Tag Archives: children

THIS is learning, Mr Cameron.

#THISislearning kidsA couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about education called ‘No, Mr Cameron, No‘. It was my reaction to the growing feeling amongst parents, teachers and education experts that governmental educational policy is WRONG. That our kids are put under too much pressure, expectations are too high and they are tested too young, in a way that is making it harder and harder for our teachers to teach the way they know is best. The fun and the joy is being stripped out of learning and the long-term negative consequences of this could be vast.

I wanted to support our schools and our fabulous teachers and suggested we use our power as parents and not send our kids into school on SATs day in favour of a ‘learning is fun’ day where we would collectively show the government what real learning looks like.

The response the post received was amazing. Support flooded in from teachers and parents alike. It was amazing and moving and just, WOW!

“Yes!” I thought “Let’s do this! Let’s start a revolution!”

A couple of days later a new campaign was launched by a group of concerned Year Two parents, called ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids‘. They are proposing a kids strike on May 3rd (which is not a test day) in favour of a day of fun learning to show the government that parents want an end to year 2 SATs and the current educational pressures.

“Yes!” I thought “the revolution has begun!”

So I got my thinking cap on and I had conversations with other online friends. We all felt there was more we could do as bloggers to help the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign and to really make a difference.

Now, I’ll admit, I had a wobble. As a naturally non-revolutionary, law-abiding type who doesn’t like to draw much attention to myself, I wondered if I could really do it. Could I break the rules, keep my kids off school and encourage others to do so? Could I really? Really?

One (self-inflicted) big kick in the rear later and the answer is YES, ARE YOU KIDDING?! OF COURSE I CAN!

More importantly of course WE can!

So, having chatted to Let Our Kids Be Kids, my friend and fellow blogger Sophie and I have decided to launch a parallel campaign to support theirs. It’s called #THISislearning and is focussed not just on keeping our kids off school on 3rd May but on doing something on that day to show the government what great learning looks like.

We also want to widen the focus beyond Year 2 SATs and make it about over-assessment in schools in general (we know plenty of people feel that Year 6 SATs too, are appalling!). We really want to send a powerful, positive message that we hope our government will listen to, and the more of you who join in (parents of school kids or pre-schoolers, homeschoolers, teachers, bloggers, non-bloggers, social media gurus or newbies, anyone who works with kids in fact, anyone at all who supports our aim!) the louder our voice will be!

Here, in brief, is the plan (more details to follow soon!):

On Tuesday 3rd May we will be keeping our kids off school. For me this means not only my six-year-old (whom the Year 2 SATs directly affect,) but also my eight-year-old. I’ll be downloading letters from the Let Our Kids Be Kids website which I will use to let my boys’ school know our plans and so they know this is action against governmental policy and not them or my sons’ great teachers!

We will be spending the day with our kids (and perhaps other friends with kids too), learning lots about the world in a fun way and sharing it on social media with the hashtag #THISislearning. I haven’t decided quite what I’m going to do yet but watch this space because:

Over the next (nearly) three weeks I will be sharing various ideas with you for fun learning activities. They might be anything – messing with mud, experimenting with liquids, creating, constructing, exploring… the options are endless.

Sophie and I will be setting up a linky (UPDATE: it’s now live!) across both our blogs for people to link up posts about their thoughts and feelings on education and/or about any plans they have for May 3rd – it would be great if it could become a resource for fun learning activities so that we’re all full of inspiration by the day!

Then, on May 3rd we want set social media feeds abuzz with photos, tweets, messages and stories (from as many of you as possible) about children learning in a way that is fun. No formality, no stuffiness, no tests or unreachable targets or overwhelming pressure. We want to shower the government – no, deluge them – with examples of learning that is creative and engaging, learning which sparks childrens’ imaginations and which sets them up for a lifetime of curiosity and passion. Because that’s what education should be about.

Because THIS is learning, Mr Cameron.

#THISislearning

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Come and join us!

We have set up a facebook group for people to share thoughts, plans and support. Anyone who wants to support #THISislearning in any way is welcome to come and join it!

We also have a badge which we’d love you to display on your blog (if you have one). Just copy and past the code below. Thank you!

Together, we CAN!

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I’m linking this post with The Prompt at Mum Turned Mom. This week the word is ‘jump’ which seems apt since this campaign feels like a leap both into the unknown and out of my comfort zone!

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Everything Mummy

And then the fun began...

 

No, Mr Cameron, No.

No, Mr Cameron, no.
There’s been a post bubbling up inside me about education for a while now, only I’ve not been sure how to articulate what I feel. There’s so much to say.

I keep hearing how changing government standards and expectations are pushing more and more (wonderful) teachers out of the profession. I keep reading about the expectations, targets and tests that are making it harder and harder for teachers to teach in a way that instils a passion for learning into our kids. I’ve read and thought about the impact that these demands could have on the mental health of the next generation; how making school a stressful – or less enjoyable – place to be could damage children’s relationship with education forever. As a parent it worries me. As a member of society it worries me.

We had our school parents’ meetings a few weeks ago and our six-year-old son’s teachers gave us mock SATs papers to look at. I could hardly believe it: five thick test papers covering English and Maths. With a huge emphasis on grammar. With TEST emblazoned on the front and at the back ensuring that any teacher – in the knowledge that telling kids they’re doing ‘tests’ can cause stress – will fail in a mission to pass them off as just ‘some fun’. With one of the maths papers requiring an ability to read and reason before you even get to the actual mathematics. FIVE THICK TEST PAPERS. They’re only six and seven years old!

Then I went into school last week and noticed the handwriting of the kids in my son’s class. I looked and I remembered the papers they were going to be given and my heart sank. How are they all going to manage? These kids aren’t unintelligent or incapable, their handwriting is unrefined because they’re six and seven. They can’t all read perfectly and reason wonderfully yet because they’re six and seven. And the fact that the teachers are unlikely to be able to train them to pass the tests with flying colours isn’t because the teachers are bad – they’re great! But the kids are flippin’ six and seven years old.

The government can’t do this, I thought – they can’t assess all these children’s intelligence and aptitude and potential and possibilities based on these tests. These tests don’t look at how a child’s eyes light up when someone reads them a story or how they can draw a wonderful picture with only a handful of pencils or how they can invent an entire imaginary world with the contents of a recycling bin.

These tests don’t show that that child is awesome at football, that this one can captivate a room with her wicked sense of humour, or that this little boy is really empathetic and kind. Oh, or that this little girl here could one day be a novelist if we don’t teach her, right now aged six, that she can’t write much at all. She can’t write much YET because she’s SIX.

And yet they ARE trying to assess our kids, and these tests necessitate a style of teaching that’s counter to so much research about the best ways that kids learn. A way of teaching that means the rules of grammar take precedence over encouragement to write for the enjoyment of it, or means maths questions must be tackled in a way that no one would ever use in the real world. We have so many talented teachers in this country that are trying so hard to wrestle with the curriculum to make learning as engaging as possible, but the government is making it harder and harder. No wonder they’re resigning in droves. No wonder schools are struggling to recruit staff.

The government can’t do this, I thought.

They can’t do this to our kids.

And then I thought… what if… what if we just don’t let them?

What if on SATs day we parents all agree not to send our kids into school?

Not because we don’t believe in school. Not because we don’t believe in education. But because we DO. We believe, no, dammit, we KNOW it is incredibly important. That it is fundamental to society and that we, as a society, have to get it RIGHT (or heck, right now I’d settle for just ‘not so completely wrong that it makes my eyes bleed’).

What if instead of school that day we have a National ‘Learning Is Fun’ day, where we all teach our kids by giving them exciting, meaningful and memorable experiences?

Where we teach them love of words and stories and literature by reading them great books?

Where we ignite their imaginations with drama and stories and art?

Where we teach them history by visiting interactive museums and talking to people who had real-life experiences?

Where we instil a love of maths or science through practical experiences and experiments?

Where we teach them about the things we love, be they gardening or building or hiking or snorkelling or painting or writing or morris dancing… whatever… in the best way we can?

We do it together, with friends, family or wider communities or we do it on our own, just us and our kids, but everyone does their bit, even if it’s only a tiny bit, to show their children the fun parts of learning and the ways in which it can affect our lives.

And then we share, share, share what we’ve learnt. We share it on social media, on TV, on the radio, in the local paper. We share by drawing pictures and putting up posters… doing pieces of performance art in the street (I don’t know, whatever, just think of something!). We share as much as we can, as widely as we can.

And together we show the government what teachers have been trying to tell them all along if they’d only listen: what really makes children tick, what really ignites their passions, what sets their imaginations free and lets their potential soar.

On that day, we’d do our best to support our country’s wonderful teaching profession. It would be a day when we as parents would say: we will not put our children through this. Our kids deserve better. Teachers and schools deserve better. Society deserves better.

No, Mr Cameron, no.

What if..?

***

UPDATE: I was so overwhelmed by the response to this post that, along with a fellow blogger, I’ve launched a #THISislearning campaign. Please click here to find out more!

*** Since I wrote this post a new petition has been launched at 38 degrees, calling for a SATs boycott on 3rd May. Click here to find out more***

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This post was inspired by The Prompt which, this week, is ‘Mighty’. I often feel helpless in the face of this government and I got to thinking that although I feel tiny, together we have the potential to be mighty.

You might like to sign these petitions calling for the extension of the Early Years Foundation Stage from “birth to 5″ to “birth to 7″:

This one is on UK Government and Parliament Petitions. If it gets 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament.

This one is on Change.org.

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Stopping at two

beebees

When my eldest son had just turned two I made a list of words and phrases he was using at the time. He was at such a gorgeous stage of language development and I didn’t want to forget any of those adorable utterances. The list was in a lovely notebook which I intended to continue using, adding to the list over time.

Did I do this? Nope. Can I find the lovely notebook? No such luck.

ewawas

Since I’m massively prone to mislaying things in a huge heap of ‘important stuff I mustn’t lose’, I’ve decided that the best place to keep such notes these days is right here on this blog.

My eldest is now seven so his days of delightful language grappling are long gone. My youngest though is not quite two and has hit a lovely stage where every day he’s trying out more sentences. Here are some from this week:

“I eating beebees o bebuts.” = I’m eating (Rice) Crispies for breakfast. (Said with a huge grin as he LOVES Rice Crispies!)

“Mummy, why oo slippin?” = Mummy, why (are) you sleeping? (Standing by the bed in the morning, much keener to start the day than I was!)

“i dissy boon?” = Is this a spoon? (I was putting cutlery away and he was keen to point out what everything was).

He also asks “Where oo goin?” and “What oo doin?” a lot at the moment – he’s full of questions!

Finally, my favourite word of his at the moment is ewawas for pyjamas… on which note, it’s been a really long week and I’m shattered so I’m off to bed!

Little Hearts, Big Love

milestones

My baby turns two next month. I know I shouldn’t really call him my ‘baby’ as he’s clearly a toddler but he’s my third, my youngest and my last and I can’t really think of him any other way. He’ll always be my baby even when he’s a great, hulking teenager I suspect.baby hand hold

I think my reluctance to give up thinking of him as a baby also has something to do with my experience of motherhood third time round. It’s felt different this time in many ways: more relaxed, easier and with no sense of urgency about getting to the next stage.

I remember with my first son I was so excited at all his achievements and keen for him to move onwards. A walking, talking child is so much more interesting than a baby, after all. With my second son I felt completely ‘in the thick of it’. There’s two years between my first two and the demands of looking after a baby and a toddler were such that I was happy to just get through it. There were many happy moments but I had a definite sense of wanting to move onwards and upwards rather than wanting to slow things down. Day to day life was really tiring!

Third time round it’s been totally different. There’s three-and-a-half years between my youngest and my second-born and since my middle son is an August birthday, he started school mere days after his fourth birthday when the baby was only six months old. So I’ve had plenty of time to sit back and really enjoy baby number three. We’ve ambled through days contentedly (well apart from the extreme sleep-deprivation but I’ll gloss over that) and while I’ve delighted at his development I’ve felt no urge at all to hurry things up. In fact I’ve often wanted to hit the pause button because he’s been such a poppet. He’s been totally doted on by the four of us  – he’s our baby and I sort of want him to stay that way.

So when it comes to thinking of his second birthday I feel a bit odd. Nostalgic almost. I know birthdays are a time for celebration but, well, I’m not sure how I feel about rejoicing in this particular milestone.

So I think I’ll focus my attention on other things. Like what a good fit he is for our family. He’s my third boy and you might assume I wanted a girl this time round (believe me, I’ve been asked that by complete strangers – there’s a whole other post I could write on that particular subject!). While that would have been nice (I assume), the fact is when I considered (while pregnant) the attributes that – in an ideal world – I’d like my third child to have I was unknowingly imagining his personality.

He’s laid back, contented and affectionate, he adores his big brothers, thinks my husband is the funniest person alive and, of course he’s my mummy’s boy regularly racing towards me for ‘a cudooo’ (cuddle) :) The last two years could have been so much harder if he’d been different. He’s awesome. And my older boys have welcomed him into our family with open arms. They’re thrilled to see him every morning and every day after school, they call him a “cutie boy” or a “sweetie”, they taught him to draw, help him build lego… my oldest has even written poetry about how much he loves him! The three of them are an amazing little team. I adore them all and I’m so lucky.

Now that’s something to celebrate.

Linking up with #ThePrompt over at Mum Turned Mom. This week it was ‘celebration’.

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joy

sleeping baby goldI’ve been really struggling to write this week. My ideas are still there but the words just won’t come. I think it’s because there’s too much going round in my head and my brain is struggling to focus.

But I saw that this week’s prompt over at Mum Turned Mom was ‘Joy’ and I wanted to write something for that. I knew immediately (and rather obviously, I suppose) what I wanted to write about: my boys. I wanted to write about how much I love them and how proud I am of them and how happy they make me. But yeah – everything I attempted to write was rubbish.

Then I remembered a poem I wrote back at the start of the year. I’ve posted it on my blog before but, well, there’s no harm in posting it again right? It doesn’t tell you all about my boys’ unique personalities, about how thoughtful and sensitive my first-born is, how funny and affectionate my second, or how laid-back and irresistible my youngest is. It doesn’t describe what a fabulous little team they are, how supportive and loving and united they are (it also does’t describe the times they bicker either!) But it is about them and the joy they bring me.

I wrote it about my youngest boy but I have felt the same about each. Moments like these have a bitter-sweet edge but are definitely almost heart-explodingly joyful:

Beloved

You are warm in my arms,
Snuggled to my chest,
Soft hair tickling me
With every breath.
My gaze caresses you,
Drinking you in;
The curve of your brow,
Your flawless skin,

Plump cheeks flushed
In the nightlight’s glow,
Pink lips tracing
A cupid’s bow,
Your eyelashes fluttering
As dreams drift by,
Contentment caught
In a sleeping sigh.

As I stroke your fingers
And brush your nose with a kiss
I ache at the thought
Of losing moments like this,
And wish I could capture
Forever this time
When, tiny and perfect,
You are utterly mine.

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