There are many parents who talk to me about school vs. homeschool who start with these words:
I’ve thought about homeschooling, but my child LIKES school. It wouldn’t seem right.
You know what I like? Cheesies. I like crunching them one after the other after the other. And I like sometimes holding them in my mouth until they melt. And I like how the weird cheesie stuff gets stuck on my thumb and finger and I have to nibble it off. Cheesies rock. I like them.
You know what else I like? Rock concerts. I while ago I saw Bon Jovi at the Molson Amphitheatre here in Toronto. I can belt out ‘Livin on a Prayer’ with the best of the bleach-bottle blonds, I tell ya. The concert was awesome, although I could have done without the pot-smokers beside me and the profani-maniac behind me and the chick ahead of me who felt that she could seriously improve ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ by giving the guy next to her a blow job during the chorus, but whatever. I like rock concerts.
You get where I’m going with this, right? School is like cheesies and rock concerts.
School is great and my child likes it, oh, except for the total lack of substance (cheesies) and the constant distractions (rock concerts). My child likes school, oh, except for this…this…this…and this. Oh, and this…this…and this.
We humans have the strange ability to like lots of things that are not necessarily good for us or particularly pleasing in their utterly odd context. Compare cheesies to a perfectly ripe mango that is juicy but firm, sweet but tart. It quenches your thirst, awakens your taste buds and leaves you feeling satisfied. Cheesies? Not so much.
Lots of kids like school. But just like the rock concert I attended, your child would enjoy school a whole lot more if it weren’t for the constantly annoying distractions over which he or she has no control. Why should your child have to take the ‘good’ with the bad? How much more inspired could her pursuit of knowledge be if she didn’t have to put up with all the shit every day?
Imagine your 8-year-old daughter’s best day at school. Maybe she was recognized for 30 seconds in an assembly for a poem she had written that got published in the local newspaper. Or maybe she was chosen to take home the class gerbil for the weekend. Or maybe she got perfect on a spelling test. Or maybe the kid who picks on her way was away all day.
Here is my 8-year-old daughter’s best day of unschool: On an unseasonably warm day in March we all took the Ferry across the harbour to Toronto Island. We joyfully ran through the wet grass and over the bridges and along the boardwalk to the glorious beach where we spent the day building sand castles and splashing in the ice cold water and climbing trees and tucking blossoms into our hair. We barbequed on the beach and we walked back to the Ferry singing and holding hands and watching the ducks and loons out on the water.
Compare that to getting perfect on a spelling test. A spelling test that your child didn’t choose to participate in and that has absolutely no context or relevance outside of school. A spelling test that had words that I guarantee your child would have learned to spell with or without the test.
Is it possible that we as a culture have decided that our children should simply have really low expectations for their enjoyment of life? Have we decided that it is OK for some kids to have a passion or a joy-filled life, but that for most kids the best they can expect each day is that maybe no one will notice that their underwear is sticking out the back of their pants? Have we decided that childhood should be void of Freedom and Self-Expression and Creativity and Authenticity? Are we so committed to giving our children the same experience of school that we had that we deliberately forget how little joy and inspiration we actually ever felt at school?
I refuse to accept ‘My child likes school’ as a reason to keep a child in a black hole for 13+ years. School is not the real world. The real world IS the real world, and that is where my children are going to grow up.