By Susan Friese, mother of twins, passionate teacher and counsellor with a post-graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She has Springbok colours in Martial arts, teaches Kung Fu in her spare time and runs a study centre for Cambridge students called To Educate Academics. Visit her website.
A multitude of factors play a role when removing a child from one schooling environment and placing them in another, from professional assessment to mummy knows best to what does the child WANT to do.
This is a starting point where you can explore what your child is actually capable of and whether he/she is achieving this in their current situation. This can be a school readiness test, an IQ test, tests for cognitive impairment or numerous other psychological issues. You can also explore issues such as whether a child is distracted by having other kids in the class or if there are home issues creating obstacles to learning.
For example, if you and your spouse are having marital problems, now is really not the time to start homeschooling your kids. Instead it would be the time to find them a supportive academic environment that is removed from the home and can provide a fall-back safe space for the child. Somewhere to escape to if needs be and act like a kid, not a buffering zone.
Of course one also needs to remember that extreme emotional conditions will contribute to a child scoring lower on an IQ test than if she were happy! So if she is unhappy she will not appear as bright as she could otherwise. The counsellor or psychologist can guide you towards alternative schools (or indeed a return to mainstream) or treatment where necessary but use your instinct as a parent to make the final decision.
Conformism vs growth
Shouldn’t kids learn to conform to prepare them for ‘varsity and the workplace? The real answer is no.When I was unhappy at my government school the psychologist I saw for IQ testing urged my parents to keep me in a traditional environment so I would learn to conform, thank god my parents didn’t listen! As soon as I moved to a new, freer environment I blossomed. I finally started achieving academically and growing emotionally.
Did Einstein fit into school? No, he dropped out and went on to achieve remarkable feats. Did Richard Branson succeed in school? No. Before Branson quit school, his headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. And many people assumed the former. Of course these people are exceptions and exceptional but it does show that not every child will fit in and they should not be forced to. They should be free to consider an alternative environment where different focuses are apparent. That may be a more sporting environment or a ballet school. It may be a study centre with a focus on creativity. It may be a college where teachers are more permissive. It could be a remedial school. It could be your home. Whatever you child needs, allow them to discuss it with you.
A child on the autism spectrum is not going to “get better” by staying in a school where he is bullied. He will not adjust and learn to get on with it. A painfully shy child will not “come out of her shell” if forced to do PE in a swimsuit in front of the whole school (we had to do this at my old school, it was mortifying). For many kids this is all fine and good and well. But what if it’s not? What if your child is the one who doesn’t fit in?
I left a government school at the end of the 3rd term to move to a Cambridge centre. I completed 5 levels in 6 weeks. I have 2 degrees and a passion for education that extends beyond my textbooks. I am the owner/operator of a study centre in Randburg where students complete an international high school syllabus though Cambridge and become happy and healthy individuals.
The teen spirit is a unique and vibrant entity, don’t let it be squashed.