To answer the initiating question; NO!
When I first started looking for schools for A I was in a completely different mindset than I am in now. I was in the autopilot-mindset, the mindset of not-thinking-just-doing-what-everybody-around-me-is-doing-without-questioning, I was acting like a robot. What made me re-consider my previous form of action was of course not something entirely new to me. I guess I had been questioning how people act and react for a long time. As a child I know I did a lot of questioning. So, it wasn’t new to me to try and find different solutions. But what made me act on my questioning of my surrounding society was my master thesis.
I had decided to write about sensitive children since I was very inspired by Elaine Aron and since both I and my daughter are highly sensitive and since I am very interested in the way children grow up and react to their surroundings. I had to combine the subject of sensitive children with something having to do with Europe or a country in Europe since my major was European Studies so I chose to write about the upcoming public school reform in Denmark and how it could possibly affect what Elaine Aron calls highly sensitive children.
To sum up, the school reform in Denmark, which has recently stepped into effect, involves the idea of an all-day-school. Dear reader, if the notion of all-day-school does not ring an alarm in a parents ear I’d say the parent hasn’t thought about what this concept implies. Well, ALL my alarms were ringing loud and clear. There was clearly something wrong with this idea. The idea that children had to be in school for up to 8 hours a day compulsory. Starting at the age of 6. I am well aware that some countries have children starting school at the age of 4 and so on and try to guess what I think about that. The reform involved a lot of different technicalities such as the idea of inclusion, the notion that school is a place for everyone and so there were to be no more special classes for children with special needs – everyone had to be taught the same way (how do people get to the point where they think this is a good idea??), the idea that the kids did not have to be supervised by a teacher so the teachers could be substituted by nursery teachers while they tended to their other tasks (such as preparing classes etc.). There were LOTS of new ideas involved in the reform that I am not going to go further into here. In any case, the reform did not appeal to me. And it did not appeal to the teachers who were doing all they could to prevent the reform from being adopted. Sadly, the teachers did not succeed in preventing the reform. Partly, if not entirely, because of lacking support from their surroundings, especially from the parents of the children who would be the ones most severely influenced by the reform.
The mere idea of having to sit still for so many hours listening to what someone else thought appropriate knowledge I was already having a hard time thinking about how A would react to. And the idea that she would have to sit there with 28 other people who probably didn’t want to sit there either… the idea just did not appeal to me. So I was adamant that A was not going to go to a public school since they had all just been made worse than terrible. Hence, I started looking for private schools. I investigated the Steiner philosophy and liked a lot of the ideas, I talked to people who had had experience with Steiner schools and found that many children had had terrible experiences at Steiner schools, including mobbing and ridiculing. A and I visited a few schools and I continued my investigations into which school would be better for her.
As I did my investigating I started looking into alternative ways of schooling, I read a lot of material online. I became a member of the online community mothering, which is a wonderful community where lots of inspiration can be found. I started reading John Holt’s work, I found out there was something called unschooling, I started reading books about unschooling and reading blogs about it, I found out people were actually doing it all over the world. There were even families in Denmark doing it!
That’s when I decided that there was NO reason A should go to school, no reason for her to be forced to learn. She already was learning all the time. I took her out of kindergarten and we began our unschooling journey together.
Then came all the questioning from my surroundings; how will she learn this and that? what about her social skills? (this one is a killer!) what do you do all day? isn’t it boring? where are the challenges? how about your economy when you don’t work? (this is actually my biggest challenge since I don’t always get a lot of work as a freelancer), what if she wants to go to the university? and so on.
I have learned to answer respectfully but I would like to answer with a little more bite. I would like to be able to move the focus to what is actually wrong with schooling. Why am I not the one questioning my surroundings? I suppose you can say that I am doing that just by my presence as an unschooling single mum.
I have thought about some of the questions I could ask back: why is it important to assimilate? why do you want your child to learn reading at age 7? why is it good to be surrounded by peers for 8-10 hours a day? why is it healthy to be ‘socialized’?, when do you talk with your child?, what do you and your children do ‘for fun’?, what do you have to do to ‘learn’?, how are your mornings?, how are your evenings?, do you like your job?, could things be different?
These are questions that I often wonder about and that I think are appropriate to ask people who ask me the previous questions. Not merely to get an answer, since I suspect I know some of the answers already but simply to get a different perspective on things. Maybe get people to think a little about how they do things. It is in the process of questioning things that you start to have new ideas. And this is where the going gets REALLY interesting!
So, I suppose what I wanted to say with this post is; ask away!