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A Childhood Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: School-Induced Stress

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By Linda Dobson

I collect information about education in general – and public school and homeschooling, in particular – the way children used to collect trading cards. How many children today have time to collect trading cards? I ask this not because trading cards are so great, but because my collection of backed-up articles on which to report is way too full of reports about stressed out children.

Sadschoolchild

I began thinking that it couldn't possibly be all that difficult to help a child learn how to read, write and understand basic math.

I can so relate to this. In 1984, I watched the most happy-go-lucky little boy I ever met (my first son) rapidly turning into a bundle of nerves. There was only one change in his life at the time – I sent him off to kindergarten. Not full day kindergarten, not “advanced kindergarten,” just plain ol’ half-day kindergarten. The changes in him began within just a couple of months. Even as a five year-old, the injustices and nonsensical nature of the system did not sit well with him, and right before my eyes a sweet child became tense, grouchy, and mean-spirited. He was totally stressed out.

If these personality-altering changes were set into motion after only a couple of months, what would happen if he was exposed to these stressors for thirteen years? The only thing I knew for certain was that I was not ready to send my child off to school for that length of time to find out.

I consider our family among the luckiest in the world because I happened to learn of this thing called “homeschooling” after a few more months. Watching author and founder of Growing without Schooling magazine John Holt on television one day, I learned my son didn’t have to suffer that stress. I learned that if I was willing, I could help him learn – at home.

I began thinking that it couldn’t possibly be all that difficult to help a child learn how to read, write and understand basic math. The more I meditated on and thought about this, the more clearly I saw that these were the blocks that build a true foundation upon which a human may then build an education for himself. And the rest, as they say, is history. I told the school thanks, but no thanks, and we became a homeschooling family, with my son’s two siblings following in his footsteps of what we ultimately realized was not schooling, but an education of value. We realized a true education isn’t received, it’s achieved.

If the media is finally paying attention to and reporting on school-induced stress, the problem has already reached major proportions. Stressed children lose their childhood, which explains a lot of problems we’re seeing in our culture today.

Think about the child who lived in your home prior to school attendance. Observe that child today. If you see negative changes, homeschooling may be the perfect antidote for your child, too. Homeschoolers enjoy a lot more support, networking, and resources than we had in 1984, so it’s even easier to accomplish today.

A childhood is a terrible thing to waste. Don’t let it happen to your kids.

LindaSig

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15 Responses to “A Childhood Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: School-Induced Stress”

  1. Amy Wilson says:

    I couldn't agree more! I am lucky as well — my bright, curious boy never went to kindergarten, because I saw what three visits to preschool did to him. He was the one who suggested homeschooling to ME, at age 3. What a smart kid! He's 11 now, his siter is 9, and our whole family is loving the freedom and flexibility of our homeschooling lifestyle.

  2. Hi, Amy,

    If I'd known what it would reveal, I would have been up for a few preschool visits myself.

    Just curious, how did your son know about hsing when he was 3? (Way cool, btw.)

    Thanks for reading!

    Linda

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Whitehead, Parent at the Helm. Parent at the Helm said: I couldn't take it anymore – had to get a post about school-induced stress out of my system. Please share if you… http://fb.me/JfJnXbkT […]

  4. Nancy in Indiana says:

    My husband and I were both terribly stressed at school. I heard of John Holt through the "Plowboy Interview" in _The Mother Earth News_ before our children were born. Our two sons never attended school, and they are both happy and productive young gentlemen now.

    #1 son is a congenital people-pleaser, and I'm sure he would have been manipulated by crafty miscreants, and gotten blamed for a lot that he did not initiate.

    #2 son is an emotionally sensitive who has never liked crowds from day one–and his small but close and loyal group of homeschooling buddies as been perfect for him.

  5. Hi, Nancy,

    Thanks for being here! Your note reminded me of something else that happened in kindergarten. Some 7th graders on the bus gave my son a note to give to a kindergarten girl. Apparently the note was filthy. Even tho' my son told the principal what happened, we had to go round and round for a while, and I was never quite convinced that the incident wasn't added to his permanent record which may still be sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere.

    Life is too short for school!

    All best,

    Linda

  6. Debra says:

    Society allows children a sense of wonder for only so long. Before they are forced to learn, they are hungry to learn.

    But humdrum facts shoved down their throats (for the sole purpose of regurgitating them for a test) is the quickest way to kill a sense of wonder.

    On the other hand, when they are permitted to simply be children and explore the world to their heart’s content, they will continue to see life through a child’s eyes. They maintain their eagerness to learn and their days are filled with meaning and joy.

    Play is just as necessary for children as academic knowledge – even more so up to a certain age. They need space to run, play, discover nature, and physically release the abundance of energy intrinsic in young children. Take my two active grandsons, for instance.

    Today they are happy campers. Samuel wears a white cowboy hat, a maroon towel draped over his shoulders and secured at the neck with a clip. He brandishes a handmade sword fashioned by his papa. The blade is made from a bamboo stick, the bell guard from a plastic cup lid, the pistol grip from compressed silver-gray duct tape. “Call me Zorro,” he says. He bends the blade back and says, “You see how flexible this thing is?”

    His younger brother, Seth, wields a lavender whip – a recycled jump rope that had been my daughter’s – an easier endeavor than the sword, with one of the handles simply cut off and the end frayed like a real whip. “Call me Indiana Jones.”

    They did not want to go home today. Samuel sat on the back steps with his head in his hands, on the verge of tears when he heard that it was time to leave. I intuited what his sadness was all about. He was leaving the place where he is free from pressure to grow up too soon. Here, he and his brother are real heroes, and living in the world of make-believe is as natural as breathing.

    Tomorrow they will return to their desks and their busywork and they will continue learning how to lose their sense of wonder.

  7. Debra,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story; I could just picture your grandson sitting there, sad to leave, and it brought me to tears. Thank you for giving them an outlet, however brief. I'm sure it helps – we just have to figure out EVERY child can have the same…I so fear for the health and welfare of children today.

    Please keep reading and sharing.

    Hugs from one grandma to another,

    Linda

  8. Hello from Italy! We were homeschooling our five-year-old daughter when we moved to Italy from the United States. I listened to everyone else and sent her to Italian kindergarten so she could learn Italian. Within a couple of weeks, my sweet, intelligent, active daughter was sullen and angry. And she hated hearing or speaking Italian. We immediately brought her back home. Now, a month later, she is back to her old self. She is also willing to learn Italian now, and speaks it much more than she ever did when she was "immersed" at school.

  9. […] A Childhood is a Terrible Thing to Waste, about the evils of school-y stress. […]

  10. Pamela says:

    Sadly, the story of children losing their joy and childhood in the name of education is all too common. I agree- life is too short to waste on that. I'm so glad that I came across the idea of homeschooling when my kids were babies, and that we get to enjoy this journey as a family. It's a wonderful life.

  11. Welcome, Sarah and Pamela!

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. Our stories, I'm sure, are repeated daily in households across the country and the world. We all need to take the opportunity when it presents itself to share what journeying through life as a family is like, for no matter how many times they rearrange the deck chairs of public education, it will NEVER offer the same benefits to families.

    Your thoughts are much appreciated,

    Linda

  12. […] is one of those all over posts. I ran across this article by Linda Dobson: School Induced Stress. It made me think of a few different things. Of my friends whose kids go to a “real” […]

  13. Linda, this is a great post. I meant to reference it in my post reviewing the documentary "Race to Nowhere": http://sgaissert.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/race-to

    Like you (and me), the filmmaker saw changes in her child due to school stress. I'm so glad it's getting more attention lately.

  14. Thanks so much, Susan. I'm glad it's getting more attention because it's virtually an epidemic. Sorry you weren't able to reference this in your review, but feel free to share. We need to let parents know what's going on!

    All best,

    Linda

  15. Wendy says:

    I couldn't agree more, my oldest is 18 and it seems like just yesterday he was starting Kindergarten. The time goes by way too fast to send your kids away for most of the day

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