2 October 2008

Jenna was crying last night

Oh my, this is just so hard to deal with. :( She has somehow been convinced by various things people have said to her lately that the reason I won't put her in school is that she's too stupid. She told me that all of her friends are clever enough to go, and asked me why I don't think she's ready.

The problem is, I don't think any of them are ready. I think the school system expects rote learning and unconnected skill-learning long before such things have anything to do with the real lives, actual needs, and genuine wishes of almost any child. OK those things are going to be actively destructive to a minority in my opinion, but helpful to none! These kids are three, four, five. I don't want to get carried away with what's wrong with school because there's no way I think it's all wrong or that less-than-perfect isn't necessary for some families. I just, at a basic level, see school as at best neutral for these tinies, and at worst discouraging and harmful to their own ways of exploring things.

That's not easy philosophy to break down for a small sobbing child.

And I can't say all that anyway, even if for no other reason than that she has to rub along with schooled children from time to time (and therefore would realise that they don't all actively hate it or wouldn't say so because they want to fit in and please parents - and would also probably offend those same parents by quoting me at my most frustrated).

She may go to school at some point, she may remain unschooled, she may choose to engage with some form of part time or group schooling, or be involved in private schools that we know where she would have more control over hours and subjects. She's FOUR! Where's the rush? My priorities for her are just totally nothing to do with number recognition and phonetics and other hoop-jumping exercises for children who aren't actually even showing reading readiness half of the time.

Asides from which, she's reading a lot of words already and recognising common letter groupings, she knows lots of numbers and guesses at bigger ones (eleventy-four was a recent guess for 104). She uses those wonderful logical guesses in her speech, and regularly uses words like "blurred" and "visible" and "inappropriate" (which I can't spell reliably). She can assemble a symetrical mandala pattern and play board games and tile games meant for age 7+. Asking her to sit and recite "ah ah ah ant" with matching sign is just downright bloody patronising.

I didn't say any of that.

So I just validated that she is feeling discouraged and like I don't trust her, and that she is sad not to be like everyone else (another big thing that came up, and I have no idea how to deal with).

Then I told her that I believe she is smart enough to learn anything she will ever need to learn, when she really wants to learn it for her own reasons, and that nobody has a right to tell her what she ought to know and when. And nobody who will think less of her for not learning what and when other people do. I told her that she alone is Jenna, and she will never ever be a failure to me. And then I just held her while she sobbed.


  1. Maybe she is too smart for school ;-)
    And she won't be able to learn all those things she can at home.
    A thing I find true for all children, especially having seen the wonder and desire to learn being pushed out of my children at various imes and stages. And something I am not going to see happen again with the boys.

  2. Poor Jenna! I wonder where she got that horrible idea from? She is one of the brightest kids I've ever heard about, and school at this age would just squash that right out of her.

    It's so sad that being different means you are automatically inferior.

  3. Oh that has got to be tough :(
    All 3 of mine started school the term they turned 5. My girls flourished, were in awesome state schools that follow the process of each child learning and doing at their pace etc etc and are now on the Young Gifted and talented programme(as you wish for your daughter). But my son, well i really should have kept him home longer. He is 9 now and this is his year. I do kind of feel like the other years have been somewhat wasted where he is concerned. If i were you i would stick with it. You (in my humble opinion) are doing with your child what most of us should do. I really wish i had with the youngest. But luckily and happily just now is the best they are all doing. Good Luck.

  4. What an awful situation. Do you know any other home educating families? That would seem to be the best solution, if Jenna got to know some other, preferably slightly older, home educated children so she can 'see her future' if you like. And so you can say - look at 'x', she doesn't go to school either.

  5. We know a couple of home-ed families now, but I guess a big part of it is still feeling so excluded when most of her little friends are starting school. :(

    And it's so hard not to fall into a passive defense of our homeschooling too, saying, "oh we might decide later" or "we feel Jenna is doing so well at home there's no need to change" etc - rather than "I think school would be harmful for her" which is true but comes across as a judgement on parents with children in mainstream education! *sigh* :(

  6. Poor Jenna - and poor you. I do have to pick you up (sorry) on your comment that children is school either don't actively hate it or wouldn't say so because they want to fit in and please parents. Some like it! I did.
    And now I know you have filed me as a parent who is offended because I don't know any better. Which I am not ;) (Offended, I mean. Ignorant? If you say so. But I hope you know me well enough to know I did think at least a little about sending M to school.)

  7. Lol of course "most of them don't actively hate it or wouldn't say so" isn't intended to preclude some of them loving it. I did for the first few years. :)

    That's another thing that's hard to explain to Jenna, that I loved school and it was wanting to learn so much so badly that led to me rejecting it later. :S


Penny for your thoughts? :)