Lies, bribes, threats, and tears


Our daughters have been homeschooled for the last four years.  This year, we all decided that it might be a good idea to try public school – for an adventure, to compare the two types of schooling, to broaden their horizons a bit, to give mom a much-needed break and some time to re-invent herself and her goals.

They went to their first day of school last week and then we took them out of school for the next two days – (we had planned our family get-away before they enrolled and it didn’t seem fair to miss out on it!)  I know, things are not starting off on the right foot, but, one of the marks of homeschooled children is that they easily adapt to changes.  So, today was their second day of school.

Bob the bus driver picked them up about an hour ago.  Since then, I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how in the world I’m going to get my thoughts out into this blog without offending people.  I don’t think I can.  So, at the risk of sounding like a political zealot, I have decided, after much hesitation, to put my current thoughts on schooling out there.  Here they are.

Schooling is a system of lies, bribes and threats that serves to keep everyone in line.  Here is what I mean:

Our day began at 6:30.

One daughter woke up and began getting washed and dressed for school.  Wow!  That was easy!  Until, I saw her watery eyes.

“Don’t worry, honey.  We know this is a big change, but it will be great.  I promise!  School is a ton of fun!”  (LIE!)

Our other daughter woke up with the birds, but wouldn’t get out of bed.  Grasping the spindles of her headboard with her kung-fu grip, she vehemently refused to go to school.

“It’s awful!  A lot of the kids were rude to the teacher – they didn’t listen!  The art teacher is mean – she made us spend more than half the period testing markers to see which ones had dried out!  The cafeteria stinks!”

“Honey, you have to go to school.  It’s the law.  Now that you’ve enrolled, you need to show up.  I’ll tell you what, get up and get yourself dressed for the day.  When you’re ready, I’ll have a nice, fresh blueberry muffin waiting for you in the kitchen.”  (BRIBE!)

“I’m not going.”

I called in the big guns.  I enlisted my husband to go upstairs and coax her out of bed and into the school bus.

From downstairs in the kitchen, all was silent.  I took this to mean that his calm nature was effectively turning our determined child into a compliant one.  Then, I heard –

“If you don’t go to school, you can’t go to your dance class tonight.  No school = no dance!”  (THREAT!)

It was only 7:00 A.M.   We were all broken.

Eventually, she got out of bed and managed to get ready for school.  Not, I can assure you, without putting up a good verbal assault on the truancy laws of our state and the effectiveness of coercion upon the behavioral development of children.  (If you are thinking about homeschooling and think that there might be a time in the future when you decide to send your children back to “regular school,”  remember this:  Homeschooling children have a lot of time on their hands.  Time to play, create, explore, and form powerful arguments for just about anything that they deem worthy of investigating.  They excel in debate and often leave their parents dumbfounded and tongue-tied.  Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!)

After Bob the bus driver dutifully picked up our girls, I began to think about this school thing.

I remember my years at school.  Some of them were, indeed, wonderful.  Three of them, to be exact.  The majority of them were, more or less, unremarkable.  A few of them were torture.

The teachers all did a fantastic job of teaching and inspiring me.  Some were strict, others permissive.  Some were young, others old.  Some were creative, some were “by-the-book.”  All in all, the quality of the educators assigned to me was superior.  It wasn’t the teachers that made school undesirable.  It was, well, schooling.

School boards are pressured to increase the quality of our schools by the taxpayers of the town.  More computers!  Better pay for more qualified teachers!  New books!  White boards!  Digital payment options in the cafeteria!  If the taxpayers don’t get what they ask for, the quality of our schools and, ultimately, our tax-base will be compromised.  (THREAT!)

Curriculums are adopted to meet the regulations of federal and state mandates that were created by teams of educators, researchers, politicians and publishing houses. (BRIBES!)

Superintendents and principals are encouraged to work in a bi-partisan manner with the teachers, parents, students, taxpayers and boards of education. If they don’t keep the boat from rocking, their jobs are in jeopardy. (THREAT!)

Teachers must create plans to meet the diverse educational and emotional needs of twenty-five students while satisfying national curriculum standards and parent expectations.  This is what they are getting paid for.  This is what they went to college for.  This is what they signed up for! (LIE!)

Parents must comply to school rules and expectations.  Volunteering isn’t required but it is encouraged (HINT, HINT.)  Allowing your child to skip class to see a half-price performance of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake has negative results on the classroom as a whole as well as on your child’s academic performance. (THREAT!)

Encourage your child to practice that tuba that she comes home with every Friday afternoon.  All your hard work and encouragement will pay off in spades when you hear her play it at the spring concert.  (BRIBE! and LIE!)

If you don’t study, you won’t get good grades.  If you don’t get good grades, your parents will be disappointed. (THREAT!)

Behave according to our rules or you will find yourself in the principal’s office. (THREAT!)

Those of you who remain quiet throughout the entire assembly will not have to do any homework tonight. (BRIBE!)

Whoever talks during silent reading time will lose ten minutes of their recess.  (THREAT!)

You must remember the value of Pi – you will need to use it one day.  (LIE!)

The way I see it, there is an awful lot of people complying with the rules and expectations of others.  Such is life.

I have to wonder.  Is is necessary for our educational system to function this way? School is a precursor for the big adult world that we all must face.  I do not think that it should be all puffy clouds and sunshine.  I do not think that there should be an absence of consequences for disrespectful or negligent behavior.  I do not think that children should be sheltered from society’s expectations.  But, I do find myself questioning the way in which we allow our schools to enforce these rules.  Not just on the children, but on the adults as well.  Is a system of lies, bribes, and threats an easy way out?  Don’t we owe it to ourselves to conjure up a more positive system?  Unrealistic? Probably.  But, it’s nice to dream.

At the end of the day, I know this:

There are children in hundreds of towns and cities in this country who will cry today.  Out of frustration, fear, anger, or exhaustion.

There are parents in hundreds of towns and cities in this country who will cry today.  Out of frustration, fear, anger, or exhaustion.

There are teachers in hundreds of towns and cities in this country who will cry today.  I’m betting mostly out of frustration and exhaustion.

Perhaps I’m unrealistic.  Or, just frustrated and exhausted.  I’m hoping that tomorrow morning will be a little easier.  I’m determined not to succumb to the ease of dolling out lies, bribes, and threats in order to make my children comply to my expectations.  I will try harder tomorrow.  In the meantime, I would love to hear from all of you out there.  What are your thoughts?


One response »

  1. Well, first of all I’m so surprised you had an opinion and decided to share it. This is so unlike you! But seriously, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on our imperfect system, as you have such a unique perspective. We do seem to move with the herd when we choose public schools. When I recently saw my daughter’s CMT scores, I was torn between being proud of her performance and uneasy as to how much time has been spent teaching her how to take the test.
    I hope your home is tear-free in the coming weeks!

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