Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Homework should go in the bin. End of.

Yes homework should be banned. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – children need to be allowed to be children. The school day is jam packed enough with academic and educational lessons, and in my opinion that is where it needs to stay.

Homework is a complete and utter waste of time. It helps no one, least of all the children and I can say this with absolute confidence having been a primary school teacher and assessment leader who has monitored the impact of homework on children’s learning and their knowledge retention. Homework is often fought against by the children and then it creates tension, which leads to huge battles that only serve to make exhausted and tired children feel even worse about themselves and their learning.

Children are naturally inquisitive and motivated. They just are. But the pressure piled on by the government and schools with regards to their education stamp this out of them bit by bit, until they no longer want to learn and are no longer enthusiastic about school.

Home should be the place where children are allowed to relax, play, and be taught age appropriate skills that serve a purpose in their lives. Swimming, bike riding, cooking to name a few. They do not need to sit down at the dinner table and spend the precious few hours after school with their parents struggling with yet more work.

Homework takes away quality family time. There is no time to go to the park after school, or go swimming or bowling or do anything, because the school day does not stop at half past three anymore. And on top of that, many parents often feel inadequate because they don’t understand homework set and cannot help their children. How great is that, setting something that makes the entire family feel like a piece of crap.

I wish now, just like I have wished for the last few years, that people would realise that children are not work horses good for nothing but doing academic work until they leave school and then have to go out into the real world. They don’t deserve to have their childhood sucked away from them by people who truly believe that bringing a horse to water will make them drink. Throwing extra work down children’s mouths will not turn them all into geniuses. Ask a fish to climb a tree and it will fail, yet breathe underwater and it will excel. What about those children who are destined to be creative? Those who could be inspirational artists or award winning designers? What about those who will excel in the West End or inspire the next generation somehow? How does homework help them?

Being academic is not for everyone. And making parents force their children to consolidate the learning they have done at school is unfair. That is not a parents’ job. As parents yes, of course, we want to and can encourage and support our children through their time at school, but we do not need to become their second teacher. We are their parents. Their carers. The people responsible for helping them grow into independent and confident adults who are not afraid to chase their dreams.

When will this obsession with academia being the sole focus for all children end? When will education teach them skills they could not survive without at adults? Allow for individuality? Allow for creativity?

When will children be allowed to be just that…children? Without a fear of failure. Without pressure. Without stress.

Children are the most magical and wonderful human beings on this planet and they are the only things that can offer hope and inspire change. And change is what we desperately need because the current state of the world is one that is going to require resilience, empathy and compassion in bucket loads.

Take your child to the park. Show them the world if you can. Open their eyes.

And throw the damn homework in the bin.

Robot Number 478

Robot: A robot is a mechanical or virtual agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry.

I’m sorry it appears that Robot Number 478 isn’t performing well. He’s failing, he’s not doing what it says in the instruction manual. He is not achieving what he is supposed to be achieving. He’s not good enough. Make him work harder. If he gets something right make him do something more challenging. Never let him feel he’s achieved anything, you must constantly make him do more. What do you mean he can’t retain all of this new information? He has to. Failure is not an option. He must perform. He must reach the targets set out for him, in fact he must exceed them at all costs. He wants to do what…play? My goodness no there’s no time for that. All robots must work at all times. All robots must be overwhelmed with new ideas and new concepts and they must learn them all immediately. There’s no time for trying to understand these robots…they must do as they are told and get to where they are meant to be. Robots must always have more to do, they are never done and must never feel the joy of success. Push them harder, challenge them more, never let them relax. I know let’s make sure they are here for longer – robots don’t need sleep or time away to be just a robot. Why is Robot number 478 still not where he should be academically? Why is he not doing what he’s told? Test him again, test him more. What is wrong with him? I’m sorry, what did you say? ? I do not understand, what do you mean these robots are all different? What do you mean that they all have different talents and skills? That they will not all conform to our rigid expectations? You think all robots’ successes should be measured in happiness and not targets? That they only get one chance to be robots…one chance at having confidence, self belief and pride instilled in them. One chance at being inspired, motivated and enthused. Why is this all so important to you?

Why I say…because they are not robots…they are children. Beautiful precious children. And their education needs to change. Not to one with longer days, shorter holidays and more pressure and stress, but to one that embraces childhood and its beautiful simplicity. One that allows children to be children and rewards enjoyment as well as success. An education not measured by targets and levels…but by laughter and smiles. Children instinctively want to learn and have an innate desire to please. They are adventurous and inquisitive; they believe in fairy tales and magic and are filled to bursting with enthusiasm. They are amazing, deserve the very best…and if I had a magic wand I’d make our current education system worthy of them.

If only I had that magic wand…

MAD Blog Awards

Releasing the middle one.

Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.

So, it’s Wednesday again and time for a quote from me for my #wednesdaywords. And this Wednesday is indeed a very special one. For today, my middle child started school. Well, I say started…he actually only went in for two hours as the school has a ridiculously long settling in period, but nevertheless it was the first day he would wear his uniform and cross the threshold of the school building independently. A building where he will spend the next 7 years of his life and come out an entirely different person, shaped and moulded by many different experiences.

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The first drop off thankfully went very smoothly. There were no battles about putting the uniform on, no tears about us leaving; just a gentle apprehension about what would happen next. The boy is so confident in so many ways and yet so shy and stilted in others. New experiences gently shake him and new people cause him to become mute and often hide behind my legs. I was worried about him starting school, worried as to whether he’d actually talk to any of the adults there. However this morning he embraced the change; the new; the unknown. He seemed a little nervous, but mostly excited about what was coming. And when he came out he was buzzing with talk of everything he’d done. He surprised me and I felt so proud. I’m a firm believer in bringing my children up to be confident and independent and his independence today made me smile. Even though he wasn’t 100% confident, he had the courage to do something new, like all of the other wonderful children in his class.

Interestingly this morning it was actually my husband who was the emotional one; he says he can never explain exactly why he is emotional (men!) but today he felt like he was giving our son over to a new part of his life. He said he hadn’t felt that emotional since the birth of our youngest. That it was the uniform, the formality. The emotion, my husband says, came completely out of the blue as he’d mostly been very excited about seeing our son off to school. And then leaving him and seeing him all alone in the classroom hit him hard. This made me feel a bit guilty, for I’d spent so many weeks preparing the boy for school that I’d forgotten all about Daddy…who was a mess!

And me. Ah where to start. Surprisingly given everything I’ve blogged about in the past I was actually very strong today. I’ve become very good at compartmentalising things; for example when I’m at work I am focused on work and don’t think about home, and vice versa when I am at home. Today I knew my role was to be happy and confident and show my son that school was nothing to fear, that it was something to enjoy and be excited about. I knew I couldn’t cry or hang around and pander to his apprehension or that would make it worse for him. I guess the primary school teacher in me came out a little bit as well. I knew being strong would help my son and would help his teachers. (And maybe, dare I say it, help me too?!)

So no, I haven’t cried yet. Maybe I’m not allowing myself to comprehend the enormity of today. But maybe it’s not the actual starting school bit I’m sad about. For he’s not the only one staring school today; there are hundreds and thousands of small children starting this week just like there were last year and will be again next year. No, it’s not that he’s starting school that makes me sad, it’s the loss of our time together. It’s that my little boy will spend most of his days away from me; changing, learning, and growing with someone else guiding him. As teachers we are ‘in loco parentis.’ We are their parents when they are at school and I’m emotional about having to share my son with so many other people. People who may hear him read his first word, or answer his first sum. People who will be as proud of his achievements as I am. People that aren’t me.

I’ve blogged about releasing children before. About how they are slowly released from us over time and that we have to let them go, confident that they will be safe in the care of others and will learn to trust their instincts and make the right decisions in the future, but I am always surprised about how hard I actually find it. My Twitter and Facebook timelines are full of mums and dads anxious and emotional about their children starting school. Parents who are pushed out of their comfort zones and are having to do something that they find difficult in learning to release their children a little bit. I know I’m not the only one. Can I offer advice? Wisdom? Can I reassure these parents that it gets easier with each child? Ummm no, sadly I don’t think I can…because for me it hasn’t. And I imagine that when my youngest goes to school in three years time, I may not be as composed as I have been today. For me it seems, releasing my children is proving to be be more difficult with each child.

Based on all of this the quote I have chosen for today’s #wednesdaywords is this….
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Because today in this family, we’ve all had to do something that scares us a little bit. Be it starting school…or letting go.

Time

Time: Time is a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them. Time has long been a major subject of study in religion, philosophy, and science. Some simple, relatively uncontroversial definitions of time include “time is what clocks measure” and “time is what keeps everything from happening at once” (Wikipedia)

Last night I made the mistake of reading the news, and it got me thinking (and feeling ranty!) I read this article- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22202694 – about how Michael Gove is proposing longer school days and less school holidays.

The article frustrated me for a number of reasons. Children need time to be children. Childhood is such a magical time and is for such a short period in our lives. Children need time to PLAY and EXPLORE. With what Gove has suggested they’ll be too damn knackered to do any of those things. Too exhausted by endless hours trying to be the best. I’m not saying have no aspirations or aim high, I’m passionate about encouraging children to achieve their full potential, but it frustrates me because some children could be at school 24 hours a day/7 days a week (my daughter is one of them) and they would still never be the best. It doesn’t mean that these children don’t have skills, or talents, or will be amazingly successful in their lives. Encouraging children to DO their best would be a far better route to take. It doesn’t go hand in hand that the more time you spend in school the more academically intelligent you are. Gove has looked at other countries and decided that their education system is better than ours, and proposed that we adopt their rules. But, as I say on MANY occasions, ALL children are different and what works so well for one, could be a compete disaster for another. Why does one concept for education suit all? It couldn’t possibly! It makes me wonder if in coming to this conclusion, Gove has truly thought about the consequences on children, parents or teachers? Has he thought about what’s best for each child or only what they ‘should be’ or ‘ought to be’ doing? Does he think that getting grade As is the only thing that matters? Is that what he values? Is that what success is solely measured by, how well we do academically at school?

This then also made me think of someone I know very well. There are so many things that she does with her children that are very different to the way I parent my children. And whilst I’m a huge advocate for bringing up different children in different ways it got me thinking as to whether she (and me for that matter!) is listening to them and bringing them up how they dictate, or whether she is parenting how she thinks she ought to. Do we do what we think is best for our children, without possibly really finding out what is actually best for them? Do we know our children’s natural talents or their interests, are they allowed to nurture any?

We all have dreams and hopes for our children before they are even born, but do our children always follow our hopes and ideals for them? You might want your son to like football, yet all he talks about is rugby. You might want your daughter to be a ballerina, yet all she craves is hip-hop. And you might want your child to be the cleverest in their class, yet they still struggle at school.

Michael Gove is, in my opinion, naive if he thinks that by placing children in school for longer they will each magically become a genius! Are schools becoming too focused by paperwork and results and grades, too focused on numbers and statistics, when they are said to be more ‘child-centred?’ Is Gove too focused on ‘shoulds,’ ‘musts’ and ‘ought tos?’

When I had my daughter I was young and naive and doing it on my own. I gave her a bottle for an evening feed at four weeks because that is what I was told I ought to do. I never co-slept because I was told she should sleep in her own bed. I became frustrated because she didn’t do what she ought to be doing. She didn’t eat as much as she should. But as she grew up, a strong willed and stubborn red haired child, all of the, shoulds, musts and ought tos went out of the window. And instincts kicked in.

She liked to wear blue, wasn’t the sort of child that liked ballet and liked to graze on food all day instead of having three set meals. And at school, she struggled. She didn’t learn to read when she should have. She couldn’t count to ten when she ought to have. But it didn’t make me want her to go to school more. It didn’t make me want to get her a tutor or drown her in homework. It made me want to take away the stresses of school and the pressure off. It made me want to have as much fun with her as we possibly could at home. She was allowed to be a child. We played, we laughed, we sang, and she relaxed. She can count now, and she can read and write. And she has a wealth of experiences to draw upon when doing these things.

Pushing children, in my opinion, is never going to work. It potentially just gives them more chances to fail to reach what are often unrealistically high expectations. It’s the classic teacher quote of ‘could do better!’ I think they should be encouraged to pursue their talents, play as much as possible and be supported in being confident of who they are.

What do you think?