I sometimes regret that my kids won’t have that classic small-town experience of having gone to school with the same people from kindergarten through high school, because in my fantasy-of-school, those experiences will become the basis of lifelong friendships. I see other kids walking home together from school, laughing and running in the June sunshine, and I think, “are my kids missing out on something great?”.
So, last weekend we were at a barbecue with a bunch of friends whose kids attend the local school, and I said to them, “OK guys, I’m ready to be convinced that sending my kids to school would be great. Today I want to be convinced. Wouldn’t it make my life easier? Wouldn’t it make my kids happier? I don’t know what the heck I’m doing half the time anyways. Maybe school would take the pressure off.”
I was with three friends at that moment, and I’ll paraphrase here what each of them said.
Friend number one, Mom of 2 boys similar in age to my two boys:
“Oh yeah, the school here is great. But I mean, if I told Timmy* he’d never have to go again, he would jump at the chance. And this year has been absolutely terrible. The teacher is great and doing his best, but the class is absolutely awful and their bad behaviour has led to the cancellation of all the traditional grade 6 field trips and outings that they would have done. But it’s not always like that. And this year Timmy has gotten good grades.”
Friend number two, Mom of 3, used to unschool, runs a business:
“My kids love school. They love seeing their friends every day. I do sometimes worry that my one son is too gentle of a soul for the system, and my other son may be learning the wrong ideas about how to be popular. But I can actually run my business now, and I don’t worry all the time about whether they’re learning enough.”
Friend number 3, Mom of 1 child with extensive special needs, is a teacher herself:
“School is great for Sally*. I would never be able to provide her with the full time, intensive support that she needs in order to learn and meet milestones. But it’s different for your kids. Why do you worry that school would be wrong for them?”
I answered that Ive asked my kids if they wanted to go to school and they’ve all said no. They’ve heard bad reports from friends and from TV shows and their mother etc. Also they’re all like me in that they find it draining to spend all day in a room full of other people.
My friend then said, “Well, Amy, I can’t really in good conscience try to convince you to send them to school when it sounds like they have good reasons not to want to, and they are obviously doing fine without it.”
Thanks for nothing, friends! Haha. I really wanted to be talked into it. But even though having the house to myself for several hours a day would be wonderful, I don’t want to send them against their wills to school.
I also acknowledge that when I think of sending them to school, my mind’s eye sees a kind of perfect fantasy version of life with kids that doesn’t really exist. Everyone worries about their kids, and doesn’t know what the heck they’re even doing as a parent. Raising a family is hard and tiring and I guess there’s no way out but through!
*I changed the names of my friends’ kids