School daze

As I was saying, the other morning Charlotte was still in bed asleep when it was time to leave for school. Jerry was home and, knowing he’d probably have first contact with her, I coached him a little: “It’s time to go and Charlotte’s still in bed.” “Oh,” raised eyebrows. “I’ll be back in half-an-hour, so when you see her, be empathetic but also treat her like, ‘No big deal, you’ll get it tomorrow.’” “I could take her in,” he replied. “No, no,” I said. “I need to keep this routine going. It’s working well.” “Ok.”

He loves to rescue them. Makes him feel so good. It’s hard to quit that candy.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know what to expect when I got back. Would she even want to go to school? With Jerry home, maybe she’d announce that she wasn’t going. Maybe she’d just keep sleeping. At the very least I expected her to be slow and tired and crabby and definitely not ready yet.

But as I pulled up to the house, there she was with Jerry in the driveway, coat and back-pack on, ready to get in the car. Jerry had his ‘poor Charlotte’ face on, and she was crying. She got in. “Mom! I don’t like this! I don’t like this, it makes me cry!” I waved goodbye to Jerry and started the drive back to school. She continued, “I want to change this, to do something else!” I waited a few moments and said, “Ok, what would you suggest?” “I don’t know! But not this!” I nodded and we drove in silence for a few minutes. Then I said, “Mondays can be tricky. Ellen barely made it in time this morning and Fenner had a really tough time getting out of bed. It was hard for me to get up too.” She didn’t respond but stopped crying and willingly got out of the car and made her way in to school. And that night I heard her talking happily with Fenner and Ellen: “Charlotte, when did you wake up this morning?” asked Fenner. “Just when you were driving away. I looked out the window and saw the car going up the hill … and Ellen you barely made it in time!” “I know! I had to run upstairs and get my homework really fast at the last minute!” “And Fenner,” Charlotte continued, “you had a hard time getting out of bed!” “Oh, yeah, I sure did!” laughed Fenner.

This follow-through enabled trust, resilience, AND sister-bonding all in one!

Grit your teeth people, and push through the mess to the other side. You won’t regret it.

ps Ok, here’s the thing about school. Stop pretending that school isn’t a choice. EVERYTHING is a choice. And your kids know it. Every morning when I wake up I choose my marriage, my family, my job, my house, and my pets. I choose my life. Every day. No one is threatening me, tying me up, or pushing me around. I choose, and so do our kids.

So get real and don’t worry so much. I challenge everyone to come clean with your kids and tell them that you know it and they know it: You can’t make them go to school. So what are they going to do with that? Maybe they’ll test it out and stay home for a day or two. So what?! What an amazing experience for them! My girls did it and they felt it for themselves — ‘What’s it like for me to opt out of school?’ They found out:

  • Home all day can be kind of boring.
  • I wonder what my friends are doing at school.
  • Do they wonder where I am?
  • What will I say when they ask me where I was?
  • What will I say when the teacher asks?
  • How will I know what the homework is?
  • I bet they played that fun game at PE today …

(My neighbor’s 7th-grade son summed it up the other day, “I don’t like school, but I hate missing it more.”)

I didn’t have to say or do anything. They discovered on their own why they choose school every day. And they do. Every day.


Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

5 Comments on “School daze”

  1. sblanck Says:

    Great one – like the school choice part. I didn’t think of it like a choice – it was a “have to”. Do we have the strength to give them that choice??? Stay tuned!
    : )

    • flockmother Says:

      They already have that choice, and deep down they know it, but they’re not feeling it because fear-of-the-grownups is too powerful. Release them of that fear, step back, and watch what happens. Gotta give it enough time though. At least a week. Aren’t you curious what they’ll do? And, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

      Also don’t forget you can provide that extra bit of motivation through privileges and responsibilities: “No school, no job. No job, no money. No money, no TV, computer, video game, etc…” They get that right away. Go for it!

  2. Vicki Says:

    I could not agree more with you Catha. It is so powerful when the kids finally realize that their entire life is just one choice after another. It is amazing to find them changing course in midstream when they realize a choice they made is taking them AWAY from what they truly want. In a matter of moments, they have turned themselves around and are heading in a new direction – without my ever uttering a word.

  3. Michael Mayor Says:


    What a powerful and distantly understood source. When you drop choice, or don’t pick up responsibility, your control vanishes. I’ve seen both described as burdens. Still, taking responsibility, and acknowledging choice, gives each of us the only measure of control we can enjoy. Parenting on Track seems a powerful way to put those tools in the hands of not just the kids, but the whole family. Whoopee!!

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