Education is for life. It is a way of gaining the tools to live, work and find contentment and even happiness. I had a conversation with Ronan who is 7 where he asked me why I read and listened to so much stuff. I told him it was because i was still learning. He was surprised and said “Don’t you know everything yet?”
When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing there is a peace of mind and soul that isn’t all that easy to explain or describe, but which when you have it, you know you have it, and when you don’t, you might not know you don’t but you know something is missing.
Part of the importance of education for children must be in the building of joy and memories so that they have that precious, but somewhat intangible thing “childhood”. We adults know all too well when this goes wrong. We say “They grew up too soon,” or “They never had their childhood.” But it is much harder to describe what “childhood” should be, despite the number of books on the subject such as the Neil Postman books.
I hear parents complain that they can’t fit all the childhood stuff into their busy weeks. It’s what Dr Ray Guarendi describes as the manic “go, go, get, get, do, do” approach to childhood. The children are in so many clubs,m activities, extra lessons and tuition that they barely have time to eat and sleep, and there is certainly no time for family life. Meanwhile Unicef (an organisation to be treated with caution imho) found that Britain’s children were the most miserable in Europe. I remember that many in interviews said they wished they could be with their parents more often.
Much of the stuff and activity is aimed at adulthood and that all important CV which will get the child into University or high wage employment. There are so many parents and grandparents of very young children who are putting the children’s childhood on hold while every spare penny and moment of time is spent making sure there’s some kind of account to pay for University.
Finding the balance is so difficult for many of us. Being afraid of the future is endemic within our culture it seems to me, and it’s that fear that seems to drive the “do, do, go, go, get, get” childhoods. And all that costs so much money that if there are both parents they both work, often long hours, to provide it all.
I have come across more than one HE mum who says that her child has had a friend wistfully say somnething along the lines of “I wish my mum loved me like that.” It’s tragic.
In the end we have to decide between what is good, better and best for the children and beware of giving so much good that it becomes bad. It is a long haul thing to work out the right priorities and be prepared to change direction if it all starts going wrong.
Having the family time so that everyone can just be together, eat together and muck about doing not much together is important. Perhaps that is one way home education works so well. School doesn’t take up so much of the day and we aren’t left with children who have learned so little during the school day we have to get tutors in the evening or weekends for them to do extra on top of all the homework.
There’s a call for the Freedom to Home Educate, and I think there needs to be encouragement for free time for family (and friends).