With all the policies and procedures, friendship groups and general exhaustion that comes with school, we have noticed a shift in our daughter’s general demeanour since the new school year has begun. For the most part she loves school and despite what we see as some shockingly absent ‘non-academic’ timetabled subjects at this key stage of her education, most days she comes out of school beaming and filling us in on all the wonderful things she has learnt that day.
It is however, the emotional and mental well-being that we, as parents have become most concerned about; something of a ‘hot topic’ due to the seemingly constant pressures young ones are facing these days. During the week our happy, confident child takes on a much sadder demeanour on just hearing that it is a school day; whilst we realise that occasional upset is a common scenario in most homes with children of school age, the blind panic experienced during the morning and drop-off currently seems disproportional.
We are incredibly fortunate to have a daughter who is so open and communicative with us at home, so she will talk with us about any issues she faces and recently we have got to the bottom of the recent upset; she is completely and utterly overwhelmed, not really by the work, but the manic behaviour in the school playground first thing, so-called “friends” and the social side of things too. We have just recently raised our issues with the school and hope to resolve these issues soon; we are looking at alternative resolutions too, as we don’t feel at the age of five our sweet natured birdie should suffer unnecessarily.
Something that we believe in very much as parents is supporting her school learning at home in a relaxed and informal environment. Reading is something regularly done together to unwind, we go on walks to brush off the day and spend hours hunting for nature finds; we currently have one ‘pet’ frog and two caterpillars we are monitoring closely to see how they develop.
More and more schools offer Forest School, but during a given day I am quite sure something has slipped in basic education of our children, especially in these early years. Whether you live in a city or the countryside, there is always something close by that gets the children out of the classroom and applying their everyday learning to something solid and tangible in the environment around them. Simply stepping outside and observing what is around us, with the change of seasons there is so much to see if only we just take the time to stop for a while with the little ones in our life and let them take the lead in a conversation about it.
Another area that we believe to be missing in the ‘curriculum’ is more exposure to the non-academic side of education, such as the arts and design and technology. So much can be learnt simply by teaming up in pairs for a long-term project and applying everyday learning from maths and reading for instructions etc. yet so little appears to be done in school these days, certainly in ours anyway.
Fortunately when birdie gets home from school if her daddy isn’t working away on site he is in his workshop working away on client projects making his fabulous pre-fabricated oak framed buildings, so she will often get home, get changed and chat away to him while he has a tea break to find out about the project he is working on and how it all goes together.
The weekends are naturally a time to stop and unwind, but birdie will often ask if she can make something in her daddy’s workshop and since late 2015 has been actively involved in the build project we have of our own here in the woods for the business. From watching the foundations go in, the oak frame go up, to helping lay the bricks with the bricklayer, helping set levels and screw the stud work, our birdie has been actively involved and trying out all the different trades.
We are asked by the school to share any learning at home in her ‘Home Learning Journal’ as if evidence is required to tick a checkbox. Whilst we understand the rationale behind completing work like this, on the first day of the new term we were told it is for ‘trips away’, maths exercises, writing practice etc etc. As a family, we simply don’t have the money that others have to go on endless days out, trips and experience days, equally we don’t want to stop the hours of imaginative play outside to go indoors and write out sentences about her day.
I often wonder what the school make of the leaves and sticks from our ‘nature hunts’ that have been stuck in our daughters learning journal; as a mother, I worry that our daughter will be deemed to be a child who’s learning isn’t supported at home due to there being ‘no evidence’ in her journal, but then I remind myself that I could spend our days together compiling information, collecting photos to pop it in her book and then have her write about what she has learnt, but then I realise that isn’t life! I would far rather pack her memory with wonderful days simply learning in practice then have her sit and write about it all simply for it then to be only critiqued by her teachers.
“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.”
Abigail Van Buren
Back to the point of “supporting learning at home”; in this academic and technological focused time we live in, for us our little family unit, we believe that supporting our daughter’s educational needs isn’t simply getting home and completing homework, reading school text and doing maths exercises online. By the end of the school day and/or week, already SO overwhelmed by what she has learnt, as well as what we believe to be over stimulation from all the screens and computers (no blackboards to scribble on anymore!) we support our birdie’s learning when she wants to engage in the very things that she loves the most, using nature, building and construction to apply her learning to allowing this young mind to see how what she is learning on a daily basis can be applied to the things she loves and that engages her the most.
Who knows what our birdie will be when she grows up, a “mummy and working with daddy in construction” or perhaps she will be a “plastic collector and nature presenter” both are her two aspirations for the future… all we know is that whatever and whoever she chooses to be, I hope she will always remember how we supported her learning at home rather than the hours spent indoors watching a screen at school.
I would love to hear from you:
How are your young ones settling back at school?
How do you support their learning as well as their emotional well-being at home?
Do you think our opinion of education these days is entirely fair?