As I filled out the enrolment forms for an 80-student alternative school in the mountains, I chewed all my nails off. I had so many hesitations about sending my daughter there and I was really starting to wonder whether we were making a mistake.
- New research found kids do better at school if they start later
- Dear Mum and Dad, this is how I really feel after a day at my new big school
- How I’m preparing MYSELF for my firstborn to start school
Why didn’t they wear shoes in class?
Would we be depriving her of the typical state school experience? Would she be disappointed that she didn’t get to wear a uniform like all her other friends? Was it ridiculous to choose a school that was a half-hour drive away rather than a mere five minutes? Were we missing out on making friends in our local community? Who were these neo-hippie kids we were sending her to school with? Why didn’t they wear shoes in class? Would we fit in with their parents or were we too conformist?
On the flip side, how could we even consider sending her to the 2000-student state school in our catchment area given that we hadn’t heard a single good thing about it? Why were we so scared of stepping outside the norm? If we didn’t like it after her first year, was it that big a deal to change schools?
So. Many. Questions.
Who are we even?
The decision was so difficult for us to make because our family has always had one foot in mainstream culture and one foot in the green counterculture.
We live in the ‘burbs on the Sunshine Coast, but we grow our own food and have chickens. We have three kids, but we try to minimise our consumption of crap and our production of waste. We eat some meat, but we completely gave up beef ten years ago because of the impact it has on the planet and we constantly toy with the idea of going vego.
Regular people (like my friend who called us “soooo different”) think we’re weird with all our principles. And fringe dwellers (like my cousin who lived on a commune in the Byron Bay hinterland) think we’re super-conventional.
Taking the leap
After months of dissecting the pros and cons of both options, we had to put our niggling doubts behind us and take a leap of faith. We chose a small independent school because it was in line with our values.
On the first day, I was nervous. My daughter, on the other hand, leapt out of bed raring to go. “Mum, I don’t want to wear this dress! Can I wear my rainbow one?” she begged. Uh-oh. My doubts about the school not having a uniform were being confirmed on the first day. But when I agreed to her costume change just this once and explained that I didn’t want to argue about clothes every morning, she agreed. And to this day, she’s never once opposed my outfit choice again.
When we arrived at school, I was relieved to see the familiar faces of the lovely parents I’d met at the orientation session a few months earlier. As we chatted like old friends, I felt a wave of relief. They weren’t crazy hippies – they were people just like us who were seeking a sense of community in our disconnected modern world.
Saying goodbye to shoes and other conventions
My daughter settled into school right away. By the end of her first day, she was already telling me that a year 1 girl in her composite class was her “best friend”. She and her new BFF kicked their shoes off outside their classroom that day and they never looked back.
I thought the no-shoes thing would make me cringe, but I’ve embraced it. Why do small children need to be constrained by formal footwear? It’s not like wearing shoes helps them learn any better.
There are plenty of other things I’ve grown to love about her school. I love that she can run outside her classroom and climb a giant tree for morning tea. I love that she gets to cuddle the resident guinea pigs at lunch. I love that she’s learning to grow food in the school’s gardens and helping with the chickens. I love that the vegetarian tuck shop food is prepared by the students using ingredients they grew themselves.
I love that my child is free to explore her natural interests and abilities. I love that she isn’t constantly asked to sit down, be quiet and listen to her teacher. I love that she isn’t learning sight words or having to worry about homework yet. I love that her spirited nature is being celebrated rather than squashed.
I love that she gets to hang out with and learn from the older kids during weekly whole-school events (even though they tell her weird stuff like the Tooth Fairy eats all the teeth she collects! *sigh*).
I love that the other mums have become my village. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and opened my mind.
I love that we took a chance on something different and it paid off. That’s a valuable life lesson our whole family has benefited from.