Monday, 6 October 2008

Why home educate? (6) Uniform

Oh dear. Daisy is aged four*. And to celebrate this momentous event let's gather all the children round at the discount store and stare at all the dreary school uniforms that £3.99 can buy, available in any colour you like so long as it is grey. Look! The label says this skirt will not crease! will not stain! Why not just paint the child directly in waterproof stain repellent then rivet on a stainless steel girder and a garage door? They don't crease either until Jessica from year 3 kicks them in.

I want to meet the person who designed the graceless grey pieces of non-folding nylon shite that passes round here for school uniform. And I want to punch them in the face. Do they wear that garbage to work? Do they get up each morning and think to themselves, hmmm, now which should I wear, the grey cardboard itchy-as-a-goat and manufactured out of tarmac? Or the grey plastic shield with the special non-folding ability that feels like all four limbs have been shoved in a waste pipe?

And what is all this stuff about dirt and stains and OHMYGOD ...PAINT! So what? Who is it that convinces parents that children should not get dirty, covered in mud, ketchup, purple paint and grass stains? Who is that person? Are they normal? Have they concreted over their own garden?

Well you can tell Grit is in a big area of contempt here. And this may be an area that she has to deal with emotionally and may resolve to do that by opening a second beer, but this minefield really pisses me off. Call me an old hippy mother who actually went to primary school wearing what she liked! And did wearing my favourite blue skirt make me significantly fail? Get bullied? Get pregnant aged 12? Become a wildly out-of-control teenager who spat at old ladies on buses? Sorry. Nope. Cramming kids in uniform when they are barely out of nappies is about none of these things, no matter what arguments are held up in favour of grey sheet metal. It is about social control.

And it's not just the grey uniform children get to wear from age 4 these days, it's the uniformity of the day. Because lunch is at this time and in this space, always. Arrival is here and now, or else. Departure is then and you'd better not be late. I don't think the Digs and Grits of this world can live like that; to have our whole day structured by what's convenient from some institution down the road. And we'd be getting constant letters. You let your daughter wear her blue leggings AGAIN! Mrs Grit, we note you are LATE again and AGAIN. GRIT! DO NOT ALLOW YOUR DAUGHTER TO WEAR THAT PINK DRESS TO THIS SCHOOL EVER AGAIN. That horrible pink dress that she loves and loves and loves so much and says it is the most comfortable thing she has ever worn, and best of all, sometimes she can run around and play and play and she forgets that she's wearing anything at all. Oh, that one.

(You may be able to tell that any temperate and restraining influence on Grit's blasphemous mouth has just left the building on a long trip. Daddy Dig, everyone wishes you were here, probably even the long suffering readers of this blog.)

* Why oh why has age four now become the default for sending the kids to school? Let's get it over and done with and hand them over at two days.


Sam said...

Round here, the school nurseries take children the term after their third birthday, either 5 mornings or 5 afternoons. They like the children to wear uniforms, so we are always seeing tiny, mini people, fully uniformed up. It's very depressing and quite bizarre.
Whereas my little mini person spends his days wearing his silver spaceman/clone trooper/powerranger/... dressing up suit.

sharon said...

I have mixed feelings about school uniforms. Not madly keen on the shirt and tie, Gymslip, Blazer, straw boater/felted pillbox etc (yes, I did wear all of the above along with specified shoes for both indoor and outdoor, and gloves! White for Summer and Brown for Winter) At the very least it stops a lot of the problems over who has the latest most expensive fashion/designer item (regardless of the parents' feelings on the subject)also the totally unsuitable choices some people, both adult and child, make. I'll admit this comes into play outside of school too. Here in Australia the kids in most state schools wear collared Airtex-type shirts in quite bright colours with either jeans or shorts, tracksuit bottoms, or and occasionally skirts (most girls opt for shorts though)in black or navy. In winter a tracksuit type jacket is added in the appropriate colours. They also have a choice of hats as they are compulsory for most outside activities due to the climate. Footwear is usually trainers. Now, to my mind that is eminently sensible, practicable and affordable clothing for school. Primary School starts at a later age too, and Kindergarten is optional from 4 years onwards.

Gill said...

I feel for you Grit :-)

And I definitely agree with you about most things, especially this.

Trevor said...

Oh Jesus, stop it Grit! Stop it!
Please end this particular thread! (Look! You have reduced me to using exclamation marks! How much lower can I sink!?)

I agree with everything you say. Every. Single. Thing.

I don't want to put my kids into the machine. I don't want to institutionalise them at a young age. I want to show them there is more to life than the 9 to 5. I want my kids to see learning as a natural part of everyday life, not something forced upon them.

But I doubt my ability to home educate. Financially, physically, intelligently (mentally!). All these things I feel I lack. How on earth can I teach my kids when I know so little myself (I still don't get verbs, nouns and that other stuff. Despite the fact that I like to write I still don't actually understand it)

I doubt that I will home educate in the same way you do. But I do plan to teach my kids about the world in my own way. Our goal - what we are working towards daily, why I changed jobs, why we emigrated to Aussie, every move we make - is working to our being able to take the kids sailing for a year when they are 10. I figure this is a good age as they will still want to hang with mum and dad, we'll be able to home ed them for that year with out doing too much harm and they'll be old enough to work the boat and hold a watch by themselves. I want to take the chance to show them that there is more to life than iPods and shopping and the latest fashions. I want to show them that there are other ways you can live your life.

God alone knows how I am going to finance this, but I am determined that it will happen.

So stop it.

Stop making me feel guilty.

Stop talking so much sense.

And please don't force me to use any more exclamation marks.

Kitty said...

I don't mind the Primary Uniform that No.2 has to wear - there is a wide range of what qualifies for uniform, so one can still be 'individual'. No.1's school however are positively Draconian - down to what colour socks the children must wear! :-O x

Dani said...

Trevor said: "Despite the fact that I like to write I still don't actually understand it)".

But don't you see - you are living proof that 'not understanding it' is not a problem. The point of writing is to communicate, and you do this very well. Knowing about grammar is only necessary if you are interested in grammar. If you children are interested in it, they will find out about it from someone who does know, or from a book or website. No need to worry.

Grit said: "It is about social control", to which I say a resounding "hear, hear!"

Grit said...

hi sam! ours spent a lot of time as a cat, rabbit and mouse. they wouldn't go out without wearing them, and i got so used to seeing them i never noticed and always wondered what people were staring at!

hi sharon! there seems to be a relentless pressure here in the uk to get everyone in uniform as early as possible; it is really depressing, and the saddest sight i saw one september morning was a toddler in uniform towing behind her a giant teddy.

thank you gill!

oh good grief trevor, i am sorry! look! exclamation marks!

ok, here's the deal. i will post only 10 reasons to home educate and miss out the other 21. after 10, i will put out 10 good reasons to send kids to school. we have to be balanced, right? then come back in a week and all will be normal again.

anyhow, the situation in the UK is not that of Aus; in the UK i believe the constant undermining of teachers has had serious negative impacts; other places will be totally different and i know nothing about education aus, so some of my whines and winges you may feel simply do not translate.

and if you take them out at age 10 to go sailing for a year, that's home ed too, don't forget... it would be a wondrous time and every month worth 10 years of an outdated geography text book with black and white photos. the experience would stay with them all their lives.

and as for things we don't all know? well, stuff the verbs. wtf are verbsnounspronouns anyway but to keep tefl teachers in business? my maths are crap and i don't worry about that shortcoming. i learn alongside the kids, which teaches them that we all have to find out (but i suspect they would learn off their own bat anyway, when they needed).

and please don't feel guilty: every family is different and we all come to different decisions and sometimes school is a positive option. and i'm not coming out as anti school either; i would just like to see them different. (i could happily go on and on about that too!)

anyway, kids learn from the adults around them, and ambitious and inspired adults tend to have ambitious and inspired kids...

kitty! i'm keeping quiet on the socks business since we can never find two matching ones in this house, let alone the same colour.

i agree dani. (personally i know sod all about fish but so far it hasn't stopped shark.)

Allie said...

School uniform damaged my ability to think. I was constantly uncomfortable and stressed. This was because I went to a big mixed comp where girls had to wear skirts. I felt like I was in drag. This was rather distracting. It is all about social control. Certainly never helped with the bullying, either.

Samurai Beetle said...

It used to be only the private schools required uniform. Now it does seem to be more prevalent in the public schools in bigger cities. I hadn't given it much thought b/c I never had to wear a uniform in school but would have hated removal of this freedom.