It’s fitting that today was Juniordwarf’s last day of school for the year, as February’s ‘back to the future’ post is about how I was feeling the week before he started school.
This is a chance to look back and reflect on how much has changed since then and to look forward to next year when he will be a full-time school kid.
I suppose in one sense, this year was a practice for next year when he starts his first year of compulsory schooling and attends five days a week. Dabbling his feet in the water to get a feel for how it works.
Next year he will well and truly be part of the system, just as Sarah Macdonald wrote in her post that I quoted in my post
I have a touch of sorrow that my son is entering the first institution of many he’ll encounter in life. From now on he must fit into the system and join the mass of the mainstream. Soon he’ll be assessed, ranked, judged and assigned marks. For his own good, he’ll be part of a system that increasingly likes to test and rate and label – ‘gifted, talented, dyslexic, hyperactive, challenged’ etc. My son will have to negotiate a microcosm of society; a zoo where he’ll have to fit in, be cool, make friends and not lose them within the frenzied hive of the playground. He’ll have to wear a uniform, he’ll have to eat when he’s told, sit when he’s told, put his fingers on his lips and repress his rambunctiously annoying ways.
I fully understand Sarah’s ‘touch of sorrow’. I felt it too.
But I suppose ‘the system’ is not necessarily a bad thing. We live in a society, and a society needs rules and structure in order to function. And people need to live and behave in accordance with those rules and boundaries for the same reason.
Of course there will always be the rule breakers and boundary pushers in both beneficial and harmful ways – if not, society wouldn’t evolve – and for everyone to always live safely within the system would create a much less diverse and interesting world. (I can feel myself going way off topic here . . .)
What I think I’m trying to get at is that while I want Juniordwarf to be able to fit in and live in the society of the day, I don’t want him to blindly follow ‘the mass of the mainstream’ if he believes it’s not right for him. I don’t want him to accept everything he’s told without question, but I want him to be able to be able to make judgements about what should be challenged and to believe in himself strongly enough to challenge it.
I want him to learn for the sake of learning, not for the sake of getting a good mark. (I know. This is all very well in principle, but you often need good results to get anywhere. I wonder how you find the balance between the two?)
I look back on my school days and my university days and – even though I didn’t notice it at the time – everything I did was focused on getting a good result at the end of the year. No wonder I didn’t enjoy studying.
Even as I write this, I wonder whether what I want for him is really what I would have wanted for myself, if I was able to take myself back to the start of my school days and begin all over again. I wonder what would have happened had I not strived to be so ‘good’ and ‘smart’.
What sort of person would I be now? Would I have spent so many years putting myself down for never being good enough if I hadn’t gotten into the mindset that I could always do better very early on?
And ‘good enough’ for what, exactly?
Or would I be in a totally different position if I hadn't done as well at school and at uni as I did?
And were those good results really that important in the grand scheme of things?
This is all such new territory for me. Trying to help my son navigate his way through this world so that he can form his own opinions and develop his own values, can develop a strong sense of respect for himself and can take responsibility for his actions. Giving him the guidance and help he needs without over-compensating for the things I think I’m missing and without being overbearing.
It is such a huge responsibility that sometimes it completely overwhelms me and I want to retreat back into the system.
But I simply can’t let it overwhelm me. This is real and it’s happening now. And all I can realistically do is what I think is best here and now, based on the information I have.
To stop questioning myself and get on with being Juniordwarf’s mum.