I've been reading Square Pegs, a book written from the perspective of trying to support children who don't fit into the system. I haven't finished the book, so don't take any of this as a recommendation to read it or not. I mention it because it has gotten me thinking.
It's great to see the Square Peg topic being written about. The challenges of educating different kids out there are so varied and huge. Exploring the different viewpoints from education roles and perspectives is interesting too. At least some people are trying to make a change, to find their way through the current system to support children who desperately need it. We need all types of people to create change.
I recognise I have the privilege to unschool...yet at the same time, I've made many sacrifices to life and work to be where we are now. It hasn't come easy. I've learned from experience, with so many failures along the way. I wish the journey had been easier.
Whilst reading Square Pegs and as an unschooler for over 12 years all I could think of is that I'm glad our family is not stuck in that school system. I've been reminded of all the hoops families must jump through to get support. All the things we are expected to try, often in vain and in the guise of trying to support a child. Of course it is great that more support is starting to become available, the hoops to jump through are still too much for me. Just reading about them raises my stress levels.
As a parent I'm internally screaming 'noooo' don't waste your time trying to force something that clearly isn't working. The stress and damage to the whole family in these circumstances can be huge. It can cause real trauma, especially when it takes months and usually years to get the right kind of support.
The complexity and the processses in the school system are mind boggling. The amount of people that can often get involved feels incredibly inefficient and costly. The things we are made to try are usually in vain. The stress of being potentially prosecuted for lack of school attendance. The paper work. The apparent experts that don't really know your children. The waiting, the very long waiting and the suffering in between. The list is never ending.
It hurts me to just think about it.
In this 6 minute clip on investigating of school refusters a mother explains her attempts at getting her autistic daughter into school. Examples included involve trying to coax her to go in to school for one hour at the school gates and then another time she spent two hours lying on the driveway of her home. Neither attempt worked.
I'm not sure if people understand the gravity of putting our children through this. If it was an adult refusing to go to work they would not be treated this way.
Perhaps they would look at the options. Maybe seek adaptations to their work environment, which is most likely a legal requirement. Or seek flexibility of how to work. Worse can type scenario, they would seek to go on 'sick leave'.
It shouldn't become a thing of 'you have to show up to be counted as being educated'. I know it's more complex than this. Kids are not as independent as adults, but fundamentally they are way more capable than we are led to believe.
I'm not sure if other people see this. I look at it from my perspective and my attempts and 12+ years home educating (what we now know as neurodivergent) children. Perhaps I can see it because I have the lived experience.
There should be options to choose to not send kids to school. Without persecution. Without stress. To give us all breathing space and time to figure out what to do. To escape the constant stress and to start over with the perspective of the child. To give them a chance to express their needs.
There should be a movement for parents to understand that they can say no. That they can build up the confidence to tell people to back away. And that we can find ways to serve our kids better than anyone else.
Ultimately it's ok to not fit into the system. And as society, we shouldn't feel shame about it. The problem is we do and hurdles that we have to jump through are exhausting.
There is much work to be done.