I was looking at Instagram recently, just scrolling through
the pics until I came across one that made me stop and read the comments. It
was a breastfeeding pic and we all know how much I love those. Babies nestled
into their mummas for a hit of the good stuff. Gorgeous.
Normally, people will write a brief caption to go with their
photos but the owner of this pic had written at length beneath it. She talked
about how her eldest child was approaching preschool age and how it was making
her assess how she felt about the schooling system and what place, if any, she
wanted her child to have within it. She talked about Steiner, she talked about home-schooling
and wanting to keep her children near; and the subsequent comments that others
made echoed these serious questions being asked by parents who all had a less
than mainstream approach to raising their children.
A funny thing happens when I read of parents considering
things that I haven’t. On the one hand, I’m intrigued and perhaps inspired. On
the other, I am plagued with self-doubt about my own choices.
We looked at two primary schools for Luca. A Catholic one
(scene of my infamous flash to Father) and a public one. We interviewed at both
and decided on the public one for several reasons. Most importantly, I couldn’t
shake the uneasy feeling I had about all the God stuff. Despite baptising all
our kids Catholic, we are not a religious family. A curriculum heavily influenced
with God biz just didn’t sit comfortably with me. And then there was the
financial consideration of a private school.
But the deciding factor that tipped me over? A good friend
was sending her daughter to the public school. Yes, Luca had gone to kinder
with this little girl but it’s not like they were BFFs. I found the whole
decision- making process troubling and almost as though I could not trust
myself to make a sound choice, I followed someone else’s lead.
I briefly looked at a nearby Montessori school, liked many
of their philosophies but it never went much further than that.
Reading the Instagram woman’s thoughtful words about the future
of her children just made me wonder whether I have been taking this stuff
seriously. I just assumed our kids would go into the school system – it never
crossed my mind that that wouldn’t be the right place for them.
I certainly never considered home-schooling. And I haven’t
questioned that decision at all. I
have a lot of faith in the system – public or private – and I have less than
zero desire to be home with my children every day until they graduate from high
school. And I am very confident the feeling is mutual. The kids relish their
independence just as much as I do mine. Beyond that, there are days I’m not
sure I’m qualified to parent a child let alone be responsible for their formal
education. In my head, I am fifteen and looking to smoke bongs with the cute
boy in Year 12. What?
No doubt, there are compelling reasons for some families to
undertake home-schooling but I thank the Lord those reasons don’t apply to us.
And maybe that’s the thing – I see my children, am aware of their personalities and recognise that
they will integrate into the system well and importantly, that they will thrive within its framework. Maybe it didn’t require soul-searching
consideration because there were no obvious markers that indicated that the
status quo system would not benefit them.
I chose a school in a neighbouring suburb without even
considering those in my own and now am wondering if there might have been a “better”
school that was closer to home. Or anywhere else. An exhaustive search could
very possibly have revealed superiorities elsewhere. But then, what constitutes
better? I chose existing friendships
and a community feel over proximity to home or aesthetically “prettier”
schools. When I break it down in those simple terms, my criteria seem important
and reflective of our values.
Both Luca and Zig have settled beautifully into their
respective (pre)schools. Each looks forward to going. Is it just twisted mother
guilt that makes me feel that unless I agonised over the decision, I have
failed to take my child’s future seriously?
Regardless of the institution
in which our kids learn the three Rs, Bren and I are still overwhelmingly the
central teachers in their lives. We can influence world views, demonstrate compassion
and kindness and all the things that resonate with us most.
And in the end, they might just give us the big fuck you by
working as a commodities trader on Wall Street. Their bleeding heart liberal father
would be devastated but I admit, I would enjoy the New York penthouse views.
Click here to fund my child's education…or whatever…
Oh, I think I could have written this post (not nearly as eloquently, of course ;). I’m not sure if you and I were viewing the same ‘Instagram woman’, but a recent Instagrammer’s thoughts on homeschooling did make me question our decisions too. But the look on my husband’s face when I remotely raised the topic of homeschooling gave me a pretty good indication of where he stood on the subject 😉 I didn’t even look at any other kindy for Sam except the one he now goes to, as my best friend’s children had all been there… and she’s an early childhood teacher, so it must be good, right?? We did put more thought into primary school (where Sam will go next year) but I’m confident it’s the right decision for our family. Yes, I think it’s mother guilt that makes you question your lack of agonising of the decision. Community feel and friendships sound like good values to me. It’s great that the boys seem to have settled in well. I’m sure you can find other things to obsess over 😉 x
Angie, I think it’s very true that some kids need something a little different for their schooling. In those cases, it’s great that parents now have ready access to others who have been down that road so that they can compare notes and work out what would best help their family.
But in general, I feel that a lot of worry is unnecessarily expended over the choice of schools when really they are much of a muchness. But you must believe and trust in your choices. Luca will take his cue from you. You are an articulate and diplomatic person and I’m sure any concerns you have can be addressed and resolved. Teachers love parents who can communicate with them and work on solutions if necessary.
Enjoying the school experience is a sum of many parts … not sure if that makes sense. I hate to say it but I chose W’s school on the basis primarily of how I felt about it. Trust your gut feeling on this and all will be well. I really believe that.
Melbo has said everything I wanted to say, only much better (naturally). Lately, I’ve been feeling that despite the blessings of the internet for parents – online communities and support – it can be just as much of a curse. I know I’ve had moments of second guessing various parenting decisions that I’d been okay with, and often just because of one flippant or judgemental comment.
Choosing schools for our kids is a big decision, yes, but it only has to be as stressful as we let it be. Seriously, I think people obsess more than a little too much over it. It’s understandable if you live in a rough area without decent options, but otherwise, people need to relax a little.
The homechooling debate is an interesting one. I take my hat off to those who do it, but I know there’s NO WAY in hell I’d be any good at it. I have several neighbours who homeschool. One does it because of her (strong) Catholic faith and not wanting her kids exposed to any sexual content at school, amongst other things. Another neighbour is homeschooling because “well, I just want to be with my kids all day long!” Yeah… I had a shitty mother pang because I LUUURVE the break that school provides. It’s an interesting topic though, and I never knew much about it before moving States-side.
Anyhow, a column I read yesterday that made me giggle might give you a giggle too:
There are definite shades of me in there, I tell you. Ahem.
I think it’s possible to over think these decisions. Really, every choice has pros and cons. I admire the very conscious diligent researching parent, but there is a certain level of anxiety that attaches to this approach which can have negative impacts. If your kids are happy and well, you’ve made a great choice. And of course it won’t always be smooth sailing, nor would it be at Montessori school. Thanks for getting me thinking about this. Zanni x
I think it probably was the same woman! And I really don’t know much about her at all but I sense she has a hippy heart which I am drawn to. I think my approach to parenting is just left of mainstream but still pretty typical. And then I think, Eeek! Shouldn’t we aim for something better than typical?
I embrace so many hippy ideals but want to live them in the regular world…does that make sense?
I can totally see your hubs face re: homeschooling. Ha! It’s a huge undertaking.
And yes, I have a whole to-do list of things to obsess over. 😉 xx
Yep, thankfully the days of one size fits all schooling are gone – so many kids drowned in that system.
I think you’re right that for the average punter, a school is a school is a school. But I am seduced by the idea that if I pay more for the education, it will be better – I think this is flawed logic but it plagues me still.
But we can only do what we can do. And like you say, trust that we are on the right path despite the lack of agony I personally endured in getting there!
Thank you. xx
I figure we chose the school after attending two interviews – it’s not like we did eeni meeni miini mo. But still, the second-guessing is brutal.
And yes, school drop off is HAPPY TIME – for all of us. The kids want to go and lord knows I want them to go, too! I realise I am lucky that both the boys have taken to their schooling so well – I can only imagine the angst involved with dropping off a screaming, crying kid. But then, is that a reason not to send them? Don’t we all have to get out into the world eventually? Develop our independence?
Such fertile ground for the overthink!
That article? Hilaire.
You’re right, Zanni. I think perhaps I knew on some level that too much research would ultimately complicate the entire thing and make me an anxious mess….as opposed to my normal self… 😉
Thank you! These comments have made me feel better for sure. xx