Those first 5 years when your kids are at home are SO important for you to let your child KNOW, LOVE, and VALUE who they are to create a healthy sense of self-worth. When you send them off to school, much of what they believe and have learned from you will be tested, rewarded, bumped and bruised, and your child's beliefs can be shaken. And you wonder why they're so tired when they come home??!
During school, from 6-13 years old, we learn everything we can to prepare for adult life. School allows us to think freely and spontaneously about our future. Children who garner success, fit in, learn the material, feel industrious and competent, gain a sense of new power and hope during their early years at school.
That being said, school can also be very wounding for a child's authentic self as it is a place that can penalize a young student for not being as advanced or structured as the system. The grading system in most schools can feel very shaming and distressing because it's perfectionistic, where skills and abilities are compared and graded. In order for your authentic self to remain intact, you can’t be compared to another-- because there is no one else like you. Even if children do well in school, everything in life becomes an A; everything is centered around performance.Things like conformity and memorization most likely are rewarded rather than creativity and uniqueness.
One of the most important skills that school does give a child for the future is socialization. Play is serious business for the school-age child. Connecting with friends and being eager and curious to learn are what you should look for as your child starts elementary education. But the perfectionistic grading system even drips over to socializing in school and and may create a bullying atmosphere or one of shame. Failing causes shame or "I'm not enough" and a bully is already feeling inadequate somewhere in their life and acting out.
On a personal note--I was a small group reading teacher at a "traditional" elementary school--desks all in a row, teacher in front teaching to the upper third of students leaving "average" students or those with learning issues in the dust bewildered and struggling. I would see 4-5 children in a group setting to assist and give them options, encouragement, and accountability to strengthen their reading muscle. There were many times I asked the full-time classroom teacher "why is this child at this school??! They really need a different learning environment to ever feel successful" (and add in parental involvement at home). The best thing a parent can do for their child is to not find the "best" school in town BUT the school that appreciates your kid, challenges while encourages them, and tries to know your child for WHO they are and to honor and grow that light in each child. When you find a teacher like that...love them hard.
In order for our authentic self to fully develop at school, we would have to be honored for every unique aspect of ourselves – our gifts. Rewarded for it, loved for it, and supported for it by peers, school, community leaders, and family. Most likely during this time, aspects of our authentic nature will receive praise and many aspects will be disliked, shamed, and rejected. Therefore, most of what we are today is a collective shell of what was socially OK and acceptable for us and we form into that and grow into adults.
Chances are if you've read this far you know that raising a child needs to be a selfless act of love but many of us (me included) are learning, reprogramming, and just doing our damn best along the way. That's all you can do and now that I've dropped a few drops of wisdom on you--use that to marvel at your child and encourage them to OWN those beautiful gifts they have brought into the world and your family.