Monday, May 27, 2013

How School Didn't Help Me Prepare for Motherhood

A little while ago I reworked a piece from here for Real Intent, entitled "Is Education for Naught When You Just Stay Home?"  Of course it's not, but I realized after I wrote the piece that school itself really didn't help me prepare for stay-at-home motherhood of young children.

In school we're taught to complete assignments.  At home you leave things undone.  You get half the vacuuming done, half the dishes done, and half the cleaning the bathroom done.  Hopefully, though, you get the changing of the poopy diaper completed.

In school you're supposed to be efficient and fast.  At home with small children, you walk slowly, you talk slowly, you even stop to smell the roses. When our son was three, he started stuttering.  Do you know what the speech therapist told me?  To SLOW DOWN!  I talked too fast, I read stories to our son too fast.  He needed me to slow down so he could catch up and not feel like he had to be so fast, too.

In school we're supposed to strive for perfection; strive for As.  At home, when you have kids help, you're fooling yourself if you're shooting for perfection.  When they make their beds, they're not quite right.  When they do the dishes, sometimes gunk is left on them; when they wash the windows, there are still smudges here and there.  But you know what?  It's okay, they're learning.

Related to the last one, in school you're supposed to do it once and do it right.  At home there's that constant monotony of redoing things again and again and again and again.  The teachers who send kids back to fix their mistakes are the ones who have it right.  That's what happens in mom life.

In school you're taught to do your own work.  At home you work together as a team and learn from each other.  I'm becoming a bigger fan of school group work as that is more how it is at home and even in the workplace.

At school you go by the rules and structure of the school or teacher.  At home you have to be flexible, and any structure you may wish to follow just might fly out the window depending on the day.

In school you get immediate feedback and praise for a job well done.  At home it might take nine years to see the fruits of your labors.  In the short-term, you may not even get any appreciation or recognition for any of the hard work you've done.  In school we get accustomed to knowing how well we're doing; at home you hope and pray you're doing a good job.

So, if I were to design school to help me prepare for motherhood, there would at least be more group work and more re-doing assignments.  I'm not sure if I'd want to slow down the pace of school, or interrupt school studies, or discontinue grades just to make certain points about real life, but there's surely room for improvement in preparing young people for eventual parenthood/life.


5/28 Addition:  I want to think more about this, but after sharing this with some friends on Facebook, Jessica reminded me that there are some great things that come out of school such as critical thinking/reading/writing,  understanding other viewpoints, enabling curiosity, learning how to research, assimilating information, doing things you don't want to do, and realizing you can do more than you think you can.  I use all those things now, and I can greatly attribute them to my formal schooling.

I must add that I also see a big benefit of putting kids together of the same ages in school.  They're developmentally similar and teachers can reach them in so many ways -- ways I can't because I'm juggling other children of different ages (however, I'd love to see kids broken up into interests and abilities within their age groups, too).  If I had to homeschool my kids, I'd probably get the basics in, but would miss out on reaching related topics.  I'd also miss certain things because I just didn't think of them!

So, in sum, education -- any kind -- is huge to enhance one's life and make one a better person; school itself may not prepare a person for parenthood and the realities of life, but it can in ways, and there are definitely transferrable skills.  My grandmother used to say, "Don't let school interfere with your education," and I believe it in many ways to be true.