IT’S that time of year when parents begin wringing their sweaty palms about where their child should start school next year. I laughed like a drain when I heard reports of parents at primary school open days with clipboards. I didn’t believe it, of course, until a mate told me that several of her mother’s group were guilty as charged.
“With clipboards?” “Yes, with clipboards.” “To check out a school?” “No, to check out about six schools.” At this point I fell off my chair in hysterics. “So tell me, what are these mothers (and it’s always mothers stressing about this occasionally fathers jump on board in solidarity but are never (perhaps I should pur the word rarely in there to hose down the trolls) the initiators) trying to find in a school?” “Well, Dev, they are trying to find the school that is going to turn their child into a genius.” BINGO. So if they can’t be a genius maybe their kid can be the genius they might have been. Now that sounds like healthy parenting. Why would anyone want their kids to be a genius? I just want my kids to be well rounded, resilient and not in jail. All I hope is that by the time they are 25 they have survived a broken heart, a flat tyre, food poisoning and have a couple of good mates. Bad mother, me.
When my eldest started school I met a woman at the school information night. She listed off eight primary schools that she had already checked out. I said: “We haven’t seen any others we’ve just booked him into this one.” By the grave look on her face it was as if the principal was Pol Pot and the teachers were ex-military personnel from Abu Ghraib. I’d love to tell you that I turned to her and said: “Get over yourself.” But I didn’t. All we wanted was for our son to turn up on the first day of school and know a familiar face from kinder. And for it to be a fair reflection of the society he’d be living in. Because you can’t tell if a place is right for your kid simply by wandering around the corridors.
Here’s a tip. If you have checked out more that two schools it’s probably a good idea to consider getting yourself a life at some stage. If you have a good reason not to send them to the local primary school send them to the next closest. If you feel the difference is between a child who will be a Nobel Prize winner and a child who is a crack-addicted hooker you’re wrong.
Here’s a message from all of us here at Calm Down International: “If you are so tragic that you need your kids to go to a certain school to feel better about yourself may I suggest that you take a short course, do some volunteer work or try yoga.”
What is best for kids is not the idyllic school environment as perceived by their anxious, hovering parents. Children are better equipped in life by learning persistence and motivation through failure, disappointment and frustration than by some fantasy school created by their parents’ inner five-year-old. Kids just want: a place to play chasey, some teachers who know their name and a few mates they can laugh and swap lunches with.
Most kids don’t give a rat’s about the improvised music workshops, organic gardens and interpretative dance classes they do at school. But the parents, eyes blazing, face alight, will bore people senseless about it in an attempt to convince you of their coolness. All it actually does is convince us that they are Wannabe Creatives; insecure dags who had friends in bands but were never in bands themselves. Too much exposure to organised creativity immunises children against creativity. I can guarantee you that they will never hunger to paint like Monet, read Shakespeare or play cello like Casals because: “Nah. I did that when I was six and I was crap at it. Let’s go to the casino!”
As far as holding them back for an extra year; when in doubt hold them back. If kinder has suggested that they can do with another year, hold them back. If you are thinking that the earlier you get a child into school the more you can stuff into them, hold them back. If these instructions from me are pissing you off because people around you are suggesting that you hold your kid back, hold them back. I do not know of one parent who has held a child back and regretted it, but know dozens of parents who sent them early who do. If your defence is that they’ll be bored at home, trust me, kids are always bored at home.
There have been countless studies showing that starting children early may have academic, social and psychological disadvantages, but it’s simply common sense to have kids coping as best as possible in the classroom rather than struggling, or worse still, being held back. It’s an individual decision and the Government desperately needs to increase funding to kindergartens and establish more preschool programs for four-to-five-year-olds attached to schools to make this decision easier.
I love this conversation ‘Oh (INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL DE JOUR HERE) has a great reputation.’ ‘From who? Only from the parents who send their kids there. To get over their own insecurity they keep banging on about how great their kid’s school is.
They’ll tell you they want their kids to meet the right people. Right people is just code for white people. This social engineering I find tragic and telling in more or less equal proportions.
FFS everyone, send em to the local. Stop trying to give your perfect child that perfect trajeectory into the perfect life you feel you never had.
The amount people bang on about the school their child attends is in inverse proportion to how successful they feel. Chill out, stop trying to live your life through your children and do some work on yourself. Your children are not you. Google ‘ego confusion’ for more information.
Catherine Deveny In Conversation with Stella Young! This Sunday June 24 3pm Tix $25/$22 secrets, swearing, champagne and rivetting candid chat. With q&a, door prizes, special guest Nelly Thomas and musical act BUY TICKETS HERE!