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A Very Good Question: Why Do I Have to Go to School?

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A Very Good Question:

Why Do I Have to Go to School?

By Linda Dobson

I was charged with the duty and responsibility of seeing to it that my first grade granddaughter got to school – on time. After two mere days of duty I knew I was already out of effective ways to inspire her out of bed when the alarm, obviously, could not penetrate the peaceful, contented, deep sleep she enjoyed at that time every morning.

YoungGirlOnBike schoolOn the third day, I turned off the useless alarm and steeled myself for what was to be an inevitable and, to my mind, insane battle. I would have had to plead guilty if we were ever late (which we were not) to responsibility for the crime, for every morning after I quietly approached and drew close to her sleeping figure, and then gazed down upon my “foe,” so peaceful, so content, so oblivious to her pending discontent, my heart exploded with empathy. It cried, “How cruel that forces beyond her control, and now mine, command an abrupt end to one of the most, if not the most, healthy acts she will perform for herself today.” Then my heart whispered, “Allow her just one more minute.” And then I allowed her just one more minute still.

“Emily.” Now it was my voice whispering. “Emily,” a little louder as I stroked her soft brown hair while moving it off her cheek in preparation for a wake up kiss. “Sweetie, it’s time to get up.” A barely perceptible movement of her arm was the only indication that, perhaps, I invaded her peace. I rubbed her back gently as I began singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning,” while increasing the movement and decibel level in the room.

Emily showed signs of annoyance. (As you probably would, too, if awakened by my singing.) She stretched before saying, “Mommy told me the story about how you always used to sing that song to wake her up. Now stop singing, please,” she mumbled into her pillow.

“I can’t stop, honey. We have to get dressed, eat breakfast, and greet the day,” I said to the back of her head.

“Do I have to go to school?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

She rolled on to her back, and I swear I saw her heels dig into the soft mattress. “Then I don’t want to greet the day and I won’t get dressed and I won’t eat breakfast. Why do I have to go to school?”

No Good Answer to Why She Had to Go to School

My eyes filled with tears as Emily’s question traveled its route from ears to brain and then on to the heart, the very same path taken by knowledge about education for so many years now. I know there are too many learning alternatives available today for any child to suffer an obviously imperfect educational fit. And yet…and yet…powerful forces out of control were making my precious grandchild do just that…suffer…every day…morning after morning after morning.

A grandmother unaware of options could easily have answered Emily’s question with things like “because you’ll get smart and have a great job” or “because that’s where children belong” or even “you’ll get a gold star for perfect attendance.” Aware of options – and how perfect they’d be for this particular little person and her unique blend of learning styles and intelligences – coupled with a deep, abiding love for her, my mind could not formulate, nor could my lips utter such absurd responses.

I decided to offer no answer at all, choosing instead to alternatively cajole, threaten, persuade, and ultimately bribe the child out of bed with the promise of opportunity to ride her bike during all the moments she saved by dressing and eating quickly. Imagine that: offering a mere taste of one of her life’s greatest pleasures so that she would do something she really didn’t want to do, something I really didn’t want her to do with her fleeting childhood, and something that robbed her of precious moments of exercise on a rare, Vitamin D producing morning in the North Country.

The bribe worked. Emily hustled along to gain probably three whole minutes of fun in the sun before I said, “That’s it, hon, it’s time to go.”

“That’s it?” she asked. “Please, Grandma, please, just a minute longer…please!”

I would have had to plead guilty if we were ever late (which we were not) to responsibility for the crime, for my heart couldn’t help but whisper, “Allow her just one more minute.” And then I allowed her just one more minute still.

She put her bicycle away, stomped into the car and slammed the door. I was busy dealing with the guilt of the bribe thing. Neither one of us was greeting the day in a happy, healthful manner.

“Grandma, why do I have to go to school?” Emily asked again as I swung the car out of the driveway.

“That’s a good question, sweetie,” I said. “That’s such a very good question, I’ll be looking for the answer until I am no more.”

Originally published by Home Education Magazine, 2006

See also “School Causes Psychic Damage Lasting Into Adulthood
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2 Responses to “A Very Good Question: Why Do I Have to Go to School?”

  1. Barb says:

    I tried a few different "educational options" with my kids, but I too, had such trouble with those types of questions from my kids questioning the necessity of school. I was a total failure as a cheerleader mom–I just couldn't bring myself to unflinchingly utter those simplistic (and FALSE) one-liners that seemed to flow effortlessly from the mouths of my friends, whose kids, according to them, "loved school!" I truly felt like a failure–was I too much of a cynic? Why were my kids the only ones who didn't want to go to school? In retrospect, I'm so glad I listened to my heart and followed my intuition, although I find homeschooling to be a lonely path much of the time.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Barb, I'm glad you listened to your heart, too. I think the world would be a happier place if more people did so but, under the circumstances, it's often difficult. I'm sorry to hear that homeschooling has been lonely for you – in what way? Thank you for being hear, reading, and taking the time to comment.

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