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"I used to believe in single-sex education for my son. For very personal reasons, now I don't."

One of the best parts of parenting is discovering your child is a mini-you, and one of the most surprising is when they reveal in other ways that they’re vastly different. This has never been more true than in my experience of educating my kid, Winston, who’s now 12.

The thing is, as a parent, you often repeat what you know works. I loved school and had a positive experience – I know people find that annoying, but it’s true.

I was very lucky. I attended the same school from kindy to Year 12. It was an all-girls school, and the girls in my class are my sisters for life. Speaking of sisters, all three of mine attended the same school, and so what we have now is a large network with a strong history – and I value that.

Side note – What type of mum are you at the school pickup? Post continues below.

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For those reasons, naturally, I wanted the same experience for my son. I figured that if the only sort of schooling I’d known had worked so well for me, surely it would be right for him too. I was supremely confident of that.

So, my son’s schooling began that way; he attended a single-sex school until the end of Year 5. On top of my personal experience, I had another reason to want my child in a high-testosterone environment: he resided wholly with me.

My kid saw his dad regularly but didn’t stay with him. So it was really important to me for him to be in a daily environment that was tailored to the ‘needs of boys’. (Hear me out on this – I’m explaining that’s how I was thinking at the time.)

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I constantly heard other parents at the school talk about how it ‘really understands what boys need’ and yes, it reinforced my thinking. My son had a majority of male teachers, all of whom were excellent with him, and I felt satisfied he was getting what he needed; what I couldn’t provide for him at home.

But then, things started to change. No, actually, I changed. I wondered if my son needed more – a wider experience. I noticed he was great with females; his cousins, daughters of my friends; and felt that socialisation was so important. I mean, that’s reality, right? Did he need more of that in his life, rather than an ‘orchestrated’ environment?

This change of thought coincided with some very personal transformations for me. I was beginning to question my own life, and embarked on a more satisfying career…which eventually meant we packed up and left Adelaide for Sydney.

I took the move as a chance to shake things up for my son, too. At first, I tried to get him into the equivalent sort of school in Sydney, and were told we couldn’t do that for a year. So, the local public school was the next option.

And the right one.

Winston absolutely flourished at his new school. He became happier, more confident in his approach to learning. Would that ‘flourishing’ have happened anyway?

Who knows – but one thing’s for sure; he made some excellent girl friends, whose friendships he’s maintained, even though they moved to other schools later.

He wouldn’t have had the chance to do that at his Adelaide school.

Am I trying to say he’s a hit with the ladies because he’s a good-looking kid in my biased opinion? Definitely not. I genuinely feel that the diversity has been good for him, and I even suspect that’s because at home, it’s just him and me – so now, his schooling is more reflective of his normal.

Yes, he has a best mate, and other good mates, but by excluding girls from his education, I began to realise that maybe, rather than giving him what I thought he needed, I was limiting his experience – and denying him opportunities to explore another side of himself.

And also, completely underestimating the value of my contribution to his development. Maybe, just maybe, one loving, stable, dedicated parent was actually enough?

Had we not moved cities, I would never have taken my son out of his brilliant single-sex school. Honestly, it was such a great school, and the teaching staff were incredible (hello to you guys if you’re reading this – we miss you!).

But if we hadn’t moved, I would always have wondered if something different would have suited him better.

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After two years of co-ed school, this year we were faced with a choice: do we return to single-sex for high school?

Winston was adamant he didn’t want to, and to be honest, it didn’t feel right anymore. From experience, I know single-sex schools make a huge effort to mix with opposite sex schools – but now, the issue for me is normalising a boys-only environment on a daily basis – and I can’t see us going back to that right now.

The concept of tailoring the school experience for girls and boys separately doesn’t feel right for my son anymore. That thing which I so believed in? Well, now, I feel the opposite. Which is why this year I’ve chosen co-ed over the boys-only school we’d planned for him to attend.

I want to acknowledge that this is a personal choice I made for my son. It’s about individual needs, and families. I know single-sex works for lots of kids. It definitely worked for me! But I also know there’s research (Google it – there’s lots out there) that says many boys do better in a co-ed environment.

And so far, that’s proven true for my son.

Feature Image: Instagram / @namawinston

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