Did you happen to catch that Time Magazine cover from the other week – you know, the one with the willowy blonde with her four-year old attached to her breast?
Yep, this one.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I could care less how long this woman nurses her child. It’s the title that got my attention.
“Are you mom enough?”
For what? Breastfeeding? Feeding an infant/toddler lasts for a couple of years at best and while breastfeeding advocates list a whole raft of benefits, the truth is (and any parent who has gotten out of the early years will confirm this) feeding a baby, while important, is not going to impact the entire rest of their life.
Where your child is educated does. Get a good school where your child is happy and life is golden. Get a not-so-good school (or, God forbid, a really crap one) and you may as well write your kid off. Teach ‘em how to flip burgers ’cause that’s where they’ll end up whether they were breastfed or not.
Okay, maybe there is a small chance of getting past and moving on from a bad educational experience, but you get my point. Education matters.
Ensuring your child get’s a good education is no joke. It can cost thousands of dollars and takes years of blood, sweat and tears on the part of parents. Homework, carpools, class projects, school supplies, more homework, summer reading lists, more homework – all to ensure you child is “successful”.
Yesterday I was sitting in a classroom in a good primary school and I noticed that one section of the wall was devoted to “Class Objectives”. One of these objectives was sitting quietly on the carpet then transitioning quickly to assigned tasks at desks. This is how we define success. Forming an orderly queue. Neet hand writing. Good behaviour.
I’ve got a lot of experience in schools both as an educator and a parent. In fact, if you count my own years of schooling, I have never been out of education except for a brief 15 month period between 1993-94.
In all my years involved in education, it never once occurred to me that being able to sit quietly on the carpet was an important life skill. Having worked in business and industry, I can tell you that this skill has never appeared on a person specification for a job application, nor have I ever been assessed for my carpet sitting skills in a performance evaluation.
Being able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing – check. The ability to work in a collaborative environment – check. Evaluating large quantities of information in order to produce client focused solutions – check.
Why, then, do we pack our children off to often depressing looking buildings to sit in crowded rooms full of kids who may or may not share their interests and abilities, to be supervised by people who are way over worked and underpaid. Why do we value mindless obedience over creative energy? Why do we insist on conformity over originality?
Don’t misunderstand me – I know how hard teachers work and the job they have is nearly impossible, especially in the target driven culture we currently support. And there are so many wonderful teachers in our schools! I’ve been blessed to have been taught by some of them and privileged to have worked with many more.
It’s not the teachers I’ve got a problem with. It’s the system. The system is broken. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter how many “teacher accountability” initiatives are passed by state legislatures, or how much more money is pumped into it – the system simply was not designed to produce people ready for the 21st century.
So here is the question: Are you mom (and dad) enough? Are you prepared to remove your kids from a broken system and take personal responsibility for the learning and ensure they are prepared to thrive in a constantly evolving and increasingly technological world rooted in the exponential growth of information?
Are you ready to homeschool? More radically, are you ready to unschool?
Unschooling is a branch of homeschooling that was conceived by the educator John Holt in the 1970’s. As a successful teacher, Holt came to view the educational system as a lost cause. He started a movement based on the premise that children are naturally inquisitive with an innate desire to learn. The system, with it’s constant testing and assessment, causes fear and anxiety in children which leads to memory loss and bad behaviour. When children are freed from the system and given access to the world and all it has to offer, they will naturally learn what they need to. They are prepared for the Real World, not by being warehoused in schools, but by being fully present in it.
Sounds a bit airy fairy, right? No sane person would do this. Left to their own devises, children will only learn how to play video games and blow up things in the microwave. And anyway, most parents don’t have the patience (or the time – ever hear of a mortgage, I hear you ask?) to teach their own kids. Schools preserve parental sanity. Most parents would have themselves committed if they had to be with their kids that long.
I used to think like that. But, thanks to Autism (and let me assure you, I don’t thank it for much) I’ve unknowingly been an unschooling parent for the last year. I’ve had the opportunity to watch my son come out of himself as he looses the shackles of the system and gains confidence as a learner. He was so riddled with anxiety he could not function at school. Today he is a different person.
It has been so beneficial to him, I’m thinking about unschooling my daughter as well as my two youngest boys. Despite the fact that Nyree does well at school, how can I continue to send her into a school whose values I increasingly reject? She’s bright, but is her creativity being nurtured? How much more could she achieve if left to her own devices?
It’s a big step and I haven’t decided yet.
The only thing I have to figure out?
Am I mom enough?