It is the start of September and the nip of Autumn is in the air. For many it is the time of new starts as they begin a new school term, possibly in a new class or even a new school. New timetables, new teachers, new uniforms. But for us it is very much business as usual.
I have to admit to the odd pang when I see photos of beautiful, beaming, shiny children in their new uniforms popping up on my Facebook newsfeed. I am not anti-school, after all I have spent more years of my life in them than out, and there are some excellent schools where children are allowed to learn and thrive despite the limits being put upon the teachers. I do however disagree with the excessive testing; the rigidity of curriculum; the pressure to conform; the over-crowded classes, and quite a few other negative aspects of the English schooling system. So why the pangs? I think it is natural for us to mark the passing of these early years in our children’s lives. They grow so quickly and a new start is such a good time to reflect on just how far they have come in the last year, how tall they have got, how much more independent they are, how their growing individual personalities are shining out. For this reason I took our own Not-Back-To-School photo.
Do I miss sending them to school? I have experienced the rushed mornings; the herding of sleepy, hungry children through the necessary dressing, cleaning, feeding rituals with one eye constantly on the clock. No time for anything but the basics… go, go, go. I have stood at the gate with a small child begging me not to leave just yet. To allow them a few extra minutes of my hand holding theirs before we part for 6 hours. I have received these bundles of pent up energy at the days end, when tiredness makes our few hours left in the day an emotional roller-coaster. These things I do not miss.
But are they missing out? I hear you ask. I don’t believe so. They are still so little. In many countries formal education does not start until a child reaches 7. Up until then they are learning through play and real-life experiences. This is exactly what Elizabeth and Georgina are doing. Today started with play-dough, moved on to playing with the lego and toy animals, a jigsaw marathon, some colouring in, playing with our snail, watching Deep Blue Live (recorded not live, but Elizabeth is a BIG Steve Backshall fan), and now the girls are outside playing with the neighbourhood children of all ages. Yesterday was a different day entirely with a Drama Workshop, visit to a city farm, Art and Crafts session and a soft play date with friends. Tomorrow starts with horse-riding and then… well, who knows. We will just see what we fancy doing and go from there.