Today I attended a program at the elementary school where my mom used to teach called Artists on the Green. They invite all kinds of different artists--from dancers to painters to potters to bagpipers--to show the children what they do. We of course went to see the pottery guy. Watching people wheel throw is so endlessly fascinating to me. I'm so excited that in about a week I'm going to learn to do it! Suzi watched a local dance conservatory's presentation of Peter and the Wolf and loved it. She wanted to meet the wolf but we couldn't and I felt so bad for her. She's shown an interest in dance and we're planning to enroll her in dance class ASAP.
We also saw a group of seventh and eighth graders from a Montessori school perform Rikki Tikki Tavi. They performed it dressed all in black with minimal costumes and hardly any props, but numerous instruments. I was just blown away that it was 12 and 13-year-olds performing and not adults. They were good. I couldn't help but think that nothing so extraordinary was ever accomplished by me and my classmates at that age, and it wasn't just the play. They were so confident, uninhibited, and worked together so maturely. Their teacher gave advice during setup, but they worked things out on their own. I am not sure exactly how their school days are spent, but as I sat there watching I thought, I can definitely see myself sending Suzi and Ivey to a school like this. We still plan to homeschool for several reasons, cost being one of them, but seeing this made me realize there are some beautiful options out there.
I feel so weird visiting schools. Today my Irish sixth-grade reading teacher was there and ran up and hugged me. (He is now the principal.) He was always so funny and well-liked and just the personality plus teacher of our elementary school. Once he made me sit at the isolated lunch table for not paying attention, and then one time he got really aggravated because I forgot my markers or something. It's hard to remember but it was something to do with markers. Come to think of it the only times I ever got in trouble in school were when I forgot something or wasn't paying attention. The very same things that get me in trouble now! Anyway, he walked us up to the front of the lunch line and I felt naughty for cutting. I ate a school lunch on a little sectioned-off plate, and during lunch one of the teachers lamented how the students just couldn't stop talking, but isn't that exactly what adults do? Everyone wants to be heard, kids included. Kids especially.
A pretty little girl with long blonde hair walked over to me on the playground while I was wearing Ivey in the Ergo and told me how cute my baby was. Then she did "this little piggy" on Ivey's chubby toes four times and sighed and said "I wish I was a grown-up and had a little baby." I didn't know what to say, so I just smiled. This was me 20 years ago, playing with dolls, going to school. Get me out of this line. Get me out of this fence. I longed for home. At home it was quiet and dark and I could play with my hermit crabs and my cat. I didn't much care what I did as long as I was back there. When I finally did arrive home in the afternoon, a long time after school had ended, I refused to go to dance class or piano lessons or anything else. When I left for school I had to leave the comfortable things I loved behind. At school I was one of many, equal to those around me, and no more important to the teacher than the other twenty-some-odd kids in the class, which is as it should be. But special consideration, though it does happen, is an inconvenience in a public school setting. To deviate from the routine, even for the sake of personal accomplishment, will hold up the herd in learning the prescribed information.
Sitting alone thinking is how great things are accomplished. Smoke breaks. Showers. Those last few moments before falling asleep. In a college writing workshop, a professor once told us he'd understand if we didn't come to class for a few days if, for instance, we were "holed up in our apartment eating nothing but cheese and writing." This is how I wrote some of my best work, minus the cheese. In the middle of the night, not recently showered, dressed in pajamas, tapping away at the laptop until sunrise, oh crap, no way am I making it to my 8:00.
But children are so rarely afforded this benefit of the doubt. We think we know they are up to no good. That they belong in school, and what we have planned is more important.
Is it? Is it really?