There is a very sweet if somewhat sickly blog going round entitled “Things a four year old should know.” It was allegedly sparked when a group of bragging mums were showing off about their kids and their particular talents. “My daughter can recite the alphabet” “My son eats fois gras” “My child’s fingerpainting has been displayed at the national gallery” etc etc. This blogger decided the world should know what children really needed to have accomplished by this age, and wrote a flowery piece about how all children should know they are loved, should know that the world is there for their imagination to blossom.. you get the idea. Here’s the link if anyone prefers that kind of thing to sarcasm. http://www.magicalchildhood.com/articles/4yo.htm (the name should tell you all you need to know really.)
However, it got me thinking. Whilst I agree that kids should be allowed to develop at their own pace, and not against a scale or their peers, at what age is it worrying that your kid thinks ‘Chile’ rhymes with ‘While’?
The illiteracy levels in this country are at an all time low. Arguments that it is due to so many immigrants are not entirely, but mostly, unfounded. Some children with two English-born parents are still being polled to have an average of 7 books in their home. A nine year old was recently brought to tears by a teacher because he hadnt brought the right kind of book in for show and tell. Eventually he admitted it was the only book in his house. The title? The Argos catalogue.
I read a bedtime story to R every day. He is surrounded by board books and buggy books and bath books and forever trying to eat my own books. I’m not trying to brag, I wouldnt never consider doing anything differently. Surely this is the least we can do for our children? To give them an opportunity to develop their imagination, to begin to independently discover and play. Whether this is through books, or toys, or outside play, or social interaction, it is a step onto the right path. But what is the next step? Is it possible that we can begin like this, with all the right intentions, and still end up with a 17 year old boy who thinks Salami is a type of fish? (True story.) And if we havent started this way, and are proud of the ‘only’ 3 hours of TV per day which our 14 month old watches, (True story x2) can we ever find our way back on to the right path?
I recently blogged about a woman who home-schooled her kids, and included in her lessons, washing up, nature walk, and colouring. Her kids were I believe about 5 and 8. I’ve also mentioned the Amish community, who don’t study history or geography or even maths and english after the age of 14. So different communities have different beliefs about what makes a well rounded education, and what information is necessary to take into your adult life. But in our society-this just wouldnt be good enough.
Dont get me wrong, I do agree that the most important key to a child’s happiness is that they feel loved and looked after. Without that, all the education in the world is secondary. But truly, I dont think it’s fair to say that those feelings are enough by themselves. We all want what is best for our kids, and I think it’s dishonest to suggest that this doesnt include a fulfilling career, intelligence, enough money and personal relationships, all of which are hindered by a lack of education.