School Obsession

The Bear will soon be registered for Kindergarten at the neighbourhood, arts-based school shown here

Want a glimpse into your friend’s/neighbour’s/co-worker’s worldview? Ask them about how they chose a school for their child.
Trust me, every parent has a schooling strategy.

Because conventional wisdom tells us that we must pick a strategy or our children will be shunted to the sidelines in some mediocre school with some old-fashioned teacher where nobody really cares about our child’s progress.

As parents, we are forced to choose: public or private; Catholic or secular; French, German or Ukrainian immersion; military-based, sports-based or arts-based; enter the system or buck it with homeschooling. And it’s not just the programming that distresses the parents. Parents seem to worry about their children having classmates who will have ‘negative’ influences on their lives (of course, by ‘negative’ we really mean children who are not from middle-class households with educated, engaged parents).

Some parents are terrified about their child being in an all-day kindergarten. Others have told me about how they need to line-up at 5 a.m. on registration day in order to get their child into their school of choice. Some parents are opting for a 50-minute commute so that their child can go to a brand-new mega school. I have heard the pros and cons of our neighbourhood arts-based school. And I have already been roped into discussions about the benefits of a new Kindergarten teacher versus one who has been in the system for decades.

Everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine.

We can obsess about every element of choosing a school for our children. But the thing is, next year everything might change: a new study will come out; a principal will retire; a new, more promising school will pop up; or the department of education will reveal new statistics on achievement that make us question our choices.

I also ask the question, “All for what, exactly?” Because most parents will tell you that they have made a careful selection of programming and influences to ensure their child becomes an academic/athlete/popular/well-adjusted adult. But when our children become adults, the world will be a very different place – the work world will be different, technology will very different, perspectives will change, even what we believe post-secondary education to be will be different. How could we ever presume to know what formal education will best serve our children when they become adults.

Finally, school is only one component of our children’s ‘education’. Our lifestyles and attitudes will teach children lessons (some bad, some good) that make profound impacts on their lives. Sometimes these lessons are the most important.

So why the school obsession? Slow down. Relax.

Give your children space and the tools to be creative, critical thinkers who care about the world around them. I’m personally aiming for the three C’s – creativity, critical thinking, and citizenry. I’m hoping these are tools that will serve them best in whatever brave new world they will live in when we’re gone. The rest of schooling, to me… merely details.

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5 Responses to “School Obsession”


  1. 1 Outlet Haine Online September 28, 2014 at 8:29 am

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  2. 2 Jocelyn January 13, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Great post laura! I would love to hear your thoughts on an article in the national post today. http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Student+awards+foster+teamwork+Alberta/4100467/story.html

    • 3 Mama Tortoise January 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Ohhhh, good article, Jocelyn. Thanks for linking.

      I have to side with Mr. Couros here. I like what he says: “What’s the kind of work environment that you want to be a part of? One where we’re all recognized on a continuous basis for the things that we’re doing? Or, only a few of us are recognized annually in some ceremony?”

      Just because our institutions reflect or replicate a capitalist society does not mean that there isn’t room for change. I believe that the future of work and organizing is certainly more cooperative and less hierarchical. Perhaps a change in celebrating achievements isn’t some sort of leftie throw back but rather a progressive hint at what we can expect for our future.

  3. 4 Michelle January 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    This goes back to the “do what’s best for your child and your family, and forget/ignore what everyone else has to say.” We did our best last year to get G into the closest school for kindergarten, which happened to be a new mega-school. As it turned out, we were outside (!!) the boundaries drawn by the school board and were directed to a school 10 km away. What a blessing! G’s school is nothing short of amazing – for it’s staff, values, demographic and cultural diversity, etc. While some may seek out schools where their children will surround themselves with peers whose parents are middle class and educated, we feel that G is getting a well-rounded social and cultural upbringing. He learns, from his peers and teachers, things that we, as adults, often take for granted – not everyone celebrates Christmas/Easter, not everyone can afford a house, car, new clothes or even food, and that not everyone looks, sounds or acts the same. Of course, he is learning the basics, but I hope that he also learns to be compassionate, tolerant and appreciative of the diversity that surrounds us. We worth a 10 minute drive every morning!

    • 5 Mama Tortoise January 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

      THanks for your comment, Michelle! Isn’t it funny how things work out? But it sounds like you were fairly open to schooling options from the beginning. Good thing, I say. The conversations that I have had with some parents make me feel like we’re in a competition – but for what exactly?


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