By Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life
I will be 40 this year, and I still from time to time have nightmares about my matric exams. I’ve dealt with a lot of stressful situations since then, but nothing quite compares to that feeling that what happens in those few weeks will determine the rest of your life.
The truth? It won’t. And it doesn’t matter even half as much as we make out that it does. I had months of sleepless nights and tears and panic attacks to get those good results that in the end have had absolutely no impact on the course of my life. My brother, in opposition to me, did absolutely no work, dropped out of school in Standard 9 and went on to technikon and is doing brilliantly as a computer programmer. We’ve both done just fine in our lives and matric had nothing to do with it.
Added to this, my first high school I attended had one matric for every year I was there who committed suicide during the matric exams. Why? Because of the unnecessary pressure that we put on our kids to perform and the false assumptions that we fill them with that if they don’t do well at this they will be a failure. This is not ok. Not ok at all.
In calm, rational reality, if a child fails their matric, or even doesn’t do as well as they would have liked, they can always repeat it later. If they don’t take the right subjects for a chosen career, they can always catch them up later too. It may even be that what they really want to do with their lives (not what we have decided they should do) may not even require a matric at all.
My kids are now in a homeschooling environment where I have watched countless kids who have been home schooled or unschooled getting their matric without any stress, drama, tears or terror. They simply write their subjects as and when they are ready; they focus on things they enjoy; and they have support but not pressure. Some of them complete their matric when they are 9, some when they are 19, and some at 29. Without the erroneously prescribed time frames they simply do it when they are ready and when they feel comfortable tackling the challenge.
Of course we all want our kids to succeed. But what does their success actually mean to you? And what are you prepared to do to them to get them to achieve it? Does it mean straight A’s even though your child hates you, school and themselves by the end of it? Does it mean pushing kids beyond their limits until they run away, retreat into drugs, or commit suicide? Do you really care about what is right for your child or do you care about what looks good for you? Who are they actually getting those marks for? And why?
These are tough questions and they may have the hairs on your neck standing up, but I have watched children die trying to achieve the lost dreams of their parents. A child who grows up happy and with a somewhat ‘mediocre’ life is infinitely more successful than a dead child who failed to live up to their parents’ expectations.