Last fall, I put my oldest son into public school for the first time.
He was in second grade. We had just moved to a new state and I was hoping that going to “normal” school would help him make friends and get adjusted to our new home. Prior to that, he’d been in an online school–which basically meant he was being homeschooled, but with a state-sponsored curriculum.
There were lots of reasons I initially chose to keep him home. I worried about the strong academic focus of our local elementary school and the kind of pressure that would be present, even in kindergarten. I worried about long hours away from home. I worried about minimal outdoor recess time for a child who didn’t particularly excel at sitting still.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how much staying home with me had allowed my son to grow into himself and to build his own sense of who he is and what he likes. I also never anticipated how quickly public school would pressure him into conformity.
I still remember the first time he went to school with his nails painted. We had all–both of my sons and myself–painted our nails over the weekend: blue and purple with sparkles.
When I picked him up after school on Monday, his nails were bare. His classmates had made fun of him and he’d painstakingly scraped all the colors and glitter off over the course of the day.
I was heartbroken. I had always tried so hard to build up my son’s sense of individuality, to support his interests and not force him into a box based on socially acceptable, but outdated gender norms. And a few months of public school was already working to undermine all that. [Read more…]