It's been a while since we've experienced the school system.
We had a bit of a reminder of it when a couple of my kids went part-time to a Steiner school. They chose not to continue after a term. What I clearly remember from a parent's perspective is the overwhelm of all the communications they sent out.
It was so hard to keep up with everything. And most of it was irrelevant for us specifically. What was apparent was that it was a one way communication. The school were telling us things, the opportunity for real feedback and consideration for our children wasn't really there.
Whilst there is communication between school and parents, this does not mean there is flexibility or adaptability. The communication is usually a one way system. The schools tell you how it is and there is usually little movement away from it.
Any accommodations require meetings, red tape and paperwork. What could be done in a snap decision in a self-directed type environment is turned into a situation, full of stress, that drags on and often doesn't really address the issues.
I was reminded of the simple beauties of home education when one of my children moved to an older group in a forest school setting. He was going to start along side a friend that really helps him feel at ease, his friend however was unable to make it on that first day.
This new group was boisterous and louder than what he was accustomed to. Kind of like moving from primary to secondary school, but in a forest and much smaller environment. The forest school teacher was aware of that and was concerned he'd struggle. She messaged me to let me know and whether I wanted to consider delaying his start date.
We decided to send him in anyway, but we made that decision based on the information we were considerately given. I was able to talk to my son and explain the situation. We agreed he should go, but he was mentally prepared for it.
What really stuck with me was that I really appreciated the ask.
I spoke about it with my son afterwards too. He struggled through it and I think it will take him a while to get used to a new group of people. At least next time he'll have his friend.
I wanted to write about this as 'unschooling' isn't necessarily about always accommodating our kids, or giving into their needs. For us it is part of our philosophy to give kids choices about the activities they choose. As part of that process, it means helping them adapt too, not just dumping them and hoping it works out.
My kids very much love forest school and are happy to go, but there are other factors that play into that too. They could equally hate forest school if the group of kids or activities weren't quite aligned to who they are.
From a parenting perspective, I really want him to stay at the forest school as long as possible. For that to happen, it needs to work for him. I know if he's not enjoying it then it won't take long for him to choose not to go. Part of that process is supporting him and another part of it is the parent + teacher communication.
Schools are unable to accommodate this, and I completely understand why. It's a very different situation with a half-day-once-a-week forest school session where we can opt-in and out as we please.
The forest school teachers want to make the kids happy and adjusted to keep them going as much as the parents do. I love that educators are starting to see this and that this is increasingly normalized in our home education circles.