“This is not going to be exciting.” These were A.’s words to me as we got out of the car to attend a Junior Kindergarten orientation last night. He must have had some kind of premonition because, from the moment we stepped into the gym, he started acting weird. My normally rational child refused to listen or do the activities provided by the organizers. With my hand firmly clamped on his shoulder, he’d sit down at a table, glance at the items on it, and proceed to cause as much damage as possible by squirting out an entire bottle of blue onto a single sheet of paper, then smearing both hands in it, or sucking the water out of a medicine dropper that he was supposed to be using to fill an ice cube.
Something was definitely wrong because he rarely acts this way unless he’s upset. He morphed into a wild child who wanted me to chase him in circles around the gym while laughing hysterically. I refused to give chase, though I briefly panicked that I might have to. I could further read his discomfort with the situation by the way he kept looking for me in the crowd of parents, needing eye contact, a hand squeeze, some form of reassurance. It was a real challenge trying to keep him in line for an hour and a half. When the orientation finished after an hour and a half, I left feeling totally discouraged. As I tucked him into bed, he whispered, “I don’t want to go to school. I don’t like it.”
I wonder what set him off. Despite the serious misgivings I have about the public education system in Ontario, I certainly don’t voice them in front of him. He only sees my enthusiasm about his impending adventure at school, so he’d have no reason to respond so negatively to a gym full of kids he knows and ‘fun’ activities to do with me by his side. But perhaps that’s where the problem lies — those particular activities weren’t fun for him. The first group assignment was for all the kids to draw their self-portrait. A. never draws people, so didn’t even try; he just scribbled madly on both sides of the paper. Afterwards, when the teachers talked about all the necessary, basic body parts that make up a self-portrait, he didn’t have a single one on his paper. So, even if it was completely subconscious, maybe he felt that he’d failed at that first school ‘test’ of sorts. He’s not used to mass conformism. His attitude went downhill from there.
School is a big adjustment for everyone, and I know he’ll figure it out, just as I did once upon a time. But it’s a bad time for me to have an experience like that because I’m in the midst of reading Geez magazine’s newest issue Redoing Schooling (to which I’m a proud contributor again this month!). The issue is all about the apparent evils of standardized compulsory education and the style in which it’s imposed nowadays, kind of like a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). OK, that’s my own choice of simile, but you get the point. Of course, that’s rather extreme, but it doesn’t help having those fresh thoughts in my head while the JK teacher tells me there will be 27 four-year-olds in a single classroom the size of my dining + living rooms for 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week. It’s a brain assembly line. Eek.
I’m not interested in homeschooling. I keep repeating it over to myself. (Bad sign?) No, really, I’m not going to homeschool my kids. I’m craving my own time, space, silence, and the opportunity to do some *serious* writing. I just hope I can hold my disillusionment at bay.