Did you ever consider not sending your kids to school? Maybe you’ve considered an alternative school? There are so many options when it comes to educating our children, yet the overwhelming majority still choose the public school system. Though I went through this very system myself, and did well academically, I now look back and see that perhaps my standards were set a little low. Sure I got A’s – I liked math and I was a great memorizer and regurgitator, but was that learning? How much more of my potential could have been realized had I been encouraged to explore my passions and delve into them?
Is your child’s creative side being nurtured at school? Are her differences and unique traits and talents being celebrated? Chances are, in many cases, the answer is ‘no’.
This post was inspired by a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson from 2006. In this video, he relates a story about Gillian Lynne, a woman who had a career with the Royal Ballet in London, who had her own dance company and who had a huge role in bringing to the world Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Her story in a nutshell… after seeing a therapist due to her fidgeting in school, her mother was told that her daughter did not have a learning disability as was suggested by the school, but that she was a dancer and to send her to dance school. It turns out that Gillian needed to move to think. She needed to move to think! How many other fidgeting school children need to be able to move to think?
You can watch the video here. I recommend it…it’s quite funny and has a few good nuggets in it.
Now, what are the chances that Gillian would have been sent to dance school had she been going to school today? What are the chances that, instead, she would have been put on drugs to fix her fidgeting ‘problem’ and that she would have never lived her passion and not served the world in the way that she has? Imagine…no Cats, no Phantom. How many projects, books or events are not becoming a reality as a result of the tragic drugging of our children and the stifling of their unique expression? What are we missing out on because it was stopped dead in its tracks before it could flourish?
Though I could go on about the over-prescription of drugs for our children, which is a horrific problem and very deserving of a future post, where I want to go instead is to our unquestioning belief in that almighty curriculum that must be followed and enforced for each of our kids to ensure that they become contributing members of society. Why have we come to believe that one curriculum fits all? And not only that, that everyone must learn it at the same time, in the same manner and at the same pace! Considering our diversity as human beings, doesn’t it seem ludicrous to teach everyone the same subject, in the same way and on the same schedule and to expect relatively the same results? Sounds like a great opportunity to label and kill confidence and creativity to me.
Where is the honouring of our individual gifts? Where is the stimulus to live an inspired life, to be rooted in ourselves, to listen to our inner voice, to discover our passions and to pursue them from a young age?
Somehow we have lost our faith and trust in the human spirit. We believe that if we don’t teach it, they won’t learn it. Is it not our natural state to learn and to want to learn? Look at an infant or a toddler…when are they not learning? All they want to do is learn, discover, explore. Then we send them to school, and over time their thirst to learn dries up and boredom sets in. They go through school and become great test-takers and conformers, and largely learn to stop listening to their inner wisdom as it has been repeatedly denied.
What business is it of mine to tell my child what to learn, when to learn and how long to spend on it? What business is it of mine to project what I believe he must do and learn to be a success? Who am I to gauge and judge what success is for him?
Does this mean that we can’t find our greatness in the public school system? Not at all, and obviously many have. BUT, how many more people would be living an inspired, fulfilled life had they been encouraged to do so from the beginning? How many talents have gone undiscovered? How much rich knowledge has gone untapped? How many more confident, well-adjusted people would we see if we were all to live life in an environment that encourages trust in one’s self, that is free and that promotes expressing our differences and unique abilities rather than suppressing them? There is an undeniable striving for mediocrity among the masses, and I believe that the school system is a breeding ground for this.
So how do we encourage an inspired life in our young? My personal choice is a life of freedom in unschooling. I prefer to take my cues from my child and follow his lead, providing him with choices and going deeper into what lights him up. Though I find unschooling an exciting option and one that allows for a flexible life, it obviously isn’t for everyone. There are other options that can be explored that may nurture your child and encourage their creativity and deepening connection with themselves. Though I choose to throw the curriculum out the window, others choose to homeschool, bringing in their own unique take on educating. For those looking for brick and mortar, there are many options, including the Montessori program where children are more free to do as they choose; and then for many, the choice is Waldorf, where the brilliance of Rudolf Steiner nurtures creativity, movement and a connection with our earth. More and more, there are new options popping up, providing alternatives to the local designated school.
I encourage you to explore whether your current choice of school is working for your child. Is your child thriving, wanting to go to school each day and building more confidence? Or is he hesitant, feeling singled out and not having the success that he potentially could have in a different environment? Does her current system allow for her own rate of learning, or has she been labelled because she hasn’t been making the grade? The early formative years are so key to creating emotional health in adulthood. Our early experiences can never be replaced and it is up to us as parents to ensure that the quality of life of our children and their level of joy is a high as we can possibly accommodate in our given situation.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear from you. How are you choosing to educate your children? How is it working for them?