At present, the majority of alternative or free schools only cover up to 6 years of age, a stage in which schooling is not compulsory and, therefore, alternative educational projects have more flexibility and opportunities for survival.
This implies that many children are going to experience the change from a more alternative school to a more conventional primary school. And many parents wonder if this change is “traumatic” or not, if it is worth taking them if sooner or later they will end up in the usual system.
I clarify that I use the word “alternative school” to encompass different types of schools whose common denominator is respect for the way of being of each child, their processes, their learning pace, and so on. It would be a very extensive debate to talk here about the different types of alternative schools.
I want to talk to you about this topic from my own experience, from what I lived and felt. From what it meant for me to go to a school that, at that time, broke the mold and how was the change towards a much more conventional school.
To put you in the situation, I tell you that my debut with “schooling” was in a great school, in which there were airs of change. Carles Parellada was in charge (if you don’t know him, I recommend you look for information about him and about systemic pedagogy, it’s wonderful) who led a transformation process in a conventional public school.
I remember that the classes were structured by corners: we had a slide in class, a little house, a store, a library in the attic, sofas, a theater, tables to paint and create, stoves to cook when we went on excursions … there were chickens at school and large looms in the hallways.
The days began with a “rotllana” (making a circle) in which each one could express or tell what they wanted. And we did psychomotor skills when nobody knew how to pronounce the word, hehe.
But what there was or was not really is not the important thing. I think the fundamental thing was that each child was respected in who he already was, no one was ever forced to do something in particular, most of the time it was free play, which each one took advantage of as he thought best (even children who came from families unstructured took advantage of the time to sleep, it sounds strong, but it is what they needed).
I remember fully happy there, in that place.
But my family moved and I ended up in a very different place. A 100% conventional school where academic results were sought, competitiveness was promoted and the hours passed glued to a chair and a desk.
Frankly, it was an abrupt change. I will never forget the first day of class, going from acting freely to sitting at a desk all hours of the day (except for recess, of course) made a great impression on me. Also the behavior and way of relating was different between the children. After a while I adapted and made my group of friends, but now, as an adult, I recognize how different it was to go to one place and another.
I do not want to dwell much more on the differences between schools, it was only so that you could make a mental image of what each one was like and understand the change I experienced.
THE CHANGE FROM AN ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL TO A CONVENTIONAL
As you already know and I have said at the beginning of the article as well, the large volume of alternative schools is in the age range 1-6 years . Later, when the compulsory schooling stage begins, the options plummet. Even in traditional schools, it seems that when you reach primary school, all the speech that is closest to the child or respectful ends, and suddenly books, homework, and so on begin . So, inevitably, at least for now, many children live that step towards a more conventional system.
In a lot of talks and open houses of alternative schools I have heard this question from parents. “ Very well, I love your project, but at 6 years what? How is my son going to experience the change to a conventional system, when this cool little school is over? “.
And the answer is always the same. That since children have gone to a respectful school during the first seven years (a stage in which the foundations of their personality are laid)… they are well prepared to move on to a traditional primary school without problems and adapting wonderfully.
These statements, starting from my own experience, have always scratched me. It is not that I do not believe that these children are well prepared to face change, but it does seem to me that based on that conception we can downplay that step, which is still a sudden or unwanted change, at least on many occasions.
Of course, each child is a different world and will fit it differently, there are no general or fixed rules , but I do believe that by minimizing this step we can minimize the importance of being attentive or open to the child’s feelings.
BUT IT IS WORTH GOING TO AN ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL …
However, I don’t want to give the feeling that going to a “free” or “alternative” school is not worth going to while you can. Quite the opposite. Whenever they have asked me if I would have preferred not to live it … my answer has been the same: I would not exchange that experience for anything in the world . The only thing … is that I wish I could have always gone to a more respectful place.
Last summer I was lucky enough to meet Celeste Vaiana and be able to chat with her about schooling, types of school and more. And he told me something that shed light on my experience and that I want to share with you.
He said yes, that change may be hard, or that it marks us … but the good thing about having gone the first years to a place where children are respected, their autonomy, their desires, where there is a connection with the family and in which one can learn without haste and without impositions is that this child can grow and develop calmly, without pressure, especially at a stage in which he cannot verbalize or explain many things that he feels or that happens to him . In this way, we prevent them from being recorded in your body, in your unconscious, and without being named .
The change towards a conventional school can more or less impress a child, it depends on each way of being , but the good thing is that when you feel pressured, that the teacher imposes knowledge, that competitiveness is promoted or that only the achievements but not processes … that child will be able to verbalize it, he will be able to come home and say this, I like it or I don’t like it, I feel bad with that educational style (or not) … and the parents will be able to accompany those feelings in the best way possible, preventing them from passing by without being able to speak, without putting words to it.
In contrast, a 3-year-old (or younger) cannot do that. If you feel pressured or disrespected in a traditional school, you will hardly be able to verbalize it as if you were 6 or 7 years old. So … if you wonder if it is worth going to a “free”, “alternative” or the most respectful school possible, even for a short period … my answer is YES, it is worth it :
– Yes because all the experiences they will live will be a treasure left for the little ones.
– Yes because younger ones are more worth being in schools that respect their rhythms and needs. It is the stage in which you are shaping your personality.
– Yes because they will make the change to another type of school being more mature, self-confident, with the ability to express and verbalize what they dislike.
– Yes, because having received an education that is alive and close to their needs will leave them the mark that this is possible, that one day they lived it , that one day they were respected. In them, the hope that another education is possible will remain and, from there, I believe (or at least I wish) they will be able to fight for that change tomorrow, when they have children or children around.
This is, at least, my experience. Although I spent most of my education in a “conventional” school, what I experienced during the first 7 years left me a treasure in the hands that now, I think, the little one can also enjoy.
Sure, many other people will have different experiences than mine, but I think that, in the vast majority of cases, they support this idea that it is worth going to a school that respects children in their way of being, in their rhythms and concerns , even if only for the first few years .