Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Mainstream School Isn't Always The Right Fit - My Story

mainstream school and homeschooling

I went to a lovely private school from prep through to year 12. I loved high school but primary school was a different story.  I'm strong-willed and independent and a little feisty. I think a lot and question things. I also get bored if I'm not challenged and I like to daydream. My personality and temperament did not mesh well with the small conservative Christian school I attended.

Just recently, I had the opportunity to meet with my old primary school principal.

Did he remember me? Oh yes. How could he forget?

As we chatted he said, "I always knew you would be successful. You were just too big for such a conservative school. It wasn't a good fit for you." Another person encouraged me by saying "Isn't amazing how all those weaknesses we saw in you turned out to be strengths?". Beautiful words. But how I wished someone had said that to me at the time.

All I remember from primary school was being labelled a troublemaker, difficult, mischievous, defiant and outspoken. I spent most of those early school years feeling like something was wrong with me. It turned out I was intellectually gifted but who knew? Certainly not me who had been told by more than one teacher that I wasn't as smart as other children, was too much of a daydreamer and was never working to my potential.

 " wasn't a  good fit for you"....

Mainstream schools cater for the 'average' child. I wasn't average.

The stories I hear from parents whose children struggle in school are not average. They either have learning difficulties, are gifted or just don't enjoy the structure, rigidity or negative social pressures of the school environment. These kids muck around, are disruptive and difficult but it's not that they don't want to learn - it's just that mainstream school doesn't provide them with the right kind of learning environment. It doesn't suit them. Mainstream school works for some but not for all. It's like trying to shove a triangle into a square hole - sometimes it's just not the right fit.

These 'not-so-average' kids end up like me, believing there is something wrong with them as they see themselves as a source of frustration for teachers and disappointment for their parents purely because they don't fit in the neat little box that we call 'average'.

But..there is nothing wrong with these kids. There was (is) nothing wrong with me. Kids like me need to be encouraged and accepted. They need to be told that they have unique strengths, gifts, abilities and that it's okay to be different - because it is. 

 "Your weaknesses turned out to be strengths!"

My parents were constantly telling me I was smart, funny, talented and creative but their words were drowned out by the teachers that influenced me six hours a day, 5 days a week for 12 years.

In the book "raising your spirited child" by Mary Sheedy-Kurcinka it says we have to change our frame of reference as weaknesses can easily be turned into strengths. Often the qualities we despise in children are ones we admire and respect in adults.

Weird = Unique

Defiant = Strong and assertive

Daydreamer = Deep thinker

Outspoken = Confident communicator

When I look at my own children I see children who are far from average. I know school isn't the right fit for them and that's okay. Homeschooling works for us. It enables my kids to be set free from comparisons, competition and pressures to conform to the 'average'.

Homeschooling has been the option that has worked for us when school just 'wasnt the right fit'.

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