We decided to embark on this adventure as it would peel back the kids’ eyelids. The nitty gritty of schooling was glossed over after a web search popped up a few options.
First port of call when we arrived was checking out the French Montessori School. This was right up our alternative yet still structured alley, and in French only added another feather to its cap.
As all well laid plans or should I say imaginings often pale into a gooey stickiness of reality, we discovered that for our older son at 7, it was not Montessori method but French Classical System. At this point, a small bell rang in my head, especially upon reading the material list required a slate (!) but I pushed it aside. Our son was not showing any linguistic leanings, if anything the opposite and that’s in his mother tongue. We ploughed forward, in the face of parental schoolyard gossip about other schools ranged from:
(1) a breeding ground for colonial superiority whereby foreign cherubs get carried up the stairs
(2) equally frightening, touts sell energy drinks to kids on their way to the toilet
After week 3, Quinn was showing the strain, dark circles under his eyes even after a full night’s sleep. Each day I would probe him getting a blank expression which I imagine he’s had since morning when he began retreating into his world of go cart design and fortification building easier to understand than the banter around him.
Coming from ‘Stralia’, a second language isn’t necessary (no direct neighbours) and maybe we’re all lazy, the Board of Studies has scrapped it from the primary school curriculum altogether. Obviously there is an adjustment phase to second language acquisition and it takes some good ol’ digging deep until you can start making daisy chains out on the frontier.
In the face of Quinn requiring up to 5 afternoons of private tuition just to make some headway, I did some quiet soul poking and saw that this was my dream not his. He prefers to be drawing in his ‘creative book’ that lives under his pillow or stalking muddy puddles on his bike. It was something that the Director of the School said to us
We need to set children up to succeed
Playing to kids’ strengths to build confidence can have spin off effects in areas that niggle them. I also realised that my zeal for him to achieve may actually overshadow his happiness. And even if being well meaning and passionate about education, especially my own kids is not a bad thing, my interest now gets interpreted as pressure. I’m like a single woman’s biological clock ticking and Quinn, a confirmed bachelor.
Not one to let myself off easily, I probed the onion skin to see a mouldy fear still there from my school days. How the carrot and stick system is geared for little over achievers to get self gratification in every tick on the page or a teacher’s sweet smile. How I became like Pavlov’s dog hooked on praise. Look I could have got into some harder shit than teacher pleasing and studying hard, and yes I got an education, a good one and doors opened, but emotionally, all that striving only reinforced that I needed to be a try-hard.
To feel worthy.
Who knows why I felt this, lack of nurturing in childhood ? genetic makeup? sensitivity ? Maybe there is no singular reason, but recognising this as an adult, is liberating. And now as a parent, I want to take out my own trash and hopefully the stench won’t waft up Quinn’s nostrils.
Where to now? Tim and I will share the roll out of Quinn’s education. And he can go to a local school for socialisation in the afternoons. The literacy book seems to send our potential perfectionist into groans. So the other day, we decided to ditch it and head outside.
I took a deep breath and allowed Quinn to lead me. Soon he was digging and we planted tomato, basil, rocket and parsley sent by his beloved Godmother. Soon we were on our haunches making clay men and elephants out of mud.
It was a wonderful morning listening to the birds, making up stories to go with our creations. Quinn showed his bravery for worm wielding (they’re huge here!) and told me how that meant we have fertile soil. I feel we do sweet Quinn. And that if I learn to trust that your future will be bright, I will hold your hand and be led along into the unknown. Know that with a full heart and an open ears, I have your back as you tread your own path in life’s learning journey.