Why my kids can watch TV this half term (or, stop testing the hell out of my kids)

I’ve had enough. I know, for folks who have to encounter me on a daily basis this tends to happen regularly. But I’m cross again.

I’ve had a steady feeling of my ribs tightening around my chest for the last couple of weeks. It’s not early cardiac arrest (although I might cut out some of the butter just to be on the safe side). It’s the kids. Or my lovely, geeky, super-frustrating but pretty awesome 7 year old to be more accurate.

There’s been the homework to tackle. Don’t get me wrong, I like homework (I know, geek-mother). I’m an ex-ish-teacher and I like sitting down with him and seeing how he’s getting on via the medium of a structured activity. It’s fun (weirdo). It has immeasurably improved my knowledge of times tables, which I was never very good at anyway.

But this half term he is having a monster growth spurt, which aside from eating me out of house and home and costing me a fortune in new shoes and trousers, has left him tired, cranky and prone to tears. Especially when there is homework.

He had to write a dinosaur story -cool I thought. So did he. Great ideas, exciting adventures…and then getting it on paper was like a baseball bat around the back of the head. He articulately questioned the purpose of the activity. He said he needed time to think. It wasn’t me it was him.He wondered why the ‘success criteria’ were so prescriptive, whether he needed to tackle all of them to make it a ‘good fun story’. We talked about the purpose of a story and whether it is to be structurally correct or grip people, and make them laugh. Hang on, he’s 7 and accurately positioning an argument that philosophically examines the point of this torture.

And then my mate Tina shares this article by John Harris in the Guardian this morning and it bloody well rings true. What the hell are we doing to both our kids who have ace ideas that get squashed in favour of grammatical accuracy and the sum total of adjectives used, and our teachers that have to peddle this crap instead of getting the paints out?

Harris writes, “How awful, too, to be looking ahead to the progress of your own children, and suddenly feeling an unfamiliar sense of dread” pinpointing exactly what I’ve been feeling with that whole rib-squashing episode that has absolutely nothing to do with my cholesterol and everything to do with the right pencil grip. I have no idea what a ‘relative clause’ is in a sentence but I have enough bits of paper from the ‘old’ system of education to apparently claim I’m educated and successful in society…all without a tick box exercise in literary dissection at the age of 7.

So this half term my kids are going to wrestle on the floor. We’re going to get muddy, watch crap TV, make up stories that make us laugh and go to the movies. We’re getting the paint out, making cake and cutting up cereal boxes. I’m not correcting their grammar or pronunciation, I’m going to smile at their mistakes and wordy mash ups. I’m going to attempt to re-align my ribs to where they should be.


One comment

  1. Might I suggest that the grammar and the times tables are symptoma of the same issue? The fact that you didn’t learn strict English grammar is testament to an education system that valued arithmetic over linguistic syntax when you were a child.

    I dare say that the vast majority of functional adults would suffer precisely as much from a lack of remembering what 7 times 8 is as they would by failing to know whether a conjunction precludes the need for a comma.

    So we have to make a choice, do we sacrifice creativity for the 3 Rs or do we assume that any child that will actually need what would have been learnt in those core subjects will necessarily learn it on the way to whatever it is that needs it, much like any language student will soon work out what a subjunctive is and any physics student will soon have a working knowledge of calculus?

    I prefer the latter but people will insist on learning those times tables.


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