As featured in Parentdish

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Tortoise and The Hare

We all remember the fable from which we get the saying “Don’t cry wolf”. But why does nobody remember The Tortoise and the Hare? Education policy, particularly in England, has in recent years been focused on getting kids to read and write as early as possible.

This really does seem a bit daft when you take into consideration that the countries where pupils are doing well academically tend to be the ones where kids begin learning to read later. 

Teachers appear to panic very quickly and seem to treat children as if they are all the same and that by a certain age they should be achieving this and that, not taking in to account that some kids might still achieve but maybe a little bit later than others. I don’t think the introduction of the EYFS in England has helped that.
Perhaps they should simply have more faith in the ability to engage children at different stages and stop taking this attitude that after the child hits seven there is no hope for them. 

I had two friends at school who did not do well academically but a few years after leaving school they got themselves sorted out and applied to well reputed universities. They both graduated in academic subjects (no degrees in juggling there) and have very good jobs. 

The tortoise does really come first sometimes.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How to get your child to love maths – part 1

If anyone is suffering from insomnia I have the solution. I can give you H’s maths homework. The maths games he is expected to do are so boring that they could turn anyone in to Rip Van Winkle.

Needless to say we gave up doing them a few weeks ago and the fact that I have not ticked and signed the relevant sheet to say we had completed them, is not because I forgot. We just haven’t bothered.

Instead we have been having fun with maths. We started off by suggesting a game of Sum Swamp and we play this from time to time. Sum Swamp is an excellent game you can play with all the family and is a bit like Snakes and Ladders but instead you have three dice – two with numbers on and one with a + or – on each side. Instead of rolling a dice and seeing a number, children roll three and have to add or take away the numbers.

Suggest a game of Sum Swamp in our house and you are met with cheers of “Yeessssssss!!” as they all run in to the dining room. A bit different from the response we get when we mention his homework maths games.
The only problem is he is getting a past this stage and the mental maths is more suitable for his five year old brother but it is still good for him and good for us as a family to play games together.

So now I have introduced him to two websites Topmarks and Tutpup. At parents’ evening we were told that him as his friends are competitive and like to compete to see who finishes their maths first so TutPup should suit him down to the ground.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A good Saturday afternoon film

Recently Daughter and I had an afternoon to ourselves in the house. We baked cakes, we hung out a bit and then for a change we decided to watch something online. I am not one for watching TV but I just fancied relaxing for a change. 

We checked the various websites – BBCiPlayer, Film 4 etc. and eventually I found something I thought would be good and which would both of us would enjoy.

Then we cuddled up on the couch and hit play.

The film we watched was brilliant. Daughter was dying to know what happened next and kept getting excited, asking questions. Two year old, who incidentally was with us, emptied the colouring pencil box on to the settee but we didn’t care. We were engrossed.

The film was brilliant – excellent acting, fantastic storyline, everything we could possibly want from a Saturday afternoon film.

At the end of the film we discussed how brilliant it was. Daughter wanted to go back in time, to be there and discover what really happen. 

As I have blogged about here I love history. The film of course was a historical one about The Princes in the Tower, the two sons of King Edward IV of England, who disappeared from the Tower of London in the late fifteenth century. 

That’s how to get kids interested in history.

Monday, 14 November 2011

August babies

Another day and another bit of research about August babies. For those of you (if there is anyone) who hasn’t read this research, you can read about it here

What annoys me is the evidence people give that this is not always true. People cite great examples of people doing well, Gordon Brown being a popular one. 

Except this argument has one almighty big hole in it. 

Gordon Brown went to school in Scotland. 

Scotland’s cut off date is not the end of August, it is the end of February. 

So Gordon Brown was not one of the youngest in his class. He was somewhere near the middle. 

Being born in August does not affect how you do in school. Being the youngest in the class does. 

English readers please take note.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Outward Bound

Recently I went up to Loch Eil Outward Bound Centre reporting for the Times Educational Supplement. Loch Eil is an outward bound centre a few miles north of Fort William and is run by The Outward Bound Trust.

It is a place where young people can go for a few days or a few weeks and take part in outdoor activities.
Having reported on similar work before I really have come to the conclusion that all young people should have some kind of outward bound experience, whether it is with the Outward Bound Trust or as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. 

I am relatively sporty but am not keen on outdoor pursuits, partly I am sure because of the dreary Scottish weather but I do see the benefits. Years ago I climbed Ayers Rock and then a few weeks later went canoing down the Katherine Gorge in Australia and I remember well the way it made me feel. 

Being at Loch Eil reminded me of this and confirmed to me that I want my children to have similar experiences. Achieving academic qualifications has its place but nothing beats the positive benefits kid get from working in a team in sometimes harsh conditions, pushing themselves further than they would normally do and working on the belief that anything is possible.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

History teaching

I am a bit behind in my magazine reading so have only recently got round to reading last week’s Times Educational Supplement. In this issue Henry Hepburn interviewed Neil McLennan, president of the Scottish Association of the Teachers of History

Henry asked Mr Mclennan if history is still also about World War II and the Nazis. I studied history to ‘o’ grade and so I totally see where Henry is coming from. We spent two years learning about both world wars and the period in between. This wasn’t history, it was government propaganda in disguise. 

It wouldn’t have been so bad if we as a country had learned anything. 

Prior to ‘o’ grade we did learn about other aspects of history such as the Window Tax. We didn’t just learn about the social and architectural implications of this law we went through the law in fine detail. Yawn!
Despite being a history lover, this really put me off history, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

Thankfully Mr Mclennan’s reply was that they have been working hard to eradicate what he refers to as “the nazification of the curriculum in Scottish history classrooms”. 

Good. About time.