Tuesday, 18 June 2013

School's Out

Schools Out

My son’s first year at school, albeit at prep, is drawing towards its halfway mark. If I am to rate the experience thus far, the obvious conclusion is simple: a failure.
There are numerous symptoms to this failure. It starts with schooling itself, where my son shows little interest in his studies. We keep finding ourselves having to use The Force to get him to do his reading assignments, while the teacher is telling us our son’s behind. There is the social side, where we find our son is not making friends at school; often when I drop him at school I notice the kids form into gangs, with my son forming a one man gang. Most importantly, the failure is obvious in my son’s general outlook: our once interested and curious son is now tightly closed, focused on specific narrow interests which – obviously! – have nothing to do with school and everything to do with escapism.
I don’t put the blame on school, at least not entirely. Clearly this son of an antisocial of mine has learned a lot from his father. Clearly, my firm choice of not producing brothers and sisters for my son is having an effect on his behavior. And clearly we are losing the work/life balance war, with us not having as much time to dedicate directly to our son as his raising seems to require. Yet I still blame school, I definitely do: whereas last year my son seemed to flourish at kinder, this year he’s the opposite. Perhaps things are to do with the extra attention one gets at kinder, but I suspect the tight confines of school are having an effect on what used to be an imaginative boy.
It’s not like this should come as a surprise to me, of all people: I hated school too. I, however, was lucky to end up with good friends by second grade (after some significant misery in the first); and being physically big, no one messed with me, which is definitely not the case with my son. To put it another way, the problems of modern schooling about which I read in Free to Learn, if one can use the terms “modern” and “schooling” in the same sentence, seem to be coming to life. And at least at this particular point in time I am helpless for solutions.

As for my son, he does have a solution of sorts. As far as he is concerned, his entire life is now focused on gaming: Skylanders was a major craze and now it’s the world of Mario. He used to play games on the iPad for a while now, but ever since it dawned on him to dare to play by himself (he was too shy of losing before) he is going like a sonic boom. Clearly my reign as the household’s gamer supreme is coming to an end.
It is important to note this switch, the idea it is alright to try and play even when there is a chance of losing, hit when a friend from kinder (and now school) came for a visit with his older brother. The two played together, providing my son a live example that it’s not only parents that can play video games but peers, too. By providing this example those guests further emphasized my parental failures regarding the production of siblings and anti-socialism (as in, if we had guests more often then perhaps we wouldn’t have to wait so long till we had ourselves a gamer).
Thus my son is now able to escape the realities of school through his video games. That "cure" does come with its own negatives, like the obvious efforts we need to make in order to make him do anything else. Clearly, we will need to find the fine balance between gaming and responsibilities in the near future.
For now, though, I am probably the last person able to criticize my son and his choices.

Image by Rex Austin Barrow, Creative Commons license

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