3 Ways School Erodes Your Child’s Confidence

Three ways public school erodes your child's confidence

My husband’s Facebook friend, L, recently posted this dilemma:

What am I doing wrong that my just turned six year old has incredible anxiety over everything – school, friends, her hair, shoes, clothes…. sure some of this could be genetics but why is [she] under so much pressure at school? It’s so damn sad to me. How do you build them to FEEL CONFIDENT in who they are becoming instead of them spending their days worried about who they are? I think every person goes through this at some point, sure some of its natural but at six? I don’t want my kids, especially my girls, growing up the way I did-unsure of myself, never good enough until I hit my 20’s and learned better. I sure don’t talk bad about myself around them or anything… Any advice?

My response is just too opinionated for the comments section, so L, I hope you don’t mind this article instead. First off, you are doing nothing wrong. You have known everything there is to know about your child up until this point. You know every scar, the longest her hair has ever been, the craziest outfit she’s ever put on, and the cutest thing she’s ever said. You’ve supported her wardrobe choices, her hair-do’s, and laughed at her jokes. You’ve spent, easily, the last four to six years building her up and catching her whenever she fell. She is smart, funny, and adorable. How could she not be the most confident, adored person at school?

Here’s how:

  1. Classrooms are arranged by age. Imagine applying for a job and because you’re 23 you must be placed at an entry level position with no one else but other 23 year olds. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re qualified for the position, or if you’re really even interested in the position at all. Really try to put yourself there. I imagine it would be incredibly frustrating and, well, it would also never happen, because that’s not the real way of the world. Yet it is the real way of public school. This environment alone starts the process of breaking down your child’s spirit. Right away, she’s placed in a situation where her first big go at friendship is based not on intelligence, interests, or maturity, but with a group whose greatest shared trait is age.
  2. Teachers are not equipped to handle life lessons. And it’s not their fault, either. Your child’s teacher is required to teach her students how to pass a test. That’s a lot of information to dump and kids require a lot of attention. Keeping them engaged and progressing is quite the task. Even if you get those one or two teachers that have the time and the love of children to teach them valuable life lessons, your child will only get them in small doses, and at best for what, a year? It’s like being the product of divorced parents (like I was) and getting tossed around for visitation. There is no stability there. At all. Parents, teachers—they all have different rules and routines, which is fine, except children learn best with consistency and a great teacher every once in a while isn’t going to cut it.
  3. Cliques Suck. They exist at every age, at every level, in any social setting. I mean, our country is divided as we speak, into Democrats and Republicans, Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, the 1% and the 99%. It’s our nature to flock to the nearest group with the most similar ideals. In grade school, it may boil down to ‘what’s your favorite color,’ ‘we go to the same dance school’, ‘we all like the same boy,’ or ‘we’re all making fun of the same person.’ But should your child ever change her opinion in a way that challenges her peers, she may find her friends disappearing faster than she found them. As adults, we can leave toxic environments. But public schooled children must endure them.

It was only upon homeschooling that we realized the backwards nature of public education.

  1. With homeschool, children learn and play in environments that encourage friendship among peers with similar interests, rather than age being the sole qualifier. My daughter happens to love swings and will befriend anyone that will swing alongside her. My son loves to play tag. Who cares if he’s playing with an older boy and a younger girl? He doesn’t, that’s for sure. In fact, age rarely ever comes up at all. Be it music, dance, or art, their co-op classes are taught by level, not age.
  2. At home, we learn the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic, etc…, but our best lessons focus not simply on what to memorize, but on what kind of person we’re going to be. How do we define ourselves? How are we going to work towards living up to that definition? It’s an every day discussion and a challenging one at that, but like with multiplication, practice makes perfect. For instance, if my daughter uses the word “confident” to define herself, we try to recognize opportunities for confidence and to acknowledge when it’s been achieved. The academics side of learning, the memorization, that’ll come. But without a solid foundation it’ll never stick.
  3. Finally, whereas some might argue that humiliation from cliques will “make your children stronger,” at home we believe that if houses aren’t built from saplings, neither should children have their confidence tried and tested at such tender, vulnerable ages. We build them up so that they can’t be broken down, not the other way around.

From one mother to another, regardless of how you choose to educate your children, the most effective thing you can do for your daughter is to help her find the words that define her—however simple they may be—and remind her of those words every day.

But if you should decide to homeschool, remember two things:

  1. Technology helps us homeschool parents connect. We’re an incredibly supportive group eager to help each through all our doubts.
  2. Just like I’m sure you tell your kids: You can do anything you put your mind to, that’s right, even you, mom.

Good luck!

~J

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