Monkey is now about half-way through her first year of school, and despite my misgivings, it has been pretty successful. She bounds in, thrilled to meet her friends and playmates. She will talk about her day (under questioning – is this all children or just mine?) and always sounds happy about what they have done in school.
She loved being part of the Christmas play and more recently speaking a few lines in the reception assembly. She even won a STAR Award for her reading and being helpful. So, all in all, it is good.
I still worry though. Reception is fun, they learn through play. Games are used in all parts to encourage understanding, knowledge, basic maths, starting to read, their letters and sounds. The teachers are full of energy, smiles and joy.
Monkey does like to fit in though. She likes to be ‘good’ at school. She hates to be told off by adults – she has always been like this, even when very young. She told me recently that at school she is ‘sensible’ and she leaves being ‘silly’ for when at home. I think I find this sad. She should be able to be herself – all aspects, quirky, silly, sensible, funny, sad, and so on – wherever she is. But she constrains herself to fit. Do most children do this?
Sadly, Year 1 in the UK is quite a different story.
It is much more teacher led. Children are required to sit on their bottoms, nicely, listening, writing, reading. Sometimes losing out on the playtime if they are considered not to be ‘sitting nicely’ by the teacher. Is it reasonable to expect children of 5 – 6 to sit for much of the day? What about those who find this near impossible? – Do they get labeled as ‘naughty’ or even ‘disruptive’ or perhaps ‘learning difficulties’? Will they then feel that this is what they are and so they act to their lable? Will they then be fed ritalin and similar drugs to calm them?
So, I worry.
I don’t know yet whether Monkey will be able to fit into the confines of Year 1. She does like to play and be active and learns a lot through doing. Only this evening she offered to change Chimp’s nappy – saying, she wanted to learn and the best way was to learn by doing it herself, with me telling or showing her what to do. So that is what we did, even though it was a real stinker!!
Sometimes it astounds me at how accepting we are as parents of what schools tell us is suitable for our children. Even when our guts tell us it is not right. Even when the evidence from many countries shows us, it is not right. These are links to two articles that really make me wonder about our education system
Research by Cambridge University (and others) about the best age for children to start formal schooling – 7, with play-based learning prior to that.
Yes, I would love to home school. But their Dad is against it (I would really welcome scientifically researched information from those who do home school as to the benefits). So far Monkey is for school, so I have not choice. But if she ever feels that school is not the right place for her, I want to be able to offer her an alternative.
I guess no-one ever said that raising children is straight forward!