I love this moment captured in an image. Her arms wide open, greeting life. Totally absorbed in the moment, in her joy. Running wherever her feet take her.
This is what our life is about.
Our life without school.
I love to watch them running wild and free.
When I think of this tiny girl, and how she would have started preschool next year, the image that comes to mind is of someone coming along with a big net and scooping her up.
Plucking her right out of life and placing her in a classroom instead. Away from her family and friends and everyone she has ever loved so far.
Promising her something better, something she ‘needs’, the best start in life, an ‘opportunity’.
And I am confused. Can’t the world see the opportunity right here? Right at her feet? The opportunity she is running towards with open arms?
We have been sold this idea so well. So well that even those who have the means and desire to choose differently often believe that it is not their right, that they are incapable of providing enough for their children, that they are taking away opportunities by not sending their children off to school.
I hear it so often, parents wondering how they could possibly provide the opportunities that school does…
‘What if my child wants to play a musical instrument? At our school they do music every day!’
‘What if my child wants to learn another language? There are language classes at school.’
‘Our school has their own garden and the children get to play and explore outside a lot. It’s a great school.’
‘My child is very social, what if I can’t give them enough time with other children?’
But what is an opportunity? ARE these in fact opportunities? Or are they requirements?
What if your child doesn’t enjoy music? Will they be allowed to do something else?
What if they’re not interested in learning another language? Or if they want to learn a language that is not being offered at the school? Will their choices matter?
What if they don’t feel like going outside some days? Will they have to garden anyway?
What about days where they need some space and time alone? Is giving up those worth the chance for the ‘socialisation’ offered at school?
What if your child doesn’t want these opportunities? What if some days they do and some days they don’t? Are you ok with them being made to sit still when they want to run? Is it fine with you that they can no longer read what interests them, but instead whatever book they are told to read? What if they are reprimanded for not being able to sit still on a mat at 4 years old and listen to a teacher? Is it ok with you that they must give up listening to their bodies needs in order to receive this ‘opportunity’?
Will your child be grateful for these opportunities that come at the expense of their freedom and rights?
“It is absurd and anti-life to be a part of a system that compels you to listen to a stranger reading poetry when you want to learn to construct buildings, or to sit with a stranger discussing the construction of buildings when you want to read poetry.” – John Taylor Gatto
School is often not an opportunity, it is an obligation. If it was an opportunity, wouldn’t children have the right to refuse it?
If you’re going to consider the ‘opportunities’ of school, at least also consider the opportunities available when you don’t have most of your day taken up by compulsory schooling…
The opportunity for freedom of thought, body, time, and mind.
The opportunity to learn at your own pace.
The opportunity to truly know yourself. Your interests. Your passions.
The opportunity for a closer bond with siblings developed though ample time together.
The opportunity not to have your self-confidence squashed by comparison and competition.
The opportunity to let your uniqueness flourish, instead of being standardised.
The opportunity to make your own choices.
The opportunity to feel powerful to affect your life, instead of a powerless bystander at the mercy of other’s decisions.
The opportunity to form authentic friendships not based solely on age or which class you are assigned to.
The opportunity to experience real life, instead of being locked away from it for the majority of the day until you reach an arbitrary age.
The opportunity for meaningful and authentic contribution.
The opportunity to decide for yourself what you are interested in and how much you want to know about it.
The opportunity to be free from near constant testing and pressure.
The opportunity for more time with family, for children to be surrounded by those who love them, instead of strangers.
The basic opportunity to choose when you wake up, what you wear, when you can eat, when you may use the toilet, when you can play, what you must think about.
The opportunity to be respected and equal.
I could go on and on.
School is not an opportunity, it is a compulsory obligation.
Life is the opportunity. Live it.