As I witness children getting ready to go back to school this week, my mind heads down the path of questioning why we do things the way we do. The questions flood my brain. I see signs like the one below. Why is the school system in such a state that they need this "kickoff". I see children that are very sad and sometimes really angry about having to end the summer before summer is officially over. I see them angry that they have to go to school at all. They tell my kids that they are lucky they do no have to go to school. My sons are sad for the kids that don't have a choice, and wish that all kids could have a choice to do what feels right to them.
My son and I went for a walk tonight and we talked about how one of his schooled friends asked him if he had ever done a math worksheet. My son told him no, why would I need to do that? I do math in my life all the time, but I don't need to prove that, by doing a worksheet. We talked about all of the ways that he learns math concepts even though they are not called "math". We talked about how if he needs to learn something, he can find the answer when he needs it. We questioned who gets to decide exactly what a human being "needs" to learn by the time they are 18? We wondered how people can get together in a meeting to decide what is best for every student that comes to their school. How is it possible to do this if we are all individuals having different interests and different learning styles? I know that teachers and administrators do their best, but how can they really do what is best for each student? It isn't possible. Teachers have their hands tied as well, because the students must test high so that the schools get their funding. Teachers have a difficult job.
Another one of my son's schooled friends said that he was held back, so he will start the same grade again this year. We questioned how this can be determined. My son wondered what message his friend got when his classmates moved on, but he didn't. Who decides he didn't learn the "right" things? Why do they get to decide for him? What if for every one answer he got wrong, there were hundreds of others that he knew? Unfortunately for him, those weren't the answers that he was "supposed" to know? Maybe his passions and interests are in something his school doesn't offer, or are seen as unimportant. Does this mean he is "slow" or that he isn't "smart", just because he is more interested in other things? Maybe he is daydreaming about his passions while he "should" be learning some other subject. Why is this wrong?
We questioned why each person can't follow their passions, and learn everything they need to know about that passion. Why can't a person who learns better while moving around do just that? Why would we want them to conform to the way "everyone" else is learning? Why would we label them with a learning disability or label them as hyperactive just because their bodies are telling them that they need to move? What is the impact on a child's self esteem when they are coerced into being something they're not? Does it make them successful if they learn how to take a test in order to get a "good grade"? Or, does it make them lose a part of their aliveness because they had to conform to fit someone else's idea of what it looks like to be a good student. Is it worth it to do this to our children?
I keep telling my sons that change is coming. There are so many positive changes happening in the world right now that I believe that our school situations must change as well. I want kids like my son's friend, who got held back, to be celebrated for who he is and how he learns. I don't want him to have the feeling that he is dumb because he got held back a grade. I want him to know that he is honored for who he is. I want him to know that the way he needs to learn is perfect. I want him to know there is nothing wrong with him, that everything is as it should be.
I feel sad for the kids who are feeling apprehensive, angry, and a bit helpless about going back to school. It didn't take much for me to conjure up the feeling of having to go back after summer break. I could see myself lying in bed, not being able to fall asleep, worried about the next day. I quickly came back to the moment when my son saw a shooting star, and got very excited. That led us into talking all about planets, and about what a shooting star is, and what a comet is. I didn't have all of the answers, but I knew we could go home to look them up. Living and learning from the real world makes me smile. I will continue to question everything, and I hope that my kids will as well.
If you want to read some good books about school and children's learning, I recommend any of John Holt's books, especially How Children Learn , How Children Fail, and Learning All The Time. Also, John Taylor Gatto's (who was an award winning teacher) book called Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.
I write about personal growth and healing, meditation, mindful living, and unschooling at my website www.benurtured.com.