Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comparing the incomparable

The backstory:  
Last week we went to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.  There are so many exhibits for the kids to interact with, so of course it's a fun place to go.  But I was stuck in a black cloud.  Pretty rare these days, but we were all out of sorts for a week after eating chocolate for a week!  For starters, I couldn't decide what to wear, because it had been raining so my jeans would drag in the puddles and I'd be wet all day.  Like it was the end of the world!  So then I was also ashamed of being so ... human?  Luckily Pete had enough patience for both of us, and with some prayer I was strong enough to soldier on, so we eventually all got in the car and set out for our adventure.  The kids had fun.

I survived the day and most importantly of all (just kidding) I have since bought some rainy-day jeans which don't drag in puddles.  Thankfully, I also found my sense of humour and smile again!

The journey:
I'm not actually comparing the incomparable ... I just liked the way that sounded.  It's really just me rambling!

So back to the drive through Sydney.  I'm not a city person ... I feel sorry for all those rushing, striving people (even though I know lots of them probably love it)!  But I'm always curious, intrigued and a little over-awed when I see big boarding schools, like Knox, Kings and Abbotsleigh.  I have often thought, hypothetically, about being a teacher or student there, comparing it to my small-town, public school experience.  This time when we drove past the private schools, I was imagining what it would be like to send our kids, our precious little darlings, there.  Into the big brick abyss.  I may as well have been looking for a rental home in an African zoo!  I just couldn't imagine it for us, nor begin to comprehend how people do it.

Now, I know that many people have no choice (at least none that they can see).  And that many others see these places as the ultimate educational environment for their children.  I also know the many virtues these schools claim for their attendees ... I have taught in one (though thankfully it was an old-fashioned country one, but still poles apart from my humble, happy childhood).  Tradition, social graces, academic excellence, sports, diverse subjects ... there is a lot of opportunity for children to have amazing experiences, find their talents and excel in every way, reach their potential and conquer the world.  And many do!!

But imagining MY kids there?  I couldn't form a mental picture of it.  These schools are so BIG, so SCHEDULED and PRESCRIBED.

Elite, private schools are not even the point really ... if I WAS enrolling my kids in school, it would have to be a small, family-like one, which probably doesn't exist yet, except perhaps in Finland or Sweden (a long commute from our island home, Australia).

The conclusion:
Perhaps it's a forgone conclusion, and of course it's not a revelation or lightning bolt moment.  My kids belong with me and other people who know and love them ... at home, in the park, library, rockpools, on a riverbank or in the bush.  I don't mind if they're missing the opportunities offered by public or private school education ... they're too busy living to care (!) and I have complete confidence they will one day know who they are and reach whatever goals they set.  I love the freedom we've chosen.  We explore overgrown paths, follow rabbit trails and marvel at shooting stars.  We learn wonderful and fascinating things about the world, ourselves and all kinds of subjects.  Not in the sequential, orderly way that schools often choose.  It's noisy, random and messy.

I'm not trying to be definitive or comprehensive ... just thinking aloud.  Here are some of the educational values I find important:

*  Inspire, challenge, trust, share
*  Provide a rich and varied diet for kids to taste and feast on
*  Children are people, individuals, the future, becoming who they are
*  Balance freedom and boundaries, always with love and respect
*  Time is a gift, not to be wasted or hurried
*  Nurture creativity, live in colour, discover rainbows
*  My children are explorers, but can ask for directions any time they like

I don't pretend to have all the answers.  We're not perfect.  I'm not claiming these values are unique to home ed, that all school is bad or all home ed is good.  I'm just reflecting, and I'm really thankful for our freedom.


  1. Great reflections - this one in particular struck me... Nurture creativity, live in colour, discover rainbows....
    A young relative of one of my inlaws was setting off for boarding school this year as her own choice (she's 12 or 13). I just couldn't imagine having my child away from me - being at a school all day would be bad enough for me but away at boarding school?!

  2. This is an excellent post - very thought provoking!


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