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Our current public educational system is based on the idea that every child is “common” and should perform to common standards. They must all study the same subjects at the same time. They must not be allowed to be too far ahead or behind their peers. They must be average in everything. They are not allowed to follow their strengths and passions. They are not pushed to truly excel, but even worse they are not allowed to fail, quit, or choose a specialty.
Are you common? Are you just like every adult around you? Do you group yourself by age and strive to be exactly the same intellectually as those within 12 months of your exact birthday? Do you stop yourself from learning something because Jane next door hasn’t learned it? Do you as a banker feel pressured to learn everything Tim down the street knows about mechanical engineering? Do you do every job that is available to you?
The reality of adult life does not even slightly resemble the system of education that we have forced our children to endure. Why do we expect our children to conform to a system that does not prepare them for the reality they will face as adults? The current schooling system was created for a generation of children who were being groomed to work in the factories. Put them on the conveyer belt, fill their heads with exactly what they need to be useful factory workers then shove them into the workforce. The system isn’t trying to create great artists, innovators, and leaders. The system isn’t trying to create managers, CEO’s or entrepreneurs. The system is designed to create great followers.
As these “common” standards are developed they focus primarily on reading and math. As a result, other extracurricular subjects are getting severely restricted and even completely cut. Goodbye recess, P.E., Music, Art, etc. I personally do not see these activities as merely fluff. these are the critical activities that give our children a well rounded education. Young children learn primarily through play. It is through these crucial social interactions that they figure out how their world works and what their part is in it. It is through play that they face their fears, develop their strengths, and make sense of what all those crazy adults around them are doing. In our attempts to leave no child behind we are stamping out what makes them human, we are expecting them to be mere robots in a human shell.
Early childhood expert Jane Healy once said “…one of our misguided expectations right now in the education field is that every child should leave kindergarten reading. Well, not every child is going to leave kindergarten reading.” I can’t begin to count how many mothers I have spoken to in person and online who are beyond stressed out because their child isn’t beginning to read BEFORE they even attend one day of Kindergarten. If they can’t read by the end of Kindergarten well then heaven help them the sky must be falling! When did we stop listening to the experts and start listening to the developers of the “common” standards when deciding what our children should know and when they should know it?
I want more for my children. I want my children to dream the impossible and make it happen. I want my children to be encouraged and empowered. I want my children to be leaders and innovators. I want them to take each piece of knowledge and truly digest it at their own pace. I want them to forget about subjects and grades and truly love the adventure of learning. I want them to be their own special unique selves without pressure to conform to the “common” standard that some politician has decided is the right way to be.
I want more for myself. I want to be free from the stress of whether they have done enough homework today. I want to be free from comparing my child to the children around them. I want to be free from standardized testing that doesn’t tell me anything about my child other than how well they have memorized a few choice bits of information. I want to be free from timelines and age based expectations. I want to teach my 7 year old algebra at the same time as I allow my 5 year old to be 100% ok with not yet knowing how to read.
My children will be free to fly wherever the wings of their heart may take them. I will be free to love them and enjoy their childhood without stressing over whether they have learned the “common” things today.