Monday, 27 February 2012

A Head Start.

I am about to put on my teacher's hat and get on my hobby horse, so beware.

I read in the paper today that forty percent of pre school age children never have access to a book at home. I also read a piece which talks of children being pushed along in their push chairs while their mums are on their mobiles or fiddling with their blackberries or i-pods or whatever. There is often no effort to point out things they are walking past, or engage the children in any kind of conversation. I was reminded of walking out with my grand-daughter in her pushchair when she was around two years old. Every time we came to a street sign we had to stop so that she could point out to me the 'e' for emily.

There are still schools where children come in at entry level having never seen a pencil and having no concept of what writing is for, where their language skills are poor because they have not been talked to, where their knowledge of everyday things (birds, flowers, shoe laces) is limited. All teachers know this.

Nursery school places are one answer and are doing a marvellous job. But without the backing of the home, the parents, the siblings, the grandparents - children still enter school at a disadvantage. Then, when the same children reach eleven and transfer to secondary education, primary teachers are blamed for some children being behind in their reading skills.

The lady who cleans for me on a Monday morning has just gone. She was telling me about her grand-daughter, who is five. My cleaner and her husband have just joined the National Trust and one of the 'free gifts' on entry was a tiny pair of binoculars. They have given theirs to the grand-daughter and yesterday she was bird spotting and kept saying "You'll never believe how good my eyes are at spotting things!" Now today, her grandmother is off to look for a simple bird book so that she can identify the garden birds.

Nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools all have an important role to play of course. But parents should remember that children spend only approximately on eighth of the hours in a year actually in school. One bedtime story every night, cuddled up on the bed together, would make all the difference.

##A friend's wife bought him this splendid birthday present a short while ago. Thought you would like to admire it. The farmer was taken for a spin in it yesterday.


Dave King said...

This is spot on, but unfortunately it doesn't end there. I know of families where the parents never eat with the children. (Well, maybe Christmas they will, but I wouldn't bet on it.) It seems that whichever guide line you take, it is not being done in many instances.

Heather said...

A very sad and worrying state of affairs, and these parents are missing so much themselves as well as denying their children a good start in life.
That's a very handsome and generous birthday present. I hope my husband doesn't want one! It looks very like a car my grandparents had when I was small but is probably much younger.

MorningAJ said...

One thing I was told in a previous job as a communications officer for an education software company is that a lot of parents don't help with their children's education because they had such a poor time at school themselves.

I'm not sure how it'll happen but we have to stop penalising people for being clever and stop idolising people for being rich and attractive.

Gwil W said...

The Sun on Sunday has replaced the News of the World.
Has the PM said anything? The fish as they say begins to stink from the head.

The policy of dumbing down is deliberate. It began with the selling off of the school playing fields. From what you say it appears to be continuing with the replacement of Enid Blyton by Ronald MacDonald.

It wouldn't do to have a too intelligent underclass now would it? Pass me another caviare my good man...

By the way, I've replied with 'Clouds' to Wordsworth.

Carolee said...

So sad. We see it here too often, parents busy with cell phones, texting as they walk the child in the stroller, or sit with the child at a restaurant. Kids with video games instead of books. I have to wonder how a child's imagination can develop without these things?

~ Carolee

Pondside said...

Sad to say, it's an international problem. When our children were young we'd often have their friends to dinner and find that the children only ever ate supper at a table at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Reading? So many young parents forget how important it is to development of the imagination and more.

Loren said...

Walking with a grandchild is usually quite an eperience, no matter how young they are.

It's amazing how many grasshoppers, crickets and unidentified bugs we older folks walk by each day, probably because it's too hard to bend over or too hard to get back up if we kneel down.

Bovey Belle said...

This state of affairs horrifies me too. Interaction with children is so important. I read to my children from babies onwards - by the time Tam was 10 mths old I was reading her 4 stories a night (very short ones!) and she still said "More"!!! We used to go out for nature walks and I would show my three children wild flowers, and birds, and trees, and they used their imaginations in play.

No one ever said it is easy to be a parent - but as a parent you have responsibilities - and you do not expect "the State" to rear your children for you, to teach them to use the toilet, to eat with a knife and fork, to tie shoelaces - even their recognize their own names!

When we had children, our social life pretty well stopped, as I had no intention of leaving them with strangers - not that we had any money to go out anyway, and anyway, we were "geriatric" parents!!! When I hear of children being abandoned so their mothers can go clubbing, I despair.

Just to change the subject, what a lovely car - and a super present for a much-loved husband I would say : )

Bovey Belle said...

P.S. One "their" too many in the 2nd paragraph . . .

Tom Stephenson said...

Nice present. Also, NEVER buy kids inferior binoculars or telescopes - you can put them off for life like that.

Titus said...

Love that car!

I do, of course, agree with all you've written Weaver, but good golly, it's hard work! Plus I honestly can't remember my parents spending very much time actually doing children's 'stuff' with me, BUT we were always included in everything - work, meals, parties, days out, everything was always done as a family.

Reader Wil said...

I agree with you. My children were fond of reading. They had a small case in which they kept a couple of favourite things to play with when we were visiting. My daughters always had books in it and my son had dinky toys. I can't remember when the children began to read. My grandchildren love reading as well. Drawing was also a favourite pastime. My eldest child was already drawing circles when she was almost 2 years old.

John Going Gently said...

hum now I have blogged recently about books and the power they had over me as a child.
but I have changed my thinking just a little if they are reading ON LINE or on a kindle.... not quite what I would prefer but at least they are READING....
comics are a no no though!

Cloudia said...


Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

angryparsnip said...

I wonder sometimes why people have children ? they seem to not want to take care of them. I spent so much time doing everything you wrote about with my children. Books, games, walking and talking.
I will be writing about this on my blog soon but we have even bigger problem in Tucson. It seems the powerful Hispanic and political groups in a grab for political power, have decided to inform the Hispanic children in school that they CAN"T learn with out taking classes in Mexican history/Spanish instead of American History and English. So Hispanic students are graduating high school barely knowing basic English or basic skills to survive out side of public assistance.
I was never told that I couldn't learn because I was Polish. My family taught me about my Polish heritable and I went to school spoke English went on to University and a job.
My children speak several languages and have all gone on to University.

My daughter mentioned to me last week, she just saw a Mom driving her child to school, she was on the phone and her child was just sitting there. She said that the car rides to and from school were some of the best "just talking time" we had.
What a shame so many parents are missing out on such wonderful times.

cheers, parsnip

H said...

I agree totally with what you say Weaver. The time spent interacting with children during their formative years is precious; crucial to their all round development socially, emotionally, spiritually and and educationally.

I have to disagree with the final part of the comment from John Gray though. In spite of a rich and varied experience of sharing in books, and a competent level of reading skills, my younger son did not take to reading for pleasure as readily as his older brother. For Ben, comics were the way forward. For a couple of years, they formed the bulk of his reading choice. After that... For the past eight-ish years, it has been his habit to read in bed before he sleeps (and his shelves are full of well-used books).

Sometimes, comics are fine :)

mrsnesbitt said...

Don't get me started Pat - I saw it too - teaching children who had no other experiences of any form of written stuff........just sent to their rooms where they had their own TV's & videos - remember one pupil telling me he watched the Exorcist when he was 7!!!!! Putting the kettle on now - to calm down! .

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the comments. I see that Blogger have even changed this now - why can't they leave things as they were.

I must disagree with John (Grey) over comics though - I don't think it matters what children read as long as they are reading - discrimination comes later.

Gail V said...

Me too, Weaver,
my mother let us have a quarter every week for a new Superman or other Action comic, and the vocabulary words were some I had never before heard spoken. In the end, I finished law school, though a struggle, since no one in the family had gone to college. I agree about all of your child-rearing observations, especially reading to children-- and also important, we forbade TV except for the public TV channel.

Golden West said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Weaver. A love of learning and reading can take a child far.