When I think back to kindergarten, I have so many happy memories- Mrs. Johnson, colored tape on the floor where we sat in rows, painting butterflies, Kraft Handi-Snacks for snack time …ahhh the good life.
I was a good student from the very beginning and graduated high school with an above 4.0 grade point average in the top 2 percent of my class. Teachers loved me. I had plenty of friends. Reading was my escape and favorite pastime. I was involved in extra-curricular activities. I could memorize anything and could prove it on tests. Basically, I knew how to play the game and win.
When I look at my list of what it took for me to “win” at school, I can very easily image the other side of the coin. Surely there are “bad” students. Ones that teachers wish weren’t there. And “average” ones that make Bs and Cs. And ones that sit alone at lunch every day. Ones that hate reading and don’t want to be at school a second longer than they have to. Ones who get nervous under pressure and can’t produce information on demand on standardized tests. What if that is my child?
I often wonder about the end-goal of my parenting journey. What will success look like? This article is a great look into how parenting goals have changed over the years and success and achievement are the driving forces for many parents and what happens when we let those goals go.
To be freed from the felt burden of having to Change the World, of having to get ahead, of having to think of your life in terms of achieve, achieve, achieve – it’s an unusual thing.
That can look like giving up on excellence, or accepting mediocrity. But it can also look like a basic stance of gratitude for life, and the wisdom of taking honest pleasure in ordinary things. That is mighty countercultural in our country these days. We can’t all become rich or famous. But learning to love the everyday, in all its limitations, is something we can all achieve — but to do so, we have to fight back against the way our popular culture programs us.
So, what is parenting success to me? I want my children to develop into kind, compassionate and generous adults. When I look at that goal, traditional school seems like not only a superfluous element, but quite possibly a detractor from realizing success.
I read Mayim Bialik’s “Beyond the Sling” when Gabriella was just a baby and really connected with her philosophy on learning and teaching. In the book, she explains that the first five or so years are not meant for learning in the way society expects these days. There is such pressure to teach kids their ABCs or for them to learn to count, but what they really need and want to learn is how to play, how to to interact with others and how to find their place in the world.
I have done my best to adopt this philosophy and just live in the moment without worrying about getting “behind.” Even without encouragement or pushing an educational agenda from us, Gabriella’s curiosity creates learning opportunities. I remember when Gabriella started learning to read numbers it was because she would ask about the numbers on the checkout lanes and pretty soon was putting in her request for which lane we should go into. I believe that self-inspired learning is truly the best education you ever could receive.
Because I was so successful in school, it is difficult to imagine a childhood without it. Both Brian and I were involved in multiple extracurricular activities though out school and generally enjoyed it. But already in three short years of motherhood, I have learned one truth that compels me to move forward with homeschooling. Children are sponges and soak up the world around them and transform into that world.
I have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand as Gabriella has learned to talk. Having a child is like having a big mirror shining on all of your quirks and shortcomings. For better or worse, they learn by modeling. I am much more comfortable being the model for my children than any teacher or group of peers.
Gabriella has been in a two-day-a-week preschool program since she was two and we’ve decided to pull her out at the end of this semester in a few weeks. We started sending her because I was working part-time and it was also nice to have a little break, but I’ve always been at odds with the decision. It’s tough when I slave over the stove for three meals a day to cook organic, healthy meals and then she gets a Krispy Kreme at school for a birthday. Or when she comes home telling me that girls can only like mermaids and boys have to like pirates. I’m just not 100 percent comfortable giving up my child to the influences of others yet.
Nixing the preschool and being home full-time will be a bit of a change, but I’m confident it will be a good one. I am excited to be working together on Before Five in a Row and learning in our real life classroom. I know it won’t always be easy and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, but for now, this feels right so we’ll see where our homeschool journey will take us.