I do so look forward to actually having the time to blog these days. Having other things on my agenda – like looking for work – means that I cannot justify spending endless hours here, however much I have to say (I’m never short on that score).
One of the casualties of the last few weeks, that have also included a house move, has been my semi-regular series, ‘play dates with my kids’. This bugs me, as I ascribe to the view that we should under-promise, over-deliver, and not the other way round. So I decided this week to elevate the update to my home page, and I’ll copy it over to the ordinary page later on. I feel like I have a lot to say – let’s see if that is actually the case. In particular, and as we (my kids and I) have had a particularly intense period of time at home to play, a few recurrent themes, that I really want to share here, have presented themselves.
My daughter was ill during the week before the Easter holidays, so we’ve already had the best part of two weeks at home together. She was under the weather enough to not need to go out anywhere, but not so sick as to require being consigned to her bed. So, with twitter at my fingertips I found a good number of Easter-based crafts to indulge in. Observation no.1 coming up; I play better with a clear structure to work to. We made cards by potato-printing Easter eggs and later applying glitter stripes and patterns. We rustled up some salt dough and formed sweet little beads for threading into jewellery. We made fluffy sheep with toilet rolls, twigs, and cotton wool. We designed an Easter garden on a tray. We used Easter shaped cut-outs to design with a fresh batch of play dough. And we made old-fashioned, gingery-spicy biscuits with bright yellow icing. Through all of these activities, I guided my daughter to give of her best, to concentrate, to stick at it. These are useful life skills, so I can justify my endeavouring to teach her. All the same, I can feel how far I am from what practitioners with young children call ‘child-led’. However, my daughter does genuinely love these moments, as she sees them as special times when she gets me all to herself (they usually happen when her younger brother is napping).
I mull over this dichotomy, between adult-led and child-led play, a lot. My professional life has taught me the beauty of letting children direct their own play. My personal psychology just feels more at home with the structure of a planned activity. For now I’ll go along with the notion that for her and me, there’s room – and a need – for both. So here’s the second collage of photos that demonstrate how the play went off in unexpected, unplanned, directions.
At the heart of both my children’s self-directed play is a concept that I read about today in a totally different context. I picked up a link to a piece in the New York Times that focused on the need for members of the modern workforce to be able to demonstrate their capacity to innovate. In a world where everyone can use the internet to accumulate knowledge, it is more important than ever to be able to demonstrate the premise that it is ‘not what you know, but how you use it’ that counts. Innovation for adults is creativity for kids (Observation no.2). If you weren’t allowed to follow your own curiosity, instincts and exploratory impulse as a child, then you won’t be able to imagine new and different ways of doing things as an adult.
(As an aside, because I don’t want to get too political in this post, the failure to understand this link is the fundamental flaw in Gove’s idea that knowledge alone is the key to success. I didn’t especially like the way Cameron’s advisor – can’t think of her name right now – suggested that kids need to ‘get bored’ recently, but she was at least closer to a proper understanding of how children’s minds need to be freed, not restricted.)
And Observation no.3? It’s much more personal in nature. My daughter will start, at the end of the Easter holidays, her last term in pre-school education. I’ve written recently about how I am at peace with the decision we’ve made over her schooling, but I also know that our life together will be forever different once she makes that transition. While I intend to allow her to build up to full-time attendance over the first term, once that’s done, opportunities for us to do stuff together will be less frequent. I’ve worked hard over the last few months to feel more engaged with her in play (having felt knocked off course for a while by the arrival of her brother) and I will lament the change to our relationship that school will necessitate. I say to other people, all the time, that who you are between the ages of three and five, is who you are, period. And here we are, nearly at the end of that period of her life already. When did that happen?
And the self promotion…
Regular readers will know that I have found myself needing to rethink how I earn my living in the last few weeks. Multiple income streams is a phrase I keep settling on. I’m hoping that one of them might be a consultancy for early years, and to that end, I’ve started a blog for it. From little acorns, and all that. Please have a read, and pass it on, of you can. Thanks. It’s at www.eyclinic.wordpress.com