I had to attend a parent teacher interview recently. They occur regularly to allow the Primary 1 teacher and I time to sit down and talk about how Lewis is progressing in class. He is doing great. He really is… but, I left with the realisation that my son is not a child genius. However, since then I have been talking to some other P1 mums. It turns out, none of their children are child geniuses either! In fact, I suspect that all of the children in P1 could improve upon their skill set somewhat. I guess it probably comes with the territory of being in P1.
Truth be told, I am incredibly impressed and proud of what Lewis has learnt this school year. He is still only four years old yet he is writing, reading simple stories and thinking in a way that I did not know a four year old was capable off. (To be fair, I’ve never actually had any experience with four year olds before, so perhaps I am just inexperienced!)
Yet I still felt under pressure after the parent teacher interview. Perhaps because of the name. Parent Teacher Interview? I’m sorry, I don’t understand! Who exactly is being interviewed? I thought these meetings were a collaboration of the adults who have input to the child’s education?
Yet I came home feeling like I had been under the microscope. I resolved to make him work harder. To reinforce his learning at home, more so than I already was! And to strive towards that impossible goal of perfection. Practice makes perfect don’t you know! We have all heard the stories of families who have made their children practice piano for eight hours a day! Guess what – the kids usually turn out to be pretty good pianists! But are they happy?
As I sat at the kitchen table one day last week, helping Lewis with his homework, something happened. The sun broke through the cloud and shone through the window onto his workbook. As we are just entering Spring, this is still quite a novel thing, and I looked up and thought – what a waste! We should be outside planting sunflowers and discovering creepy crawlies!
That got me thinking about something I once heard a University Porter say. He said, “I work in a building full of smart and intelligent people, but they have very little in the way of common sense!” And now as an adult, I realise the truth to his words. I literally know accountants that cannot change a light bulb!
So now I’m not so sure what I should be doing. Of course I agree that as a mum I have a role to play in educating my child, but I always put the emphasis on life education. Letting him be involved in cooking. Showing him how to care for plants. Explaining how things in the world work. Answering all those unanswerable questions a child has, and teaching him to have respect, manners and a good moral compass. In other words, lessons in life!
Of course, I expect the school to teach these things too. I just don’t expect it to be their emphasis.
Are these life lessons not as important as reading, writing and learning your times tables?
Childhood is such a fleeting moment in time. Once it is gone it is gone. Lewis will never be four again, and he has achieved such a lot this past year! I do not want my child to excel in academia, if he does not understand how it feels to laugh until your sides hurt. I do not wish for his handwriting to be perfect if he does not appreciate the perfection of nature all around us. I do not desire that he knows 20 pairs of rhyming words, if he doesn’t know his little brother, in the way that only siblings can.
So in future, when the sun is calling us out to play we will go. We will count out Sunflower seeds and talk about how amazing it will be to see them grow. We will laugh and cry and joke and learn. Learn all about the world around us, and just as importantly, the people in it. The people we share our lives with. We will teach each other. Because I believe the most important lesson in life, is to remember to live!