why school hurts children

crying baby boy

When I am in a crowd of people, especially mothers, the way I choose to parent is very interesting and brings up a lot of questions.

People always want to know why I chose to go down this path.

The truth is that it was a journey that started many years ago, bringing me to this point.

But there was a particular incident that pushed me over the edge and propelled me into taking action.

Before Christmas I wanted to find out the boys’ thoughts on school before I made a decision about whether or not I would take them out.

I asked Corey my eldest what he liked about school and what he didn’t like.

He said he loved playing with his friends, but that he hated the actual school work.  Kai said the same.

I asked them if they liked their teachers and they both said they did.  

I asked if their teachers ever got angry and they both said they did.  

So I probed a little deeper.

Corey went on to explain how his teacher got “really really angry” at a particular boy (who was obviously very playful and  found it hard to be confined by the controlled environment of the classroom).

As he described his teacher’s “extreme anger” (which was using a stern tone to control the kids) his voice choked a little and he stopped talking, blinking rapidly.

I put my hand on his knee and said “That must’ve been really scary for you.  Please don’t hold it in and cry if you need to.”

To my horror, he burst into gut wrenching, full body sobs, letting out all the pent up emotion he’d been holding onto throughout the year and finally finding release for his emotions.  He cried for a full 15 minutes, until he literally ran out steam.

I felt so guilty I couldn’t breathe.  

What kind of mother would send their precious, 8 year old, baby boy into an environment that he wasn’t emotionally capable of dealing with?

It was my job to protect him!

What on earth was I doing?  

What could possibly make this kind of violence towards children, worthwhile?

In that moment I knew that protecting my innocent children from the violence of the world was worth more to me than any education ever would be.

I didn’t know what on earth I was going to do instead.  

But I knew I would never again (knowingly) place them in an environment that used fear based control to achieve it’s goal.

In my opinion school sacrifices the human being for the education.  

It makes education the most important value, over and above the human beings it seeks to educate.

If we fail to start to recognise this, as mothers and citizens of the world, nothing will ever change.  We need to wake up and realise what’s really going on.  

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.  All constructive debate is welcomed from both sides.  But if you post a hateful comment, I’ll delete it.



10 thoughts on “why school hurts children”

  1. I have nothing but praise for the lovely Rudolf Steiner and everything about it, violence against children in schools is a thing of the past. Teachers have one of the most challenging jobs going and I have huge respect for their ability to keep order and calm in classrooms full of children with differing personalities and developmental needs. Human beings display every emotion going from the moment we are born – joy, elation, sorrow, anger, frustration…we shouldn’t feel the need to suppress these feelings at any age, maybe just keep them in check and set a good example for our children, we’re only human and doing our best. I know my kids and any I’ve looked after over the years have been known to over-dramatise many of life’s events – a favourite line is “she shouted at me” when in reality a parent has said something as innocent as “would you please put on your coat, I don’t want to ask you again.” As a childminder, I’ve learned that kids thrive when in a good routine, they enjoy knowing when their next meal is coming, when sleep time is, what time mummy will be there to pick them up etc. Consistency is key but hey we’re all different, each to their own. Decisions made out of love and with our children’s best interests at heart are going to be the best ones and what works for one family won’t necessarily work for another. As long as our kids know that we’re always on their side and ready to intervene if necessary whether in a situation with a friend, hobby, school, whatever, I think it does no harm for them to gain a bit of life experience and learn to deal with the odd difficult or uncomfortable situation, because it won’t be long before they’re out there in the big bad world and the life skills they learn at a young age will do wonders for them as they grow in to young adults. Good luck mums, it’s a constant full-on guilt trip but what would we do without our littleuns!!

    1. Kerry thanks for your comment, I agree with you on many of your points and I think that you are one of the most instinctively compassionate parents I know.
      But I think that in order for us to be talking about the same thing, it is necessary to define “violence”. In my definition violence is any force or intimidation including both physical and verbal, intended to control another person.

      If a wife was being verbally abused by a husband on a regular basis, but he never hit her, would you consider that violence? I would.

      Similarly, if a child is being controlled by verbal anger or intimidation, with intent to get them to do what the adult wants then this is also violence.

      I think the problem with the world on a macro scale is that we are too wishy washy with our definitions. We are shady on the concepts of lying, violence, control and abuse. These concepts are subjective to the individual.

      If everyone in the world, the law included, considered violence as any force or intimidation, whether physical or verbal, exerted on another human being with the intent to control, the world might be in a very different place.

      Parents smack or spank their children, but many don’t consider this violence. But if your husband hit you on a regular basis, he could be sent to prison. So why is it called violence to YOU, but “spanking” to children?

      “a favourite line is “she shouted at me” when in reality a parent has said something as innocent as “would you please put on your coat, I don’t want to ask you again.”

      In this example the parent is not “asking” the child, she is telling the child and I would disagree that it’s innocent. The child has no option but to comply.

      Children are very sensitive to the emotions of adults. They understand instinctively if the tone the parent is using is not coming from a place of connection and love. That is why they call it “shouting”.

      The problem is that we don’t recognise this kind of verbal violence for what is actually is because it happened to us so frequently as children and we grew to accept it as a normal part of reality.

      If we don’t address these issues in ourselves and get clear on our definitions the world will continue to deteriorate. We will continue to try to control each other through violence and nothing will change.

      Change MUST start at home with our children. It is our best hope for the future and for a better world for our kids.

      Schools MUST use control and force because there is no other way for them to do what they need to do, which is try to educate the children. I believe that schools are WELL INTENDED, but misguided. The end does not justify the means.

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment. x

  2. I never knew anyone, when I was a child or when I was the parent, who was unafraid at school. As Kerry pointed out, the teacher is trying to work with large groups of children, so they use methods of control. That’s the problem. Children act out because they are bored or restless, because they are defiant, because they are joyful and full of spirits.,,children just act out. And should not be punished for that. When a child is interested in the material and enjoying the material, then you will have their attention. Lets build some children who are not afraid. Then we might have some adults who are not afraid.

  3. I removed my two youngest children from the school system 3 years ago. My youngest has an ASD diagnosis. Having a child who won’t conform to our system has been the biggest education I’ve ever had. First I educated myself in the topic of Sensory Processing disorder and Autism then in parenting and finally in education. Ive had to hold the mirror up and take a good look at myself and the way I parent. Ive had to unlearn so many of the blinkered views I held. All I can say is I’m a better person for it. Its been a long process to get where we are and I still consider I have a lot to learn.
    But what I can tell you is life is good. The respect I have found for my kids as autonomous individuals feels uplifting. This was a process for me, not an over night revelation.

    I know some children love school and thats great. But for my children they didn’t. !t was damaging and unhelpful. Since school, the people we have met through home educating have been inspirational, tolerant, brave, understanding….all the things I aspire to be. My family are closer than ever. My children are developing passions, skills and opinions. Life and learning are one. No chore or stress, just wonder and excitement. If my daughter wants to stay in bed and read for hours in the morn I’m not going to stop that to say time for maths. I make suggestions of things we might do but they are choices not demands. Life now flows there is a healthy respect and that is working both ways. I do still feel I’m swimming against the tide perhaps. But I feel from what I’ve seen so far its soooo worth it. Its scary for me doing something different to most.

    Thanks Kim, for being brave enough to write this blog. You are a powerful voice in this growing community. Where as I’m more of a secret squirrel. Wouldn’t even try to explain unschooling to some friends wouldn’t have the energy. But I know it works brilliantly I see it everyday. Parenting by consent its called in the book I’m reading at the mo. Its downstairs but think its called Winning child Winning parent. Check it out, fab read.

    Best Wishes

  4. Wow…It’s amazing how much your posts resonate with me…I know I was led to your blog b/c I’ve been feeling alone on so many levels (& you’re blogging about them!!) I felt, when I joined Learn To Blog, that it would be the beginning….and then I listened to your Skype Call…Twice, so far…Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Kim, I am new to your blog and I LOVE it! Thank you for saying so many things that other people do not have the courage to..

    I am new to the concept of ‘unschooling’ so please pardon my ignorance if I am asking a question that has an obvious answer. I am not sure if this is the right path for my family, it is certainly compelling, but as I read your posts I am wondering what your feelings are about college? Does ‘unschooling’ your children omit the possibility of them going on to college? Or is it your belief that higher learning is not the most productive path either?? And if so, how does this work? I’m just curious and thinking ahead as to whether or not this is a viable solution for my family. I agree with your concerns about public school and education, but many career paths out there require a degree from a college or university, and I would not want to somehow hinder my children by not giving them the option of taking that path, if they so choose..

    Thank you for your insight!! Love your work, keep it up! <3

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