Opting Out, Hippies, and Schooling

Being a free spirit can conflict with being a parent. I’m not a mother who thinks kids can do what they want, and I abhor bratty, self-entitled children – mine are well mannered and respectful. But, on Sundays, with the week looming, it’s school that gets me down.
The mundaneness, the monotony – parenting flings me right back into that which I worked so hard to escape! The Sedgefield school is a good one, the teachers tend toward the Fundamentalist Christian and both my kids went through an early evangelical stage. Jake’s third grade teacher was, however, very calm and understanding when he told her he was moving on and now believed in Darwin.
I sometimes (very, very briefly) think of home schooling, and in dark sport-on-Saturday moments sympathise with survivalists.
When Gavin and I were younger we lived in the hippest suburb of Joburg, Yeoville. This was just before democracy and it was a wild and free area where all those on society’s fringes could find acceptance. Mixed race couples (when that was illegal), gays and lesbians (ditto), drug addicts, political radicals – all found a home in Yeoville. It was a great place to spend your early 20s if you were a neo-hipppie.
We were friendly with a couple then, Ben and Issy, he was a gem dealer and her occupation was vague. They had a kid, Luke, who was about 13 at that time. He had never been to school, never been registered with Home Affairs, had no birth certificate or ID number – completely off the grid.
They were pretty cool, loving parents and Luke knew a lot about a lot. I wonder what’s happened to him, now a man in his late 20s.
Much as I hate the adapting to the endless routine I guess it’s not fair to make those decisions on your children’s behalf. If Jake and Thomas want to opt out later, they should be able to do it with written affirmation that they have done the three R’s. You have to experience the system before you can reject it. Or not, as the case may be.

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8 Responses to “Opting Out, Hippies, and Schooling”


  1. 1 shoreacres April 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    More and more often I hear myself saying, “If I were a parent today, I’d be homeschooling…” Of course, I’m not a parent, and when I give a rational thought to what that would entail, I quiver just a bit. It’s hard work, and at least in this country no escape from the bureaucracy.

    My number one problem with our educational system is that it’s so poor at – well, educating. There simply is no question that when I graduated from high school, my educational level was equivalent to what’s considered graduate school level now in some quarters. It’s pathetic.

    Perhaps, in the end, it’s a matter of doing what’s always been done in one way or another – working the system to get the certificates, and doing on our own what’s necessary to get an education.

    As for that vaunted, hip free-spiritedness, I do laugh at myself and my friends when I think back on it. We may have differed radically from the larger society in terms of music, dress, behavior and politics, but among ourselves? Peas in a pod, I tell you – and woe to the free spirit who deviated from all that free thought!

    As a friend said recently, “We never knew all that critical thinking business was supposed to apply to us, too!”

  2. 2 Jeannine April 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    True shore, each sub group is dogmatic in its own, unique way!
    Yip, home schooling. But that means that they’re at home, and they’re so, well, so annoying!

    • 3 worldwideopenmind April 28, 2011 at 6:20 am

      They only annoying if they are not feeling passionate and self motivated to learn about life.. or have the resources to fill the need to learn..
      We Taking our 2 sons sailing around the world … Not a chance we want them integrating into society as we see it.. but offer them the tools to do as they please later.. ..show them the world and real life… give them as many tools are we can… they will see the world at hand.. and set them free to fly having offered them as much opportunity and exposure and open minded thinking as we can…
      School scares the *&%@ out of me… to much emphasis on things that have nothing to do with the beauty and awesomeness of life and what is out there to know and experience..Way to closed minded and petty..

  3. 4 Mike April 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    When I read a post like this, I’m glad that our kids are all grownup and wrestling with the sorts of dilemmas you talk about. Implicit in your post is a feeling that kids should be subject to a relatively conforming environment and encouraged to defer opt out decisions till adulthood. Think this is a good strategy.

    Yes, there are awful flaws in the SA education system. I beleive that when history judges Mandela the most strident accusation will nvolve his choice of Asmal & OBE. It set us on a path that is not good. There are good schools in the area – at a cost.

    To do the subject justice would take days and at the end I guess I’d say just trust your instinct. You have the ability to fill in the gaps and encourage enquiring minds to stay that way.

  4. 5 Jeannine April 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I guess, Mike, that no system is perfect and I’m totally with you on filling in the gaps. I can’t afford those private school fees, so we have to make do, and compensate by living as interesting and stimulating a life as possible!

  5. 6 worldwideopenmind April 28, 2011 at 6:12 am

    most important is that you find ways to allow your kids to find passion for life and learning.. they will find ways to learn if they find the passion for life itself…

  6. 7 oh May 8, 2011 at 4:01 am

    wow. everyone has his/her own take on any education system, alternative or otherwise.
    But I remember all those Sundays when that certain resistance to the world taking our kids back into the schoolroom occurred (it was nearly every Sunday for me). To this day, our son will tell you that school shouldn’t take all day; his sister will tell you she misses it. Go figure.
    Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing the right thing for your family, your kids. You just know what that is at that time.

  7. 8 Lisa May 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I’m in love with the idea of homeschooling, even though the reality of it is far off for me. I read a fabulous book called “Free Range Education”, which was put together as a collection of essays, stories, essays from parents and kids that had gone the home ed route – for a variety of reasons (from bullying and learning difficulties to ideological standpoints e.g. religion or left-field social viewpoints). It’s well worth looking at if you’re ever tempted to take the leap.
    As for your friends that didn’t register their kid with an ID number even – I wonder what they were trying to achieve. Or perhaps they just couldn’t be bothered to deal with the bureaucracy themselves? Whilst some of the ideals of hippiedom are charming, more often than not, in practice there’s an element of slacktivism and idle narcissism in those that take it to extremes.
    I shudder to think what a 20-something-year-old would go through at home affairs, trying, say, to get a passport so he can travel. Without ID, he can’t drive, can’t leave the country, can’t open a bank account. They would have had to register him eventually… I mean “off the grid” is one thing, but I think that’s bordering on violating the child’s rights.


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