A few times now I’ve been asked “can you imagine them at school?” It’s rhetorical, usually as we watch one of my children do things that you just don’t really see in a school setting. And yes, as I watch them I know that what we see before us and school are a bit like water and oil; would not mix. But I also know suggesting as much can feed into the implication that some children are suited to home and some children are suited to school. And I know that it isn’t that simple. Who they are now is influenced (or not) by the fact that they don’t go to school just as much as who they would be would be influenced (or not) by the fact they went to school if they did. Can I imagine my child at school?
I imagine my eldest, artistic and dedicated, often throwing herself into projects spanning days, interrupted and continually redirected from her path. Absorbing the message that her ideas and goals are not as important as the ideas and goals others have for her.
I imagine my youngest, always keen to enter into an open dialogue and conversation, suddenly finding herself not engaged with but silenced and reprimanded. Absorbing the idea that she is a nuisance and that her thoughts are insignificant.
I imagine my eldest, known to be accommodating and tolerant, becoming acutely aware of which pieces of herself do no belong here and suddenly facing the confliction of being true to herself or true to other’s expectations. Absorbing the message that self must be compromised in order to be “good”.
I imagine my youngest, busy and energetic and tactile, struggling to stay still and concentrate. Absorbing the message that her way of learning is invalid and unideal, that she must alter her way of being rather than the way information is delivered being altered.
I imagine my child keen to read, pushed and pushed to extend until reading isn’t so enjoyable. I imagine my child not keen to read yet, pushed and pushed to “catch up” unnecessarily until she feels like a failure.
I imagine my eldest who still struggles with certain pronunciations finding safety in remaining silent so as to avoid being teased. Absorbing the idea that we need to hide our weaknesses lest they be exploited.
I imagine my youngest, keen to volunteer for anything, suddenly unsure if that is a good idea based on the reaction of others. Absorbing the idea that we need to hide our strengths lest they be exploited.
I imagine my children second guessing their interests, their passions, their opinions — will this be popular? Will this be ridiculed? Absorbing the idea that something is worth pursuing based on the thoughts of others and not of our own volition.
I imagine children once accustom to eating when hungry, sleeping when tired, using the bathroom as necessary now feeling the need to replace their instincts with the schedules of schooling.
I imagine them spending most of their time inside, though they long to get lost in the bush. I imagine them constantly surrounded by same aged peers, though they value people of all ages as well as solitude and their own company too. I imagine this imbalance being corrected internally rather than externally, soon feeling most comfort indoors with those most similar to themselves.
I imagine it all getting easier for them. I imagine them “adjusting”. And I imagine them seeming completely fine because we never had the opportunity to get to know the alternative.
So yes, deep down, I can imagine it. But I don’t really like to.