For many years I worked at a job that I viewed as a kind of prison. I was imprisoned in this job by my family’s bellies and because my writing was not earning me enough money to keep those bellies full. And then I decided to leave that job, and when I did I realized no one had imprisoned me there but myself. I had chosen that job when I could have done other things. And the truth was, I stayed at that job I supposedly hated because I wanted to be there, because in working there I answered the question, “Can I support my family somehow?” I stayed and stayed and stayed until I was done answering that question, and then I left. My youngest son has never had an easy time at school. For years, he saw it as a kind of prison to which he had been condemned by his parents, his teachers, and for that matter all of Western society. In certain ways, last year was his best and worst year. While he made great progress in many areas, school still seemed to leave him so stressed that he could hardly enjoy his free time at home. By the end of last school year, my wife and I made a decision. We would only send him to school for half a day. We would teach him history and Language Arts ourselves. Neither of us was eager to be middle school teachers, but we felt the extra time at home would serve him well.
When we shared this plan with him we were surprised by his response: Under no circumstances was he going to leave school early. He wanted to go to school like everyone else. He did not want any schooling to happen at home. That was at the beginning of the summer. Surely he would change his mind as fall drew near. Not so. He was more adamant in August than June. He would not be homeschooled for even one hour.
At first it seemed our plans to help him had been scuttled. But then I saw an opportunity. “That’s fine,” I said. “But remember: this is your choice. You’ve called school a prison for years. We’re offering you the key out. So you’re going there on purpose. No one is making you go but you.”
It is too early to tell, but I believe it could not have worked out any better. I can see that he wants to complain about school like he used to, but it is not so easy now. Prisoners love to yell at wardens. They are never that eager to yell at themselves.
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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com