Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Visiting a Foreign Land

Last Friday we visited a foreign land for about an hour. I was nervous about the trip, anticipating it with trepidation, not sure what to expect, not sure how we would be received. As is turned out, the natives were friendly, open, helpful, the country was clean, orderly, seemingly safe.

This country we visited was our local Elementary School. Explanations are needed.

I was homeschooled, from grade 4 on. I went to private schools through 2nd grade, a public alternative magnate school for 3rd, and then my parents decided homeschooling was a better option, for various reasons. And that was a LONG time ago.

So grade school of any sort is fairly foreign to me. And I always assumed that homeschooling would be the option for any children I would bear. Except that our 5 year old daughter annouced a couple of weeks ago that she would like to go to school. Regular school, to be precise...I offered several alternatives, there is a Waldorf based school nearby that offers a part-time program for homeschoolers looking for something different. We also have a local Montessori School whose philosophy we really like, and with more free time for me, I could work more to cover the tuition. But she was steadfast in her preference, stating in fact, that she didn't want me to "waste my money on school." It wouldn't be a waste, I insisted, if it would provide a good experience for her. No, she was uninterested.

So we toured the school, and it seemed, well fine, I suppose. Being so inexperienced with the whole school environment, I was unsure of what to expect. But I didn't find anything shocking or frightening, it was just, very, well, school-ish. And she liked it, wanted to start right away.

I should probably have anticipated this, in light of the fact that at 2 she began rejecting my clothing choices for her.

And so, I find myself, with my 5 year old about to enter kindergarten 4 weeks before the school year ends, at a bit of a loss.

I'm completely unconcerned with her academic standing. I know she's bright and capable, and very well spoken. Several days she asked me, when I was drawing a pumpkin for her to color in, if I could make the stem "dimensional," as in thick enough to color in.  I think she'll be just fine.

But I have this niggling fear that her spirit may be crushed somehow along the way, that she'll lose herself in the needing to fit in and be a part of it all. And then I remember that that can happen to any of us, no matter what our background or experience. And I hope I can be strong enough to show her how to be strong and true to herself.

And that, ultimately, is at the crux of why I'm not fighting this choice of hers (although there are places in me that really want to). I don't know where this will lead us, it feels big and scary to me in some ways, and in others, rather silly to make a big deal of it at all. But I do know that her voice, tiny and mighty simultaneously, needs to be heard, and that she's asking for something from a clear strong place, and that if I choose to undermine it, then I teach her not to trust herself.

So instead, I remember that although my wants for her are many, when I distill them down, it's something like this. I want her to be strong and humane, and to feel she can thrive in whatever circumstances she encounters or chooses.

And I fall back on these beautiful words from Kahlil Gibran which I posted recently. And look forward to the adventure awaiting us.


Jane said...

I grew up in public school. At times I wish I could be home schooling my son but his father would have nothing to do with it. I'm sure it's tough knowing that you had such a vastly different experience. I do like that she seems to have a determined and independent spirit; that's crucial in our society today. I bet she'll be just fine and maybe one day she will be home schooled but in the meantime she'll have the experience of public too.

Jane said...

Just coming back to add that you will have some time now to really look at all the schooling options while she's still so young. If this school experience doesn't work out you'll be prepared with more choices.