I want to tell you about four amazing people I know.
My 9 year old is a planner. She has ideas swirling around in her head all day long and not enough time in the day to do everything that she wants. She dreams BIG! She wants to change the world and she loves animals and nature. She adores her friends and loves the role of leader and being part of a team. She is mad about minecraft and always thinking up new things to create.
My 7 year old loves to find out how things work, invent, create, and asks ‘why?’ about everything. If there’s not a good reason for something then it’s not ok with her. She takes things literally and expects that you mean what you say! She is caring and empathetic and she would never hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if it means being different. She is colourful and passionate and full of life.
My 4 year old is really interested in shells right now. She collects them every time we go to the beach, washes them, and keeps them on her special shelf. She’s super funny and her giggle is so contagious. She makes us all laugh. She loves to paint and create and be by my side involved in whatever I’m doing. She is affectionate and caring and full of energy!
My 3 year old is such a character. She’s all about the dresses and has about 4 wardrobe changes a day. Layers are in for her right now and you’ll often seeing her wearing winter clothes with a dress on over the top and always ALWAYS sparkly shoes. She is cheeky and adventurous and knows exactly what she wants.
They are all unique in their own ways and I love getting to know them as they are. And I really get to do that. Know them as they are and as they were meant to be, without pressure to be someone else. This is one of the reasons we chose to opt-out of the schooling system. We value their uniqueness immensely and want them to always know that they are loved and accepted for who they are.
These are not lessons learned in school.
“What else does compulsory schooling teach? It teaches you not only to personally conform, but to value conformity, to despise differences, to be dependent upon institutions…” – Gina Cassidy
Our differences make us who we are. They are important. We each have something unique to bring to the world, but we are educating it out of our children. We are carving them all into the same mold, shaving off all that is interesting and wonderful about them. What is left at the end of this 13 year long process? Is there a scrap of the person they once were, a child full of wonder, confidence, individuality, and unique interests?
How can we possibly expect them to be themselves, to be accepting of difference, to take a risk, to stand out, to speak up, to love who they are, when they have spent so many years being told that this is not ok?
What does it do to a child’s self-esteem to constantly receive the message that who you are is not as important as how well you conform?
“Expecting a child to develop at a pace set by you contradicts loving him for who he is, because his worth is then measured by your standards and timetable. Instead, loving your child is being delighted with his pace of growth so that he feels free to be himself at each step of the way, free of the concern that you won’t love or appreciate him if he doesn’t live by your timetable or standards.” -Naomi Aldort
Standardization and conformity are absurd and damaging goals. The world needs leaders and team members, doers and thinkers, fixers and feelers, and the many other varieties of talents and personalities we are blessed with. We should be empowering children to meet their own goals, not educating them to satisfy ours.
Children deserve to be accepted for exactly who they are. School doesn’t communicate that.
The lesson of school is: you are here to be shaped into the person we want you to be; to meet our requirements, follow our rules, think how we tell you to think, and prove your worth.
The lesson I care about couldn’t be more different. Whether you are out to change the world, or you just want to wear sparkly shoes today, you are accepted. Whether you are captivated by a seashell or a math problem, you are accepted. Whether you are a social butterfly or enjoy your own company, you are accepted. Be you, because who you are is wonderful and you need not prove your worth to anyone. Your uniqueness is celebrated and cherished.
School tells us that success is conforming, outperforming others, and meeting expectations. We don’t have to buy into that ridiculous idea.