*Lockdown time = Family time*
I am a school governor at my local primary school. There are obviously concerns up and down the country about children “missing out”. There is even panic at some quarters.
But here is the thing: school is not everything when it comes to children’s development. Academic education is definitely not the “be all, end all”. I was pregnant at 16, and for the second time, just before I started university (and had to defer a year). I have had three children subsequent to the two who had interrupted my education, and I turned out just fine academically – including going up to Oxford on full scholarship. I spent the two years I “lost” academically on other more important things, and despite three measly A levels (no A’s), I got into two top universities (Manchester and Oxford).
Life skills – what you learn from parents and grandparents and family in a natural setting – are equally, if not more, important. The lockdown period should be the time for children to connect with being with the family and being out in nature. Children learn by doing household chores, by going for walks, by participating in conversations. Children do not need to sit behind desks being talked at by paid professionals in order to progress in their development.
Whilst writing my parenting book, I did a lot of research. The two well-respected educationalists whose philosophy of education shaped mine were Sir Ken Robinson and John Taylor Gatto. Gatto referenced many studies by sociologists going back to 1900s and stated that quality of education, as defined by reading ability, had not improved despite more investment than ever being poured into the school system. He attributed this reduced contact time with parents and grandparents.
Going for a walk over the holiday period in the New Forest reinforced that belief in me. My parents knew the names of all the fungi and seaweeds in Southern England, and so too did my brothers and I. We may have forgotten those Latin names, but we all have that deep thirst for learning that served us well, which I hope had passed on to the next generation. School was never a big deal in our family life. The world was our classroom.
My children had had an unconventional upbringing (moving to schools and living in different countries), but they have an interest in a wide range of subjects and can debate credibly on any one of these, as well as grasp new concepts very quickly. This, I think, is far more important than anything they learned in school. My youngest spent a large chunk of her childhood barefoot, yet she was a top performer for IGCSEs at her school as well as winning academic bursary twice at university. We were never fussed about her attending school. Right till her 18th birthday, we were more focused on her performance on the football pitch than we were her exam grades. She actually learned more from running carefree (“free-range”) on a small island than she did sitting in a classroom, confidently swimming 1km out in the open sea, exploring nearby islands, identifying fishes, and learning more life skills (including survival skills) before the age of 8 than what most factory-farmed children do in a lifetime tethered to a school desk.
She wanted to know if chickens could fly, so she chased a few round the island. That’s the best way to learn.
In the words of Gatto, “….time for a return to democracy, individuality, and family.”
I am working on a new book for 13+ year olds, please pop over to the website as I am inviting participation from young adult readers for the construction of my next book. Homeschooling at its best is learn by doing (“experience first, then believe”), and by being inspired by the journey.
Jacqueline, New Forest 2021
Book at #3 at Kindle (Parenting)
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If you like reading my articles in Huffington Post, my blogs and my Facebook posts, then you would have enjoyed Barefoot In The City – Raising Successful, Free-Range Organic Kids. This book is a compilation of the short stories chronicling the sweet indolent life of our family when we lived in a bustling city. Many parents, teachers and young adults contributed their writing to this simple, much-loved book to make it a truly beautiful work.
Four years on and we now live on the beach. Georgina, our youngest child, turns seventeen. Easy Parenting For All Ages – A Guide For Raising Happy Strong Kids is a consolidation of our thirty years of parenting experience as we take stock and summarise the key learning in this rich and complex subject. Georgina and her father share their insights and perspectives in this book.
It is available on Kindle right now. It is priced deliberately low at U$3.99 for both books totally 480 pages. You do not need a Kindle tablet to read it – you can download the Apps for your PC, Mac and smart phones. A print version will be available via CreateSpace, unfortunately at a higher cost due to printing and shipping.
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My philosophy on raising and educating children on Waldorf Today can be found by clicking on this link:
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In love and light, Jacqueline