Tuesday, 15 March 2011

And another thing

That's a strange idea about kids educated from home: they're unlikely to take part in activities if the parental interest doesn't lie there.

Eh? That doesn't work, does it? Take sports.

The gym, I like. The kids think I'm crazy. But I'm not interested in ballet and Squirrel did three years of the torture. I have no particular interest in sailing either, but Shark loves it. And Tiger! Great snorty horse creatures are the stuff of my nightmares! Tiger, she loves them. In England, she regularly and happily sits on a horse, while I sit in the car and happily test the chocolaty bits of digestives.

I don't think I'm alone. I think there are thousands of educating parents out there - school-choosing or otherwise - who encourage their kids in one sport or another while themselves disguising active loathing.

Each week they probably suffer miserably by the sides of rugby pitches, or feel excluded and marginalised at dance classes, or desperately try to weasel out from any parental involvement of school sports days. We still turn out, cheer on, and face up to it all.

But what choice do the children have, especially if it's a school-bound sport?

Of the alternative educating parents I know, one common bond we have is our shared experience of horrible times with sports at school. It makes us all the more determined that our kids should choose for themselves what sports to do, and that their choice should be enjoyment and involvement.

When I was a kid I loved swimming. The swimming pool was one of the first places I went to independently; I can recall the thrill of catching a bus there alone for the first time; every week I imagined myself in training for a triumph great and glorious, even though I was a terrible swimmer and a competitive no-hoper. It didn't matter to me. I adored it all.

Then I attended a school where swimming was a compulsory part of the curriculum. Within a year I was terrified of it. As the hour approached, so did the panic attacks, sweating, shaking, stammering. It was nothing but fear and humiliation. With water. Everything that I'd loved about it, I hated. When it finished, I didn't go swimming again until I was aged 32. That's what school did for my passion.

School did that for all sports. Hockey nearly killed me. Athletics, I loathed. Netball, I dreaded. Tennis, it left largely unscathed, because the PE teacher told us we would never do much, so we may as well use it as an excuse to run about in the sunshine. I could probably pick up tennis again today.

But the worst of all was ice skating. I hated ice skating. With a hard hatred that could slice ice better than hot skates. The six ice skating lessons in 1974 were the only lessons at school from which I played truant. So catch me now, Mrs Watson.

The whole miserable experience has made me sure that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger shouldn't go through that route. But that they should choose their sports, follow their enjoyment, and engage to their comfort and ability levels. Today, we visit the ice rink. Shark wants lessons when we arrive home in England. Tiger and Squirrel already reached the level of their satisfaction.

I don't need to suffer. Ice skating is no pain to me. The kids can do any sport they want, regardless of whether I like it or not. Anyway, Starbucks does a decent coffee, and it's just round the corner from the ice rink.


Rachel M. said...

Oh this brings back memories of middle school (grades 4th - 8th, Gritlets would be in 6th grade in our education system). I was ALWAYS picked last for every sport. And it wasn't mandatory but it was the only thing to do collectively with one's peers at recess. By 8th grade I gave up baseball for the swings with a good book and the teachers, having seen my years of failure let me go. In High School I had my pastor write a letter saying I could not take mandatory gym class because our church required me to wear skirts all the time and I could not wear the regulation shorts. You should have seen me squirm by 12th grade when I reminded the school councilor of that letter when she noticed I had not completed that class - I had finally convinced my parents to let me wear pants to school and they stopped making me go to church. My fear of competing in a public school atmosphere in skimpy clothing was enormous.

Looking back, I probably would have done fine, but I totally get your point that the surrounding stress factors take all the fun out of it.

In college I used my bike for transportation and I loved the exercise. I may have done fine in sports like running - just nothing where balls are involved please!!!

Nora said...

All I had for sports in school was gymnastics and I hated it. I was bad at it, while I was very good at athletics and did that after school. I played truant from gymnastics many times. The school system does not offer the best. Swim lessons in 6th grade made me scared of water. I never really got over that fear. You're doing fine with your kids.

Kelly said...

Oh, so true. My boys are all baseball mad, I can't even describe the mania with which they talk statistics (they have learned the mathematics of statistics just for baseball), and they all play it madly as well. I hate, hate, hate baseball.