School

Lots of people inquired about our first day at school. Uh. Yeah.

For Cameron, as expected the day went very well. He feels he can be a leader in the classroom as opposed to last year when he was one of the youngest in his Montessori class, and felt a little behind. He seems to fit in. I am so happy for him.

For Charlie. For Charlie. Tears well up in my eyes just thinking about it. I don’t think it was terrible. I don’t think it was good. His teacher pulled me over in carpool line to say that he washed his hands constantly, told her no, couldn’t keep his hands to himself and generally disrupted class, even pushing chairs over. She said she had to call in reinforcements by 1:00. I am terrified for him. I am weepy. I am worried for his teacher.

I worry that this type of schooling will only hurt him. He is already a fragile kid. He may put up a lot of resistance and a lot of anger, and show strength in that, but he is also so breakable. He doesn’t want to do the stuff, because he doesn’t think he is good at it.

The last thing his teacher asked me, before her eyes glossed over, was “Has anyone recommended medication?” I said yes and that I wouldn’t do it.

I keep thinking of the Sudbury Valley School, and if that wouldn’t be a good environment for Charlie, and really, all of our kids. Although there are no formal classes, unless kids specifically ask for them, they operate on the premise that all kids and further, people want to learn and will learn, organically and at their own pace. It’s like un-schooling in school. While it is kind of scary to let all that control go, i.e., you will learn how to read, add, subtract, etc, by the time you are 4, 5, 6, etc., it’s also kind of liberating. And you are not making kids who don’t fit the school model, like my sweet Charlie, unhappy.

There is a psychologist who blogs about this school model and how unhealthy it is for kids with ADHD on the Psychology Today website. His name is Peter Gray and I think he is right.

From an evolutionary perspective, school is an abnormal environment. Nothing like it ever existed in the long course of evolution during which we acquired our human nature. School is a place where children are expected to spend most of their time sitting quietly in chairs, listening to a teacher talk about things that don’t particularly interest them, reading what they are told to read, writing what they are told to write, and feeding memorized information back on tests. As I have detailed in previous essays, during the entire course of human history until very recently, children were in charge of their own education. They learned by following their own inner, instinctive guides, which led them to ask countless questions (their own questions, not someone else’s), to converse with others as equal partners, to explore their world actively, and to practice the skills crucial to their culture through self-directed play in age-mixed groups.

So where does that leave me? Charlie? I am feeling utterly FUCKED. While I can try really hard to give his teacher all the information that I can find on dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder in a classroom, purchase weighted vests, lap blankets, chewy toys, and stuff to fidget with, explore what accommodations will be helpful, while I can do that stuff, and will probably have to, will any of it be enough? Will his desire to explore and discover be dashed by an education system designed to create soldiers in pre-war Germany and assembly line workers in pre-industrial US? Is that Charlie? Is that me? Is that what we really want? Do we need it? I am feeling fucked.

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2 thoughts on “School

  1. Although I agree that the School format is not in line with past human evolution I’m not sure it isn’t part of our continual evolution. Before we had this format of formal education kids did not sit around idle and to their own whims. They were taught a few things and then expected to contribute to the family or to the community. I think it is a mistake to rationalize human evolution with the current format of education. For hundreds of thousands of years the only evolutionary schooling a child got was fright and flight, eat or be eaten. Talk about your daily stress levels!
    I think the only choice you have now is to find what works with and for Charlie. Be it a free form, learn as you go, or something more structured. Charlie will find his way in life if given the opportunities. We are all fucked, some more than others, but fucked seems to be the evolutionary trend 🙂

  2. Thanks Shawn – as an update, Charlie spent his second afternoon in the principals office because he could not be controlled. They have asked that he only come to school 1/2 day.
    Fucked I tell ya! Tears, they fall like rain.
    I know we will figure it out, but it still it sucks today.

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