This happened several years ago when my oldest child was attending public school. I was already homeschooling my younger kids, reading a lot and learning a lot about unschooling. My then 17 year old was still attending public school, by his own choice. But we had issues. He was absent/tardy a lot and so we had to go to court. Let me clarify, I’m talking a few minutes late a few times, adding up to less than an hour of missed school. Then there were a few times he missed completely. I was livid at the $300 fine. Missing six days within six months really doesn’t seem like a lot to me. Especially when I consider that we easily have more than one day a month (we as in me and the little ones) that we don’t do much because we don’t feel like it. They don’t or I don’t. Lazy days, down days that everyone has, sick days, just too overwhelmed with other stuff days. Plus I feel like I’m a competent parent and I know when my kid is sick enough (or tired or grieving etc) to be home but not sick enough to need a doctor. Heck, most companies give you personal days because they recognize that even when you are healthy, you sometimes need a mental health day. (when his great grandmother died they actually told me I had to send a copy of the obituary).
Back to the point: I was livid. They didn’t bother with why or individual circumstances everyone there got lectured and fined. I had just been reading about how the public school system creates all these jobs, like the text book industry and teachers colleges and administration, etc and thought wow yeah, since all but one of the cases before the court that day were truancy you can add that judge, bailiff and the whole office staff to the list. Fining kids for being late or absent is a money making proposition.
Plus there was a teen mom with a newborn there who was also lectured and told to go back to school. Really? Because I think the baby needs her more right now and she can learn whatever she wants later on. She can go back to school later, earn her diploma online, be home schooled. You don’t even need a high school diploma to get into community college. I was outraged at what I felt were very skewed priorities. I know education is important but as far as development goes, those first few years are crucial. What was the rush to get that mom to put her baby in childcare?
I went on a rant about how outrageous it is that the state has more rights over my child than I do! I tried to pick him up early one day and a teacher refused to release him. Who else has the right to take and keep my child against my wishes? It seems crazy when you stop and consider it. My mom agreed at first then talked to my step dad about it then called me back with this take on it: hey, this is part of life, they are preparing him for the real world. everyone has to get up and go to work whether they like it or not. We hate our jobs but we get up and go to them every day and have for thirty years. Its called life. He has to get use to it.
I thought about it for a minute. That sounded so….familiar and like what everyone says and I’ve always heard and believed and… …and…and WRONG!
Wrong as in, it just washed over me, its OK for them to exert pointless control to turn him into a conforming robot because they have to in order to prepare him for a life of misery? Because that’s our idea of adult responsibility?
Then it hit me, so many people believe this and believe it strongly, but is it ok ? Is it right? Is it what i want for my kids? To sit down and shut up and be subordinate to some jerk of a boss who is a jerk just because they can be? NO….I want them to quit any job like that and find a better one, to follow their dreams, if that means being an entrepreneur instead of a wage slave or a starving artist or whatever it means, but no, I am certainly NOT preparing him for a life of drudgery spent in the service of a job he hates. NO NO NO, I don’t want that AT ALL……………
I’ve been an unschooler from that moment on, because it’s not just an educational philosophy, it has changed my outlook on EVERYTHING!