Very few four and five year olds would, I suspect, if left to their own devices choose to leave the company of their parents and go off to spend all day with strangers for most of the week. Fortunately, we don't give them the choice, otherwise schools would be standing half empty! Some want to go, it is true. Many small children though, want nothing more than to carry on being with Mummy all day. One way round this is not to let them get used to this peculiar arrangement for too long. After five years, this sort of attachment can get to be a bad habit and so we try to take them from their mothers earlier. If the child is sent away from his mother during the day from the age of two or three, he will have less chance to feel secure and happy in her company. Ideally, we should I suppose be starting them at six months or even earlier. That way, they would never learn the reassurance of spending week after week for years on end with their parents.
However, this is not always practical and so we must persuade the little darlings that school is a great place and that they will have lots of fun there. About six months before we are going to chuck them out of their secure home and abandon them regularly to strangers, we tell them over and over again; 'You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends. School is good, You will enjoy yourself at school'. Anybody familiar at all with Brave New World? I love this kind of conditioning. If only some enterprising company were to produce CDs repeating these reasuring lies for hours on end, we could play them to the kids while they were asleep and condition them subliminally!
Then there are the books we get for them. Topsy and Tim go to School, for instance. Gosh, look at what a good time they are having there! I bet you will have a good time at school, just like Topsy and Tim. ('You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends') Just look at what a good time Topsy is having with her new friends. ('School is good. You will enjoy yourself at school'). Tim is also making new friends and having a good time. ('You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends')
Of course, these books don't show Topsy wetting herself because she is too shy to ask where the lavatory is, nor do they show Tim being pushed to the ground by some hulking boy who likes picking on smaller children. There are other aspects of school which books alone cannot adequately convey. The appalling noise, for instance. For a sensitive child coming from a peaceful and relaxed home, this can be unnerving. The chaos and confusion in the reception class is never shown. All the classrooms in these books seem almost empty and the teacher has plenty of time to chat to Topsy and Tim and their mother.
If all else fails and your child really does not want to go to school, you can tell him: 'You have to go, it's the law'. If he is upset about this and starts to cry, be sure to reassure him by saying, 'Don't cry. You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends'. It's strange really. There is among some professionals an expressed anxiety that some home educated children would really rather be in school and that their parents might have brainwashed them into wishing to be at home. One wonders if they are serious about this and have so little insight into the way that society conditions small children. I would be interested to hear readers' stories of how they managed to kid their children into believing that school is better than being at home with their parents.