We weren't allowed to check out enough books, for starters. After the teacher and the librarian determined that I could read, I had the run of the library -- and the first time, I proudly checked out a chapter book.
But then I saw what the other kids were reading -- short, silly, fluffy books that I'd never gotten a chance to read at home, because Mama was picking out the books with the best pictures and the best writing. So I would read as many of the Berenstein Bears books as I could in one library trip, and then check two out, and read them.
I'm sure my parents and teacher wondered why I wasn't reading the harder stuff. It was nothing as overt as peer pressure. It was isolation, and feeling like by being a good reader, I was missing out on all the fun and good stuff.
I had that feeling a lot during the first grade. I'd home-schooled for Kindergarten, which may not sound like a horribly big deal, but it was to me. I'd gone to Montessori School for preschool, and while there, I'd developed some distinct ideas about "fun" and "fair". For the first year or two, it was great. I got to read, I got to do things with the classroom equipment, we had Circle Time -- wonderful.
And then they instituted the idea of "stations". You went to the station, where there was an activity, and you had to do exactly that activity. You could not play with the stuff. You had to use it like the directions said. The two girls at the station in front of me were not being serious. They were playing house with the counting fruit, which you were not supposed to do. But it looked so very fun. And they didn't get in trouble for it.
So, when I got to the station, I played with the counting fruit. And of course, I was the one who got reprimanded for it, and the tone of the reprimand was as if I were some idiot who didn't understand the instructions. I was certain that the little twits didn't understand the instructions. It was that moment when I knew for certain that the rules were different for different people, and I was the one who was usually going to end up in trouble even though the cool kids broke the rules and got away with it. The universe was inherently unfair, and I was mad.
Public school kindergarten, it looked to me, was a lot less regimentation (the thing I most bitterly resented about the change in the Montessori school) and a lot more fun toys that we would be allowed -- encouraged -- to play with. I had plenty of toys at home, but that wasn't relevant. These were new toys, different toys, and I would get a chance to play with other kids.
And Mama had a schedule crunch. She could either get swallowtayle to Montessori school and back, or me to Kindergarten and back, but not both. So, swallowtayle went to Montessori school, and I got home-schooled for Kindergarten, which I bitterly resented. I didn't get to be around the other kids, I didn't get to play with the toys, and I just knew that there were other things that the kids were doing that were new and different that I was missing out on, missing out drastically. I was angry, rebellious, and decided that my mother was the worst teacher on earth. When Mama proposed that I do first grade at home, I gave her The Look and announced that no, this would not be happening. I remember being very definite about it. I was probably fairly rude as well.
All through first grade, though, I felt as if I were missing out. The vast majority of the kids in there, it felt like, already knew each other from kindergarten. They'd gotten a chance to play with stuff before it became Serious Grown-Up First Grader Time. I'd missed out, just like I always missed out, and there wasn't a way to make up for it.