Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Day of Fun Learning

I am a bit conflicted about today's school strike.

A large part of me wants to jump up and cheer for the parents who are protesting the inane Year 2 SATS by taking their children out of school for a day of "fun learning".  If my boys were in school I would totally be doing the same thing.  Standardised testing for six-and-seven-year-olds is unhelpful, unnecessary and unkind - and some of the tests (SPaG, anyone?) are quite simply nonsensical.  I totally support all the parents and teachers who are behind this strike and wish them every success in their endavours to have the SATS dropped.

However, I am also feeling a bit sad for them.  Because this day of "fun learning" is just one day out of the school-lesson-and-extra-curricular-programme-packed lives of these young children.  It will be a lovely day I have no doubt - they will be relaxed, have fun, be inspired, be happy... and then they will go back to school tomorrow.  I am trying so hard to find a way not to sound smug or judgemental, but the truth is that my kids will have another day of fun learning tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and the day after that - and so on.  Home educated children all over the nation will do the same.

Many people do not have the option of home educating their children, I get that.  And many parents believe that school is the best place for their child(ren) to receive a good education.  That is their prerogative and it is true that many children do flourish in the school environment, including members of my own extended family.  BUT - how many parents are there in this country who have no idea it is even an option for their child(ren) to spend their entire childhood enjoying endless days of "fun learning"?  That's what makes me really sad: not the children who enjoy school and thrive there, but that some of these children would do so much better in a more natural learning environment but they and their parents have no idea it is even possible.

Anyway, the "Let Our Kids be Kids" campaign is one that I fully support.  Our nation's children are overworked and overtested, with nowhere near enough importance placed on their welfare, happiness or enthusiasm for learning.  They are not little machines to be force-fed information until they somehow regurgitate enough of it to tick the right boxes.  They are beautiful, creative, thoughtful, imaginative, intelligent bundles of sheer potential.  Childhood is an essential part of their development and we need to protect their freedom in that, not work them like automatons, test them far too often, and continue to work them harder and harder until the potential to do anything other than fit into a system has been squeezed out of them.

So hooray for everyone taking their children out of school today.  May your campaign be fruitful, may you have beautiful days of fun learning with your children, and may those of you who have never heard of home education find your way to the beautiful happy childhood that it offers.

PS to any teachers reading: I hope that didn't sound unsupportive to you.  I may not be a fan of the school system but I am a BIG fan of any teacher who chooses to work with such a soul-destroying system, for the sake of inspiring and developing our children.  You all rock, and I hope for your sakes as much as the children that the Government wake up and bring in the much-needed improvements to let you do your job as you know to do it.

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