It’s scary to think that if you don’t send your kids to a classroom, there won’t be thirty other kids telling your kid all about what’s available in the world. It’s scary to think it’s your responsibility now. But the truth is, it’s not that big of a responsibility.
1. Cultural exposure in school is limited.
Schools in the United States are a melting pot. Everybody learns what it means to be a child in a United States. It starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and ends with everybody dressed the same at graduation.
In between, your kid is exposed to the socio-economic demographic of your school’s tax base. The United States is no longer segregated by race, but by income and culture. Kids who surf don’t go to school with kids who spend their afternoons in museums.
So, schools are already culturally limiting.
2. Families are also culturally limiting in a similar way.
Most of us marry someone who was raised in a similar way to us. Few of us travel far to find a mate. Those of us who marry someone very, very different from us tend to raise their kids in one cultural predominating, which is, of course, culturally limiting.
A child with no cultural limitations has no identity.
3. Cultural limitations benefit a child’s education.
The faster you make a child comfortable with the parameters of their existence, in terms of time and space and culture, then the child can explore better. Kids who grow up in meth trailers become adults overnight, because childhood is about exploring within the parameters that adults set. Cultural limitations provide this for well-developed children.
So when you worry that your kids aren’t being exposed to enough, it’s a red herring. This is another way we rationalize putting kids in a room with thirty of their peers and scant adult supervision. We tell ourselves that exposure to other people and other ways of doing things are good. In fact, you get more of that at home than you do at school. At home, a kid can read about anything they want, they can learn anything they want, they can explore anything they want.
My son has a strong interest in being a stylist. The world of being a stylist is so foreign to me that I didn’t even know that there was a difference between being a stylist and being a clothing designer. There is nowhere to buy clothes within two hours of our house. And there is no way that he was influenced by exposure to style in our family, except to be horrified by some of the choices I’ve made.
Yet he still figured out that he wants to be a stylist. He still figured out that Old Navy that has cooler clothes than the Gap. And he still figured out that if he wants to buy really exciting clothes, he’s got to talk to Melissa.
Recently, Melissa set up an opportunity for my son to participate as a stylist in a New York photo shoot.
It was so far out of my element that I covered my eyes at some point, like when he directed the model to look like she was petting a sheep.
This is a great example of how, if you grant kids the freedom to learn what they want, their parents’ experience is much less limiting. This is also a great example of the power of mentoring. My son is around adults enough to determine what is special about each adult and talk to that adult accordingly.
First, he established rapport with Melissa by buying her outfits that she would never want to wear and then he refused to dress up clothes unless she picked them out. By the time Melissa was setting up photo shoots for him, my son had mastered the first steps of getting mentoring in a world completely outside of any experience I could have given him.