What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from www.wallpaperswide.com

Artist Raindropmemory from http://www.wallpaperswide.com

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

First Class.

My amazing husband achieved a remarkable First Class BSc Honours in Politics and International Relations today and I am ever so proud of him. I had it hard when I finished my degree, what with the birth of our baby boy during the Christmas break of my final year and managing to continue without taking time out. However, my husband’s experience proved even tougher.

During my final year and DH’s second year, DS only needed to be fed, changed and put to sleep; it was difficult but fairly manageable with dedication and team work. DS has topped that by single-handedly juggling the role of stay-at-home dad to a demanding toddler, whilst finishing his final year. I helped as much as I could when I was not posing as the breadwinner, but ultimately DH has had the bulk of DS’ upbringing. DS’ constant need for attention and play gradually lessened his available study time, so it has been a worrying few months for us.

I am so overjoyed that he has been awarded a First Class, not only for his academia, but for all his extraordinary effort. First Class father, husband and academic. He really and truly deserves it.

Those who can.

September 24th; this means we are only a few weeks away from reaching the end of our recruitment cycle for the academic year 2010-2011. For those who decide last minute they want to come to university, it is a mad dash to find the information to start the course they are already late for and to find somewhere they can call home. It would be very interesting to know the reasons behind the applications; whether an applicant genuinely wants to study the course of their choice, or whether it is to postpone working life. Either way, a willingness to learn is never a bad thing.

I grew up with the desire to go to university and often find it difficult to understand when others do not have the same inclination. I do understand those who seek to work in a field they enjoy, in whatever industry. But for those who spend years in hope that life will some day throw something at them, and for now they will just wait for it, I cannot comprehend. Some would argue, studying a degree that does not lead you directly into a specific role is ultimately a waste of time; and it is for the minority who cannot successfully pass that degree. For the majority though, it gives you a trump card that says on paper, you are better than someone who does not have a degree. Thus, having the ability to obtain better jobs.

It is known that a degree is not necessary for many job roles, yet recruitment agencies and employers ask for one. I see getting a degree as a natural stepping stone and it is essential for employers to ask for one to enable them to vet their staff. I know I most probably would not have got my current job now without my degree.

Doesn’t the saying go: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach work in retail.

Freshers Week.

So another year has passed and the students are flooding in, except this year I am not joining them. It is such a strange feeling. Finishing over four months ago and acquiring a job since means I should have already come to terms with no longer being a student, and I have, it is just mentally letting go is harder than physically.

I suppose in my third year I was hardly living the typical ‘student life’. I do miss learning as geeky as it sounds, but that is not to say I do not appreciate the break. I am not sure I would have had the stamina to continue being a student/parent. Working now is definitely the best decision and it gives my brain a much needed rest. I like to think that one day I will return to education and study for a Masters degree, I am not completely ready to resign myself to the daily grind.

Sell out.

Clegg launched a manifesto pledge at Barnardos to introduce a Pupil Premium which would raise the poorest childrens school funding to private school levels.

You would think that as time moved on, I would start to get over the deceit and bury the memories of being cheated for my vote. A hundred days later, Clegg still stands by his sham of a government, stating in The Observer; ‘we will govern for the long term and we’ll stick to our plan’. I almost find this quote comical; what is this plan you speak of? I am very sure I watched you live on television, listened to you on the radio and read articles reassuring our nation that you were eager to protect our schools and our public sector. Why is it now that we find ‘Building Schools for the Future’ scrapped, less university places are available and the inevitability of privatised universities? I wonder how many more times we will find Clegg negating his policies in favour for a bigger pay check.

I will be forever resentful that my first vote was not towards bettering our country, but to aid the rich in getting richer. Clegg, you sold out.

So sign me up and toss this key, ’cause for now, we’re living.

Today I found out I graduate with a 2:1 in English and American Studies. Boom. I can’t explain how gratifying it is to finally get what I’ve been working so hard for. DS has been an inspiration to me to get back on track and really focus on getting my degree. He doesn’t even know.

I spent the day at Sandwich Technology School conducting questionnaires to year 9 and year 10 students, as part of a temp researcher job I’m doing. I really do enjoy this job, it’s a shame it’s not permanent. This was the fifth school I’ve been to in the last month, and each one has been so different. I’ve really learnt a lot about schools, education and how both will really suffer with the cuts put in place. Schools all over the country are struggling as it is with the budget they have to work with, and to have more cuts, less resources, sufficing with run down buildings and incompetent staff – It’s a travesty. Teachers need a higher calibre and a passion for teaching. What I’m seeing now is an overwhelming surge in the number of graduates who move onto doing a PGCE just because their degree on it’s own is inadequate. It’s not a good enough reason to become and teacher, and it shouldn’t be so easy.

I’m quite excited for tomorrow – I have my second interview at a place in Whitstable. I would like to get the job, obviously, but I do have two other interviews lined up in the following weeks I have high hopes for.

Looks like it’s all systems go!