There has to be a better way...

My son has been kept in at breaktime to finish class work at school every day this week. Last night homework took until 10:40, at which point we were both totally exhausted. He has been threatened with detention if he doesn't write down his homework (even though it may not be written down, he does it and I sign the blank page daily). If he persists in not writing down homework he faces possible suspension.

My son is in grade 6.

And I'm wondering if this is the best the school system can do for him.

In grade 2, his teacher came to me and requested (no, make that basically ordered!) that I put him on Ritalin. Not because he is ADD/ADHD, but because he learnt differently from the other kids (creative, easily bored, intelligent) and she wasn't willing to change the teaching methods she's used for the past 40 years at that school to accommodate his needs. She wanted to "medicate him into line". I flat out refused, and from then on she had it in for me. Things went downhill fast during that year as far as his learning went. In grade 3 he started to cope, but still struggled with doing things in the given time, and his handwriting was awful. Grade 4, slight improvement. Grade 5, better. Grade 6 is looking to be the best year so far - or it was.

His learning methods have improved, but still he's not a good fit for the teaching style. The classes are small (less than 30 students per class, if possible), but the teachers spend a lot of time running after students to sit still, shut up, work hard. The fact that boys need a physical get-up-and-move break every hour or so is not considered. The fact that boys learn differently to girls never crosses their minds. The fact that keeping a boy in at break instead of giving him a chance to breathe free and move his limbs for a better post-break performance doesn't get a thought.

I'm pretty peeved with the whole system at the moment. It kinda follows on my "Narnia" post last week. The whole learning thing as performed and accepted by the all-knowing Education Department is just so unnatural! It stuffs kids into an uncomfortable uniform, binds up their feet in clumpy hard school shoes and makes them sit in enclosed, artificially lit rooms for at least 12 years. What a contrast to the free days up to age 6! (Unless of course your kid was stuck into a preschool at an earlier age and it's all they know. Mine wasn't. Could't afford it.)

Over these few holiday days I read a story of crofters in the 1800's, living on a wind-swept island off Scotland, fighting for life and land and a chance to live as they wished. It was an existance that was hard, yet the clan was bound as an extended family by the work they did, the kids they raised together, the hearthstone they gathered around each night. Children were part of the community, and were raised as such with responsibility and practical training toward adulthood. Sure, they missed out on the "gentry" ways, but it didn't stop them developing into caring and useful members of the society. And those who wished to leave or persue a life different to what they lived were free to do so.

Idealistic perhaps. But there's something inside me that says school doesn't teach the value of hard work, the respect for land and nature and fellow humans, the wisdom of elders, the comfort of community. I know that's up to families to teach - but how can we when our kids are removed from our care for 6+ hours per day, made to be something they're not, put into programmes and activities, punished for things that make no sense, and moulded into little carbon copies of each other?

I'm just frustrated I guess. I don't like what's happening. But I don't know how to change it. There's a part of me that says my son should continue on this path, because if he chooses to go with the societal flow later on he should not be disadvantaged by his mom's weird ideas (and no official high school certificate to base his future on). There's the other part that says set him free and find another way to do this.

Surely there must be a way....