Monday, 21 March 2011

School part 2 - bye bye school

The schooling adventure was very short lived...

On the first day at 3yo kinder, parents are "allowed" to stay, so to help the kids get more comfortable with their new environment. It was an exciting day for the 4 of us, a new chapter in Sofia's life. So we all went. How sad to realise that we were the only parents that decided to stay. It appears that all the other kids have been used to being left in someone else's care from a very young age.

Anyhow, Little Miss Independence was all of a sudden Little Miss "Mummy Please Stay With Me", crying and getting upset when she couldn't see me immediately. This from the child who, when playing with her Nana etc, would yell at me to go away... Being the sort of parent that I am, I believe in following the child's lead for readiness. So I was already wondering whether it was the right decision...

Day 2 we missed because we were tired or running late or something like that...

Day 3 I was on parent duty. Had put my name down for the first available with the specific purpose of making sure S was happy there. Being the sort of parent that I am, Lucas came too, so I was both helping the teachers out and looking after a very excited 15 month old who couldn't believe the amount of cool stuff there was to do at school... But mostly, I was trying to ascertain whether kinder was right for S or not. Because Lucas and I were there, she was of course very at ease and floated around trying all the activities and trying to engage in conversation with some of the sad kids.
That's what struck me: so many sad faces. It was probably "luck of the draw" or not having been able to get a spot in a kinder that suited our style to a T (we had to find a spot very last minute, as S had been saying for a while that she wanted to go to school all alone...). But during the couple of hours there, I managed to connect with a few of the kids and I have a little opinion. These kids were sad because they're used to being shoved into non-parental care, they're used to being told what to do, when to do it. Of course some kids probably looked "sad" because they were just adjusting to their new reality. But I saw the light shine in their eyes when I was talking to them with interest, not patronising them.

There was this boy called Anthony. He really had a hard time. Seeing the way he was treated was the deciding factor. He wasn't treated badly, but he was told things that in our unconventional way of parenting are unacceptable. He was crying, and screaming, was absolutely besides himself. I don't know if the trigger was being left by his mother or being told he couldn't wear his hat inside. One of the things he was told was "stop crying and use your words"; it's late at night and I really don't have the time or stamina to go into the "tenets" of attachment/respectful parenting etc, but essentially he got told he was not entitled to show his feelings. Now, can you imagine as a grown up being told not to cry if you're upset? Maybe acceptable only in boot camp.

These kids are little people, with their own set of emotions and feelings and thoughts. And I guess everybody follows a different set of rules, and that makes fitting in and blending into a new environment quite difficult. But if the kid is so upset, how about you let him keep his hat on for a short while as he gets used to his new surroundings? What's the big deal?
The deal is of course that in a mainstream establishment everyone has to comply.
And that's what I realised: my daughter's uniqueness would not be respected and all attempts would be made to make her more compliant. And I don't want that.

My kids are given huge amounts of freedom. But I do see myself as being a "strict" parent. They have specific guidelines and rules to follow, and within those guidelines they can do whatever they want. Because I believe that's the way to get smart freethinkers.
I let them make their own choices. If something is unreasonable then I step in and try to change their mind diplomatically or with compromises. And it works. If you give kids power over their own things, they will feel in charge of a big part of their life, and will make them more eager to follow your lead when needed.

So in a nutshell, my kid eats when she's hungry, she doesn't get told what to draw or paint or which way to stick her stickers, she is very tidy and puts toys away without being prompted but sometimes she's in the middle of a convoluted storyline and has to leave things out for later.
My kids share with each other because they like each other and because that's what we modelled as parents not because they're forced to share, they wear what they're comfortable in provided it's weather or occasion appropriate, and they do the right thing because that's what they're expected to do, not because there will be a reward.

So these are some of the reasons why the decision was made to call the school and pull S out. Of course I simply told them that she wasn't quite ready and we'll see about 4yo kinder.
I really wanted to tell them how much their "good jobbing" and unsincere adulation was undermining the kids' self motivation and self confidence in the long term, but realised they wouldn't understand me...