Friday, January 29, 2016

Why 'No School'?

I wasn't planning to write this blog until I had done all my homework- read up a lot more and visited all th schools on my list (as of now I haven't done anything other than to read some general books by Maria Montessori and make flying visits to a couple of play schools, to drop other kids).

But as days go by and more and more people ask me about school decisions, and as I observe my son (almost two) growing, I realize that for this year, the decision is 'No school'.

What are compelling reasons to send children to school at the age of two?  I think school is desirable when a child cannot get time and attention at home, for various reasons.  Many people tell me that I will see great changes in my child soon after he begins school.  He will express himself more forcefully and distinctly, be more aware of social situations and interactions.  But do I really want all these changes rapidly induced in a little child?  I don't think so.

From the perspective of the school, what is the advantage to admitting children early on?  Education is a business (pardon my cynicism).  Apart from this, I spoke to some teachers and administrators.  Many told me about how two years onwards is a sensitive learning period for children and specialists and experts in the area are better equipped to tackle these learning phases rather than parents.  (That's a subjective view, in my opinion).

Only one or two teachers seemed to endorse the option of staying at home.  One of my relatives, who has worked intensively with the old Loretto nuns in education, said that the nuns would never admit children younger than four to their schools, as children are not ready to be separated from their mothers much before that.  She has seen a lot of anxiety syndromes in young children who are forced to leave home and attend school.  Apart from this, not all teachers have the patience of saints; apparently several complain when toddlers who come to school are not toilet trained and so on.

Schools have started taking children earlier and earlier on because they apparently feel they will 'miss out on the good students'.  Neither my relative nor I could make sense of this explanation!  Perhaps it is a question of keeping up with the Jadejas, looking over one's shoulder to see what other reputed schools are doing and doing the same, perhaps earlier.  For this reason, school hours also keep increasing (some schools function as day care centers cum schools, forgetting that there may be some parents who do not need day care facilities).  Each year, the child is expected to achieve certain 'landmarks' and each teacher wants to be sure she has ticked everything off the list, so the children are taught many things, some of which they are not ready to learn.  This is part of the inside story, and though I have no expertise in this area, I believe it is true, just because of the advertising and all the talk, and from what I see of the little children and their school notebooks and their approach to books and activities.

Apart from this, the reason I don't want to take my son to school right now is because he is still physically growing in spurts.  This means that the body and mind periodically seem to undergo major changes or readjustments that need energy from within.  This changes his daily activities and sometimes even his eating and sleeping times. He seems to have an innate sense of what is needed for him just like animas do, and I respect this.  Right now, for example, he seems to be having some trouble with  new tooth that is emerging.  He is not in pain but it has been difficult for him to sleep during the early morning hours.  So he has skipped his breakfast and is now fast asleep.  How does one manage all this within an inflexible routine, and moreover, how does a child explain all this to teachers, who may not understand or trust him well enough?

There are other reasons for staying at home, which have more to do with our lifestyle and surroundings.  Currently we are in a peaceful academic campus, which has a lot of space to walk around, a lot of natural surroundings to explore and plenty of sports facilities.  I am at home and free to spend time with my son and help him learn in a relaxed atmosphere, based on his needs.  Apart from this, we have family and friends in different parts of the country (and world) who are always happy to see us.  These few years are a good time to travel, a little at a time, meet new people and see different ways of life.  It is something that school, books and television cannot really teach in comparable ways.

These days we awaken peacefully and go for an early morning walk.  Then we sit together as a family and have a relaxed breakfast.  After this, my son sits and listens to some music while I quickly finish some household chores.  Finally, off we go - exploring the campus - looking at flowers, trees, stones, sand, cars and people who are doing different things.  Sometimes the people talk to us.

When the day gets hot, my son splashes in his tub, looks at water droplets that retain their shape, tries to sink various toys that bob up, puts little mugs into bigger mugs, mops the floor and does many other fun and thought provoking things.  After looking at some books and eating a small snack, he serenely drifts off to sleep.

School, on the other hand, would mean waking up at a fixed time, rushing to get ready, gulping down some food and hurrying again to beat the office traffic.  By the time one is done with all that, one is already a little exhausted.  And that's what we all have to do, anyway, for twelve years or more. So why begin earlier than necessary?

So, here's to a year of doing things in and around home.  Of course, I plan to visit the schools and check the admission requirements and what children are expected to know by the time they enter proper school.  I don't think it will be difficult teaching much of that at home, at the right time and in an enjoyable way.


Nora Franglen said...

I totally agree with what you write about not needing to start school at such a young age, Sujata. In the past people only thought of nursery schools as a gentle place for perhaps a few hours in the morning, and often in the company of the babies' parents, for little children to get used to playing with other children, but in safety, and only if they wanted to. Now nursery schools seem have become a kind of dumping ground for working parents, at least in the UK where I am writing from, and/or a much too early forcing-ground for cramming information into too young heads. In some enlightened countries, like the Nordic country, children don't start any real book learning until they are seven, and then they learn very quickly indeed. So enjoy your little son at home for as long as you feel he needs your total attention.

Himani Sharma said...

Nice Blog Post.Pre School

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