are sad when their friends go back to school, but they have no desire to get on the bus that drives past our house each day. Instead, on the first day of school we celebrate who we are as a family. In small ways we mark the day that reminds us how far we have come and the blessings of our chosen way of life."
Does Your Child Want to Stay Home from School?
"...Recently a mother posted that her child did not want to go to school. She admitted that the child did not like school and would do anything to stay home, including faking being sick. She was obviously frustrated and angry. Other mothers responded that they knew exactly how she felt. Some moms had rules like "If you are not vomiting, bleeding or have a fever you have to go to school." And one mom suggested that the frustrated mother make staying home worse than going to school. The moms lamented that they did not know when their children were telling the truth and that made them mad....The child mentioned above told the truth: She did not like school. She did not want to go to school. When her mother could not or would not hear that truth, the child did what she needed to do to get her needs met: she faked being sick. Then her mother got angry. There is a good chance that the mom's anger was stemming from her conflict between being a good mother and meeting her child's needs, and being the good mother the school system told her to be and sending her child to school....If you have a child who does not want to go to school please find out why. Listen to your child."
Schools, Suicides and Stockholm Syndrome
"This week there was another teen suicide in our community. The girl had been bullied for two years. As I read further articles I found that there have been at least seven suicides locally, all teens in middle school and high school, in the past year. Those are the seven we will hear about, the kids who died, but there are so many more kids in crises. Statistics and estimates vary but there are at least 11 attempted suicides for every one reported suicide. ...And even when children are so desperate that they are suicidal, parents and child still see school as the answer. Even then parents fail to put their foot down, reclaim their child's life and bring their child home. Why? Because they can't see any other way. Even when their children's lives are at risk they still identify with the captors, they still believe in the system because after a life time, 30 or more years, of being told that school is sacred they truly believe that without school their child will have no future. But here's the truth: when a child commits suicide they have no future. When a child is freed from the school system not only do they have a future, but their future expands and brightens, as do their chances of growing up to be a happy, fulfilled, functional adult."
As the school year begins remember: Nothing is more important than your relationship with your child. The school district schedule, homework, the dress code, and grades, are not as important as your relationship with your child, your child's mental health, or your child's life. It's hard to believe that a system for education can become so influential that parents lose sight of this very simple truth, but sadly it happens every day.