Back To School:  Delight Or Dread?

I’m sure you’ve all seen the back to school memes where the kids are practically in tears and the parents are doing cartwheels in the driveway. They bother me, but not for the reason they tend to bother most folks in my circle.

For many people who dislike this image, they see a parent thrilled to get rid of the kids. A mom (usually it’s the mom, and almost always a SAHM) who can’t wait to send her annoying, whining, I’m-bored-I-have-nothing-to-do, mess-making offspring to school so they’ll be under someone else’s care seven hours a day and she won’t have to deal with them.

This irks a lot of my parenting friends, especially since I tend to hang out (both in person and online) with folks who lean toward a more cooperative, egalitarian parenting style. Many are quick to point out—often not even trying to hide their judgment—how awful it is that the parents want to free themselves from their children so desperately that they are actually cheering about it. They focus on the parents and what a shame it is that apparently don’t love their children as much as they should.

{If you think I’m exaggerating, clearly you’ve never seen a discussion of this meme go south fast.}

What I see, though, is the children in the picture. I see kids who are apprehensive about the very thing they should be extremely grateful for: a chance to learn, regardless of their background, location, or economic status.

Why is this? Why do children dread school? It’s quite simple, really.

Children dread school because we have conditioned them to.

Our culture has created a dichotomy of time in school = boring work vs. time out of school = party on. We’ve turned learning—something that is naturally interesting and fun—into an unpleasant drudgery akin to forced labor. And we perpetuate this in our daily lives all. the. time.

We complain that work is boring. We complain about how busy we are (even when that “busy-ness” is artificially self-imposed). We complain about not having enough time. We complain about having too much time with our bored kids over the summer. Talk about first world problems. Grumbling has become a national pastime. And it’s rubbed off on our kids.

Now I know there’s always exceptions. So before anyone comments that her own little Susy energetically bounds out the door every morning full of gratitude for the opportunity to go to school and anxious to learn, I get it. I had one of these “Susies” myself. (I still decided to homeschool her.) I also know several of you reading are the type of people who work really hard to convey a positive attitude about education to your children, and that’s great.

But the general message that most people in our society pass along to their children every day is that work (school) is at best an unavoidable but necessary evil. You’re a kid; this is what you have to do. Suck it up, buttercup, because that’s just the way it is. No wonder the children in those memes look horrified and on the verge of bawling.

Of course, I speak from a place of privilege. I don’t have financial, childcare, or safety woes. I can afford (literally and emotionally) to look at this objectively and say, I want better for my own kids.

And by “better” I’m not pitting public/private schooling against homeschooling. I happen to homeschool my children right now, because that’s what works best for us right now. This could very well change in the future; I’ve never dismissed the possibility of the Agents attending school. I’m not talking about method of schooling; I’m talking about perspectives toward school in general.

My children love learning because I’ve never given them a reason not to, and I would like to keep it that way.

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