It was an unintended behavioural experiment. I have once again come to my unscientific conclusions.
What I don’t provide my children at home: marimbas, of every size, shape, or number; I don’t lead a children’s choir (nor could I), I don’t have a drama club (though I probably could), and I don’t house two hundred children at a time. So we registered our oldest in a music school for a few weeks in July.
She loved it. She loved the class offerings: marimba, choir, backstage prep, and piano lessons. Her gregarious nature loved to meet new people, watch kids of her age mix with each other, see how they think and what they value. She loved dancing and performing and singing at the final pep-rally-like party. She had a grand time.
And I loved it too. These people knew what they were doing. Since I’m unwilling to purchase, or even rent, a full-xylophone instrument for my home, or teach my children to stay on pitch (I don’t even really know what that means), it was an experience like nothing I would provide at home.
But what I didn’t sign up for, though I should have known that I would have, was the incredible drain it was on my daughter. It wasn’t just because she had to be up early, by 7 at the latest (yes, I know she’s unbelievably privileged: her sleep is not nearly so regulated even during our study year). It wasn’t just because she needed to have her chores complete before she left, or packed a lunch (she kinda liked having cheese strings and ‘food’ in packages). It wasn’t because she needed to do her paper route after her full day of school.
I saw that she was drained because she was surrounded by people; people that demanded her attention. People that indirectly, or directly, suggested how she must be, or act, or dress, or talk. She didn’t have time to process all the information rushing at her. She didn’t have someone to process that with. She didn’t have a quiet moment to just think, to be lost in her thoughts. She didn’t know for certain that she belonged, or fit, or was valued.
You might say these experiences are normal. The school experience is normal. In our culture, it is the norm. Most people go to school. I did it myself for twelve years, plus six years post-high school. But normal=healthy, you can’t convince me.
Attachment theory, by Gordon Neufeld, has cemented my belief that kids hanging around with kids for long periods, become dependant on their peers. I’m not against my kids hanging out with kids, of course. They love their friends, love meeting new friends and love to chitter chatter with friends of all ages, babies to seniors. But when their little hearts look to other kids to determine whether something is a good thing to do, whether something they do is valuable, whether they themselves are a person of value, then, nope, I don’t support that kind of social structure (a social structure, by the way, that will never be repeated in their life again).
I remember thinking, when I first heard these ideas, that they were a bit loony tunes. Oppositional as it may sound, and I’m not intending to be oppositional, but I recognize that my understandings are far outside the norm, so can be interpreted that way, I believe that kids were meant to primarily look to their parents as guides, as affirmers, as leaders in their developing lives. Reintroducing my girl to school, once again, has only reaffirmed that the ideal place for kiddos, is alongside their parents.