Parenting Advice ColumnSubject: parents plan to unschool/3-year-old asks for school
Our family plan is to unschool, but our 3-year-old keeps asking to "go to school". I'm convinced it's due to cultural propaganda; how have others dealt with this? I talk to him about homeschoolers, say "we're at school", etc. We live in Germany right now and there is great pressure to put him in preschool for quick language acquisition.
This interesting question was discussed in Growing Without Schooling some years ago. The general consensus was that the parents should ask the child to be as specific as possible about why they want to go to school. These parents were amazed at some of the answers. One boy wanted only to ride the school bus (which his parents then arranged for him); one girl wanted to have something to say when adults asked her what school she was going to (so they created a name and put a sign on the front of their house), another girl just wanted to play in the playground (which they then did on weekends) and so on. In each of these situations, the answer was to identify and meet the underlying need, which is the guiding principle behind attachment parenting generally.
Somehow it can be easy to forget to ask the child this question and to assume that they somehow have all the information necessary to make such a critical decision. The simple reality is that they do not have this information or the experience on which to base such a decision, so the most helpful thing we can do is to learn exactly what it is they have in mind when they make this type of request.
John Holt, in his chapter "Common Objections", put it this way:
13. "What if the children want to go to school?"
"This is a hard question. There is more than one good answer to it, and these often conflict. Parents could argue, and some do, that since they believe that school can and probably will do their children deep and lasting harm, they have as much right to keep them out, even if they want to go, as they would to tell them they could not play on a pile of radioactive waste. This argument seems more weighty in the case of younger children, who could not be expected to understand how school might hurt them. If somewhat older children said determinedly and often, and for good reasons, that they really wanted to go to school, I would tend to say, let them go. How much older? What are good reasons? I don't know. A bad reason might be, "The other kids tell me that at school lunch you can have chocolate milk."
Here is a related question and John Holt's answer:
15. "I don't want to feel I'm sheltering my children or running away from adversity."
"Why not? It is your right, and your proper business, as parents, to shelter your children and protect them from adversity, at least as much as you can. Many of the world's children are starved or malnourished, but you would not starve your children so that they would know what this was like. You would not let your children play in the middle of a street full of high-speed traffic. Your business is, as far as you can, to help them realize their human potential, and to that end you put as much as you can of good into their lives, and keep out as much as you can of bad. If you think - as you do - that school is bad, then it is clear what you should do."
I hope this is helpful.
JanParenting Advice Column