Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Freedom at last!
The new term began last week for the Scottish schools. For the first time in 25 years, I have nothing whatsoever to do with schools, or schooling - I am free from living according to a dictated timetable! It feels good.
I was asked at the weekend when James would be starting nursery. It was the first time I have really been asked that question by someone outside the family. It seems to be a given that all children need to go to some kind of 'preschool' education to ensure they should have the 'right start' and and early 'advantage'. It all seems so negative, this jostling for advantage - making sure they are ready etc.
Yesterday, James and I were at a local country park. There was a group of older teenagers from one of the nearby secondary schools there on a field trip with a couple of teachers. They were all on bikes and were involved in some sort of map reading challenge, in the style of something out of the TV programme The Apprentice. Now, I have never seen this programme, but I understand it to be very competitive and aggressive. They had to navigate round the park, carrying out various challenges on the way. Point s were given for these achievements and deducted for transgressing the rules. They wheeled up to me and asked me if my name started with J (one of their challenges). I was happy to oblige them, and allowed them to take my picture for their evidence. They were excited to have completed this, but minutes later, their faces fell when their teacher, in a very loud and patronising voice, deducted the 5 points because one of the bikes was left in the wrong place. This scene troubled me all day. While I recognise that there were some team building skills involved in this challenge, I do not think that this type of conditional training is what our children deserve. In the future, they will face many real challenges - most of them the result of the mistakes and greed of previous generations. They will need to live and work in a different way - radical free thinkers will be needed, and I fear there will not be too many of those who survive such negative experiences.James and I went on to complete our own challenge - we got lost! Well, that can happen when you let a 2.5 year old lead the way. We weren't that lost, but we did end up taking a much longer walk than we meant to. It was a lot of fun though - pretending to be dogs in the long (wet) grass, sitting by the river, close encounters with butterflies, and finding our first conkers. James also walked up a fairly steep hill on his own. Given that 6 months ago he was lying with his leg in traction, that was certainly an achievement. We looked at the different leaves on the trees growing around and talked about where the river was going - he sat for ages waving goodbye to the water :) Yes - I guess he knew what direction he wanted to go in today!
So - James will not be going to preschool or nursery - he is in charge of his own learning, and while that may mean he will choose to attend school at some point, he will make that decision. For now, every day is a new challenge, and one he meets with eagerness and joy - I will do my best to ensure he always feels like that.