A year ago exactly, I wrote the post below. You’d be forgiven for thinking me lazy in re-posting it, but I have good reason, honest! I was reading Suzanne’s post Are we nearly there yet? from 3childrenandit earlier this week which reminded me of this. When I re-read it, two things struck me: one, that nearly all of it I could’ve written today to the letter, even more so since I’ve been juggling work with end of term-itis this year, and two, one key thing has changed for the better – and its a good ‘un! I’ll let you read the post first, and then i’ll tell you what it is……
‘School’s Not Out – But it Darned well should be’
It’s that time of year again.
When each evening I have no idea what we’re going to eat until half an hour before. When baked beans become a staple part of our diet. And I don’t even care.
When I haven’t looked at my son’s reading record for several weeks, or heard him read a book. And I don’t care (ok, he’s reading to himself so I’m pretty lucky).
When the sun is finally, actually, yes really shining, and the beach is yelling at me saying its been far too long since we saw each other. And I do care.
When I can’t even be bothered to find a funny image or photo for this post.
When my normally conscientious daughter says she can’t face school. Her desire to day-dream or play mean our requests to “be here, do that” fall on even deafer ears. So tempers flare. I care a great deal about this.
When I find my normally conscientious self actually says to her daughter ‘Maybe don’t worry about doing your homework – what’s the worst that can happen?’! (Daughter, being like mother, hates the thought of being in the teacher’s bad books, so ignores her mother’s strange rebellious comment.)
When I can’t bear to read American blogs for fear of the Huge Green-Eyed Monster reaching out and engulfing me as I read their posts about how they’re all in chill-out, go-the-beach, kick-a-ball-around-the-yard mode (sorry guys, you’d understand if you lived here!).
In short, the need for a break is getting beyond a joke, and the season is telling us to kick back, relax, enjoy what it has to offer and let the kids run free.
Let’s face it – July and school simply don’t mix.
And I know the only reason they’re in school is because the government is obsessed with targets and producing globally competitive economically productive citizens. This, and the many parents who both work full time and find 6 weeks of holidays a challenge let alone the 8 that most countries get.
This is hard. And I’m very lucky that I don’t have to work around my kids in the holidays to make ends meet.
So, I’m at risk of making myself unpopular with those of you who do work or find 6 weeks of children under your feet a real stretch. It’s such a tough job working and being a parent. You have my utmost respect.
But the reason I’m writing this is that I feel passionately that our kids are missing out on quality day-dreaming time and the best weather of the year because of the country’s need to produce wealth. Our kids are worked so hard for the rest of the year, far harder than we ever were, that they deserve a decent break.
I wrote about this essential human (and children’s) need for ‘kairos’ time in a post last summer holidays (Back to School: Farewell Kairos, Hello Chronos), and even though I desperately miss quiet, uninterrupted adult time during the holidays, I know how deeply important it is for a child to be given that ‘no agenda’ time.
Ok, maybe the practical solution isn’t longer summer holidays, but longer half-terms in May and in October, and starting the holidays in July, when the weather is always better than August (See the BBC’s online magazine for ‘What length should the summer holidays be?’ for an article debating just this). One paltry week off in October is so hard on infant-aged kids who have to effectively sit still for seven weeks in a row. The weather is often better at May half term too.
My point is I feel the pressure of modern British life is so affecting our children that we are robbing them of their childhoods, and damaging their relationship with their parents.
Let me give you an example: my daughter and I had a ‘set to’ at the weekend, after weeks of happy calm, which all arose out of the fact that we’d had a lovely, long busy weekend full of usual end of term summer fodder – school fairs and village Larks in the Parks. As a result she’d not done her homework and it was late before she’d even started getting ready for bed. She didn’t hear my 3 requests for her to get to bed as she was so focused on making a flag for South Africa day the next day (which she didn’t have to do, it was her idea admittedly) and you guessed it, I ended up shouting, yet again. Tears of exhaustion and frustration from her – she genuinely hadn’t heard my requests. Followed by more stress in the morning choosing clothes for South Africa day and more tears….
You get the picture. We’ve all been there. Although I most probably shout more than you do. Or maybe I don’t. Who knows?
I wrote her a poem the next day which it sums up how I feel:
Umpire of Your Day
I’m so sorry, my love, when I make you cry
When the anger comes out and the daggers fly.
I don’t do it to hurt you, or bring a tear to your eye
I can see why it makes you ask the question ‘Why?’
The thing is I love you, with all of my heart
And hate it when anger tears us apart
The need to be here, do this and do that,
“Get up!” “Have breakfast”, “Don’t forget your hat”
The constant demands of the school day
Mean life can be pressured, fun gets in the way
I wish I wasn’t always the umpire of your day
“Stop what you’re doing and put it away!”
But how would you get your sleep or your food
And you might end up going to school in the nude!
I’d love to be calmer and not so red-hot
When you’re still in your clothes and it’s past bedtime slot
I realise you don’t always hear what I say
You’re engrossed in your book or masterpiece of the day
I wish school was shorter and no homework was given
Then life would be a much easier living
I wish term was finished, you could run free and roam,
Til then, I’ll do my best to make ours a happy home.
One thing you must remember, never forget,
Before you drop off or wake up in the morning
Never be in doubt of one precious fact,
I love you
I love you
I love you.
Just re-reading that brings tears to my eyes.
And you know the wonderful thing is that is different? We’re not reliving the constant nagging and tears over homework right now! Wahoo. There’s two simple reasons.
The first one is that they’re getting less paper-based homework. Whether my lobbying the new head teacher for less homework had anything to do with it, I’m not sure as she said she’d been considering cutting back homework and sent a consultation questionnaire round to parents. The response was mixed. Now we get projects each half term, which is getting rather onerous on the parents, I have to admit as the younger ones (including my son) need so much
nagging encouragement and hands on help. “He’s a boy!” I’m told, by parents who have a plethora of sons. “They just don’t get on with homework like girls do.” Parent homework some of us call it. At least it encourages creativity, that’s my thinking, but once a term would be better in my mind.
But the second reason, and I think this is the biggest, is that my daughter who was 9 this time last year has grown up – she’s much more able to handle the homework she does have. The 20 spellings that she has to put into comprehensible sentences or a single story that include the words autonomy or agrophobic do get quite taxing (and not just on her!) by July but at least she sat down and got them done in her own steam.
I’m not saying we don’t have the odd melt-down or tears about other things – we’ve got the pre-teen hormones for that to thank! But the simple fact is that she’s ready for homework now, or rather, she’s mature enough to handle doing it even when she doesn’t feel like it. That’s the difference. She’s always been brilliant at doing her homework, I’m very lucky, but up till now, she’s not had the foresight to work out that she needs to get it done whether she feels like it or not, and best to get it out the way when she can. Thank goodness she’s grasped that now before she goes to secondary school in just over a year….
How do you manage homework at home? Do your kids have enough or too much? And how do you survive school in July?